In the final part of ‘Cord-Cutting’ I now discuss why an Indian born emigrant would prefer not to return to India apart from personal or professional reasons (which have been already discussed in the previous two articles on the subject). This article reflects more on the transformation in the cultural, political and social framework in India.
I left India in 2008 in middle age and hence had always accepted corruption, dirt, caste and class divide, vote bank politics of all parties, poor infrastructure, huge income divide starkly displayed by densely populated inhuman conditions in which people live like animals next to some of the most opulent societies and houses in the world,……. and many more evils that existed in India as fate accomplice. Like a dubious local disease every Indian is born with and has to live through all his life. Some fight this condition tooth and nail and try to bring change while others adapt to it and accept the limitations that it brings to their daily lives.
However while returning back to India in mid 2016, I was afraid of a greater change that I had read was happening in India. Since then, I lived in India for more than a year before returning back to my new home after realizing that my fears were justified and that Indians have definitely changed for the worse in the last few years.
Earlier, despite all the hardships that existed in India- lack of facilities that we had to face in our lives and our religious and political differences, India still believed in universal brotherhood- ‘Vasudeva Kutumbakam’ and practiced it in real lives. True there were ghettos in which Hindus, Muslims, Sikhs, Christians lived and true there were occasional skirmishes and fights which were mainly caused by political clowns for their benefits. Yet we all accepted ourselves as one.
Alas in the last few years especially since the phenomenal rise of Hindutava forces we have seen a new India emerge which breaks this very filament that spun us together. What is most disturbing is the covert support provided by the administration which crawled when asked to bend in front of their political masters.
India, which for centuries was famous for debates or ‘Shastrarthas’ now shuns dialogue. It is impossible to speak against any religion or superstition lest it hurt the sentiments of a certain group of people, especially the Hindu majority. A nation that allowed a Dayanand, Ram Mohan Roy, Vivekanad even a Gandhi to speak openly and accepted change, does not wish to hear a word against any practice even if it is a known evil. Today as a leaning atheist, I cannot question the practice of idol worship or the notion of a judgement day or even the very basis of Manusmriti without offending Indians. No one can even speak against the political leaders who use religious division as a tool to further cement their power. Hooligans masquerading as ‘Protectors of Hindutava’ threaten people and even convert their threat into action and yet no one speaks. Dissent is not accepted in India. Period.
A Kalburgi, Pansare or Gauri speak out against superstitions and are murdered. There are social media posts justifying their murder and hailing the perpetuators! The law silently looks away and the murderers roam freely seeking their next target!
Any right wing Sena or a group of ‘Hindu leaders of a specific community’ can emerge and announce reward to kill an artist and cancel a film release and they roam the streets scot free. No one cares for the law as in reality the stakeholders protect the law breakers than the victims.
Today silence is the rule of the lambs. And not just of the masses but also of the thinkers and the dissenters as they have gone mute to ensure that they can at least live. India truly is facing the most effective ban on dissent against the majority view without even making it official!
What is most surprising is that cow, an animal that has been revered in India for centuries and has never needed any special protection services is now considered threatened in the regime of the very government that claims to be its biggest protector! For thousands of years this animal survived, even ruled the Indian roads when straying alone and nothing happened. Now it needs protection! And how? By hooligans, cow-ordly mafia gangs, political parties and governments who use cow-protection as a tool to spew hate and to target specific communities.
Imagine a country where humans are not just threatened but regularly murdered in the name of protecting cow! India.
Imagine a country where government cannot provide shelter, utilities or even basic law protection to millions and millions of humans and yet spends limited resources in building a cow-census and shelter home for cows in every district! India.
Another farce is the nationalism debate. In the name of nationalism, any dissenter can be labelled anti-national and can be made libel for a law suit. Wow! And God forbid if you are an Indian Muslim who expresses any view which may be critical of any activity of the majority religion or the political party in power. You are immediately labelled a citizen of Pakistan and thousands are ready to deport you there without any trial or judgement. Ask a certain Aamir Khan or Late Hussain. From not rising for the national anthem before watching a Sunny Leone film (a heinous crime which can get you instant justice from fellow cine goers) to speaking against the political masters of the nation, anything can make you anti-national!
But what is most disturbing is the fact that it is not the leaders but the common Indian who has changed. Leaders, like the current breed who would use religion or caste to divide people always existed. Yet they have captured the eyes of the common man more so in the modern India.
I have always felt and believed that when a man gets into a comfort zone monetarily then he wishes to exert his social and moral believes and prefers the company of like minded people. That is what is happening in India with the middle class. With greater financial prowess that they gained in this century, they have become more protective of their religious and social status.
India is becoming a rogue nation not just because of the impotence of its administration or the cunning of its political leaders but because of Indians themselves who wish to protect their newly created empowered cocoons and personal spaces, both real as well as metaphysical.
There are examples galore!
Forget in open public spaces, it is impossible to have a religious debate in a house among family members lest someone may get offended because of their belief structure. I have personally heard from a man last year whom I always thought was religiously balanced that he would not shy from shunning even harming his daughter if she ever thinks of marrying a Muslim! Any discussion requesting for a balanced approach towards all religions has almost always led to angry arguments leading to animus cold war. Most surprisingly when no arguments against accepting each other as fellow humans exist then unnecessarily a Kashmiri Pandit or an Army Man is brought into discussion as a way to end dialogue and justify the venom.
Become a member of any what’s app group in India and invariably you will face the wrath of people if you dissent against the political or religious masters of the nation. Trust me. I was not even spared in a what’s app group of so called highly intellectual writers of the nation for raising a voice of dissent against the toxic climate in India. And in most what’s app group, fake messages instilling hate and venom regularly flow in the name of protecting individual communities. I am shocked and surprised to see how can people believe in such messages!
India is a changed place and a difficult place to adjust for a person who has lived in another world. A world which has its own problems and yet where justice is delivered in time, where humans can live in peace and harmony, where artistic and human freedom is given utmost priority and where dissent is welcome even against the leader of the nation.
From where I see Indians look mired in much hate and venom over pointless issues. It is a known fact that we are all born humans and live with the burden of religion given to us at birth by our families. Why should we cease to be humans when we become a Hindu or a Muslim? Why can’t we understand a simple fact that we all are still the same and speak the same language, have similar culture and habits and even go through similar upbringing. And guess what? Once you step out of India, in any other part of the world than South Asia, we all are treated as one. Indian, Pakistani, Sri Lankan, Bangladeshi- we all are the same ‘Browns’ or ‘Pakis’ (as many refer to us in the Western world) to the rest and draw maximum comfort in each other’s company.
This climate of hate has to change. Sane voices should prevail. We may take pride if at all in our religion but need to take greater pride in being good humans and respectful of each other. No religion needs to defend itself in the modern world. Especially in India where different views have nurtured and survived for centuries.
The concept of an ever-accepting India! India, one kind wish for thee!
Posted in Times of India on 31st December 2017. Link below-