Friday, September 04, 2009

Ruminating on Blog Responses

It might be only a tiny storm in the teacup brewing in my blogspace (triggered off by my post Burqa War) but to me it was a revelation and a coming to terms with a certain truth which I would not have missed had I read the writings on the wall instead of playing the ostrich.

And the terrible truth is that Young India is divided on the issue of secularism.

One section of educated young men pooh poohing the very idea of secularism the way my peers and I understood and internalized it, is a matter for serious worry. To them, those secular values that shaped the weltanschauung of my peers have become an anachronism.

Wonder how this happened. The post independence generation to which I belong believed that all Indians – Hindus, Musselman, Christian, Jain and Buddhist – are my brothers and sisters who will someday live like a large happy family.

What went wrong?

The constitution? And we grew up thinking India has the most democratic constitution!

Today, no one is happy. Neither the majority nor the minorities.

The secularism we believed in was built on a ‘live and let live’ policy and respect for all religions. The constitution, we believed, would ensure an equal space for all religious groups in the polity of the nation and there would be no state interference in the religious practices so long as there is no violation of fundamental rights.

Also, Minority Rights and other reservation policies were looked upon as an arrangement to give equal opportunity to those who were outnumbered or downtrodden for centuries. It was a way of providing a level playing field for a diverse population in a democratic dispensation.

And we believed all this - we believed in the constitution and the well intentioned reservations. Sacrifices and making space after all is part of nation building. Looking back, I realize that we believed ‘cos those who taught us the history of India and the nature of its post independent dispensation in the high schools, taught us with passion in their voice and pride and stars in their eyes. Not surprising, given that they grew up in an atmosphere charged with patriotism and a faith in the all inclusive model of democracy fathered by the Mahatma.

Unfortunately, the socioeconomic changes post independence reshuffled the century old economic order, and the losers of this change among the majority group had no privileges to resort to. This led to resentment, which in turn put the minorities on the defensive, giving rise to a vicious circle of action and reaction in many parts of the country.

It must be admitted that the minorities seized upon the privileges bestowed on them constitutionally as inalienable rights, became very possessive about them and often stretched the privileges to the point of offending the majority community.

A vast oversimplification, I know, but I was only constructing a rough scenario to show where the Machiavellian politicians stepped in and exploited the communal situation to serve their megalomaniacal ends.

When and how it happened I do not know but all on a sudden we realized that these politicians had invaded the campuses and cast a magical spell on the youth. And thus began the beginning of the end of young India’s faith in the visions of the founding fathers.

And this is not all. Corruption entered and became the order of the day in the Indian polity. The mode of development created many a discontented groups in the margins. The political will to address the terrible economic inequality was conspicuous by its absence. This undesirable atmosphere vitiated by self seeking politicians is what today’s youngsters have inherited. Any wonder that cynicism should prevail with regard to secularism and all those values imbedded in the constitution of our nation? When we dreamed in the early sixties, the world, despite all its problems, lay before us like a land of dreams – ‘cos there were dream merchants selling idyllic visions passionately in schools, in media and in the homes. Today’s young India has the failure of those dreams as their experience of the young democracy, and for mentors, it has hardened criminals/ Machiavellian politicians, ever on the lookout for chelas whom they can exploit and use as pawns in the dirty power game. The youngsters grew up hearing from these anti social elements, stories about the delicious taste of power.

So what if power corrupts, they are not ashamed to ask.

I was surprised to read a comment which protested against the banning of politics in the campuses as it amounted to banning ‘progressive’ activities!!?? This, he argued, gave rise to communalism among the youth! As a teacher from Kerala where the educational institutions are the breeding ground for cantankerous and ruthless politicians, I strongly disagree with this statement. Of course, we have had a few shining stars among politicians who came from the youth wings of parties; but they are exceptions rather than the rule. How campus politics can be termed ‘progressive’ when we have known cases of brilliant students being moulded into hardened criminals and goondas and goonda kingpins by campus politics, I simply fail to understand.

A college in Kerala with a long tradition of having produced many illustrious sons to serve the country in the highest and important positions, has today the dubious honour of having produced a new breed of political goondas who, with their muscle power, assist politicians in their mission to acquire disproportionate assets. These goondas are groomed to break every law in the country, indulge in violence and murder for their political gurus in exchange for protection and asylum.

Islam Bashing.

Another distressing fact that emerges from the blog responses is Islam bashing. A cursory glance at the comments of the blog visitors of my post Burqua War will show what I mean. While I agree that the minorities in India often forget that they are privileged, I cannot fall in line with these Islam bashers. Their strategy is to point to the past. They quote history – selectively and bypass the power politics (clash of civilizations, as it is now finally and honestly christened) dating back from the Crusades continuing through the imperial rhetoric in which Islam was demonized and finally down to the present times when the imperial countries manipulated world affairs with the greatest ease to become the self styled arbitrators of the destiny of oil producing Islamic nations. These are realities that no one can wish or will away. One cannot isolate the origins of Islamic fundamentalism from these truths.

