Apr 24, 2009

Prejudice Squints when it Looks

Now, really, this is going too far. Way too far.

A dangerous website that thrives on malice, hatred and some twisted superiority complex of a particularly large section of Indian society, not to mention the propagation of superstition and blind faith, has published the following content on one of its articles:

Rahul Gandhi’s unnecessary allegation in Sangli, Maharashtra: "Though BJP is criticizing Dr. Manmohan Singh calling him a weak Prime Minister, BJP had given in to the demands of the terrorists during the hijacking of a plane at Kandahar when it was in power and had released the terrorists."

Now here are the Editor's appalling comments:

Congress ruling for maximum period made the people impotent. That is why the relatives of the people hijacked in the plane were pestering the government to release the terrorists at the cost of the national security without paying any heed to it. BJP’s decision at that time was the repercussion of the Congress party’s indecisiveness (Gandhigiri). Hence Rahul Gandhi should not cast one sided aspersions on BJP! While criticizing BJP regarding Kandahar issue Congress should not forget that it had allowed the terrorists hidden in Sharar-e-Sharif without attacking them!

If only closed minds came with closed mouths! So if I have a parent or a sibling or a spouse or an offspring in a life-threatening situation of national magnitude, I should not make all efforts to ensure the safe return of my loved ones. I should also not try and mobilise all the support I can gather to force the government to even consider action. What's more, I shouldn't inform the government of my intense desire to see my loved ones again. In fact, I shouldn't allow myself to worry sick and abandon any pretence of assurance from the high and mighty political clout. More so, I must not lose touch with reality, even if I know I might not see my loved ones again. And of course, at a time like this I must eliminate all fear from mind and make a decision that panders to the reigning government, even if such a decision comes at the cost of my loved ones' security or even life. Since when was survival even an instinct? Then again, I should realise and accept that common individuals in India are aplenty and dispensable.

In many ways this statement is a turning point in the history of a modern, independent and progressive India. Not because of the depth of irrationality or the intensity of hatred or the extent of stupidity that this statement represents, but because of the direct threat that the ideology behind it has posed to the very concept of the modern Indian state.

This threat does not arise from death and destruction caused by rampaging mobs. Nor does it arise frombombs or guns or lapping flames. The tortuous history of the Indian sub-continent has witnessed many a bloody event. But the threat here arises from the concrete manifestation of a lethal ideological agenda with an express objective of destroying the present Indian state and its constitutional fabric. Any secular-minded Indian who believes in a pluralist democratic India must take this statement as a wake-up call. Here, what is at stake is the very existence of the Indian Democratic Republic, and such high stakes calls for equally radical and unorthodox measures.

Any liberal society that cherishes freedom of speech and dissent must learn to draw a line between legitimate expression and a motivated propagation of malicious prejudice and irrational hatred. Not to mention unabashedly irresponsible accusations against other ethnic/ religious/ cultural groups. Once the fine line between insanity and reason is allowed to cross, it wrecks the very fundamentals of civilised existence. Any irrational ideology would be free from hurdles like self-doubt or reasoning and offer precariously simplistic alternatives based on half-baked truth or blatant lies. When such an ideology piggybacks on mass polarisation, the combined effect is that much more vicious. Then, all that is needed is the slightest of triggers to set up a conflagration - triggers that may not even be remotely relevant.

The statement above is living proof that a constitutionally established republic can allow blatantly anti-constitutional acts to be perpetrated and even justified. Such groups would subvert the constitution where it serves their strategic interests, and it does not require an artist's imagination to visualise what they would do if allowed to flourish so.

Communalism in India is usually regarded as a socio-political issue and its virulent propagation is not dealt with the severity and gravity it warrants. In fact, there exists no substantial section of the legislation to curb and punish communal unrest. One of the largest oversights of Indian politics is to see even communal political parties as democratic, while they are really an oligarchy of assorted non-accountable individuals who thrive on a soap-bubble ideology of misguided supremacy of a particular section of the nation. Though these groups pay due lip-service to democratic values, their polity is hardly so. The power of governance should be used to combat the threat of communalism in every manner possible.

