Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Time to undRape

The rape of this nation began much before the rape of its citizens. Didn't you see this coming?

Trapped within our selfish community, religious and political moorings, we were mute spectators when the nation was crying hoarse with the unbearable pain of getting split wide.

We refused to see the blood and the tired hustle of a nation trying to stand up as one.
What we felt was only the throbbing libdio led by our self interests - be it reservations, corruption, religious one-upmanship, community pogroms, conversions and political brinkmanship. 

Even when the soul sighed, your voice was muffled by your own communal and political insinuations.

Each time the nation choked with the abuse, you joined the throng and pointed fingers. Even when it bore the mucky ink of the vote that was cast. 

Stop soiling your social media wall with self-righteousness and borrowed sympathy shoved down by propaganda.
Your selective social media outrage is as fake as the one you accuse your prime minister of.

Soon enough, the mud sligning will get over, votes shall be bought and your vacation would be due.

What is Left will be your camera phone and what is Right will be the next meme.

Maybe, next time stand up for the woman next to you and show that you care. Without prejudice. 

Because, in the end what you get will be the mold you cast. Not the one you are pointing at. Even if it's hope.

Wednesday, March 08, 2017

Religious Hypocrisy and Political expression Part - II

Home Truths

In the land I come from, in Kerala, half-informed debates on public policies, regulations and laws were common place across any congregation above 2 people. During my younger days, matters of faith used to be a private matter. Personally too, I have always felt uncomfortable discussing attributes of one religion versus the other.  I have also been led to believe that religious tolerance and acceptance in the state of Kerala was much higher than the national average.

As much as I can remember, the fiercest rioting and arson in Kerala have happened on political agendas rather than anything overtly religious. Here again, it was the Communist parties with their militant trade union ideologies that always used to find itself at either ends in these clashes. However, unlike in many other parts of India it used to be the youth cadres of the Communist parties and RSS (and not BJP) which used to engage in these political battles especially in the northern belt of Kerala. (there are various theories linking the origin of the Communist movement to protect the trade interests of the Muslim merchants, but that is not my subject here)

Another aspect worth mentioning is that while all minority communities had their political representations either explicitly like in the form of Indian Union Muslim League (IUML) or tacitly like the Kerala Congress for Christians, I cannot remember any mainstream political party enjoying special patronage from the majority Hindus. (Though BJP used to contest elections, it never really received the political mandate from the Hindu community)
However, I see this trend changing and the lines blurring between political and religious ideologies. The impact of religious orientation influencing political expressions have entered these half-informed public debates like an uninvited participant. I see a worrisome trend of non-Hindus mostly occupying the anti BJP quadrant and Hindus moving closer to the BJP narrative, though by-and-large they are spread across all sides of the allegiance spectrum.

Why is this surprising (for me)?
In my narrow idealistic borough, I dreamt that every time we participate in a democratic process, we were getting closer to building a nation for 'Indians' and the aspirations that collectively define us. And in this quest for one-ness, all other considerations of religion, caste, colour and creed will be deprioritised.
Instead, we have fallen prey to a narrow political narrative that have taken us further away from a collective purpose and are hurtling us down a hellhole defined by our choice of region, religion and faith. Even after 69 years of formation of the Indian republic, we are far from forming an uniformly acceptable national identity. 
While religion has been the most destructive man-made force that has altered the course of world history, I have been too naive to ignore the oft repeated aphorism, "Those who believe that politics and religion do not mix, understand neither."(a bastardised quote that is  attributed to many, including Mahatma Gandhi)

There are passionate arguments trading accusations of one political party defining their political agendas by fostering issues based on caste, language, community, geographical and many such niches. But in the end I see all political parties equally culpable. By feeding on the insecurities of every section, faction and faith, the political establishment has defined a perpetual, vicious cycle of power broking hinged to each other.

Earlier there used to be a certain anathema for falling prey to this divisive agenda. No more!
Instead, in our unfathomable urgency to get noticed, loved and liked, we have become active participants in this socio-religious-political circus through Social Media platforms that provided us with a convenient gateway to exercise this political brinkmanship.
With data analytics and advanced psychographic profiling we got segmented into fickle, unknowing ambassadors of some political belief where we readily took positions in the political discourse, finally emptying us into a na├»ve "Us" v/s "Them" debate.

