Of The Silent Shames of a Privileged Indian!

communal harmony

This is perhaps an apology in the weirdest of its forms. Or one desperate attempt to give an abstract existence to that pervasive numbness which overpowers me, whenever I come across one more incidence of anti-minority violence in India today. I know, the phrase “anti-minority” itself is too pathetically generic and shamelessly convenient for a privileged individual belonging to the majority community to express her anguish. Yet I hope, the sentiments will be appreciated, and the solidarity will be accepted by my addressees.

To begin with, let me share my sincere realization that, to remain a humanitarian is the second hardest challenges of totalitarian times; first being the obvious target of a predatory regime. While falling into the targeted category guarantees extreme dehumanization of the self and one’s community, tracing one’s niche as a humanitarian isn’t a cake walk either. That is to say, to live as an ally to the oppressed not just demands unwavering conviction and commitment to the basic tenants of human rights, but also to carry this mixed baggage of self doubt, helplessness and shame of hanging on to one’s innate privilege.

As someone who has never been able to wrap her head around the rationale/irrationality of human segregation in terms of religion, caste and race, it is furiously perplexing to witness my friends and their families- who are often like my second family- living in perpetual fear of persecution, for the mere reason that they are practicing Muslims! No, here I’m not dwelling into the detailed social, political, economic or cultural analysis of fascist regimes or how they gulp down everything that is humane, democratic and decent. What I am appalled at, is the sheer helplessness of the majority crowd, including mine, to reject the emotional slavery the tyrannical state imposes.

The fact is, today its not just the shadow of that slavery, but manifestation of the same as reality of millions of our brethren that should shudders one’s consciousness. For instance, what do I tell a friend, who has been denied a student apartment in the capital city, just because she is a Muslim? How do I solace my another friend who says his father has stopped wearing skull cap and spotting a long beard in public in the fear of getting lynched? How long should I hug one of my dearest persons and ooze out the last trace of indignity and humiliation he suffered at the hands of Army and state police just because he was vocal about the atrocities meted out to his people in the name of religion? How do I look into the heavenly eyes of six year old kid-, the one who calls me ‘masi’- and silently assure her that the world out there is a beautiful place and that she won’t be harmed just because her family follows Islam?

Unfortunately, I have no answers! And in the absence of the same, I bow my head in shame. Yes, with my heart and soul, body and words I shall be there, as I have always been. But is that enough? No is the answer for sure. Then again, I believe solidarity counts as something too, and for a moment at least I could take solace in the following words of Bertolt Brech!

“In the dark times
Will there also be singing?
Yes, there will also be singing.
About the dark times.”

Lekshmi Sujatha is a lawyer and writer

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