17 July 2019 12:43 AM

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RASHMI OBEROI | 12 APRIL, 2019

Never Has India Been More Divided

If you think the divide is worse than ever, you are absolutely right!


Across India, communities which had co-existed in harmony have descended into violent sectarian fighting. I have never witnessed such factionalism before and a huge divide in all spheres… It is alright to have and support personal political ideologies but when they are interlaced with religion and hatred, then the next step is naturally a breakdown of egalitarianism. If you think the political divide is worse than ever, you are absolutely right!

As a nation, we are even more divided than we seem to be. It’s actually scary when you interact with people. I have even had friends and relatives make racist remarks and pass derogatory comments about people from certain religions and ethnicity which have not gone down well with me at all. In my opinion, such people should be cut out like a cancerous growth as they are only there to spread venom.

More so, when they know that I come from a family of interfaith marriages as well as a deeply ingrained background from the armed forces where religion and politics played no role nor encouraged and never ever allowed to stir the communal pot of hatred.

We do not have to be as divided as we are right now. We just need to have an approach to politics that does not depend for its success upon misdirection, division, hatred and fear. Also we need a leader with virtues – if such a person even exists? People are yearning for a very different style of politics and while that change may not happen overnight we need it to happen very soon.

Let us use this year’s elections to insist that there is still a “we” in our country. It is a “we” that crosses the lines of race and gender, country of origin and religion. “We” is the very first word that should be on our agenda. Declaring that it is still alive is essential to keeping our democracy alive. Through our ballots, we can send forth a forceful and joyous “we.” It is our right. It is also our obligation.

What has long been true is still true: We have a healthy mistrust of government but still count on it to make our lives better. We know that in many spheres. But we cannot allow people to build virtual political walls in the heart of our nation, separating us by our backgrounds, our races or our faith. This is not the India that is known for its tolerance and diversity.

The nation, it seems, has become irrevocably fractured along political and ideological lines and interactions with people has never been more uncomfortable and the admonition to avoid discussing religion or politics in polite company has never been more apropos. The far-right's hateful campaign against a large section of Indian society has put many lives at risk, causing mental trauma, and many times, physical violence.

While the politics of caste and religion are slowly but steadily tearing apart our country, successive governments have also failed to deliver on its promises of economic prosperity. In a parliamentary democracy such as India, people vote as much for political parties as for individual leaders, and even a disunited rabble of opposition parties without a towering leader can effectively rally together in pursuit of power.

Voters in India are known to punish incumbents in power. The politics of religious polarisation may have real limits in a country as diverse as ours even though an assertive brand of Hindu nationalist politics is striving to elevate India’s Hindu identity. This has sharply divided this country but I think our voters are not fools and Indians can see the need for change via effective leaders and not via political parties.

We need a visionary… We need competency - One who leads by example and who motivates others to set examples. The big worrying question is does India have any such leaders? I am really left wondering…!!
 

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