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Death of the heart

Modi is an architect of fractures, that’s the credo with which he has marched since he deciphered, with diabolical clarity, the dividends of Gujarat 2002

Sankarshan Thakur Published 09.08.23, 06:17 AM
Representational image

Representational image The Telegraph

There is a vice greater than the vice of bigotry and its attendant ills. It is the vice of giving it a free pass, the vice of collaboration.

Early on the morning of July 31, as the superfast train service from Jaipur neared Bombay, Chetan Singh, a constable in the Railway Protection Force, cocked his service weapon and shot his senior, ASI Tika Ram Meena, dead. He then proceeded, unhindered, across vestibules, picked out three Muslim men by their beards and possibly also their attire, and killed each at close range. Murder accomplished and prejudice foregrounded, he stood at the head of one bleeding victim and annotated his crime as if he were spelling out the Preamble to New India — the operatives of Pakistan will have to go, want to stay here, the choice will have to be Modi and Yogi and Thackeray, clearly not the Uddhav edition. He seemed okay with being filmed on smartphone, probably wanted his message widely broadcast; co-passengers, palpably unperturbed by the horror they’d witnessed, obliged from multiple angles. Chetan Singh’s superiors initially said he was mentally disturbed. A subsequent medical examination revealed no clinical illness. That revelation was swiftly withdrawn. We have heard nothing since of Chetan or his cold and audacious act of terror. It came and passed. Save the ranks of our minorities, it didn’t light up fears. It didn’t darken our clotted conscience.


Around the same time, an eminently preventable pirouette of violence was allowed to be enacted in a Muslim-majority district outlying Delhi, and became, within no time, a flaming ruse to torch the minorities with — homes and hearths, lives and livelihoods, from cradle to charpoy, corner shop to kiosk, all instantly labelled illicit and dismembered — age, sex, occupation no bar. It wasn’t merely a mob marauding, it was the State which counts amongst its key instruments these days, the bulldozer. About the only outcry was over the accumulation of garbage and the stench rising from the gated high-rises of Gurgaon as the disruption gathered ground: “Where have all our workers gone?”

By the time the Gurgaon fires turned to embers, Manipur had burnt for three months, hurled into a civil war that pitched not only the citizenry but also security formations on rival sides of fences. Beyond the battling ethnicities of Manipur, how many has any of that bothered? From the prime minister of the nation it has thus far elicited a heckled subclause of concern that soon meandered into complex whataboutery; thirty odd seconds, which would make it ten or so seconds for each month of Manipur’s season in hell. Chetan Singh and Gurgaon await their turn.

But never mind. Narendra Modi reads the pulse of power and popularity better than most. He does — or does not do — exactly what his intuitions tell him. He is tuned into the applause for and approval of the unbottling of the genie, the surround-sound choreography of it, by all manner of enablers, vocal and silent. He is watching the devilish street enactments in the name of faith and fellowship — from Manipur to the vestibules of a moving train near Mumbai to the peripheries of Delhi — and getting a measure of the profit to him.

Commission a poll today and Modi will emerge far and away the frontrunner. That done, consider what such an outcome tells us of ourselves. It should tell us that we are deeply subscribed to Narendra Modi and complicit in the horrors unspooling around us and the calamities that await us.

It is not nearly enough to pass judgement on Modi and the widespread dismantling and mayhem he has wreaked in his terms in power. Modi is an architect of fractures, that’s the credo with which he has marched since he deciphered, with diabolical clarity, the dividends of Gujarat 2002. Violent sectarianism — verbal and physical — has become a sanctioned creed under him. He has slapped such atrocity on people as demonetisation. He has refused to own up to recurrent derelictions — the sordid lapses during the outbreak of Covid most of all. He presides over a most opaque government — the protocols around electoral bonds and the PM Cares fund are alone enough attestation, if not also the dilution of the RTI regime. He has brazenly spurred crony monopolies. He has twisted institutions to forge weapons against adversaries. He has dragged the public discourse to scraping the bottom of gutters.

Does any of it harm him? We’ve only accorded him award and applause. We are happily living off a diet of lies — malevolent lies, constructed lies, deliberate lies; blatant, unembarrassed lies. Nothing happened in seventy years. But now we’ve arrived in achchhe din. The leader can do no wrong. Corruption has been wiped out. Women are safe, and the RSS is a cultural organisation. Our history is wrong history. Our future shines as gold. A hundred smart cities are prepping in the mixer, about to spill out. All homes have been lit. There is no open defecation anymore. Or lies like the lie on the losses to the Chinese in eastern Ladakh: no one came, there’s nobody there, those that tried to come, we stared at and repelled. We are living such annulments of the truth.

We have stopped to think for ourselves. We listen to the most absurd mumbo-jumbo with rapture and invest in ludicrous wisdoms against our good sense and knowledge. We wantonly ignore the disfiguring of our history and heritage. We seem to have forsaken our collective intelligence to embrace pure baloney, or at least we don’t seem to mind it. The prime minister spins a tale of extracting gas from the gutter and giving it flame. It will not do to ignore such claptrap, or merely laugh and mock and move on. That is to miss the meaning of why such claptrap is being showered down upon us. Or why sacrifice is being demanded. Or why compliance is being assumed. Or why lies are being told and festered.

The truth may be this, and it is for us to grasp: we have been systematically turned into a laboratory of diminution, we are willing material for dipstick trials. Each time idiocy or affront is inflicted on us is a test of how much we can be reduced to. That’s either acceptable or people must step up and do something about it. Until that happens, we will necessarily be accomplices — interested or indifferent — if not active participants in this ghastly overturning of our nation. We shall also be the embodiment of the prophecy of James Baldwin: “I’m terrified at the moral apathy, the death of the heart, which is happening in my country. These people have deluded themselves for so long that they really don’t think I am human… and this means they have become, in themselves, moral monsters.” That could be one of us, or many, speaking.

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