The euphoria in the country over the Kashmir situation is just another pointer of the diabolic nature of our species. The population is rejoicing over the revoking of Article 370 and Article 35a, calling it a much awaited move and appreciating the gutsy attitude of this Government. The covert and horrendous means used to achieve this end are termed as a necessity for the betterment of the country and Kashmiris themselves. One nation, one code, uniformity, homogeneity, singularity and a myriad of such words and phrases are flooding our social media feeds and daily conversations, without the slightest mention of integration, humanity, civility.
Your very family and friends, people you grew up with, people you thought you knew all your life, who were like you ( or at least you thought so ), have given up the charade and are applauding the Government for this monstrosity. The bigotry and prejudices have all surfaced now. “Why should Kashmiris have a special status?”, they ask. “And if this is what needed to be done to do away with their privileges, then this is the only Government which has the balls to do it.”
Total communication blackout, curfew, a mockery of civil liberties, leaders under house-arrest, no opinion or inclusion of the affected party….. and all this is for the betterment of the Kashmiri people and nation? Reverse the situation…. Visualize liberal Mumbai or Pune…. Imagine being lied to about a terrorist attack, feeling the dread when tourists are being evacuated in peak season from your cities and important religious yatras are being called off. Then envisage not having access to internet, mobiles and landlines. Now imagine being caged in your house, picturize your streets empty of its own people, replaced with men in boots carrying guns. And all this when in some far-off building in New Delhi, people are making the decisions of your life that you are unaware of. And then you are told by a jubilant nation, your rights have been taken away and you have been demoted to a Union Territory.
How did it feel? If you still didn’t feel anything or feel it was a necessity in the given circumstances, you have mastered the art of ‘otherization’. It is the other who is affected and not me. The other needs to do this for the country not me. This unfair treatment has been meted out to the other and not me. Such harsh steps are needed to make the other accept and understand, but not me. It is a temporary inconvenience for the other, not me. When it comes to ‘me’, I am different. I am the majority. I am Hindu. I am Indian.
As a country, a species, we have been using the concept of ‘otherization’ to justify any and all injustices and wrongdoings. As long as its not me, its fair. Supposed beef eaters are being lynched, not me. Muslims are being forced to chant ‘Jai Shri Ram’, not me, Triple talaq bill criminalises Muslim men, not me. It is right. It is needed. It is for the betterment of the country.
Dalits are treated unfairly, not me. They need to pick the garbage, not me. They need to clean the sewage tanks, not me. It has been this way for centuries. It is needed. It has been created this way for the betterment of society.
Women and children are molested and raped, not me. They are shamed and teased, not me. They are commodified, not me. They are weaker ones in society. This is how the world works. They need to be more careful about their clothes and cautious about their actions. Finally, if you tempt a man, what can he do?
The LGTBTQ community should be persecuted, not me. They are unnatural, not me. They should not have any rights, not me. Their emotions are abnormal and acquired. It is not natural. Condemning them is necessary to maintain sanity and semblance in society.
Minorities need to adjust and accommodate, not me. Minorities have to accept and change their ways, not me. I am the majority and I don’t need to be inclusive or open-mined. After-all, this is a Hindu nation and all other minorities need to accept the majoritarian view to fit-in and survive.
Women need to take care of the house, not me. The children, elderly, daily chores are all their jobs, not mine. I am the bread-winner. It is for their betterment that I go out into the big bad world!
It is the Black Man’s fault, not mine. The immigrants are the problem, not me. The under-developed countries are to blame, not me. The over-populated nations are a burden on resources, not me. The masses are the culprits, not me. Climate change will affect the poor and weak, not me.
How simple it is to call out the other. And how easily it can be extended to the whole world. The more dangerous part is the extension of this ‘otherization’. They are here for my benefit. They are here for my betterment. I am superior, they are inferior. I have more rights than them. My life is more valuable than theirs. My needs are more important than theirs.
First, we distinguish ourselves from the ‘other’ and then we justify all wrong-doings, injustices and atrocities against the ‘other’ to mask the benefit we derive or the privilege we enjoy in any given situation.
It is absolutely possible to live a myopic and self-centered life without any consequences in a life-time. But there are ramifications in the long-run. The past has enough examples of the way in which circumstances change. History has often proven how the short-sightedness and selfishness of a collective can bring upon tyranny and unfathomable ideologies and unlivable circumstances on entire nations or regions.
When such massive changes come about, very few go unscathed. Those changes affect the rights and liberties of almost everyone. It is then people wonder in horror how all this came about, without once accepting or acknowledging their role in perpetuating it.
We cannot say it is okay as long as it happens to the ‘other’ and not me. We need to take a closer and more profound look at our stand on things today. Every time we condone the ‘otherization’ of some community, gender, ethnic group, minority, we need to understand we take one step closer to losing our freedom, giving up our civil liberties, diluting our democracy. And above all, we need to accept our participation and contribution in the formation of a society, country and world which may not be to our liking in the near future.
Aditi Munot is a Pune based Blogger