“He is fearless in expressing his opinions..”

Nirmala Banerjee, Abhijeet’s mother.

Did you know Tihar jail was where Nobel Prize winner Abhijeet Banerjee spent ten days of his life?

Till now, you must have been under the impression only politicians made a success of their careers after a stint in jail! Though, I doubt the ten days Banerjee spent in India’s most dreaded jail, had anything to do with his rise in the field of economics, I am sure it was that same questioning, analyzing mind, fearless in expressing an opinion, as his mother says, that got him and a number of other students jailed while studying at the JNU in the nineties!

And that is the dangerous attitude we have to intellectuals who question.

We tell them to shut up or else, and the ‘or else’ is not a threat, as we look back in history, and see people like Giordana Bruno, burned to death for saying the earth was round, Copernicus and Galileo also threatened for saying likewise. Hundreds of others who questioned ‘civil rights’, ‘women empowerment’, ‘slavery’, and hundreds and thousands who questioned authority put to death or harassed till they shut up.

Just imagine if Abhijeet had decided to ‘shut up’!

“Hey Abhijeet, the poor are crying out for help!”

“I don’t want to go to jail again! No! No!”

His work, his research, which has considerably improved our ability to fight global poverty would have gone. Kaput. The poor, world over would never have benefited from the thoughts and brilliance of this man.

Now can you imagine the amount of brilliant thought stifled by authoritarian and oppressive bodies over time? Thoughts that if blossomed, could have revolutionized the world.

Which is why a Democracy gives freedom to thinkers. Unfortunately, those in authority, whether priests, politicians or even principals of schools and colleges, fear thinkers. In their minds, thinkers are troublemakers. No! Thinkers question an existing system, and offer suggestions for a better one like Banerjee has done.

Today, thinkers are muzzled and muffled, by cowardly methods: Filing false cases, using archaic and ancient laws like ‘sedition’ and finally even using the mob! When we use force on thinkers, we use ‘muscle’ against the ‘mind’. ‘Brawn’ against ‘brain’!

Brawn may win initially, but loses finally with no brain around!

Without brain, brawn with only their chest thumping, ridiculing tweets or building walls, starts losing. Aren’t we seeing it happen in the economic slide-downs all over?

All intellectuals may not get a Nobel prize to show how wrong the ‘brawns’ were, so let’s help, by voting the brawns out, if they don’t understand the language the Abhijeets of this world speak in..! 

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