I think we should turn to history to learn how not to make the mistakes of the past. Let’s not turn to history to find sticks to beat any group.

I would say religious leaders of all groups have failed secular India. With each one baying for his pound of flesh I would say “Ask not what your country can do for you. Ask what you can do for your country”. The religion I follow very strictly teaches “Give to Ceaser what is Caesar’s”. It can’t be any different in other religions too.

The Agnostic Angst

And finally there is another category that has become vocal in the blogsphere– the atheists/agnostics. Most of them opt for it out of disgust for the religions that are polarizing the nation. To this category I’d say: Adopt a live and let live policy. Centuries have taught us that humans need God. Having said that, we should do everything in our power to create that felt need among our countrymen to build an India where Humans, Gods and the Godless can live in perfect harmony.


  1. Without commenting on the post let me say that I have noticed that it is the minority that raises its voice and not the majority offline as well as online. (E.g. Ram Sene and Shiv Sena). So you cannot take that as a measure of people's reactions. If you go to any blog where such issues are discussed you will only see negative opinions because people who hold such opinion like to voice it at every forum possible.

  2. Very well written. I agree, and I too felt this way whenever I have written any posts in favour of secularism, and in favour of living and letting live.

    I think we should turn to history to learn how not to make the mistakes of the past. Let’s not turn to history to find sticks to beat any group.

    And we can wake up someone who is sleeping, we cannot wake up someone who pretending to sleep. They argue, most illogically and repeat the same lines endlessly. I just don't understand when we became like this. But I have also noticed the world offline is more secular and way more tolerant.

  3. The biggest bane of India is people forget to leave religion at home...religion and faith is something personal..its not a football club!! only wish people of all faith realised it..

    I believe majority of indian youth in the cities are not excessively passionate about religion...

  4. The sad truth is that in age where technology brings us closer than ever before, we choose pen ourselves into narrow confines. And there are those that take advantage of our increasing paranoia. Every single group sees themselves as victims. Why talk only about vote-bank politics? Take any reality show in India. We vote for those who are from our community or caste or state or region. The divide seems to be here to stay. Religion is and should remain a personal matter. When one person shoves their religion in another's face, he is asking for and hoping for retaliation which, sadly he easily gets nowadays. If we start wondering who started flaunting extraneous religious symbols first, we would be caught in the classic 'chicken or the egg' deadlock. It would be great if everyone were to back down a bit, respect others' God as you want your God to be respected.

  5. Madame, with all due respect to the folks who sweated to raise us as best as they could, I must make the following observation. Most beliefs of the older generation is a heap of manure. Gandhi's nonviolence, Nehru's Brahminism, Five year plans for progress, treating the courts of law as gods on earth, the so-called secularism, religious zeal such as in Islam, licence Raj and what not. I can find an endless list. Ask any teenager, nay, ask any guy in the twenties, and he will tell you that anybody who is above 50 is hopelessly out of date. This may be bitter to swallow, but this is the truth.

    The older generation is hopeless. They are incapable of understanding today's scenario. What all changes are happening, with the globalization, economic changes, communication revolution and all. How can the older generation absorb all that? It is hopeless. Ideally, a person who is above 50 years of age should remain silent on current issues, as he cannot understand them. Sadly, most influential ministers, politicians, bureaucrats etc are hoplessly old. What to do.

    Here in the blogosphere, you are among the younger generation. You are using a tool, blogging, which is mainly for the younger generation. Therefore you have to be prepared for being shocked by the enfantes terribles such as yours truly. It is nothing personal, and please do not lose heart. In the 60's and 70's, people of your generation were taking up naxalism, hippyism, rabid versions of feminism etc, was it not? Compare it with us. We are totally peaceful folks. Geeks, nerds, who do no more than keyboard jockeying in front of the computer, and no actual harmful things. We just release our extremist thoughts through anoymous comments in blogs, and we do nothing more. Completely peaceful, completely harmless. Compare this to your generation giving vent to their frustrations via graffiti in public walls or bathrooms. We are better, we are much better by all counts.

  6. @ annonymous
    'Most beliefs of the older generation is a heap of manure'
    sorry sir. cant agree with u - not b'cos i'm of the old school, simply bcos i believe that today india is an economic powr 2 b reckoned with 'cos of the older generation's planning. if indian economy did not collapse like that of the banana reps, its 'cos of the nehruvian mixed economy with the licence raj and protectionism et al. we can liberalise now 'cos we have protected once - and continues that protectionism in certain areas.
    surprised u shud b saying this with first world economy nose diving.
    with all my cribbing about india, am proud and relieevd i'm an indian and not a national from the other excolonies.
    'How can the older generation absorb all that?'
    no way we can do that:-( :-)))
    'Here in the blogosphere, you are among the younger generation'
    guess it's time i took my retirement sob! sob!

