Our plural society is going through one of its most fragile phases; the very notion of its multi-identity is under threat. The irony is that the threat is not from outsiders but from its own citizens who are trying to impose their version of history, culture and nationalism on "others."
Since the coming of the new Hindutva government at the centre, the self-proclaimed nationalists have awakened. Hero worship has increased, which if not controlled, will ultimately lead to dictatorship. This is followed by the rise of orthodox individuals/groups that have direct/indirect backing from the current regime's ideology. The issues of national importance have been sidelined, those who dare to dissent with the current regime are termed as anti-BJP or pro-Congress if not anti-nationals. A party has been represented as a group of soldiers that is fighting for the well-being of the masses. State policies are being termed as 'nation building policy' hence critiques are not welcomed, even though they are based on solid theoretical and practical grounds. A party instead of being a channel to fulfil the promise to the nationals, itself claims to be the nation.
The victims of the current regime are largely those who had faced discriminations since ages. Now we are so obsessed with the question of national and anti-nationals that we seldom talk about social inequality in general and gender, caste, religious, ethnic and economic inequality in particular. The ideas of growth, development, investment, employment generation has proved to be mere rhetoric. And the ground reality, especially of the countryside (for instance Maharashtra has recorded highest farmer suicides in the last 16 years), has been overshadowed by discussions on the lofty rhetoric of changing India.
All the leaders/members of opposition parties have been reduced to a mere bunch of people who have self-interested political goals, whereas the ruling political elites are the only ones who are toiling day and night for building a Ram Rajya. Had Ambedkar, Bhagat Singh, Rabindranath Tagore and Phule been alive they too would have been termed as those who are conspiring against the government as their ideas did not match with the current regime. For Ambedkar Caste is anti-national and Hindu Raj is dangerous; for Bhagat Singh God is an imagination of the human being and we must fight the narrow conception of religion; for Tagore humanity is greater than patriotism and freedom of mind is essential; for Phule Hinduism is not a legitimate religion but a superstition, a bag of tricks and a weapon of domination.
The prevailing ideology has created blind soldiers who are ready to fight to safeguard the national (religious) interest at any cost. The same soldiers fought in 1992 to demolish Babri Masjid and the same soldiers fought in Gujarat in 2004. We are reminded of the 2001 parliament attack, but we seldom remember the 1966 attack on parliament which was led by people of the same ideology, who are seen today no less than an avatar of God. The same ideology which until yesterday used to cherish the writings of Manu, has now taken solace in Ambedkar.
Now it seems clear as to who are responsible for dividing this country and destroying the social fabric of this country. It is better to remind ourselves of the great leaders who fought for uniting the country based on a single identity of humanity, for whom religion, caste, ethnicity, god have no role to play in individual's life, for instance, Buddha.
We are living with contradictions. The constitution of this country has demanded certain fundamental duties from its citizens, the most important among it - is promoting scientific temper. How can this duty be fulfilled, if the government promotes myth and unscientific views? For instance, Prime Minister's view on the presence of Plastic surgery and Genetic Science in ancient India, citing the creation of Lord Ganesha and giving an example of Karna's birth as an instance of presence of genetic science.
Institutional murder of a bright UoH's Scholar Rohith Vemula, killings of Dalits and Muslims in the name of protection of gau mata, the student Najeeb missing after clash with student group members, the murder of Akhlaq, Ghar wapsi camps and harassment of couples and family in the name of love jihad and other such instances have fuelled the dissent among the oppressed against the present ideology because of inaction or due to defending of such acts. There is a real danger in promoting myth and defending such acts by undermining the welfare of masses, as this will force the particular section of society into disbelief if not to rebel against the state in the long term.
Democracy is not just a political system, it is a system of sharing values, pain in the time of distress and protecting each individual when necessary. The chief architect of India's constitution chose Buddha over Marx; because he found two faults in Marx's way, first it demanded bloody revolution and second, dictatorship. It is a common experience that if the masses especially the oppressed ones are not treated equally, if they are not provided with equal opportunity they find solace in bloody revolution and start believing in overthrowing of the oppressed regime. What we are doing today is suppressing the aspiration of minorities and oppressed sections of society which will be forced to rebel if not given a share in resources and equal security.
We need to remind ourselves the fear which Ambedkar raised in his last speech in the constituent assembly, he said, "Will Indians place the country above their creed or will they place creed above country? I do not know. But this much is certain that if the parties place creed above country, our independence will be put in jeopardy a second time and probably be lost forever". Further, he said "Bhakti in religion may be a road to the salvation of the soul. But in politics, Bhakti or hero-worship is a sure road to degradation and to eventual dictatorship". There is no doubt that today the present regime is or has already placed creed above the country and Hero-worship of a political leader is no doubt at its peak.
We have what Granville Austin called a social document in the form of our constitution which if followed in letter and spirit which would definitely lead our country towards what Buddha called "Bahujana Hitaya Bahujana Sukhaya"
Raju Chalwadi is a PhD Candidate in the Humanities and Social Sciences Department of IIT-Madras. He also holds a Master's degree in Development Studies from the Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai. Most recently, he was associated with the Humsafar Trust Mumbai and Samhita Development Network, Bhopal. His area of interests includes understanding caste as an institution, its practices and contemporary development issues.