A few months back, one of my dear friends called me a “Leftist”. I didn’t really feel hurt by the term, even though it came with sharp, pointed teeth. I simply replied, “Aap jitney right se dekhenge, duniya utni hi left mein nazar aayegi.” (The farther you see from the right, the more this world will appear to your left.)
The word ‘Leftist‘ didn’t hurt me because I would have written and spoken as critically of a regime even if I lived in times of a left-wing dictator like Stalin or a socialist dictator like Hitler or a right-wing dictator like Khomeini or closer home, even someone as authoritarian as Indira Gandhi or Sanjay Gandhi. When you are in a fight against political or religious extremism of any kind, sharp words are going to come looking for you. But, a hateful tag thrown at you becomes just an airless balloon if the one who hurls it doesn’t understand the word used to abuse you as you do.
Having been labelled with various such colourful tags quite regularly in last few years, such as ‘anti-national‘, ‘leftist‘, ‘liberandu‘, ‘red‘, ‘sickular‘, etc, etc, ‘Anti-National‘ is one of my favourites because it’s a free medal I receive from my fellow countrymen for being concerned about my own country.
I keep wondering, how do these same people who hate liberals, stand up for the national anthem written by the greatest liberal thinker, poet, and author to rise out of Indian soil, while unknowingly carrying so much hatred for Gurudev’s thought process in their minds?
How do we generalise and label every dissenting voice with an adhesive ‘leftist‘ tag, and then the same people, in their empty quest to win a debate, go on to invoke the name of an iconic leftist, rationalist thinker, and, freedom fighter like Bhagat Singh just to prove the gravity of their patriotism without acknowledging his thoughts and his writings? His work goes against the narrative they are trying to establish as truth just by repeating lies fed to them by state-press machinery. Ironically, Shaheed Bhagat Singh fought against this very mindset that most people wear up their sleeve today in the name of ‘nationalism‘, which in itself is a negative term being used in a positive sense far and wide on most online platforms and in street-debates which only compliment street-fights.
I would request my fellow countrymen to please read the book ‘Nationalism‘ by Rabindranath Tagore instead of buying proudly into this political concept and flaunting it, without understanding the reason why it is so appealing to their senses. The evil concept of nationalism comes with a free product: ‘Pride of belonging to a certain country‘. It thrives on the idea of how your country is the best when compared to other countries.
The consumer of this nationalism then starts developing a superiority complex that they love to stay in. It gives them a false sense of power, a sense of pride which makes them fight for their turf, thus making them just another foot soldier in a dangerous fight against humanity.
A patriot, on the other hand, questions the actions and policies and political propaganda spread by ones in power when they see people being wronged in the name of their country. How can love for one’s country supersede love for humanity? Because if there is no humanity, there would be no country! When we understand this self-destructive, intoxicating line of systematic thoughts designed to reel a person in, we will stop subscribing to this agenda of nationalism.
The backbone of revolutionary thought-process, that Bhagat Singh chose to colour the memory of an entire nation ‘basanti’ in (not the misconstrued saffron of today), was built by ‘questioning everything‘, no matter how popular the idea being questioned is. In fact, the more popular it is, the more it needs to be questioned and criticised because only through the democratic process of questioning and criticising, can one weed out authoritarian loopholes in an idea that is to be picked out, and dispose of the version that will finally be implemented. Thus this will also lead to the making of a policy or a strategy less prone to be misused, thus avoiding possibilities of centralising power in one individual or a group.
An environment in which a citizen can question anything, which is free of religious or caste divide was the vision that a young Bhagat Singh had for free India far before he reached the ripe age of 23. In one of his articles, he states that unless we are free of communal hatred, we can never be free of an oppressive regime, because this communal hatred has the power of delivering us from hands of British colonialism to those of India’s own extremist leaders. And that fear of one of the most loved martyrs has, unfortunately, come true under the garb of populism.
In recent years there have been child rapes and murders which far underestimate my idea of monstrosity. The way these child rapes and murders differ from child rapes and murders that used to occur previously can be unfortunately found in the colour of outcry that follows these incidents. The first thing that comments on online forums and news portals point out is not the fact that a crime of inhuman proportions has taken place but the religion of criminals. Since when did we start painting a crime like rape in religious shades? If we don’t pause and introspect on this now, we are simply going to degrade further as a society.
What’s worse is, through the exchange of a few comments, it turns into a “competition of virtual rapes“. As expected, some of the rational commenters, journalists and celebrities even face graphically worded rape threats. If the person in question is a man, rape threats involving their mothers and sisters, and wives and girlfriends can be found doing the rounds. After all, there’s a whole generation of sick people brought up on values of patriarchy that sees women just as a medium to get back to their male opponents! Then once a year we will see these same “virtual rapists” praying devoutly to Goddess Durga during Navaratri.
So, here is an example of how it plays out: For every voice that protested against the Kathua rape, a voice against the Twinkle Sharma murder case peppered with communal toppings and misinformation was raised, not in protest, but as a tool to show down the voices raised in Kathua rape case which incidentally occurred inside a temple.
I wonder how a few self-proclaimed, half-baked devout ‘un-Hindus‘ were not offended by the fact that the culprits carried out this heinous act inside a holy place of worship? But these ‘un-Hindus‘ ended up feeling offended enough to protest in favour of freeing the culprits! I say ‘un-Hindus’, because Hinduism as a thinking prowess, does not have any place for such hypocrisy. Where does this division of rapists and murderers on religious lines start and where does this blood-line end?
I personally believe, everything man-made can be annihilated, and so can this dividing line, only if we as a country have a collective will to co-exist with fellow Indians, if we have the will to understand and acknowledge the beauty that every religion has to offer, if we conjure within us a sense of internal resistance against generalising crimes of a few to reflect on whole communities.
This contagious disease of generalisation starts in the sub-conscious mind where, upon hearing news of any crime, we first look for names denoting the religion or caste of the culprits and then, it is in our own subconscious minds that we process this information to attach the inhuman acts to a whole community instead of attaching it to culprits as individuals.
So, the final feeling that we feel has a major chunk of this unhealthy misguided hatred which overshadows empathy for the victim. It then becomes more of a race to feed our egos, to win a debate, rather than the lives of individuals who have been violated on physical as well as psychological levels and whose tragedies are now being violated at our hands for our own political biases. Is it possible to understand how we landed up with this pre-processed fast-food of anti-humanity in our plates?
The same thing happens when we read or listen to someone criticising our favourite political leader. Because that ‘fast-food’-like thought process kicks in and takes control of our brains to make it defensive instead of understanding facts on which that criticism is based. On the contrary, we start doubting the integrity of the voice that criticises and when we look for it, an abundance of misinformation is already available on right-wing/left-wing portals that are designed to feed our biases, thus making our political opinions stronger, and making us increasingly incompetent to live with each other.
The seed of this fast-food thought process germinated long ago when someone executed this ‘masterstroke’ of blending religion with politics for the benefit of gaining power. On this flawed social platform, we cultivated our pride in our religious groups. But if we are ‘proud’ Hindus, we are Hindus just because we are born in a Hindu family, without having understood it.
For example, one of the major conclusions that both Ramayana and Mahabharata draw is ‘End of Aham (pride)’. I believe in that Hinduism, and therefore, I am not proud of it but I respect it for its inclusive spirit and acknowledge it as just one way of life, like many other parallel ways of life. I am aware that like any other way of life, its followers are capable of misinterpreting it and creating radical cults out of it without knowing that the crop of their proud minds will be harvested on election day for the benefit of someone with a bottomless hunger for power.
Therefore, not from anyone else, but we need to be saved from our own selves.