Herald View: Why it smells like victory

This defeat smells like sweet victory because Indians have uncoiled from a fearful foetal crouch, because the siege on their beloved plural country has lifted

Sonia Gandhi, Mallikarjun Kharge, Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, Rahul Gandhi sign 'V' (photo: @parvezalamINC/X)
Sonia Gandhi, Mallikarjun Kharge, Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, Rahul Gandhi sign 'V' (photo: @parvezalamINC/X)

Herald View

If you’re still wondering why it smells like victory, and you really want to know, spend some time reading this—it might be instructive.

Maaz Bin Bilal writes: ‘2024 is a year of renewed hope, if not fulfilled desires. It teaches us, and hopefully the demigods too, some humility. That there can be victory in defeat and vice versa too. It reminds us of the power and wisdom of the wretched of India. That the struggle goes on, in words and on the ground. That united we are stronger in diversity.’

Mitali Saran: ‘The 2024 Lok Sabha election results blew our heads off because they seemed so very impossible for so very long. Narendra Modi had India in a chokehold, talking democracy and walking electoral autocracy.... On the eve of counting day, like many other Indians, I lay awake for hours—not worrying, exactly, but bracing for more leaden years of marginalisation and gaslighting, fury and grief; yet, harbouring that deranged flame of hope that insists on itself in the face of all the evidence.’ (More of her opinion here.)

Sabika Abbas: ‘I was asked why we were celebrating when Modi will remain the prime minister. Gubbara toh rahega hi, bas iss baar uski hawa nikal gayi hai (True, the balloon remains the same, but it’s deflated). The Supreme Leader will have to learn to defer to ‘coalition dharma’, not easy for autocrats who’ve begun to harbour delusions of divine origin. People won’t be afraid to speak up. You bulldoze homes, you make over national resources to crony businessmen, while the poor get poorer and find it impossible to make ends meet... how delusional to think it can carry on endlessly.’ (Full article here.)

Apoorvanand: ‘This is not a clear mandate, but it could not have been any clearer than this. One has to consider how social sensibilities have been brutalised in the past 10 years, understand how difficult it was for society to recover its ability to feel and see reality. The constant bombardment of fake news and hate messages have dulled the senses and damaged cognitive ability. For people to even see reality beyond this ideological haze was not easy. In this condition, what they have achieved is remarkable.’ (Read his full assessment here.)

Kumar Ketkar: ‘The verdict has mercifully put the brakes on India’s runaway slide into a majoritarian hell. Modi’s rumoured plan to drive the country towards a presidential form of government will not materialise. We can expect the polity to open up and the shackles on India’s democratic institutions to loosen. This is a window of opportunity to reboot the democratic process...’ (Read the full write-up here.)

Mythology is the nightmare from which my country has awoken.
Irwin Allan Sealy is the author, most recently, of 'Asoca: A Sutra'

Geetanjali Shree: ‘When we feared the worst, ordinary women and men have, with their maturity, wisdom and courage, created a chance to arrest the destruction of democracy in India. They have done more than what we, the literati, thought was possible. They have provided a chance to restore our democratic institutions and dignity of life.’

Danish Husain: ‘[This verdict] is a rejection of the authoritarian, fascist turn the country was taking, an endorsement of and a nudge towards the constitutional path. This nudge could have been a shove had the media been fair, and the institutions uncompromised.’

Prabodh Parikh: ‘Some of us had internalised the scenario of living in a world radically different from the one we had inherited. The authoritarian regime had succeeded in silencing some of us with a fear psychosis. We accepted the fractured sense of being citizens of a nation that we were born into but could barely recognise anymore. We retreated, we learnt to play safe. And then, the citizens of this nation, from distant corners, from familiar neighbourhoods, with one stroke of their independent sense of humanity, brought us back into the world that felt like home, where we could begin to speak our minds without feeling cornered.’

Venita Coelho: ‘Modi may form the government—but democracy has won. The idea of a secular India that rejected all the venom has won. Those who want this government held accountable have won. The civil society that fought to keep this election untainted has won. A man who put in the work, who walked from one end of India to another, listening to the people, has won.’

Timira, who is an educator, writes: ‘Recently, a very troubled 16-year-old asked me, “Miss, do you really think India is a democracy? Do you think the people even understand what it means?” It hit me hard.... On 4 June, I felt overwhelmed to find that our people had worked so hard to prove to him that we all understand it and own it with pride.’

It feels like victory because Khwaja Moeenuddin, who is now 92, and has seen the full arc of elections in India, from 1952 through 2024, said while speaking to Parth M.N. of the People’s Archive of Rural India (PARI) from his home in Beed, Maharashtra:

Tab desh banane ke liye vote kiya thha, aaj desh bachane ke liye vote kar rahe hai.

We are happy that Khwaja Moeenuddin saw this day. (Read his full story here.)

This defeat smells like sweet victory because Indians have uncoiled from a fearful foetal crouch, because the siege on their beloved plural country has lifted.

It feels like victory because we can all breathe again, in an India that may still be unequal as all hell — but is for everyone, no matter whether they are Hindu or Muslim, Sikh or Christian, Jain or Buddhist; no matter whether they pray or don’t; whether they are believers or atheists or agnostics; no matter whether they say ‘Jai Ram-ji ki’ or ‘Aadab’.

More of the citizens of India opining on the results of the 2024 Lok Sabha polls here

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