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Thursday, September 23, 2021

Let’s not build more walls

As Indians, we need to worry about social, economic and environmental problems -- not about communities or classes. We need to safeguard against majoritarianism, not demonise people


Updated: August 25, 2021 9:30:12 am
Children run holding the Indian flag on the occasion of the 75th Independence Day, in Jammu. (Photo: PTI)

Written by Fauzia Khan

The Red Fort, from where all our honourable prime ministers have, ever since Independence, addressed the nation, in the presence of happy people, was barricaded from all sides this year, while our present hon’ble Prime Minister was addressing the nation, on Independence Day. This time the Red Fort had been made secure, safe, hidden from public vision and approach with huge bunkers.

The ratio of security measures adopted actually indicate the ratio of fear! The question is: Who are we afraid of? Who are we protecting ourselves from? Our own brothers? What are we threatened with? Haven’t the people of India co-existed peacefully for more than 70 years? Where has our trust for each other gone? What has happened to our “peaceful coexistence”? Has it suddenly evaporated into thin air? Why have we suddenly become a threat to each other?

A natural question in sequence would be, whether this fear is real or is it simply a purposefully designed illusion of fear, that is eating away into our very existence.

In Parliament, did we need such a huge army of marshals to protect the chair? Did the treasury side actually feel physically threatened by the Opposition? Are we enemies to each other or simply two sides with different ideologies? Protest and dissent, of course, have always been a way of democratic expression. Then what is this fear and insecurity indicative of?

The truth is that in a democracy, swaying public opinion is crucial. And in order to gain it, fear is always used as a tool. Ever since the inception of human civilisation, mankind has admired a saviour or a liberator. The prince of the fairy tales, who could kill the monster or the giant, became the unsung hero of his times. In order to become an unsung hero today, a monster is needed. And if there is no monster, one is created! So, in a country of diverse cultures like India, communities become the monster, from which the saviour has to keep the people scared all the time. In order that people keep looking up to the saviour to keep them protected.

One political party demonises one community and makes a section of the population perceive that it is only they who can save them from the demon or the dragon or the monster or the giant. While the other political party does the same vice versa. And the power struggle goes on at the cost of the gullible, vulnerable “janata”! Consequently, the blood of innocents is shed to erect the thrones of power!

The electronic media and the social media have, today, transformed into proper instruments to achieve this purpose. It is a strategised creation of perceptions that has become an instrument of demonisation, idolisation and heroisation in the modern, technological world.

Today, if we closely observe public opinion, there are no shades of opinion. It is either pure black or pure white. There is no shade of grey anywhere. It is either “pro-government” or “anti-government”. The distinction between right and wrong, appropriate and inappropriate, lawful and unlawful, have all become subject to that. And this is tremendously harmful for a civilised and evolved society.

In this world of beautiful or ugly perceptions, we are forgetting to look at what the statistics of progress and development are speaking about us. Are we aware of the fact that our country is at number 139 of 149 countries in the UN World Happiness Report 2021? Are we really not a happy people? Why?

Do we know that our beloved nation ranks 135th out of 163 countries in the Global Peace Index 2021 (Institute of Economics and Peace). Happiness ensues from peace and peace ensues from equality and justice. We need to introspect how “just” we are. We need to safeguard ourselves from the temptation of majoratarianism, if we really wish to regain our crowning glory.

I remember the pledge, that we as students would so enthusiastically recite, with an outstretched arm.

“India is my country. All Indians are my brothers and sisters. I love my country and I am proud of its rich and varied heritage

Are we respecting our beautiful diversity and glorious heritage today in the way it was done when we were at school more than 50 years ago? Or have we started feeling insecure of our own “varied heritage”?

I really do not know when our nation has shifted from “secularism” to “securism”?

Whom are we trying to safeguard and make ourselves secure from?

Are we scared of the farmers? Our brothers who feed us?

Are we scared of the backward classes and the minorities? Our brothers who exist in poverty and deprivation?

Are we scared of our students, that we are quick to invoke sedition charges on them?

Are we scared of our heritage? Are we wary of the freedom struggle, that we so desperately want to destroy its beautiful spirit and indulge in reviving the “horrors of partition”.

The purpose of history is to learn from events in the past, that take us forward towards love, brotherhood and happiness and not backwards towards hatred and pain. So much so that, this hatred eats into our social fiber like white ants!

Wouldn’t it be better that instead of recalling horror and pain, we focus on reviving our GDP, that has touched an all-time low since independence, in the year 2020. (a meagre -7.3 per cent)

Wouldn’t it be more productive to worry about the fact that we are 94th among 107 countries in the Global Hunger Index 2020. Even Nepal (73), Pakistan (88), Bangladesh (75), and Indonesia (70) are better than us. Shouldn’t we be anxious about the reality that we are the second most unequal country in the world where only 1 per cent people own 49.6 per cent wealth (Credit Suisse’s Wealth Report) or that in the Inequality Index we are at number 129 out of 1 58 countries (2020 Oxfam Inequality index) or that our Human Development Index is 131 out of 189 countries (UNDP) and that even in the Environmental Performance Index (2020) we are at 168 out of 180 countries. And that we have slipped by six places in the

Corruption Perception Index, where we stand at or why our inflation has increased and why rural inflation is even more than urban inflation today and how the soaring prices of essential commodities can be brought under control.

We need to worry about all this. And every citizen of India has to work towards it, contribute towards building up the nation. We don’t need barriers. We don’t need more Partitions. We need linking of hearts and joining of minds. We need to demolish walls and not construct any more of them. And nobody needs to be scared of anybody, if our nation has to rise up from the pathetic ranks that various international indexes are placing us at. We need real solutions, not perceptions. We cannot exist in a world projected on the screens by the electronic and social media.

The government needs to hear and listen to the inaudible shrieks for help from the ones who protest democratically. Be it the farmers who have been on the roads through heat, cold and rain for the last nine months, trying to seek the attention of the government for their concerns! Be it the backward classes or minorities or women or students, who have taken to the streets to raise up their issues and concerns or be it the Opposition in Parliament who have screamed and protested through almost the entire monsoon session! The government simply chooses to ignore these cries for help from its own citizens. How can a feeling of injustice not prevail in such a situation? And a feeling of injustice leads to unrest. Obviously, this becomes the reason for fear. It is a whole vicious circle.

Where we need security is at the borders! There may be enemies beyond our boundaries. But within our boundaries we have only brothers and sisters! Within our walls, our solidarity is our security!

The writer is a NCP Rajya Sabha member

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