The Times They Are A Changin
“Come gather 'round people
Wherever you roam
And admit that the waters
Around you have grown
And accept it that soon
You'll be drenched to the bone.
If your time to you
Is worth savin'
Then you better start swimmin'
Or you'll sink like a stone
For the times they are a-changin'.”
Bob Dylan’s lyrics echoes the turbulent times we live in. It’s a cringing feeling that is spreading virally throughout our country that simply reeks of destruction and disownment. Religion is always the prime accused in most of the news that we hear today. Be it the case of Rohingya Muslims suffering Genocide in Myanmar or be it the Right wing Hindutva politics that is spreading violently in different corners of the nation hauling and seething communal poison and disruptive politics.
The intentions and philosophies of most religions are that of universal peace and pro-human values, but we somehow manage to twist it upside down and make it so mutated that even the Gods began to fear the human race. The extremism that religion preaches has penetrated to different layers of our socio-cultural fabric and created a stain that is long lasting and regressive to generations of civilisational evolution. Religion as a cultural enterprise has always had its positive and negative impact on society but when religion takes a form of political enterprise, then the dynamics changes to a whole new level where the identity and ego of an individual thrives on religious fanaticism. India has always been a hub of multiple belief systems but at the same time bolstered within a regressive system called caste.
The caste system was designed in such a way that religion was inseparable from it and hence even the cultural values were further segregated to inferior and superior forms of engagement. There were constant comparisons in every cultural interactions and this comparative logic is what haunts us even today when an upper caste person strictly believes that his/her food habits are superior to that of a lower caste person. This sense of superiority is further bred by the divisive Right wing politics that somehow ordains a large amount of political power to the already privileged casteist mindsets. The right wing doesn’t believe in destroying the existing structure inside the Hindu system but they somehow believe in rebuilding it by keeping the structures intact but within a unified Hindutwa framework where inferior/superior relations are normalised as tradition and culture. If Brahminism is a big engine run by the upper caste Hindus, then the Right wing politics is like rivets that strengthen the engine and keeps it from falling apart.
The recent death of journalist Gauri Lankesh has nothing to do with religion in a very superficial perspective. But let’s look a little closer and we see strings untying itself that speaks of her struggle as a journalist to deconstruct the hypocrisies of a political party that’s backed by a strong sense of majoritarian religious politics. Now, there are different conspiracy theories that are doing their rounds in the Internet holding radical Hindu extremist groups to Naxals responsible for Lankesh’s murder.
The irony of the situation is that when a life is lost, the first thing that we all look for is the culprit rather than the reason. It was her politics that lead to this point in her life where random strangers could just invade her home and shoot her at point blank. The answers might or might not unfold but there is a convincing anxiety that grips each one of us about how socially influential, rational people are becoming victims and how the politics of these slain people resonate a common language of socio-cultural resistance and State critic. They are not conforming individuals but are people who chose to speak up against certain attributes of our society where Injustice and Fascism has become a constant malice that’s breeding and sprawling like there is no tomorrow, like there is no hope for a progressive and inclusive regime.
The right wing, from the day they rose to power had made very vocal statements on how they are all for the ‘development’ of our nation. But what kind of development are we talking about here? All that we could hear/see in the last two years is about how innocent lives are lost because they ate what they wanted to, spoke what they believed in. This is not democracy! This is the rise of an autocratic system that slowly seeks to establish itself as the normal politics of a nation that boasts of cultural diversity and plurality. Right wing politics is a very real threat and they are directly opposite to plurality, they believe in majoritarian logic leading to discriminatory practices across the country.
The alarming part is how people are responding to all this confusing play of politics around them. Some believe that the current government is the answer for a holistic development of the nation and in the journey towards this development there will be some collateral damage and these lynching and murders are justified in terms of such a logic. All are lead to believe that something better is underwork and we have to bear all this for a better tomorrow. But how can we perceive a better tomorrow if our present is shrouded with confusion and violence that is perpetrated through religious sectarianism and casteist upheavals?
It’s as if no one in this country can raise an opinion that goes against the interest of the state. When the liberal and progressive minds of a nation is forcefully silenced and anarchy is normalized, when citizens become abiding sheep that survive and toil to nurture the power structures of an oppressive regime, then we see the death of democracy, a death that makes sure that none would rise up from the ashes to reclaim the values of freedom and liberty. A death that is so resounding that it echoes throughout the great legacy of a federal state that once was the cultural hub of pluralist thought and ideologies. The seven bullets that were fired are like the seven sins that we all play out in this atmosphere of vengeful politics. A sense of unavoidable discomfort creeps into our skin and stays there day and night reminding us of the dystopian times ahead of us.
I write these words with a sense of utmost despair and personal anxiety as my thoughts are clouded with pessimism. I see no point in pledging allegiance to a geographical space where its citizens are treated as mere fodder for cheap and violent political gimmicks. I see no ray of light that will fall upon our future generation who believes that they are part of a great-enlightened Utopia. Our traditions, our beliefs, all seem to be gateways for fostering communal polarity and sowing seeds of hatred. If there is a time to send out a strong message to the world that we are not ready to bow down to discriminatory ideologies and oppressive politics, then that time is NOW! Let us not be those silent shades under which fascist ideologies can slumber and grow like mushrooms. Let us, in these dark times, be steadfast and unwavering in our secular values so that the lives of people like Gauri Lankesh remind us not of the death of democracy but the resolute spirit of Resistance and Free speech.