The Wrong Kind of "Wrong"
Right wing extremism- caging democracy
“Unity in diversity” is a slogan that almost every school-going child comes across in India. The year-round festivities that form a part of different religions and cultures bring this slogan to life in a colorful fashion. Our racial, cultural, religious and regional differences coupled with the strong bonding force of nationalism make us a unique and special nation. This is why ‘India’ brings to my mind the image of a rainbow, in its full and diverse glory.
For years, India had been subjugated and exploited ruthlessly by the colonial rule. The common suffering of the masses acted like a cohesive force for building nationalism in the country. The noble ideals of liberty, equality and fraternity (which now form a part of our Preamble), promoted by the French Revolution (1789-1799), further fueled the nation-wide struggle for Independence. The liberal and progressive leaders of the times developed a comprehensive Constitution of independent India, which secures to all citizens:
- Equality of status and opportunity;
- Promotion of the feeling of fraternity or brotherhood by the system of single citizenship; and last but most crucial
- Liberty, meaning the absence of restraints on activities of individuals (but is not absolute but qualified)
Different governments have worked for promotion of the first ideal, as it has more visible outcomes, aimed at political gains. Sadly, the other two ideals have not been pursued much as polarization seems to benefit different political factions. Hence, petty political gains seemingly triumph over national integrity and unity. The series of episodes that India witnessed in the last two years, have highlighted this unfortunate fact even deeply. Public discourse on intolerance has gained great momentum recently, and understandably so. The September 05, 2017 murder of journalist-turned-activist Gauri Lankesh, 2015 murders of the free-thinking Sahitya Akademi award winning writer, M.M Kalburgi, and of CPI activist Govind Pansare and the 2013 murder of rationalist writer Narendra Dabholkar, in a democracy, were bound to have that effect, at the very least. In this context, the threat to an Indian citizen’s rights and the democratic set-up of the country is visible from the fact that following Kalburgi’s murder, a Bajrang Dal activist tweeted that the next victim would be the Kannada writer Bhagwan. Now, this is what should be called an incorrect use of one’s “freedom of speech and expression” as it is a ‘murder threat’ and hence, a criminal offense! It would seem that the fringe right-wing groups are trying to divest Indian citizens of their ‘Fundamental Right’, guaranteed by the law governing our land, by undermining the authority of the Constitution, which ironically has given them the freedom to follow their ideologies. As if this was not enough, after over 40 disheartened writers returned their literary awards, an RSS cultural wing Sanskar Bharti group led by Anupam Kher organized a march against them. Further, the Dadri lynching and the continued attacks surrounding the ‘beef controversy’ across India, dent India’s secularism. What adds to the pain is the justification of this killing in the name of ‘cow protection’ by Panchjanya Magazine, a mouthpiece of Hindu extremists. Clearly, liberal-mindedness and free and rational thinking appear to have no place in the India of present days.
In another incident, a known Marathi litterateur Dr. Sabnis was barraged by a string of death threats (one allegedly from the fringe right-wing Sanatan Sanstha) after he referred to P.M Modi as “a man forever smeared with the taint of the 2002 Gujarat riots”. However, under persistent pressure (as it would seem) and the threat of disruption of Maharashtra’s upcoming biggest literary event- the 89th Akhil Bharatiya Marathi Sahitya Sammelan- Dr. Sabnis, who was the president of the meet, had to ultimately apologize for his statements.
In an even more peculiar evidence of the rising intolerance in the country, comedian/actor Kiku Sharda was arrested a few years back for imitating a self-styled religious guru on a Television show. Really, are these the ‘priority issues’ for India? Are these the issues that should ‘hurt’ our sentiments and offend us? More so, when a child of less than 6 years gets brutally raped, communal violence leaves several people devastated, hundreds of homeless people die of cold waves and so on. These are the incidents that should 'hurt' us and shame us into action.
The political environment in the country seems to have taken a turn for the very worse. This is to the point that if you voice your opinion against this situation, you will either have to flee the country (because you shall be labeled a ‘Pakistani terrorist’) or keep your pen down. This naturally angers and hurts me like every other liberal citizen of India. So, to the oppressing and subjugating forces strangulating the windpipe of the country, I would like to say that this is “my” country as much as it is theirs. It is lamentable that even after 67 long years after independence, Rabindranath Tagore’s vision for the country, reflected in the following poem of his, remains wishful thinking:
“Where the mind is without fear and the head is held high
Where knowledge is free
Where the world has not been broken up into fragments
By narrow domestic walls
Where words come out from the depth of truth
Where tireless striving stretches its arms towards perfection
Where the clear stream of reason has not lost its way
Into the dreary desert sand of dead habit
Where the mind is led forward by thee
Into ever-widening thought and action
Into that heaven of freedom, my father, let my country awake.”
It is certainly not in India’s best interest that the omnipresent leader of the government conveniently keeps ignoring the elephant in the room. What is the point of painting a rosy picture to the world when an infestation lies within? Isn’t right-wing extremism doing to Hinduism what ISIS is doing to Islam? Why can’t we accept all the beautiful colors of the rainbow? Where is the beauty in a single-colored rainbow? Let the Indian skies be open for all birds to fly and sing their different melodies. Why insist they all sing the same note, and that too only the one that appeals to a specific pair of ears??
© 2017 Narya