BRING BACK THE HYPOCRISY

“App cigarette piyte hain? — You smoke?

The written language is so incapable of reflecting the parochial inflection in the question that a CISF lady personnel asked a female journalist as she was going through Security Check at Srinagar Airport. This wasn’t happening 5, 10 or 20 years ago…this happened in 2017. The Journalist was stopped from passing through unless she chucked the pack. When the journalist tried to argue saying that the rules stopped her from carrying a lighter but not cigarettes the conversation veered to how can you smoke? The you in this case meant woman. Ultimately the journalist had to abandon her packet of vice and escape the situation in the hurt company of her own morality.

So was the woman in uniform being Judgemental? Or was this just an instance of another frustrated individual taking out societal angst on someone perceived as the other?

Photo by Umberto Shaw from Pexels

Other — a word that opens up a world of hateful potential…the flavour of the season. From cigarettes to food to fashion to passion to language and religion and caste everything can be misjudged and judged through the prism of the other. The hypocrisy that laid the foundation of India stands shattered by the onslaught of the other. Where education and globalisation should have led to an era of openness and restructuring the times are such that communities and individuals are being encouraged to shrink back into their own identities.

What an Indian will not hear is the legitimate cry of a Kashmiri, a Mizo, a Naga, a Manipuri, a Bodo, a Karbi, a Naxal, a Gorkha, a beef eater, a homosexual or any other person of a divergent belief or/ethnicity, seeking individuality. What every such patriot is bent on denying is the legitimacy of the need to celebrate distinctiveness within the larger identity. In a sense it is ironic that the overarching uniqueness of the Indian identity is challenged by a subset of that very characteristic and yet the subset itself is denied recognition because it challenges the supremacy of the greater uniqueness.

For decades India was sheltered from the conflict of having to deal with the other, by the mouthing of the, now perceived to be hypocritical, cliché that had been plastered into the communal consciousness — much like the sabka saath sabka vikas inanity of today. In schools and institutions and at the familial dining table everyone repeated ad nauseam the motto of unity in diversity. It meant nothing but it served its purpose, it gave credence to the acceptability of the existence of the other. That bland motto meant that one could be different and still claim Indian nationality.

Now it is no longer taught, no longer does a father nod sagely and tell his young offspring that India stands for unity in diversity. The motto acted as a cushion that absorbed the waves of intolerance from bursting out of the self. People kept their bigotry under wraps as it was not considered good form to be accused of it because Indians were supposed to be united by their very differences. With the fading of the motto Indians are showing their true colours — they are unafraid of being who they are. The years and decades of the myth of solidarity with the other are now over and true Indians can unabashedly flex their majority muscle.

Now India lives in prejudiced times when the beast within an Indian boldly walks where the atypical fears to tread. The gloves are off and lynching can happen, food items can be banned, language can be ignored, minorities can be marginalised and in its very simplistic manifestation — one woman in uniform can use the threat of her post to hit out at someone who does not conform to her belief system.

The insouciance of intolerant India is palpable because officially and unofficially India is no longer proud to proclaim its unity in diversity. What an Indian will not hear is the mournful call of a Kashmiri, a Mizo, a Naga, a Manipuri, a Bodo, a Karbi, a Naxal, a Gorkha, a beef eater, a homosexual or any other person of a divergent belief or/ethnicity, seeking individuality. What every such Indian denies, in the process, is the legitimacy of the need to celebrate human distinctiveness in the company of those of similar nature. In a sense it is ironic that the overarching uniqueness of the Indian identity is challenged by a subset of that very characteristic and yet the subset itself is denied recognition because it challenges the supremacy of the greater uniqueness.

It is the hegemony of the powerful, it is the domination of the many, and it is the antithesis of democracy that divides one India from another. Make in India a Swachh Bharat without conscience, without empathy, sans humanity in the nano speck of a single consciousness yet built speck on speck it records a deviation, on the time chart, from the path illuminated by the headlamps of those who went before.

What is India? What is nationality more than a mere bonding for mutual political favours? A multi-ethnic, multi-racial community confined within the boundaries of one political entity will question forever the logic of the grouping. The more potent the mixture the stronger needs the container be and the viscosity of the mixture will ensure that the contents and its container will not undergo any drastic disturbance.

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THE PUMPKIN SELLER

THE PUMPKIN SELLER

The Pumpkin Seller is a cynic and tends to observe life through a sceptic's prism. The use of pseudonym is deliberate to avoid bias that attaches to names.