The forgotten battle for a more inclusive India

The countdown has begun for the Big Game. We have not been vaccinated, but we are constantly fed lies…Or, even better, we no longer discuss vaccines at all

The forgotten battle for a more inclusive India

Ranjona Banerji

As elections approach, from state elections to the Big One of 2024, so does all the speculating and conjecturing. Or really in some cases, conjuring. This is the moment that all our political experts and think-scams have been waiting for. How do we manipulate X feeling against Y? Let’s amplify the love of samosas over that of kachoris. We will antagonise kachori fans, but their numbers are small. The samosas will win it. Conversely, laddoo lovers are larger in number but the peda people will swing it for us because small margins will make a difference here. Whatever.

All these analyscums will ignore the bigger picture: the battle for a more inclusive India. Full inclusivity is always going to remain a pipedream because, well, human nature. But it was a dream worth working for in the last century. Why has a 21st century version been made into such a total joke? Why do our best “thinkers” believe that it is all right to applaud manipulation and exploitation as long as you win?

Even assuming every election and every political formulation is all about power, privilege and control, it does not mean that all of them are equal. The past seven years – even if we’re stupid enough to pretend we didn’t know what we were going in when we started the cheerleading rallies eight years ago – contain ample evidence that hatred as a sole electoral goal is destructive.

When you add incompetence, negligence, stupidity, malicious vindictiveness and ignorance to the mix, you have a society riven with hatred and brought to its knees economically and strategically.

Even if the pandemic had not happened, India was hurtling towards a terrible future brought on by an ideology with only one intention. And progress, social development and inclusion, fair if not equitable livelihoods, were not part of that intent. Hatred will not be given a name. It will be described as what it is not. It is therefore a battle against “elitists” or “liberals” or “thinkers” or the “educated” or some invented category who makes a perfect “other” against The Intent.

Therefore, you will see as the laddoos and kachoris fight it out with the pedas and the samosas, no one will mention these intrinsic problems facing us. They are uncomfortable issues. And rest assured, anyone who brings them up will be labelled as a political lightweight, a nitwit who does not understand that the only thing that matters is the vector between the samosa and the kachori. What price economic recovery when placed against a massive masterstroke of mathematical electoral magic?

I chose my categories carefully. Fights between vadas and dosas or chamchams and roshogollas do not have enough resonance. Sometimes these damn appams and rasams and jhols and jhaals do not behave as perfectly as samosas and kachoris. Therefore, they will play a fringe game in our enlightened explanations about electoral victories. There are some divisions we want to enhance. There are some we want to ignore.

All these thought experiments that are going to be thrown at us, remember, are based on one constant: An appeal to our intrinsic gullibility. They rely on our innate ability to always behave like a samosa even if there is no potato in our stuffing and that sometimes, really, we would like some daal within.

Our ability to limit ourselves to our hatreds and our identities are like magic to those who will exploit us and those who will explain how we can best be manipulated.

The constant barrage and bombardment have begun, for the Big Game. The fact that the pandemic is being brushed aside is ample proof. We have not been vaccinated, but we are constantly fed lies about how vaccines are on their way. Or, even better, we no longer discuss vaccines at all.

The fact that infighting in one political party is unimportant but infighting in all other political formulations is presented as paramount provides the clue. There is bad news everywhere but not all of it is highlighted. Instead, let’s discuss how much ice-cream a sportsperson might eat when faced with a person in power. Let me confuse you with this new law of politics: never criticise a government functionary for his or her ignorance because it only proves that you are an elitist bunch who does not appreciate stupidity and ignorance as integral human virtues.

And that’s the crux of this election: a bet on supreme trickery against all else.

Talk to the kachoris and pedas inside you. Try and think like a chamcham and a dosa. Who knows. Maybe not everyone is that stupid.

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