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regular-article-logo Monday, 15 July 2024

Hour of reflection

Our struggle today cannot be limited to one political party or its affiliates. Many who cannot be categorised as Right, Centre or Left are showing us their real cards. Cards that are monochrome

T.M. Krishna Published 29.12.23, 06:43 AM
Representational image.

Representational image. Sourced by the Telegraph

A series of events has unfolded over the past month: the disappointing and potentially risky verdict on Article 370, the utter disregard for Parliament shown by the ruling party and the passing of the three criminal code bills. Although coming from different organs of the Indian State, these happenings have furthered the belief of many that our slide towards a scenario where we normalise an authoritarian, centralised and unidimensional nation has been hastened.

But this is not the beginning. Since Narendra Modi came to power in 2014, the entire social fabric of this country has been weaponised through governmental actions and laws and by the careless behaviour of the Bharatiya Janata Party members of Parliament, ministers and the prime minister himself. At local levels, the harassment of Muslims and Dalits has increased and the establishment has turned a blind eye to it. What I call weaponisation is referred to as Hindu assertion by hardcore BJP supporters. The only response they have when these issues are raised is whataboutery. Hate has destroyed families and friends. We are all scared to speak even casually about the affairs of the State. Suspicion clouds our minds.

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This piece is not addressed to those who feel everything is fine and that we should continue on this ‘right’ path. A path that can lead us to becoming a country like Israel or Turkey. I am only speaking to those who are disturbed by what we are becoming.

There are days when I wake up not sure what I can do about all that is happening around me. Simple sharing between people is viewed along communal and caste lines. Every word we utter is measured. Even empathising with another’s suffering is not natural; it is strategised and measured. We think about repercussions, terrified that someone will pick out a word or a quote from something we say and attack us. This happens to everyone, not just celebrities. We are constantly shouting at each other, demanding that the other shuts up.

Irrespective of the social and political positions we hold, we are sucked into this chakravyuh of disturbance. One set of people are on social media every hour, saying something about issues ranging from things that affect their immediate existence to the actions of the Indian State to Palestine and Ukraine, resharing innumerable quotes and clips. Even those who are ardent supporters of the present dispensation are not at peace. Their minds are consumed by vengeance and the need to target someone whom they saw as dominant in the past. All this stems from a state of frenzy, from an agitated, noise-filled mind.

The question for me then is how can we engage with sanity and seriousness. I am not trivialising the various things people do every day. I understand the need for immediacy and the fears that push us to constantly act. I am also a person driven by these triggers. But it is important to realise that all these reactions remain limited to one day or one event. We hop from one troublesome moment to another, with no time to pause or learn. The counter-argument to this line of thinking is that ‘pause’ is itself a luxury available only to those not directly affected by today’s happenings. A valid point. But when immediacy comes from a state of panic, the engagement is stunted and rarely goes beyond making ourselves feel better. If I truly care about the suffering, I have to engage with suffering in a calm state. Such an unusual pairing of words. Calm does not mean slowness or procrastination. It is a state of mind that allows me to see everything clearly.

The challenge is in being able to find the space to think and sense when we are perpetually bombarded and rattled. The idea of the violator is to keep society in an emotional muddle so that no one can see, listen or feel. Hence, finding quietude is a political act; a form of resistance. How can one remove all the baggage and look at ourselves? Some may find it in prayer; others may feel nature gives them those phases. Honest art and literature can also be catalysts. Stepping back and observing dispassionately can help. Before venturing on to any of these paths, we have to be certain that even these choices are not traps or our own agenda-driven connivances. Prayer can manifest as superiority. Nature can transform into land-grabbing and art can be used as a vehicle to justify hate. So we have to be watchful of every step we take. When we do find the openness to explore, then something beautiful can emerge. These periods are not docile. They are rigorous, seething and difficult. But they unfold without manipulative intentions or propaganda. If we make this search a companion in our lives, maybe our words, actions and allyships will mean much more than they do today.

The other struggle for many is about whether any of our singular actions matters in the larger scheme of things. How will anything I do make a difference? The scale of what needs to be done is so daunting. Unless a person is in a position to influence a large section of the population, what difference will his/her work make? This usually ends with the blame being placed on political parties. Making each one of us feel useless and small is an old technique of the oppressor to ensure that we never come together. Positioning scale rather than multiple partnerships as a prerequisite for change is the corporate reframing for dominance. We cannot fall prey to these bullies. It matters that you can engage with your family and friends on tricky issues. It is essential that you go out of your comfort zone and make friends with diverse people, listen to them, share meals and laughter. It is imperative that you identify your own failings and discuss them. You changing as an individual who can care abundantly and perceive without filters is as important as the larger picture. We have to minimise the anger that we exude whenever we encounter any kind of narrowmindedness. If one person changes because of your reflective engagement, you have made a difference. Every person who breaks away from parochialism has people with and around them who are or will become partners in the journey. With communities being built around compassion, every individual act — whether small or big — matters.

Our struggle today cannot be limited to one political party or its affiliates. Many who cannot be categorised as Right, Centre or Left are showing us their real cards. Cards that are monochrome. A mere change in government is not going to magically make a difference. It is also likely that even if another party comes to power, it will be wary of questioning these leanings. Unlike what we are told, we can make our country a robust democracy by the choices we make, by resisting the intoxication that thoughtless reactionism provides, by going beyond our micro-circle. We need a drastic societal shift but this is not going to happen immediately. It will take a while and we are going to lose a lot during the ensuing period. But when we come out of this darkness, we can rest assured that luring us down this path again will be that much harder.

T.M. Krishna is a leading Indian musician and a prominent public intellectual

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