NEW DELHI: Dear Mr. Prime Minister

It has been a good two weeks since you announced at 8pm in the night that the 500 and 1000 rupee notes in our wallets will no longer be legal.

Anyone opposing this move has been accused of and branded a supporter of black money, anti- national and in some cases called a Naxalwaadi, by your very loyal troupe of supporters.

It's seems as though you are far removed and unaware of the ground realities of this very country you 'rule' over when you suggest moving towards a cashless economy. However, if your decision is backed by a nuanced understanding of the socio- economic demography of this country, then you are, I am sorry to say, just oblivious and indifferent to the difficulties of the common man. Or shall I say your 'subjects?'

In the present atmosphere and circumstances the language of ruler and subject seems most apt. However I do not wish to discuss the politics of semantics here.

Why I write to you is because of how everyone who opposes demonetization has been accused of supporting black money. As pointed out by Amartya Sen in his recent comments, the move to demonetize has created a situation where all citizens who are holders of cash are being labelled as crooks – unless they can prove otherwise.

A 25 year old from a middle class family and living away from home, and employed since having completed my studies in 2014, in today's date I have no savings and I own absolutely no assets. So the question of me opposing demonetization because I did not have the 'time to prepare' does not arise at all.

Recognising that I come from a position of privilege, not having any savings does not pose immediate problems. However, in several villages across this country there are women who have saved and hidden away money to educate their daughters; to prevent their husbands from gambling it all away or spending it on alcohol and as a means to protect themselves from various forms of abuse and violence.

There are several people with disability who cannot access or even reach banks, ATMs, petrol pumps and don't even know what Big Bazaar is, leave alone going there to withdraw money. There are some who have saved in 500s and 1000s the meagrely disability maintenance grant given to them by the government.

There are individuals who do not have bank accounts or have chosen to not open one because of them being inaccessible or very far. There are several people without valid identity cards because some quack conned them.

There are sex workers and trans-individuals who don't have bank accounts and save their earnings in cash because society has shunned them to the fringes. They face stigmatization and discrimination in everyday life and for them banks and ATMs are not a safe or welcoming space as a result of the stigma and discrimination faced by them.

Like myself, I have several peers who oppose demonetization because of the kind of 'collateral damage' -- as you call it -- it's causing and will further continue to.

It is in this regard that I write to you, protesting against your accusation of being a supporter of black money. I protest being branded as anti-national or being called a Naxalwaadi because I understand and empathise with the difficulties of those less privileged than me.

Just because I do not agree with your 'surgical strike' on black money, does not mean I support it. It does not mean I am hiding any either. I am tired of and angry hearing you go deliver speech after speech accusing everyone opposing this move as supporters of black money.

I protest against you accusing the citizens of this country of being criminals because they disagree with you and your methods. I protest you denying the citizens of this country the right to live with dignity and unleashing this form of economic violence upon those already deprived.

Myself, my friends, my parents, their friends and several people in India face great hardships each day to ensure that they and their family survive, get three meals a day, have access to education and health care -- so that they and their family can have a decent standard of life.

It hurts and angers me that you, without knowing or having to face even one fourth of our difficulties,accuse us of being criminals. It angers me that you disrespect us and our hard work which comes at the expense of our own lives.


Manisha Shastri