The time has come for a de-facto congregation of secular and tolerant individuals and groups to come together. Why, that time was yesterday! Nevertheless, this force should evolve a stringent law to recognise any activity that begets hatred or prejudice as "Constitutional Terrorism". A focused de-infiltrating of communal elements from governance and social institutions would help identify and thereby eliminate the former. The objective would be to create a climate hostile to the subsistence and functioning of communal forces. In a country where influential tactics can mobilise a billion-strong population in one go, a strong platform of secular-minded citizens can act as a powerful pressure group to raise a voice against communalism. This pressure group can influence political parties and governments to fight communal forces in a coordinated manner.

It is very important that the real story behind each incident of communal unrest is brought to light, so that our people are able to appreciate how flimsy the foundations of hatred can be. More importantly, the culprits need to be identified and appropriately punished to prevent re-runs of those incidents. While the governments at the Centre and the affected state would stonewall the process, it is imperative that a public investigation be launched to bring justice.

Lastly, any communal force would do better to understand this and commit it to memory: "It is better to have an intelligent and criticizing enemy than a foolish and all-agreeing friend." Always...

Facts courtesy: Gaurang Mehta


  1. Hey Surbhi !
    You know what, the exact thoughts came to my mind when release of terrorists was proclaimed as weak by our HOPEFUL future leaders.

    I actually wanted to ask them that how do they define or differentiate a weak PM and Strong PM ??

    Thanks a ton
    Coz now i feel that i am not alone in that regard.

  2. Hi Surbhi!

    Though your concerns about the growing (and already alarmingly large) influence of communalism in India are totally justified, I feel you've tended to take a very simplistic view of the situation.

    1. For a typical politician (legislator) in India, their tenure is a "bonanza period", when no thought of welfare of anyone (of course, not even the community they want to avenge) except themselves ever crosses their mind. I don't think even those who monger hate actually believe in their purported "cause". For instance, I don't believe a politician appealing for votes on ground of particular religion or caste actually thinks of welfare of the respective communities. So, how can a communal provocation be thwarted when it is actually a well planned stratagem? You can argue with someone with convictions; can you argue with someone with just an agenda (gathering votes) and no conscience?

    2. The grounds for communal hatred in India are (or anywhere on the globe) anything but flimsy. I've dealt with issue of communalism in my blog-post with the same title. Would like your feedback on it. In that post I've tried to take a psychosocial view of the problem, and illustrate why tackling the problem of communalism (and any affiliation) is difficult.

    3. You've alluded to this fact, but want to reaffirm that Indian constitution had been written with ideal people (administrators as well as citizens) in mind ("hoping for the best"), and not with the opportunistic nature of people in mind (NOT "prepared for the worst"). That's the most serious problem plaguing India.

    Take care.

  3. AnonymousMay 18, 2009

    Well Surbhi now you know that an average Indian does not want Communalism and politics of hate :) We have voted for stability and secularism.

    And I strongly agree with "Communalism in India is usually regarded as a socio-political issue and its virulent propagation is not dealt with the severity and gravity it warrants."

  4. ShashibhanJune 12, 2009

    You pack a lot of intensity in your writing, which is atleast not wrong, if not right, when taking a stand on an issue like communalism. However, I also feel that makes you loose objectivity from perspective of writing & rationality of thought.

    1. "In many ways this statement is a turning point in the history of a modern, independent and progressive India."

    It is kind of hysterical to bestow such a status to the referenced statement, when statements like these have become a way of life in Indian Polity.

    2. "But the threat here arises from the concrete manifestation of a lethal ideological agenda with an express objective of destroying the present Indian state and its constitutional fabric."

    I would rather like to believe that usually the objective behind such statements is self serving & myopic rather than something as colossal as destroying the state & its constitional fabric. As those who say so, would not like to kill the goose that lays golden eggs for them.

    May be, I am wrong or may be I help your thinking/writing. Anyways, you are writing about the right issues & have the right stand.

    Keep up, Keep going!!

  5. AnonymousJune 12, 2009

    "If only closed minds came with closed mouths!"

    Well said! I guess it sums it all up!


Your comments will not be moderated, so feel free to speak your mind. However, with freedom comes responsibility, so abusive and/or violent language is strictly prohibited.