It is death knell now. With fringe elements and arm chair enthusiasts continuing to get manipulated by the narrative on faith and religion, it is fairly predictable how the end game will play out. By continuing our allegiances, we are only taking the extremes further away from any common ideal or purpose.

While the blame game continues, I still feel there is hope,

  • If we stop being hypocritical and accept what is right and call out what is wrong without being biased along stated positions and religious grounds

  • If we stop heckling for our part of the benefits and subsidies-pie defined by our ethnicities, religious or caste based identity

  • If we question our religious moorings and political beliefs knowing very well that they don’t have the answers

All these questions abound as I look forward to the UP poll results which are just a few days away.

Will the electorate vote for the politics of convenience/alliances, of religious appeasement or of short term benefits? Or will a new hero emerge who will lead our hope towards a collective consciousness?

Irrespective of the outcome, will you stop to introspect where your choices will lead us to.

Friday, February 24, 2017

Religious hypocricy and political expression - Part 1

Tales of late self realisation to a naive political observer
Not sure what's running though the minds of people who have been following the Maharashtra Civic Polls 2017. I was quaintly surprised at the emergence of BJP as a front runner in this.
What have people voted for? - The candidates, their ideology, their past performance, or the expectations of a better future? Or is there something more latent - like hope, ambition, aspirations, or negative emotions like discontent, feeling of oppression, dejection etc.?
To unravel this, I do not have access to the statistics that the  psepologists refer to, nor have I been a keen observer of past trends.
But I've been able to put together some basic data and understand BJP's performance in various elections since they won legislative elections in 2014.

In more or less every election involving a civil body or a legislative bye-election, held in India since 2014, BJP has improved its vote share if not emerging with a majority. I'm avoiding Delhi and certain states that have bucked the trend since the overwhelming data seems to suggest a BJP wave. (Civic polls in Odisha, Rajasthan, bypolls in Assam, MP; political game of thrones in Arunachal Pradesh and Sikkim and so on...leading up to the Maharashtra local body elections)

So why am I surprised at this wave? I'm averse to blaming it on a fickle electorate as this will only make the democratic upheavals in the last 70 years untenable.
  1. In many of the elections, BJP was the incumbent and in many they are the newly elected party. So, any broad generalizations of a political trend of anti-incumbency doesn't hold water.
  2. After close to 70 years of democracy,  it should be common knowledge that the extent of malice in  various political parties are mostly the same. Yet, how is it that the voters are expecting a major overhaul in governance with BJP?
  3. The gains of BJP needs to been seen in context of the continuous decimation of the Indian National Congress. If I assume the scandals of the past and the absence of a strong central leadership as possible factors for the decapitation of Congress, how is it that regional parties are performing much better than the INC in these elections?
  4.  The other parties who are giving BJP a fight are mostly regional or semi regional political outfits. Is it the beginning of a trend where there will only be one dominant national party at a given point of time and the second best alternative is a coalition? I've seen some opinions available in the net which point to this cycle.
To me, it occurs that more than an agenda at the level of a Zilla Parishad or municipality, there are some aspects of the over arching BJP narrative or leadership that is striking a chord with the people.
Calling (or 'trolling' as it is more fashionable) the supporters of this movement as "Bhakths" will only lead to more entertaining vocabulary entering public discourse from the other side.

The debate or the argument on public policies have also started splitting mid-way into binaries of whether you are with or against them (or 'him') and if it extends beyond this, it ends in caste or religious equations. Even more frustrating is when the public discourse seems to credit or discredit only the Prime Minister for all that's happening to the Executive, Judiciary, Legislative bodies including your own constipation. (even it states not ruled by BJP)
With the debilitating standards of media reportage and biased opinions on social media, both coming with its tail of 'whataboutery' and trolls, it indeed gets cloudy when one starts looking for possible answers.

My inquisition will continue.