A distressing feature of Indian public life today is the ease with which “hate” has become an integral, almost acceptable, part of the discourse. A thick cloud of hate—on the basis of region and religion, caste, culture and creed, language and sex—now hangs heavy.
In this churumuri.com exclusive, T.J.S. GEORGE, founder-editor of Asiaweek magazine, editorial advisor of The New Indian Express, and the author of the acclaimed biography of M.S. Subbulakshmi, writes on the ground that is shifting beneath our feet.
By T.J.S. GEORGE
In one respect this election season differs from previous ones: Incitement of religious hatred has become cruder and more reckless than before. Perhaps politicians see this as an easy way to win populist votes.
It certainly helps some pygmies to appear like giants.
Remember, till yesterday Pramod Mutalik (in picture, left) was an unknown frog in an unknown well. Today, he is a national figure, his face gracing every front page and every channel. That is the power of vulgar religious politics.
Similar is the case of Varun Gandhi (right), the spoilt son of a spoilt father.
When the boy was enrolled in the Rishi Valley School in Madanapalli, he wouldn’t eat for three days because neither the food nor the atmosphere suited the privileges he was accustomed to. Only because the staff and fellow students ignored his tantrums, and because hunger has a logic of its own, the privileged Gandhi reconciled to the culture of Jiddu Krishnamurti.
Kids born with a proprietorial attitude to everything around them rarely shed their air of superiority. Even his mentors in the BJP found Varun Gandhi to be egoistic and lightweight; his only “merit” was his surname. Then he came up with this new message of venomous religious hatred. Suddenly, the immature bambino was on every front page and every channel. Another Nobody turned into Somebody.
This is a political game where the players do not lose because they have protectors behind them. The citizen loses because he was no recourse when laws are broken at his cost.
Mutalik’s thugs could beat up citizens and walk proudly away because those who were supposed to protect citizens were inclined to protect the thugs instead. The court has banned this illegal moralist from entering certain areas. What if the police does not stop him? The system collapses when the state is party to evil.
The game, as played, is full of humbug and internal contradictions. Varun Gandhi announces that Pilibhit is a “violence-prone” constituency where Hindus are subjected to injustices. This is a serious charge against his mother, Maneka Gandhi, who has so far been representing Pilibhit in the Lok Sabha.
Clearly, the son is looking for what the original Gandhi, the Mahatma, called “the hasty applause of an unthinking public”.
He will not succeed, for never in history have hatemongers won the day. Three centuries of religious crusades by European Christianity gained nothing despite all the bloodletting, murders and cruelties. Hatred between Palestinians and Israelis continues to sacrifice generations without helping the cause of either. The mutual antipathies of Shias and Sunnis hold back the progress of all Arabs. Nazi Germany’s pogrom against Jews eventually destroyed the Nazis, not the Jews. Even the bond of Islam could not unite the Sindhi-Punjabis of West Pakistan with the Bengalis of East Pakistan.
Those who spew venom in the name of Bharatiyata are unworthy to speak of India’s civilisational greatness, let alone defend it. They take Rama as their mascot without knowing that Ramayana begins with a call by Valmiki in defence of two love birds.
When a hunter shot down one of the birds, the poet cried out Ma nishada. Brahma himself then appeared and urged the Adi Kavi to compose the story of Rama in the same poetic form.
Who represents Bharatiyata‘s beauty and greatness: Valmiki, who was outraged by the tragedy that struck two birds in love, or today’s petty men who hate love itself in the name of morality?