India, one of the oldest continuing civilizations on earth, is a great mosaic of different cultures, religions, ethnicity, ideologies and philosophies. From the Harappa and Mohenjodaro civilizations to the advent of the Aryans, the Huns, the Kushans, the Shaks, the Turks, the Afghans, and the Mughals, India as a nation assimilated different races, cultures and traditions while preserving its own history. Assimilation and synthesis of diverse traits had always been a peculiarity of India. Consequently, it made India a land of “Unity in Diversity”.
Our past heritage of tolerance, mutual co-existence of diverse groups is laudable and admirable. But keeping our nostalgic past apart, if we introspect into our nation’s current political and social scenario, we find that we are moving in quite a reverse direction. Bonhomie of tolerance, unity in diversity, mutual respect of views and diverse ways of life seem to be vanishing with the passage of time. Now, the notions of ‘us’ and ‘them’, “we” and “others “ are emerging that declare those who are culturally, racially, religiously, ideologically different from majority as “others”. Whether they are Dalits, minorities, north-eastern, opponents of cultural nationalism, all are collectively stigmatized as ‘others’. However, it’s worth mentioning that minorities especially Muslims remain a major target of this process of ‘othering’. There is no room left for contrasting opinions. A relentless crusade has been waged at multiple levels to embolden the idea of “us” and “them” because it is the very plinth on which certain organisations thrive.
Media, intellectuals and public figures are perpetuating the very notion, which has far-reaching drastic consequences on the collective psychology of countrymen. Constant depiction of ‘others’ as a problematic threat to the nation, aided by prejudiced public discourses is steadily eroding the composite culture of India, that evolved over thousands of years, from Ashoka’s Dhamma policy, Akbar’s ‘Sulah-i-Kul’ to Gandhi’s truth and non-violence. Distorted representation of facts and news with half-baked theory are acting as precursors to radicalization and extremism on both sides. Spate of hate articles, slogans and videos and trolling groups on social media are permeating unsubstantiated fear and hatred for “ problematic other”. Through manipulated facts and stories, they are trying to create opinions based on hatred and irrationality that suits to their ideology, and unconsciously, thousands are falling prey to it.
Amidst all these manipulated news, facts and trolls, biased media houses are acting as “opium of hatred” for the masses: an opium which has potential to normalise the prejudices and heinous crimes against ‘others’. Justifying abusive language against Kaur, Dadri lynching, Pehlu khan lynching, resorting to violence in Delhi University students protest, justifying mob justice, linking Najeeb with ISIS are the mere reflection of its dangerous consequences. On its zenith, this ideology would jeopardise the security and social fabric of the country. Intellectual and rational voices are beleaguered by populist follower’s rhetoric, the notion of nationalism has been hijacked by some groups. Dissidents have become synonymous with anti-national. Government apparatus instead of acting as a bulwark against these hate mongers, is hands in glove with them.
Apart from this, major threat that would distort social fabric in long term is education system and textbooks. Now, the fanatics are trying to present a distorted version of history. By shameless manipulation of facts, they are trying to invent new past for the nation. They are trying to represent political malfeasance of Muslim rulers through the religious angle, and through gross exaggeration, they are trying to demonize the identity of Muslim rulers. Controversy over Tipu Sultan and Aurangzeb, issue of Babri Masjid, declaring Taj Mahal as Tejo Mahalay are the reflections of such attempts. Through distorted version of history, they are trying to show that entire history is a story of battle between two religious and ethnic groups, and their interests was antagonistic to each other, so that a sound ideological base could be founded to indoctrinate hatred in coming generations.
All these attempts are further emboldening the notion of ‘us’ and ‘them’. If we dissect their saffronized version of history, we find that it is a mere modern iteration of Jinnah’s two nation theory. Interference of religion in politics is further making the mockery of world’s largest democracy. Power hungry hawkish politicians are flirting with religion, exploiting sentiments of the masses to convert it into electoral fortunes. So called custodians of religion are also pampering these power hungry politicians for their selfish interest. Mandir-Masjid issue, riots and killings, mob justice, vigilantism, hate speech, etc. have become tools to polarise the votes, and used as stairs to reach the Parliament and assemblies. Divide, polarise and rule has become the new incarnation of Divide and Rule policy. This Unholy nexus of politics and religion may benefit both the parties in short term, but it would cause irreparable damage to resilience, plurality, composite culture and unity in diversity of India in long term.
We must not forget that India is still a nation in making. It’s not the story of distant past when country was on the verge of violent conflagration in the name of language, culture, north-south drift. Violent anti-Hindi protests in south India, Khalistan movement in Punjab, North east separatist movement, Kashmiri militancy, Maoist violence in Bihar, Bengal, Chattisgarh and Orissa are a few to name. Emboldening the notion of ‘us’ and ‘them’ on basis of religious identity, would further contaminate the different existing identities other than religion, like region, language and culture. It would create innumerable cleavages and fissures in our nation. Consequently, variegated diversity and plurality of our country would cease to exist.
In the past, we had already witnessed dreadful consequences of hate politics. United India got divided into two nations, followed by violent conflagration between two communities. Catastrophic turn of events killed thousands, and displaced millions. It was the most horrific chapter of Indian history. Unfortunately, we Indians are still following the same pattern of politics. Once, great philosopher George Bernard Shaw quoted: “We learn from history that we learn nothing from history”. The same statement is very well-suited for us. We are repeating the same past mistakes. The country is witnessing historical anomalies. Current politics is also based on “hatred for other”, religion is being used for mobilising the masses as it happened in pre-independence era. We don’t know what would it (hate politics) culminate into? Destiny of nation is hidden in the womb of future.
Conclusively, spectra of narcissism and hatred is looming over the country. The notion of tolerance, pluralism, multiculturalism and mutual-respect is floundering. The silence of good people would further embolden these hate mongers.
We, the common peace loving citizens, especially the younger generation have the responsibility to eliminate the scourge of hatred, discrimination, and prejudice towards a particular community or group. It’s on us to protect the peculiarity of this beautifully sculptured multi-cultural country. Let’s defeat these divisive ideologies with the message of love, peace and compassion. Let’s pledge with all our might and determination that we would try our best to turn these lines of great revolutionary Allama Iqbal into indisputable reality:
Aa ghairiyat ke parde ek baar phir utha den
Bichhdon ko phir mila den, naqsh-e dui mitaa den
Sooni padi hui hai muddat se Dil ki basti
Aa ek naya shiwaala is desh me bana den
– Allama Iqbal