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RIP, Voice of Reason

16/03/2015 8:08 AM IST | Updated 15/07/2016 8:24 AM IST
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Hindustan Times via Getty Images
BHOPAL, INDIA - DECEMBER 28: Bajrang Dal activists burning the poster of Aamir Khan-starrer film PK outside Jyoti Talkies on December 28, 2014 in Bhopal, India. Accusing Aamir Khan-starrer PK of hurting religious sentiments of the majority community, right-wing outfits accused Aamir Khan-starrer PK of hurting religious sentiments of the majority community demanded a ban on the film. (Photo by Bidesh Manna/Hindustan Times via Getty Images)

Barely had Modi come up with his ambitious program 'Make in India' to transform India into a global manufacturing hub, that self-appointed patriotic Indians went into an overdrive to make his dream come true in the shortest possible time. Thanks to their untiring zeal, we are now the largest manufacturer of 'outrage and intolerance' (O&I).

I am not suggesting that other nations are free from such predilections. But what sets us apart is our talent to overlook the obvious like the appalling state of security and crumbling infrastructure, but forage for the unusual. Like one fine morning, Khundak Sharma will wake up with a bad case of acidity and decide he doesn't like Amir Khan's face in the PK poster and claim his religious sentiments have been hurt. And before he can belch, his outrage has spread like Ebola afflicting thousands who will claim similar symptoms. And who would then bestow on themselves the licence to go out in droves, vandalise public property and create nuisance with utter impunity.

India has a vocal constituency of sentimental citizens who can draw from neat buckets of topics like minority, religion, region, caste, gotras and the ever obliging 'sanskriti' so that they are never short of sentiments that can get hurt at any point of 'time'. A 'time' that consults no calendars or astrological charts but comes unannounced like Khundak Jee's acidity.

"Why is it so easy for some politicians to make statements that demean women, incite hate and provoke people to kill and maim, while it is so difficult for their victims to ever get justice?"

The moralistic Indian when hurt will drag girls from pubs for sullying the much venerated image of the adarsh naari, hound a celebrated author so mercilessly in the name of religion that he's compelled to announce his death as a writer, force one of India's most gifted artists into exile because someone decided that he insulted our goddess with his depictions. Getting offended comes as naturally to this breed as coughing to Kejriwal. They like to position themselves as guardians of Indian morality and culture, protecting it from corrupt, purportedly western influences. Interestingly, the same heritage they safeguard like a possessive lover, actually advocates expression of unpleasant facts and unpalatable opinions as a means of arriving at the truth. Upanishads, Puranas and epics have asserted that truth itself has many facets and dogmas and doctrinaire rigidities are totally out of place in Indian philosophy.

But hey, we adopted hypocrisy as a religion that finds it perfectly acceptable to preach with no intention of following it, but will expect others to toe the line or be prepared to face the consequences. So, we have enraged mobs burning books that they haven't even read or a state government ordering a probe into a celebrity roast because some bloke who was neither at the giving nor the receiving end of it decides it was obscene and files a written complaint. The same state where Shireen Dalvi went into hiding from fringe elements after her publication carried Charlie Hebdo's cartoons, yet the same government machinery, this time, chose a frosty silence.

It is as if a certain constituency is waging a war against progressive India - an India that questions feudal customs, upholds debate and individual freedom and is broadminded enough to laugh at its own foibles. It's now a hate campaign against jeans, against women who are not afraid to speak their mind, against thought leaders who make us question our misplaced indignations. From everything that we see, does it not look as if our political class foments this hate campaign against the voice of reason because it suits their vote bank politics?

"Getting offended comes as naturally to this breed as coughing to Kejriwal."

Why is it so easy for some quarters to damage public property, terrorise and have people jailed for cartoons or social media posts, yet so tough for a woman to file a molestation case? Why is it so easy for some politicians to make statements that demean women, incite hate and provoke people to kill and maim, while it is so difficult for their victims to ever get justice? Why is the outrage of voices of reason and civil society of no consequence!

Isn't it strange that our elected, who are in dire need of maturity themselves, are so hell bent on labelling progressive Indians as immature who need state supervision! In my opinion, they use this as an excuse to snoop on what we post online, decide the books we should read, movies we should watch, beep out all that 'they' consider inappropriate, gagging us with their so called self-righteousness. While fringe groups continue to grow under political insouciance, their outrage getting pandered to, emboldening them to get away with anything.

"Do we want to evolve as a nation that uses 'righteousness' as a weapon to silence the voice of reason?"

By making such groups succeed, the leaders we elect are being selective at whose liberty they are safeguarding. Makes us wonder if freedom of expression is the biggest crime of all, in turn causing irreparable damage to our creativity and snatching away a fundamental citizen's right? How many Perumals do we need before the administrative machinery stops entertaining intolerant Indians who are nothing but parasites out for their two minutes of fame? Parasites who overburden the judiciary and public consciousness with their useless PILs and manufactured indignation?

Do we want to evolve as a nation that uses 'righteousness' as a weapon to silence the voice of reason, and that suffocates its people inside a straitjacket of misplaced morality?

Or maybe we can asphyxiate this intolerant breed with our silence, blanking them out from media and social discourse. After all, attention is their oxygen and without it, they'll die a slow but sure death.

Isn't it time we treated the intolerant Indian with the intolerance they deserve?

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