In the last few weeks, there were two unfortunate incidents of sheer madness. They were not some divine retribution for religious blasphemy or natural calamities for societal sins. They were man-made, brutal human excesses, malevolently constructed. Gurmeet Singh Ram Rahim, masquerading as a modern age spiritual guru, was convicted for rape—and all hell broke loose. The Haryana state apparatus, which had ignored a potentially dangerous crowd build-up of fanatical followers, totally collapsed. Thirty-eight people died in the ensuing mayhem; clearly, human life in India is trading at a Big Bazaar discount rate. Ironically, the government went into self-congratulatory mode, applauding itself for minimising casualty numbers. Meanwhile in Bangalore, the fiery editor of a local daily, Gauri Lankesh, a scathing critic of right-wing fundamentalist ideology was killed. As for Indian society? It seems to be getting desensitised to the ceaseless deluge of violence. We should worry.
PM Modi's government clearly believes in alternative facts and not alternative opinions. We live in the age of manufactured news, manipulated images and post-truth.
I did not know Gauri Lankesh, but I had heard of her relentless, resolute battle against Hindutva ideology, obscurantist beliefs and establishment indiscretions. In an effervescent democracy, it is the zealousness and gutsiness of social activists like Gauri that makes our society robust. They challenge frangible and corrupt administrative systems, keep the vitriolic venom of communal warlords under relative scrutiny, expose the insidious Mafia-business nexus and fearlessly challenge political bullies. They give hope to those who live close to borderline ghettos, whether on account of material inadequacy or psychological devastation. That someone who could easily remain in a cocoon of privilege actually chooses to wage their battle gives them succour, faith. That's what made Lankesh special—she was intrepid to the core, and determined in her resolve. Many were evidently threatened that she was still breathing.
PM Modi's government clearly believes in alternative facts and not alternative opinions. We live in the age of manufactured news, manipulated images and post-truth. What you see is not what you get. In fact, what you see is what the other guy wants you to get. Hence, impressionable minds are susceptible to vile propaganda, mischievously made viral using the power of social media. It is causing astronomical mental and emotional damage to a confused populace already overburdened by their daily travails. In a polarised society, there is limited gray area, as everything is reduced to a binary—are you for , or are you against? You could be in favour of neither, or in a nebulous middle-zone, or unaware of both, or needing more introspection to form an opinion. But all you are asked to do is to take sides, instantly. Thus, we are seeing the imperceptible death of deliberative democracy, and the rise of brute majoritarianism. In this crypto-fascist set-up there can be only one man standing. In the "othering" project , dissent is an exasperating defiance, an anti-national nuisance. Naysayers must be summarily vanquished. Although investigations are still underway, Lankesh could well have been a victim of this thin-skinned intolerance.
Adding to the communal temperature and the hyper-nationalistic debate that encourages majoritarian chauvinism is India's mainstream media.
It is relevant to note that Sardar Patel banned the RSS for creating an environment of hate and a culture of violent vilification that led to the tragic assassination of Mahatma Gandhi. Nathuram Godse, then purportedly belonging to the Hindu Mahasabha, may have pulled the trigger on the Father of the Nation, but it was a deadly culmination of vengeful, venomous anger that preceded his ultimate death. Individual actions are often triggered by a prevailing sentiment; we live in a social-economic-political ecosystem that has several overlaps, blurring lines and creating a fuzzy interplay. While the facts of the fatal assault on Gauri Lankesh can only be known when police investigations nail the culprits, what cannot be denied is the perverse power of divisive politics that makes people like Lankesh vulnerable. What else can explain the killings of rationalist thinkers like Narendra Dabholkar, Govind Pansare and MM Kalburgi? It hardly helps that India's Prime Minister follows many poisonous characters spewing venom on social media; that is tantamount to not just a silent endorsement but an official imprimatur.
Over the last three and a half years, India has seen visible manifestations of a metastasising monster of communal politics. Love Jihad, Ghar Wapsi, Anti-Romeo squads, beef bans and the bloodthirsty gangs masquerading as Gau Rakshaks are all part of an organised conspiracy of the Sangh Parivar. Pehlu Khan's alleged killers have just been set free, definitely under institutional pressure. Adding to the communal temperature and the hyper-nationalistic debate that encourages majoritarian chauvinism is India's mainstream media. Arun Shourie famously compared some of these suited-booted noise-makers to North Korean state TV. Several members of the Fourth Estate have becomes government propagandists, morally compromised and intellectually dishonest. Every night, they effortlessly provoke the communal mercury, which only helps exacerbate an increasing divide.
I don't know where Make in India is going, but hate for sure is India's booming cottage industry.