Why complain about a ‘wall’? Don’t we Indians tend to hide everything?

In this Twitter thread, New York based co-founder of Polis Project reflects on our tendency to hide everything that is inconvenient, from skin colour to parents, from animals to slum dwellers

(Photo courtesy- social media)
(Photo courtesy- social media)

Vasundhara Singh Sirnate

I’m not exactly sure why I’m writing this thread.

It’s just that over the last week one piece of news has remained in my mind more than others. It’s that piece which says that a wall is being quickly built to obscure the sight of slum dwellers when Trump visits Gujarat.

I have struggled with this piece of news because it signals to me one thing that I’ve always found hard to accept about Indian society - how we hide the truth.

We hide away our dark-skinned children when guests come, we hide away the imperfections of our families.

We hide our skin colour through bleaching products, we hide our aged parents away locked in rooms.

We lie about how much money we make, whether a girl wears glasses, how many rooms are there in our houses. We lie about promotions, our prowess when we were younger…we make up stories about our own glory.

I’ve seen this time and again. Everything is embellished, every narrative is embroidered to suit someone at an individual level. At the macro level we can see these tendencies playing out politically.

No one has lynched anyone; Lynchings are made up by anti-nationals, India is Open Defecation Free so let’s give someone a prize, look the GDP is doing so well (forget about the fact that we changed the formula), India is shining, India is progressing, a xenophobic man calls himself a Vikas Purush.

Paid performers lie to the public and call it journalism.

The news is terrifying, but the anchors are as terrifying as the news they scream each night. We speak of the world as one family, but treat literally everyone who isn’t exactly the same as us, like garbage.

We talk of peace like a billion Miss Worlds but happily partake and support in policy-inflicted misery on Kashmiris.

I guess I am turning over in my mind to what extent the permissibility of deceiving and obscuring affects everything in India, from policy pronouncements, to news, to family level, collective and individual behaviour.

Deception and deniability have always been pronounced in Indian politics. I remember when during some hotshot’s visit, street dogs had been relocated from Delhi. I hadn’t found the dog I fed somewhere one day and was informed that the dog had been taken away in a van to clear the routes for some dignitary.

Somehow a small dog was an “embarrassment” to Shining India. I remember weeping about that incident and when I read this news, it all came back to me again.

I hadn’t taken the relocation well. I now identify that emotion as loss and grief. As a teen I didn’t have the vocabulary to articulate what I felt - it was violence of a kind I didn’t know existed. That some things were forcibly hidden, or the “image” would be spoiled.

Those of you who follow my tweets may have occasionally seen me rail against someone who wrote or said anything about how the “image” of India was being marred in the West. I feel we hide the millions of ways we carry out micro aggressions, at an individual level, region wide oppression, social group wise oppression.

In the last decade we’ve even shed the pretentions. And yet, a Shining Indian government led by a Vikas Purush, feels it necessary to invisibilise poor people without their consent by building a wall ?

These are the folks on the backs of whom the country runs and its buildings are built and grain is grown and the rich are fed to obesity. And in the coming years we will thank them by subjecting them to policies that will be used as sticks to beat them into oblivion.

They owe us exactly nothing.

(Reflections reproduced from the author’s Twitter thread. The author is co-founder of New York based Polis Project and Director of Research)

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