India is a mosaic of great cultures. Not now. The culture which we inherited from our founding fathers and martyrs who wanted to preserve the greatness would be ashamed to see India today. India today which is digital, India which is nuclear and India one of the fastest growing economies of the world is now also the land of cynical, hysterical and emotional people. In today’s India citizenship is redefined based on emotions for cows. Gaurakshaks (Cow protectionists) are now new citizens. In hierarchy of citizenship, they are on the top. They are beyond the limits of constitution. They are limitless. No laws are applicable on them. They are new police. Sometimes it’s their responsibility to police the Police also. Police is now spectator and governments are theatre troupes and gaurakshaks are directors. They are directing the new India. Disciplining and punishing is now their prerogative.
For the last two years it is very evident that if you are part of a mob which is intending to lynch your neighbor who is earning more in the free and competitive market, a mere rumour about beef can get your things done. You do not have to employ a sharpshooter to annihilate your competitor. Cow is now more powerful weapon than the Kalashnikov or AK-47. These are the same people who have overlapping membership of a political party, a cultural organization and a mob. They are the one who have been involved in disciplining youths during valentine days and attacking pubs on the eve of the New Year. These are the people who are running after rationalist and civil society activists in the country. These are the people who are engaged in mob violence in different states.
From Dadri to Una to Alwar, they are unchecked. They find shelter of politicians. Their vigilantism has paid dividend to those politicians who side with them. It is also evident that in every case they have been proven false and the victims have been found innocent. Is innocence of victim and guilt of perpetrators of violence create narratives other than what has been already established? No. It is the tactics and methodology of those political ideologues to maintain the narratives alive which quite naturally is created on the idea of ‘otherisation’. And the same kind of violence is repeated in very similar fashion somewhere else and the very news reverberates in different locations, where similar kind of incidents has already taken place in the past. Hence, polarization gets frozen in those ‘sensitive’ areas which are divided into binaries.
Even if civil society members make hue and cry and try to do justice with the victims, they cannot stop the next incident to happen. Legal recourse may give sigh of relief to civil society members but not a breathing space to the victims’ family at large. Violence done with intention pays back not very immediately but it pays back definitely in a given time. There is no conception of repentance or remorse of such an act because it is motivated action and not an accident. It is pathetic for any society where politics is not based on compassion and empathy but hunger for power and subjugation of others.
Like traditions are invented to perpetuate hegemony, the creation of new normal adds to those structures of power. In redefined normality sahansheelta (tolerance) and ahimsa (non-violence) are lesser virtues. We Indians are now not frightened and disturbed while seeing dead bodies; we are now not disturbed because of violence. Our private spaces, our entertainment choices and our games are flooded with the themes of violence. Our cinemas are flooded with anti-hero characters. In the new normal, people are instinctively becoming violent.
It is mix of that psyche of violence and lack of compassion and empathy which has reduced a human being lesser than an animal. The sacredness of a deity which was tangible and static in the temples is now roaming around in each nook and corner of the villages and urban spaces. This is another way of capturing space. Sacredness is now installed into the body of an ‘animal’ by shifting the holiness of a temple which lacks utility in time and space. The moment body of an ‘animal’ is attacked, that will infuriate the worshippers and amount to desecration of sacred space. This is high symbolism and more apt political ideology to woo the masses who can easily understand this desecration than the complex theories.
As the politics of the nation is changing dramatically for the last two decades or so, the scientific temperament is cornered by the false and crafted emotionalism by certain sections of political class which has utilized tactically prejudices and myths prevailing in the society to consolidate and homogenized uneducated masses who are now biggest assets to right-wing politics. Tyranny of the majority is in offing in India because of the lack of value education to the citizens of this country by the previous liberal governments. The new liberal and market controlled education do not promote critical attitude hence conformity. Realities and truths are getting redefined. Emotions are getting consolidated and homogenized on communal line. Evil is no more evil, if it can win elections. Consent for crime is sought through elections and past crimes are getting endorsement in the binary politics. ‘Us’ and ‘them’ politics is precisely to win elections. Issues are no more issues if they do not have electoral utility. Poverty, unemployment, price rise and accumulation of wealth by few people are non-issue today. Politics is now looked narrowly in terms of elections. This is new normal. Intellectuals are no more intellectuals. With the tag of intellectuals, they are busy in earning fame and post by conforming to the power centers.
Individuals are no more citizens, they are divided into beef-eaters, romeos, nationalists/anti-nationalists, love jihadis, Marxists, and sanghis (those from cultural organization called Rashtriya Swaymsevak Sangh). Institutions are no more independent, they have to align with the parties in power. Teachers are turning into ideologues and politicians. Students are becoming party workers and foot soldiers of those ideologies. The universities, colleges and schools are encroached not by ideas but by guns, lathis (sticks) and abuses (read Ramjas incident).
The era we are living in is the era of whispering and murmuring. One is on surveillance of the other. People are now becoming more sentimental and one should be careful about flagging issues about religion, castes and even questioning the leader, which might culminate into hurt-sentiment and consequently lynching. Families are now conscious of suggesting their kids and children not to enter into discussions over sentimental issues. This is new normal.
We are happy in identifying enemies than friends. We are living in the time where friends should agree with each other. There is no process of dialectics in discussions and deliberations. No counter questions. Agree, agree and agree if you want to avoid becoming enemy and getting targeted publicly. Uniformity is new normal. Conformity is new normal. Absolutism is new normal. Bestiality is new sacredness and man-eating is virtuous than beef-eating.
We have less confused and curious minds and more absolutist and rigid minds. We are living in the era of cacophony. Sharing and learning together is outdated things. If you can scream more in the discussion then that signifies you are speaking truth.
Criminals are rewarded for their criminality and hence aspirants are heading towards becoming like them. The best profession in our times is politics. The best method in our time to become a politician is to become gaurakshak (cow protectionist). It is guaranteed that, you will be rewarded with greater posts in your political career. I am aghast and appalled by the fact that the ghettoisation is becoming new normal, ghettoisation of not only minorities/communities but also ideas. This is higher version of governmentality. This is gaumentality (cow-mentality).
Parvez Alam taches politics at Aligarh Muslim University, Aligarh, India.