The revival of 'public conscience'


Dr. Bhushan Amol Darkase


The survival of Indian democracy depends on the revival of 'public conscience' which Dr. Ambedkar explained as, 'Conscience which becomes agitated at every wrong, no matter who is the sufferer, and it means that everybody, whether he suffers that particular wrong or not, is prepared to join him in order to get him relieved.'

Similarly, John Rawls in his concept of the 'Veil of ignorance', said that behind 'the Veil of ignorance, are we ready to choose similar consequences for ourselves as we wish for others, specifically for minorities, if we find ourselves in the minority?

The notion here is that if someone is in the majority that does not mean freedom to tyrannise those in the minority. In the article "Helping a Victim or Helping the Victim: Altruism and Identifiability," Deborah Small and George Lowenstein, in their discussion and conclusion, quoted Wiener, that "Victims are victims because they are not responsible for their situation and thus evoke sympathy and pity."

But, if a person is considered responsible for his adverse situations, the resulting emotions might instead be anger and disgust. Resentment follows the belief that another person 'could and should have done otherwise,' and the feeling diminishes our inclination to help this person.

The belief that the victim 'could and should have done otherwise' in a country of religious fanatics is reduced to the narrowmindedness that says minorities must conform to the majoritarian shared beliefs and prejudices, and must not do otherwise than what the majority demands from them.

In his book 'How fascism works' Joseph Stanley explains that psychologists have studied a practice they call 'Linguistic intergroup bias.' It turns out we tend to describe the actions of those we regard as one of 'us' quite differently from the actions of those we see as one of 'them.' Categorizing someone as 'them' and describing their actions from the 'them perspective' leads to identifying a person or group as 'them' and the one who 'could and should have done otherwise.'

India is infected by this 'us and them' perspective leading to criminalizing the minorities and the depressed, who 'could and should have done otherwise,' which is sharing the majoritarian beliefs and prejudices, and not doing so qualifies for anger and disgust. This perspective of 'them' attaches a different objective value to the minorities and the depressed. In the book 'Myanmar's Enemy Within' writer Francis Wade explained the horror of ethnic cleansing in Myanmar with the gripping notion that "It begins quietly, long before and not with an act but with a concept- that these people are not one of us. If that idea takes root, then anything can grow."

However, nobody has explained the disregard for the value of human beings more explicitly than Rohith Vemula in his last letter where he says, "The value of a man was reduced to his immediate identity and nearest possibility. To a vote. To a number. To a thing. Never was a man treated as a mind. As a glorious thing made up of stardust. In every field, in studies, in streets, in politics, and in dying and living."

Categorizing people from the perspective of 'them' and reducing their identity to its nearest possibility of ethnic, religious, caste, or gender-based identity is a serious psychological concern.

In the book 'Votes and Violence', Steven Wilkinson offers the fascinating fact that "Individuals have many ethnic and non-ethnic identities with which they might identify politically. The challenge for politicians is to try to ensure that the identity that favors their party is the one that is most salient in the minds of a majority of voters." Brahmanism is the most salient identity enforced by the current government and its ideological think tank RSS.

 This metastasized poison of discrimination in the identification of a person has paralyzed the psyche of the masses. Reduction of 'just behavior' to the narrowness of what the majority demands from you to live a particular way of life that conforms to their shared beliefs and prejudices is a metamorphosis of the questionable majoritarian rule in a democracy to a system of domination.

Untangled association of religion with morality and internalization of domination or unconscious imbibition, giving genesis to the intolerant external behavior poses a grave danger to the very ideology of morality in the Indian social context.

History is represented in a twisted way favoring those in power positions—manufacturing their superiority myth. Retrospective reinterpretation of facts to create a myth that helps to cover up reality is resorted to. Masses are swamped with mythologies that represent false history. The most dangerous part is that these fabricated histories are described as facts illustrating unparalleled moral values, expressed as ideals that one must pursue. Institutionalized ritualistic reproduction legitimizes these fabricated histories, with their biased narratives; false history is fetishized, and the invisible whim of the majority smothers the truth. It makes us too docile to realize that it's a myth.

Pointing fingers at others for the origin of evil does not glorify the murkiness of our present. Nevertheless, our will to correct and compensate those injustices by advancing justice through deliberation is what matters the most.

Amartya Sen, explains in his book "The idea of justice" that "Assessment of justice demands engagement with the 'eyes of mankind,' first because we may variously identify with the others elsewhere and not just with our local community; second, because our choices and actions may affect the lives of others far as well as near; and third because what they see from their respective perspectives of history and geography may help us to overcome our parochialism."

In Sen's own words, "We do not live in secluded cocoons of our own."
Indian politics and society at present is the very representation of the human being in Hobbesian terms, that 'man is a wolf of a man.'

 We want Rossoue's 'sensitive human being', who is not only rational but sensitive to rationality. What we are lacking is Buddha's, 'Mahakaruna'.



Dr. Bhushan Amol Darkase is an Assistant professor in VDGMC Latur and is an M.D. Dermatology, Fellowship in Diagnostic Dermatology.

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