(This essay first appeared in Tamizhini e-magazine)
Thoothukudi. A polluting factory. Years of sporadic protest, culminating in a sustained 100-day mass protest, leading up to police firing on the last day. 15 people reported dead. Probably more. With the factory closed, for now, and with all the dead cremated and long gone, we may forget who the protestors were; forget whether they were social or anti-social, national or anti-national; forget what the protests were about; forget the right and wrong of it. But I cannot yet forget the visuals capturing the sharpshooters in action on a van top. I wonder, did their minds waver? Did their nerves twitch? Did their hearts palpitate? Did their fingers tremble? Did a single thought cross their minds that their targets were people, full of life, not even foes they’ve been trained to hate, but their own people, fathers, mothers and daughters? Did any of them question the order to shoot?