The great thing with the #NotInMyName protest was that people actually showed up and social media, for once, was inundated by the voice of liberals (or “libtards” as the trolls call it). Like others, I also bumped into some friends who happened to be journalists and, like someone commented, it was like being in Khan Market. I mean, you could throw in some wine and it would be a book launch or theatre preview. No problem with that, since the idea was to rally around and take over the narrative, even if for a little while.
However, the issue is a different one. Since all of us there shared similar values or thought processes, it was like preaching to the converted. And that’s the problem on every platform. We are not hearing the voices of those who differ. The lynchings don’t make it easier; when there’s blood on our conscience, the time for calm debate seems to have passed us. Recently, on Facebook, I was called out for my stand on the protest by somebody who I know to be a positive force and working for the cause of animal welfare. While I didn’t agree, I couldn’t doubt the sincerity with which the argument was presented. And, while that’s a conversation for another forum, it makes me wonder what stops us from sitting across a table and hearing each other out? Because we don’t have the time to listen…we are hearing our own voices and sticking around with people who may be our mental clones.
I’m placing my cards on the table. I don’t think our religious identities should define us or govern how we make our laws for the country. I don’t think the majority community’s feelings should be hurt if there are others out there, even some of their own, who decide to eat beef (there, I said it!). I’m vegetarian, but I swat mosquitoes and kill cockroaches without a qualm (okay, maybe a little), but I’ll be extremely upset if someone from the Jain community forbids me to do so or to remove root vegetables from my diet. Live and let live. It’s as basic as that. And it’s a right I would fight to keep.
When “others” talk of minority appeasement and other issues, I leave them to their huddle. Since that’s not my cup of tea. But, maybe that’s where the problem lies. It’s a new kind of divide and rule, where we take our polarised positions. And our backs turned, we want nothing to do with the “other”. As filmmaker Mahesh Bhatt quoted philosopher J Krishnamurti in his tweet, “We have made life into a battlefield, each family, each group, each nation against the other.” Can there be anything sadder than that?
Check out Heineken’s recent beer ad that says it best. It records people’s positions on rights of transgenders, climate change, etc, and puts each of them in a room with a person who has a divergent view. Later, after a video reveals their truths, they are given a choice—walk away or have a beer and talk about it. If beer isn’t sanskari, how about some “chai pe charcha” on neutral grounds? Arundhati Roy and Paresh Rawal, are you ready for it? We can think of many others.
It’s time we all calmed down and had some beer or tea with the one person who just doesn’t get you…and who you don’t get! And next time there’s a protest, you can take your new friend along.