We are living in unusual times. These are uncharted territories for those of us who grew up in the 70s and 80s. We were raised in another era with absolutely different values than which exist today and so it is all the more surprising that so many of us have fallen for the bizarre narrative that exists in India today. And it is not just a narrative anymore. Many of us zealously believe it and worship it and follow it and protect it!
We are children of parents who were born in newly free India. Our grandparents were a part of the freedom struggle. All our elders abhorred the divide and rule tactics of the British. They had a vision for India and worked very hard in the building of this nation in its nascent years…. Be it in industry, agriculture, trading, army or the civil services. Our parents discussed the economy, GDP, India’s balance of payments, unemployment rate, inflation etc. We grew up dreaming of being citizens of a developed India rather than being citizens of an under-developed nation. How then did we give up this aspiration to move forward? How did we succumb to divisive politics and give up our intelligence? When did beef, mandir-masjid, Romeo squads, Jai Shri Ram become more important than growth, development and progress?
Yes, we were raised by religious parents. But these parents laid a lot of stress on scientific enquiry. They wanted us to learn and gain knowledge and become engineers, scientists, professors, doctors, lawyers and the likes. Education, know-how, a questioning attitude, a thirst to find answers were encouraged by our parents and teachers. Then, how did we end up being adults who believe in the merits of ‘Gobar’ and ‘Gomutra’? How do we applaud global ridicule by an uneducated politician claiming creation of water and oxygen by wind turbines? How do we re-elect and worship a Prime Minister who does not know the difference between weather and climate?
Even today we remember and are nostalgic about ‘Mile Sur Mera Tumahara’ and ‘Ek Titli, Anek Titliya’. We loved our ‘Buland Bharat ki Buland Tasveer- Hamara Bajaj’ and ‘Amul- The Taste of India’ advertisements. Surprisingly, we cannot understand or appreciate a beautiful Tanishq ad anymore. And even more distressing is the fact that a company like Tata withdraws this advertisement to appease the ruling party and the populace which has fallen for the ideology of this party.
Every morning in school we pledged ‘we are proud of India’s rich and varied heritage’. Our teachers explained the beauty and sanctity of the Indian Constitution to us. We were proud of our ‘Ganga-Jamuna Tehjeeb’. For us India was a confluence of diverse cultures, religions, languages and practices. The Taj Mahal, the various forts, temples, mosques, churches, caves, The Golden Temple, Khajurao….. all had a significant historical and architectural value apart from their religious importance. How then, have we permitted a few media houses and political leaders to reduce our identity to a Hindu Rashtra? How is it acceptable when names of towns and cities are changed, ministers talk of ridding India of Nizam culture, citizens are asked to prove their identity and Indianness by CAA, a kissing scene on a Netflix show leads to trolling, loving biryani is akin to being anti-national?
Every citizen had a right to protest and say what he felt up to a few years ago. We have seen it time and again with the Dalit protests, the land acquisition protests, the anti-corruption protests with Anna Hazare that led to the creation of the Aam Aadmi Party. Why, then do we now feel protesting students are Pakistanis, protesting farmers are Khalistanis, protestors are anti-national and unpatriotic? Why do we so strongly believe all these protestors are misled and misguided. Each time how are we gullible enough to accept these protestors have been instigated and it is a planned conspiracy against the MoSha Government?
Humanity was a core value inculcated by our parents. That too we seem to have lost along the way. We were not concerned with the pain, helplessness and hardship faced by the migrant labour due to an unplanned and abrupt lockdown. It did not bother us millions would be rendered stateless and homeless by the NRC-CAA. We do not seem to notice when an 83-year-old Stan Swamy suffering from Parkinson’s is not provided a simple sipper in jail.
The Supreme Court of India we held in very high esteem. It was considered a temple of justice. We believed it would uphold our rights. The one institution which could be relied upon to correct wrongdoings, keep a check on the powerful of this country. Unfortunately, today even this institution has bowed before the power of the ruling party and become a laughing stock. Pregnant activists aren’t given bail but an Arnab is freed within days. The career and life of a Rhea is destroyed for political gains while Kangana gets Z+ security. Ministers can get away with slogans like ‘Desh ke Gaddaro ko, Goli Maaro Saalon ko’ inciting violence while cartoonists and comedians are summoned for contempt of court.
The PM’s office was always held in high regard. The Home Minister, Finance Minister, Defence Minister etc. were all positions of respect. Certain things like campaigning for the local or state elections of any area were never considered befitting for these offices. They had the all-important job of running the country. But strangely now, we give more importance to winning elections than running the country well. It is more important to say BJP won with such a huge majority or Modi has charisma rather than notice that our GDP is negative or unemployment is at an all-time high or we have fallen on all global indices from hunger to safety to quality of life. Our country has become an international joke and we funnily seem to pride in it.
Many of us have had inter-caste, inter-faith love marriages. Some of us had to convince or fight with our parents and grandparents. But we knew our children would never face these issues. We were confident love marriages or marrying the person of one’s choice would be the norm for the next generation. Little had we expected to encounter this new phrase ‘love jihad’. But what is depressing is we have accepted it as though it is real.
Today, eating beef, kissing your loved one in public, smoking some weed, cracking a joke against the MoSha regime, drawing a cartoon against the Supreme court, tweeting about poor policies have become bigger crimes than brutally beating someone up or raping a minor. Petty things get more coverage by the media than the most heinous crimes. ‘Thali’ and ‘Tali’ get more attention than ‘ Bhook’ and ‘Berojgari’. But the saddest part is many of us can totally ignore the failure of this Government on so many parameters. It is scary how we have fallen for this narrative, this culture of fear and lies.
What happened to our intelligence? What happened to our upbringing? Above all, how did we lose our collective conscience?
Aditi Munot is a blogger