The political climate of India is fast becoming critically polarised. The nature of discourse is being vitiated by divisive, shallow diatribe.
Parliament, supposedly the platform for enlightened, purposeful discussion and farsighted legislation has been all but reduced to a ridiculous circus of shallow, shouting, sloganeering, and slanderous attention seekers. Where the political leadership in the past strove for harmony, understanding, progressiveness, and the celebration of the diversity and plurality that represented the central idea of our great nation, we now have to put up with a political environment that seems to be dominated by a band of largely regressive, semi-literate, superstitious, and prejudiced demagogues, who will stop at nothing to achieve their narrow, parochial political ends.
It is a crying shame that caste-based atrocities and targeted communal violence are fast becoming normal, everyday affairs. In fact, it is the ‘everydayness’ of caste-based exclusions and violence encouraged by our own unwillingness to accept the reality of caste operating within our ‘democratic republican framework’.
Communalism is rife. Communalism is nothing but the manipulation of religion and religious symbols for political mobilisation. Being religious is not being communal. Putting on saffron or white, sporting a ‘tikka’ of vermillion, a skull cap, turban, hijab, rosary, or going to the temple, mosque, church, gurudwara, or worshipping the deity of your preference is certainly not communal. Using religious symbols to engineer mob violence, strike terror into the hearts of the ‘other’, and polarize India on religious and caste lines are most definitely acts of communalism.
If somebody tells me to vote for a particular candidate because he or she belongs to my caste or religion, that person is spreading communalism. If somebody, be he a Christian priest, a Muslim mullah, a Hindu mahant, a Buddhist monk, or a Jain muni, tells me that my so-called ‘identity’ as a Christian, Hindu, Muslim, Buddhist, Jain or whatever should govern my civic and political choices, that person is trying to convert me to his brand of communalism.
Beware of those who support this abhorrent wave of food politics in the name of ‘religious sentiment’ or ‘women’s protection’. Those who want to take away your choice of what you eat and drink, be it beef or beer, pork or port, cigars or champagne are dangerous fascists in the making, no matter which side of the political divide they position themselves on. These politicians, who think that by proscribing what we, the citizens of free India, eat and drink, will get the support of the ultra-right clergy: the Mullahs, Priests, and Mahants, are playing a dangerously communal game of thrones.
What India needs most is the growing number of rationalist, liberal, freethinking young citizens. Active and articulate men, women, and others who rise above the narrow walls of caste, religion, and prejudice are the ones who can steer India clear of the kalyug!
On the occasion of world music day, let us all sing a song of freedom. Let’s imagine! And that will help us break the Sounds of Silence.