Two Indias too many!
On one hand, our leaders claim democracy is part of this land’s philosophy since ancient times, on the other, these very leaders do everything they can to undermine and destroy democracy
Today, Indians are being made to wear two hats. Citizens are supposed to be positive ambassadors of the country, focussing on the current slim pickings of what supposedly makes the country great. Simultaneously, they are supposed to ignore the crisis the country is lurching through. In today’s India, truth is an embarrassment that disrespects this country. Truth seekers and truth speakers are considered enemies of the state.
Mohan Bhagwat, the chief of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) -the rightwing hydra-like organisation whose arms include its political wing the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) currently ruling India, claimed rapes don’t occur in Bharat only in India. He said this in January 2013, clearly establishing two nations within the international boundaries that define this country. Maybe, the stand-up comedian Vir Das was inspired by Bhagwat’s observation.
Forget the idea of two Indias, currently there is a Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde in a predominant portion of the Indian population. The Dr Jekyll part of these individuals comes across as polite and respectful. They claim that they represent a philosophy that respects everyone. The Mr Hyde in these individuals equates respect with others subserviently kowtowing their diktats. Any deviation from which is met with violence.
Let’s shift to a more recognisable individual instead of the western cautionary tale of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde. There is a form of Shikandi that inhabits these Indians. Not in the sense of half-man half-woman, but in terms of weak and strong co-existing in the same individual. Their veneer of machoism and warrior like qualities are in fact very thin. The weak in these Indians makes them feel threatened and susceptible to perceiving other points of views as attempts to disrespect and demean them. This fragility is compensated, if not rescued, by the masculine riding on a white steed bearing weapons of violence and frivolous court cases.
But this nation’s duality is also exemplified by the current lot of leaders. On the one hand they claim democracy is part of this land’s philosophy since ancient times, on the other these very leaders do everything they can to undermine and destroy democracy. They claim that truth and fact-checking is important, while they and their supporters overwhelm the country with prodigious amounts of fake science, fake news, and fake histories. Similarly, leaders show their cosmopolitanism and humanitarianism by quickly responding, on social media to some issues, but ignore national issues brewing under their noses. In the same vein they succeed in downplaying major issues, while malevolently make a mountain of a molehill.
There are other nuances of this duality which the country bears witness to. Indian society has always suffered from the uneven practice of police protecting citizens and the delivery of law and justice. However today, this application is far more brazen and politically oriented. Indians exposing injustice are charged under laws of sedition and inciting hatred, while those who incite violence through hate speech and commit atrocities prowl freely. Some Indians spend years in jail as undertrials as the government consciously tries to punish them by prolonging the legal process, other Indians spend years in jail as undertrials because of the government’s indifference to their plight.
Interestingly this duality is also seen in how this group perceive themselves and the culture and philosophy they believe they represent and protect. On social media there are many clips doing the round of Hindu festivals being celebrated abroad. This is a matter of pride for such people. To them it proves the growing power of Hinduism and how Hinduism now has a global footprint. What is ignored is that societies abroad are practicing what such people claim to promote and protect in India – some of this land’s ancient tradition and philosophy - वसुधैव कुटुम्बकम् (vasudhaiva kuTumbakam) ie the world is one family, and आः नो भद्राः कर्तव्यो यन्तु विश्वतः (Aa no badraaha kartavyo yanthu vishwatahah) ie let noble thoughts come to us from every side.
The importance of inclusivity so apparent in ancient Hindu texts is seen as an anathema and an Achille’s Heel today. This brings us to the other absurdity, in the attempt to restore India’s pride and create a saffron India such traditions that made this land great are being wilfully destroyed.
These are a people that crave international recognition and faun over their leaders preening and performing on the global stage while unconcerned about India’s global rankings continued slide under their leadership.
The messaging to couch the ignominy of Modi repealing the 3 Farm Laws is a recent example. Narendra Modi claimed the laws were being repealed as he had been unable to sensitise the farmers as to its benefits. The fact is, till Nov 19th 2021 Modi was conspicuously silent on the laws and the farmers protesting it. There was not a peep when they were called Khalistanis and anti-nationals and thrashed by the police. His supporters now claim that this step back mirrors the movements of a lion preparing to pounce.
One of the consequences of such duality is Indians and the country are cutting off their nose to spite their face. And that’s the ugly truth. Given the consequences Vir Das is facing for his poem, the day is not far off in India when it will be mandated that each herald the other as an emperor and extol the beauty of their new clothes.
(Views are personal)