Forget Afghanistan, the real game is at home

Taliban's emergence in our neighbourhood turns the spotlight on Indian Muslims who now have to reinforce their patriotism to please Hindu majoritarianism & justify their presence on “Hindu” land

Forget Afghanistan, the real game is at home

Ranjona Banerji

Not surprisingly, large tracts of the Indian “intelligentsia”, the media, the enablers, thought leaders, talking heads, commentariat, muckspreading think-tankers, are very roiled by the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan. They feel for the plight of the Afghans who do not want the Taliban to take over – as do most liberal-minded people as well as Islamophobic right wing Hindu majoritarian people. The Indian Government, in its own unique best-ever way, is woolly-minded and uncertain about what to do since it has no real foreign policy to speak of but feels it must be heard and seen to be part of the Great Game.

The real game, as ever, is at home. The view of India from within India: all of us little captive froggies stuck in our little well of hate, festering in our dreams of greatness past, never letting anyone leave. There was a time when the well was open, living in the well was not mandatory. The Taliban waited for 20 years for the Americans and others to leave so they could shut down the music.

How different are we in our smug superiority?

A judge of a high court believes that cows exhale and inhale oxygen and that Jesus Christ said that killing an ox is as bad as killing a human. So much for the Sunday roasts which are a tradition across the Christian world. Another high court judge believes that peacocks procreate through their tears. Both the judges, more dangerously, believe that regressive social customs are more important than Constitutional law.

We can laugh but they represent the new India, the permanently sulking India, the under-confident India which can only gain self-esteem by killing or torturing someone else. The new India some argue is the same as the old India. This is true but it can also be irrelevant. All the sulking of the past never took us anywhere except backward. The sulking of the present will have exactly the same effect unless we understand the past rather than trot it out as an excuse.

For instance, the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan turns the spotlight on Indian Muslims who now have to reinforce their patriotism in such a manner as to please Hindu majoritarianism. Every time Muslims are killed in riots by Hindus, they are forced to reaffirm their patriotism and commitment to India. They have to constantly fight the stereotypes. They have to justify their presence on “Hindu” land in a nation which just about hangs on to the increasingly tattered vestiges of a Constitutional democracy and a republic.

It is extraordinary shameful that between 1947 and now, we have been unable to see ourselves as one society, as one democratic nation. Because the right of the individual is not respected and has to be subsumed by the community, so the smaller communities have to be obedient to the larger community. Rights, fundamental or human, are bad words, anathema to the needs, beliefs of the community. You might argue that this thought process is what drives the Taliban. And I might ask you why you set up the Taliban as the ideal?

When India began this journey as an independent nation in 1947, from dominion status to a full-fledged Republic in 1950, we knew that nothing was perfect. That a long and difficult road lay ahead of us. Some of us are now old enough to have seen part of that journey.

We have even lived the dream, where we thought the unfair and cruel shackles of the past could no longer hold us back. It is not for nothing that so many schoolgirls from underprivileged backgrounds will tell you their dream is to be pilot. It is but a metaphor to fly free. Unbound. Democracy. Choice.

But not in today’s India. We are back to the worst of our past. Enslavement by religion, caste, community, gender, class, political alignment, region, ethnicity… Even those who spread the hate are trapped. They cannot see further than bringing everyone else down to their level.

And in today’s India, suffering as we do the worst government we have ever had by every single parameter, hope has been extinguished. This can only mean that the hate for the Other will increase, as will the violence, frustration and anger.

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