You are walking down the road and an unidentified group of men randomly strikes up a conversation with you. You have done this plenty of times before… making small talk to while away the time. Then suddenly, one of those men asks you if you eat beef. You do a bit of a double take — you don’t know them and you don’t know whether this is a trick question.
Of late, we have seen people in India being killed for ‘allegedly’ eating beef ; we have seen them being killed for being ‘Dalits’ ; we have seen them being killed for being rationalists ; we have seen them being refused accommodation because they are from Pakistan ; we have seen tourists being harassed for having a tattoo ; we have seen the mobs throw ink at people and say that it is a democratic form of protest.
And scarily, this isn’t even all of it. In this violent, intolerant atmosphere — if some unknown person asks you if you eat beef, what would your answer be? Just take a look at the papers today. Just look at them tomorrow. Also sneak a look at yesterday’s papers. Over the last three-four months, the theme has been the same. Muslims vs Hindus ; Radicals vs Rationalists; Protests by the writers ; protests by the extremists.
It is a constant, never-ending stream of skirmishes happening across the length and breadth of India. And our Finance Minister Arun Jailtey reacted to all this by saying that it all seemed like a manufactured revolt . “The easiest way is to manufacture a crisis and subsequently manufacture a paper rebellion against the Government in the wake of a manufactured crisis,” Jailtey said in a Facebook post .
What part of the death of innocents seems manufactured? And if it were indeed manufactured then why would the president Pranab Mukherjee make a call for peace twice in a fortnight. His tweets on Monday only highlighted the growing fears that are enveloping our minds. “Indian civilization has survived for 5,000 years because of its tolerance and has always accepted dissent and differences. Humanism and pluralism should not be abandoned under any circumstance,” the President said on his official twitter account .
But those words seem to have fallen on deaf years. On the same day as his speech, two young Dalit children were burnt alive in their home on their bed by some ‘upper caste men’ who wanted revenge. And while all of this happens, Prime Minister Narendra Modi is campaigning in Bihar or asking his right-hand man, BJP President Amit Shah , to tell the extremists in the party to stop making inflammatory statements.
It really is time he gets his head out of Bihar and starts looking at a country that rapidly seems to be going up in flames. Indeed, perhaps it is time we ask ourselves: when did we become like this? Or were we always like this… looking for someone to set us loose? It is a scary reality and one that is not going to do India or Indians any favours.
Once we were a nation of snake charmers lauded for our patience, now we are a nation that doesn’t bat an eyelid even when someone is lynched to death. If you were a sane, educated man who voted for Modi last year… would you still vote for him? This is exactly the kind of fear mongering and scare-mongering that the liberals spoke about before Modi emerged victorious in last year’s elections. Then, they were ridiculed but what will we say now?
One form of extremism is going to lead to another form — fighting fire with fire is easy. It doesn’t take much thought, just a liberal dose of madness and there is enough of that doing the rounds. Doing it like Gandhi or inspiring others is not an easy task but unless someone at the very top has the guts to put a complete stop to this intolerant sentiment, we are in for some very rough times.
This honestly isn’t about the BJP or the Congress or the various other parties in the country. This isn’t about politics. This really is about an idea of India that is fast being eroded not by time but by the harsh edge of intolerance and we need to stop it now.