Making India great again?

Martin Niemöller, the well-known German Lutheran pastor and theologian, reflecting on his own silence in the face of social suffering authored a famous Holocaust poem which I would like to quote:

First they came for the Socialists,
and I did not speak out –
Because I was not a Socialist.
Then they came for the Trade Unionists,
and I did not speak out –
Because I was not a Trade Unionists.
Then they came for the Jews,
and I did not speak out –
Because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for me –
and there was no one left to speak for me.

Unless a society asks elementary questions of itself, it is doomed to complacency and stagnation which leads me to ask this question that when was the last time the Hindu community asked itself the question who are we?

The last person to question Hindu society was Dr. B.R. Ambedkar who compelled  at least the public intellectuals to investigate tradition and reflect on the despair of the community.

Quite to the satisfaction of meaningless declaration like ‘say with pride we are Hindu’ or ‘a digital India’, very few of us step ahead and raise the question why caste discrimination is still being practiced, why we remain hostile to the minority sections or why we are apathetic to the plight of our own people.

We intend to talk about the basic and fundamental rights of every citizen, so innately, when these fundamental rights of an individual or a group or a community are being violated, there should be pain, there should be anguish and outrage and a determination to do something about it. But this doesn’t happen.

On April 23, 2017, when Prime Minister Narendra Modi met the chief ministers of various states at the Niti Aaog’s governing council meet in Delhi, the conversation ranged from topics like GST, a 15-year vision document to seven-year National Development Agenda and a three-year Action Plan. Yet at another meeting of PM and chief ministers of BJP ruled states, presentations were made related to best functioning state-level schemes. There were tweets made by Rajasthan CM Vasundhara Raje and newly elected UP CM Yogi Adityanath post event. But none of the tweets were able to bring up an important issue – the issue of growing cow vigilantism in Rajasthan and UP respectively.

In early April, 15 Muslim men were attacked in the district of Alwar by cow vigilantes on the account of transporting cows. One person died and others were hospitalized. This inhumane act was defended by the Rajasthan Home Ministry on the plea that cow smuggling is banned in the state neglecting the fact that the victims were in possession of government documents allowing them to transport cows.

In another similar incident, three nomadic families were assaulted on the suspicion that they were cattle smugglers in Reasi district of Jammu and Kashmir. And then, in another incident that happened in South Delhi, three men transporting buffaloes were beaten up.

This ferociousness and  brutality is becoming the new normal and yet we watch in silence.

Such taking of law into their own hands by the mob and the effeteness of the law enforcer must worry the chief ministers in whose states such events have already occurred.

Vigilantism takes other forms too. In 2011, M.F. Hussain died in exile, separated from a country to which he paid poetic homage on canvas.  In India, his precious pieces of art were not allowed to be exhibited. Instead, warrants were issued for his arrest due to which he had to leave the country. We reside in such an age where anyone, without the understanding of aesthetics and knowledge of art can rule out which painting , which film, which piece of art is to be displayed in public domain.

Film makers have long been affected by vigilantism, the recent case being of Sanjay Leela Bhansali who was beaten up by the members of activist group Rajput Karni Sena.

There is a need to speak against such atrocities since vigilantism have now spilled all over to regulate the daily lives of people. This is very much evident in Yogi Adityanth’s UP where the Hindu Yuva Vahini, founded by him now rules the State and polices relationship. The group stalks couples, forces the closures of slaughterhouses which has led the minority in economic difficulties and sparks off communal riots.

Development seems to be a meaningless term unless states acknowledge the primary assurance to all of its citizens i.e. their right to safety and security will be protected.

Also, not only the government but this leaves us to the question ‘can we afford to remain silent’ when our fundamental rights are at stake.

The need of the hour is to abstain from silence and ask basic questions about our own society and about our role as citizens.

(Featured image taken from http://www.freepressjournal.in)

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