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Opinion

July 6, 2018

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The growing voices of sanity

In Bertolt Brecht’s legendary poem Die Losung (‘The Solution’), written after the 1953 uprising in East Germany, a government functionary hands out bulletins informing the people that they have cost themselves the trust of the government. The poem concludes by demanding: “Would it not be easier/In that case for the government/To dissolve the people/ And elect another?”

At the rate Indian intellectuals, artists, former bureaucrats and men of letters are speaking out against the gathering darkness and the way the powers that be are responding to the voices of dissent, the day may not be far when the saffron order may have to “dissolve the people” to create another suitable nation in its own image and hue.

For it is not just the educated, ‘liberal elites’ who are restive; the whole of India seems to be weighed down by a sense of, in the words of superstar Aamir Khan’s words, “disquiet and despondency” when he himself voiced his concerns and growing fear over the state of the nation during an Indian Express event.

When one of India’s three brightest stars and easily the finest actor of his generation shares his concern over the state of the nation, you’ve got to sit up and take note. Yet nothing could have perhaps prepared the actor for the load of bricks that hit him as soon as he uttered the ‘I’ word. From senior ministers to BJP spokespersons to bhakts on the streets, everyone rushed to skewer the actor who has for all these years been the darling of the establishment.

Other BJP spokespersons have convinced themselves that all this is part of a grand conspiracy against the nation. What really rankles the Hindutva rabble-rousers and the blind bhakts of the ‘supreme leader’ about the rising voices of sanity is the fact that they dare to lift the veneer off the carefully cultivated fiction of ‘sab ka saath, sab ka vikas’ (unity and progress for all). They have the temerity to tell the Emperor that they could see through his clothes.

To the increasing discomfiture of the saffron clan, the protesting voices of India’s finest artists, intellectuals and writers are turning the spotlight, again and again, on the deliberate and meticulous demolition of the ‘Idea of India’ at the hands of the hydra-headed Parivar and its numerous avatars.

No wonder Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi likes to be forever far and away from all this negativity in the comforting company of the rich and famous and influential desis around the world.

He really seems to be in his element and at his philosophical best in the presence of the diaspora as he rambles on and on, from New York to Dubai and from London to Singapore, preaching to the choir about India’s exalted status in the comity of nations, its fabled civilisational heritage and. of course. the eternal tolerance and magnanimity of Hindus, embracing “the aliens and their alien culture”.

A friend of mine has convinced himself that the whole idea and chief motive behind the dear leader’s passage from Gujarat to Delhi was his yearning to travel the world and photograph himself with global elites and powerful people in picturesque locales. And every time the prime minister takes to the skies, which is practically all the time, my friend turns to me with a wise ‘I-told-you’ look.

As of July 2018, he has made 38 foreign trips on six continents, visiting 55 countries, including the visits to US to attend the UN General Assembly, to Asian countries, following his ‘Neighbourhood First’ and ‘Act East’ policies. And, of course, he has spoken for scores of hours, if not hundreds of hours. This is a feat truly fit for the Guinness Book of World Records. He cannot help it if some jealous adversaries have chosen to name him the ‘NRI prime minister.’

But if anyone had expected the perpetually globe-trotting leader to address in his diaspora discourses the mundane concerns back home, such as continuing lynchings and horrific mob attacks on Muslims and Dalits, they would have been disappointed.

He clearly doesn’t believe in stating the obvious. For, despite his profound proclamations insisting India is a secular and tolerant democracy or for the revelation in London that “ours is the land of Gandhi and Buddha”, the growing army of bhakts and ideological kin get his messaging right and know all too well that all this is for the consumption of global audiences and they need not take these protestations too seriously.

That is why the growing alarm in India and across the globe over the direction in which the great democracy is headed has only been met with belligerence and the hardening up of the Hindutva postures.

Meanwhile, communal temperatures continue to rise across the country. Violence and bigotry against religious minorities, especially Muslims, have become so commonplace and routine that they don’t even get reported by the media and even if they are, they are shrugged off by the governing elites and the rest of the establishment.

However, this whole masquerade, singing paeans to the idea of a ‘shining India’ and a ‘rising India’ abroad while the brothers in arms go berserk back home, cannot go on forever. If the massive protests that recently greeted Modi in Malaysia and the UK are any indication, it is clear that the mask is slipping. You cannot fool all the people all the time, especially in today’s interconnected, global village.

Peace and an overall sense of security are also essential and, indeed, key to the economic wellbeing of a country. International investors are notoriously wary of nations in turmoil and unstable economies. Just look at Pakistan, for instance.

Already, the economy is in a mess with just about everyone – and not just the small and medium industries and businesses – now reeling from the catastrophic effects of the note ban and the cumbersome goods and services tax (GST)

With rising oil prices and the melting Indian rupee, inflation is shooting high. Exports are down nearly 50 percent despite those frequent foreign sojourns of the prime minister.

If the Parivar and its leaders indeed care for the wellbeing of India, they would heed the warnings and concerns of true patriots like authors Arundhati Roy, Nayantara Sehgal and Uday Prakash, former top cop Julio Ribeiro, actors Aamir Khan and Swara Bhaskar, and scientists like PM Bhargava, and many others who have spoken out from time to time against the rising tide of intolerance and hatred under the current dispensation.

Some of them have been courageous enough to even return their awards as a mark of protest, braving the abuse and brickbats of the bhakts. However, these solitary voices of conscience and sanity need to grow into an angry, powerful chorus to breach the stony walls of indifference and apathy that surround the high citadels of power. When will the man in the street speak up?

The writer is an independent writer and former newspaper editor.

Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @aijazzakasyed

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