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The Politics of Forgetting by Keshav Aggarwal

I have borrowed part of the title from an article published in Outlook on 17th October 2011. This article is inspired by it. That article raised a question, why do we remember sufferings of some people while neglecting others’? The 26/11 attacks on Mumbai shook the nation and we’ll always remember the cruel day. The way our army tackled was commendable. However, we don’t sympathize in the same way with the Kashmiris and people in east India where more than 1 lakh innocents have been killed, many at the hands of our jawans. Similarly, the 9/11 attacks on US became world news and recently the tenth anniversary was commemorated on ground zero. However, people do not know the accounts of obscene numbers the Americans have killed in Afghanistan in the name of “War on Terror”. It was on 9/11/1973 that the democratic government of Salvador Allende in Chile was overthrown in a CIA assisted military operation. Irony is that most of us haven’t even heard about it.
Have we ever thought why it is that a few incidents get all the attention while many cases are forgotten? I fail to believe that it is naïve human nature. There’s much more to it. Many issues are crafted and moulded for public. What is played is politics of forgetting by moulding public opinion through biased reportage and obliterating memories of thousands others suffering.
And why go halfway across the Earth to point out such incidences? These are common in India also, where, for instance, many tribals are displaced from their lands in the name of progress. It has been a cherished dream, if not priority, to make India a developed nation by 2020. However, we should stop for a while to analyze what the cost of this success is. Are we progressing on someone’s cost and violating someone’s fundamental rights?
Now let’s take the case of IISER Mohali. We are currently a community of nearly 450 students, 100 faculty counting their families and nearly 500 construction workers counting families. There have been 8 labour deaths in the last 4 years. What would have been our reactions if these were deaths of 8 students or 8 faculty members?
Since these are poor labourers, whose lives are treated as disposable, the families of the deceased are given some compensation and sent back to their villages. The files are just shoved in cupboards, with paper work complete. Such incidences are not investigated thoroughly, for if they were, such accidents would not have been repeated. The sad part is that the contractors cunningly play the politics of forgetting and we comfortably get along.
We on the other hand live in our immediate premises, in a comfort zone the workers have constructed for us. We choose to ignore the issues concerning people who comprise nearly half of our community. Claiming to be the scions of development of modern India, we passively promote such gross violations of human rights.
We failed to take collective responsibility of the incidents of deaths in campus. It is tragic that 8 people died in campus. It is even more tragic that our education and economic development has given us a sense of entitlement that certain rights are for ourselves only, without a responsibility towards those who are less privileged to possess or inherit means to attain this education and economic development.
Maybe we need to introspect and ponder over our notions of life and death and our image of an educated,developed and a responsible community.These are the starting years of IISER and we should analyze on whose cost the foundations of this “going-to-be-great” institution stands.

The 1973 Chilean coup d’état was a watershed event of the Cold War and the history of Chile. Following an extended period of political unrest between the conservative-dominated Congress of Chile and the socialist-leaning President Salvador Allende, discontent culminated in the latter’s downfall in a coup d’état organized by the Chilean military and unofficially endorsed by the Nixon administration and the CIA, which had covertly worked to spread discontent and opposition against the government.
A military junta led by Allende’s Commander-in-Chief Augusto Pinochet eventually took control of the government, composed of the heads of the Air Force, Navy, Carabineros (police force) and the Army. Pinochet later assumed power and ended Allende’s democratically elected Popular Unity government, instigating a campaign of terror on its supporters which included the murder of former Foreign Minister Orlando Letelier. Before Pinochet’s rule, Chile had for decades been hailed as a beacon of democracy and political stability in a South America hoarding military juntas and Caudillismo.


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