Tuesday, March 11, 2014

The ironies of our judgments

Sheila Dikshit has been sworn in as Governor of Kerala today. Sheila, who waxed eloquent about how women shouldn’t venture out on the roads of Delhi alone in the evenings and then crib about lack of safety; Sheila, who is purported to have amassed quite a bit of money in the run up to the Common Wealth Games. We can forget what she is accused of because a Governor hardly matters.

A. Raja has won a ticket to contest the LS elections from Tamil Nadu as of yesterday. Raja, who spent many a month in jail over a billion dollar telecom scam; Raja, who has been a DMK loyalist and “sacrificed” his precious months of livelihood for the sake of his party. We can ignore why he spent some time in jail, because one possible MP can’t harm us much.

Amma has been nursing PM ambitions for a while now. Amma, who brought Chennai to a halt with a serious law and order issue in the 90s, when she conducted her adopted (now estranged) son’s wedding; Amma, who is defending herself in a “disproportionate assets” case in court. We might not even remember what she did because that was so long ago and she must have been young and immature then.

Rumors of what exactly happened during Operation Blue Star float abound, while the kith and kin of the person behind it play politics, talking about empowerment, power decentralization and an RSS twist to Godse.

We really don’t bother about what happened in Muzaffarnagar a few months back, because we are still debating what exactly happened in Gujarat earlier this decade.

Who are we, as a nation? What are our morals? What do we identify with? What do we relate to? 

More importantly, what do we fight against? Is it communalism or casteism or corruption? I don’t know the answers. I don’t believe we really fight any of these things.

We like our convenience. We bribe the traffic policeman since it is cheaper and faster. We get agitated over reservations because we are losing out on well-earned opportunities. We, the educated populace of this country, who believe we are secular, don’t move into residential areas that are “Muslim strongholds”, and hesitate to enroll our kids in “Christianity propagating” convent schools.

Then, why does our secularist antenna pop up when we think of Modi or the BJP? If you think about it, the debate on secularism is absurd, because of two reasons. One, most of us are hardly secular in our actions. And, two, there is no political party out there that is truly secular, for each is busy playing up one religion against another for its own political mileage.

It only boils down to what we believe as humans, not our ideologies as a nation; ideologies that have time and again been ignored, trivialized or worse still, broken. 

I assume (and hopefully rightly so) that the only thing we can agree on is that we shouldn’t harm other humans, or give power to people who run the risk of harming other humans. In fact, I still get agitated when I think of the ethnic cleansing that happened in Sri Lanka, for that is how I think of it. But, I am sure there are Lankans who have a different view, who believe their leader isn’t at fault, and who trust that it was in everyone’s best interests to end the civil war.

I don’t know whether believing that Modi wasn’t party to the riots in Gujarat is just selective amnesia, or whether it is based on the fact that there has been no conclusive evidence to convict him. It does seem to be the latter. For, whatever else we may or may not have, we do seem to have a largely impartial judiciary that has given some unassailable, albeit very delayed judgments in the past. Then, who are we to convict him? Why do we hold him to ransom on the Gujarat riots, while ignoring many other political persona that have knowingly been party to many other riots and wrong doings in this country?

Is it because he is too Hindutva, and it is not fashionable for us to be perceived as Pro-Hindutva? Is it because he doesn’t come across as a pseud, English speaking, well educated politician with fancy degrees in economics and finance? Or, is it because we really don’t believe in the power of democracy and are scared that he might replicate the Gujarat model of riots across India, and emerge to be the Hitler of the 21st century?

Whatever the case, let’s at least apply the same framework and filters while evaluating every politician, Modi or otherwise. Otherwise, it seems to me a rather unfair assessment and biased verdict.


Shreya said...

Going by the first three paragraphs you seem to be experiencing some angst at corrupt politicians who have been let off far too easy. Well, there is one party which is going like a jackhammer behind them. Just saying :)
On us folks giving in to corruption, I had a similar discussion with Ankit recently, where he was of the opinion that all Indians are corrupt. I think that's not true. We are a harassed group of people - our offices are miles away from our place of work due to the nexus between politicians and builders, infrastructure is crazy bad again due to money changing hands between the private sector and the government, and most of all our cities are bursting because of no planning or development activities undertaken for smaller towns and creating multiple-hubs or for bolstering the agrarian economy. So we are forced to fight for every rupee at our work-places and forced to fight every dog on the road to get there on time. That's what I think.
On Modi, I am very very concerned about him using the Gujarat model on the rest of the country. Actually, it has already been done in Muzaffarnagar. The Babri Masjid issue puts my blood on the boil. I find it difficult to believe that people get swayed by such issues, and that there are people around who will exploit such weakness and misplaced jingoism. While there are arguments abound such as the BJP has understood that religious fanaticism will not get them anywhere, the people want development,and that they will have to change their proposition and practices, I don't think that's true. There's a Muzaffarnagar and many such pockets where incidents will continue to happen (we have a 150 year old history of Hindu-Muslim riots) and there will swoop in these dementor like politicians to add fuel to it and use those incidents for political mileage.
So yes, the BJP's identity, intimately intertwined with that of the RSS, will clandestinely continue to be religion. I can imagine that some day it can change, but that day has not yet come, not with the country still responding to it, and Modi at the helm. He has been with the RSS since his teenage years.
So yes I am concerned and not because I am a pseudo-secularist, but because I hate hate-mongering, be it office-politics or the government of the country.

Yogesh said...

Did you post this on Facebook when you wrote this? Or did I miss the ensuing war of words in the comments? :P

Exactly my thoughts. Neither of us individually or collectively (as a community, political party etc.) are 'secular' in our actions, then why this tamasha?

Kavity said...

Yogesh - This post got lost in the FB election mela :) So, absolutely no debate yet except from Madame S above.

Shreya said...

To Yogesh's comment: Arre at the very most people like us (i.e. educated broad minded well traveled working in MNCs) are mildly wary of the 'other' religion and that too when it comes to intimate relations like marriage. For example I would be a little concerned if my daughter fell in love with a Muslim due to the perception one has about the status of women in the community. If that perception breaks, for example there are many progressive Muslim families around and I know some of them, then I don't think I would mind at all. One of my best friends is a Muslim, I absolutely adore her, and my neighbors are Muslims.
The kind of hate that some others have, and which political parties try to incite and ignite is of a different level and just not worthy of any tolerance, no matter what the history or geography between the communities has been.
There, I have made this into a debate now :)