  7. Madame, I was being jocular; it is not entirely true and you know it. I deeply apologize if I hurt your feelings. It is my opinion that your blog is the best among all Kerala blogs I have read. There are quite a few people who have so little to say, blogging in such voluminous ways. But you are not one on them.

    , mea culpa mea culpa! Sorry, Sorry, Sorry! I should not have gone so far in injuring your kind motherly heart. Please do not give up blogging. We love you! :) You are one of us, as I said earlier! :) You are not old at all!

  8. @ anon
    ha ha! with all the empticons, kudnt u make out i too was joking?

    but not the first part of my response, reg india'as eco policies immediately after independence.There have been flaws like subordinating agriculture. still, it is the foundation on which the racing economic superpower called india is raised.

  9. You too were joking? Now, I knew that you were really one of us. :-)

    Oh no ma'm, this is not the way agriculture is to be done. I feel sorry remembering my poor father who sweated all alone in a small plot of rubber trees. No ma'm, industrialization was needed in agriculture also. There is no need to involve a thousand people for producing something by manual labor which just ten can do with the help of machines. It is cruel, it is inhuman, it is inefficient. This is exactly the type of regressive nonsense Gandhi and his followers would like. And which your generation swallowed hook, line and slinker. Fortunately nonsense cannot continue forever and people are slowly realizing the folly of drinking cow urine for penance and weaving loom by hand for making clothes.

  10. The Church allowed only Latin or Cyriac bible. The church used to excommunicate commoners who read the bible. Until Luther only the Church had the right to read or interpret the bible. Any kind of learning was prohibited for the commoners.

    Oh yes, the Church preserved knowledge within itself, among the privileged. At one point of time, when a family has an intelligent son, he could join the Seminary and write a voluminous thesis for a Laurea from Rome, on the topic of blessing by representatives of Church, in the following manner. When the pope, Cardinals, or the bishops bless, they bless using the middle three fingers, for the father, the son and the holy Ghost. They have the right to do this, because they are like the apostles. When a normal priest blesses, he cannot do this gesture of three fingers. He has to bless using the whole hand. He blesses in the name of the archangels, or the main saints like Mary. When it comes down to deacons, alas, he is not allowed to do even this, and he has to make use of such devices as a sprinkler of holy water. Each drop of water corresponds to an angel, and there are infinitely many angels corresponding to the infinitely many drops of water, and the deacon is only allowed to bless in the names of these ordinary, lackluster angels. And in this manner one could write a volume three times the size of the bible.

  11. Now the time for the gimmicks such as in the above para has passed. If a person feels that he has extra intelligence, he should do some real work in science or art, rather than resorting to the this type of colourful pointless display. Write about the depth of Shakespeare, Milton or T. S. Elliot. Build a rocket. Be a programmer and write some useful code. Draw some nice picture. Whatever is better.

    It is really sad that this evil is persisting. People are slowly realizing the folly of Gandhism. But this religious lunacy will probably take much longer to get out of the way. Let it be five hundred years, thousand, or ten thousand years. It must go. Truth is truth, a spade is a space. There is no God!

    Amen! :-)

  12. A really late congrats for completing 250 posts...3 posts ago!!!:-)

  13. Thank you for honoring my opinion by mentioning it in this post. I think politics is good for campuses. I hate violence of any sort inside or outside campuses . Politics do not automatically means violence. In my experience campus life was intellectually stimulating because of politics . For us politics meant mainly debates seminars street plays cartoons wall magazines film shows . We learned to protest against authorities peacefully by sit ins and processions . We learned to tolerate democratically the majority opinion too. Campus is a miniature version of Civil society. If politics is banned the communalists will have an un opposed field to propagate their communal politics using the mask of Bible , Gita and Quran classes ,

  14. @ charakan
    believe me, those days of engaging in political activities in a civilised manner are gone. the idea of campus politics is good. but in practice, it has been reduced to a dangerous activity.
    @ mathew
    thank you.

  15. I, one of the anonymous guys here, made four consecutive posts above, and I see only three. Is the guess correct that the second of them was censored out? :-)

  16. Actually it was in one whole bunch. But the limitation on comment size forced this cutting into pieces. And the most important part turned out to be very convenient for censoring. .

    I don't mind, though .. I understand why you did it. It will be unfair to expect you to approve it. I was going to go off in a similar vein about the constitution of India which you revere, but checked myself in time .. :-)

    I hope you find my presence in your blog a refreshing change, among the ones who always coo and ooh and aah, "how true, how poignant" .. :)

  17. @ anon
    yes. u r the pepper & salt in my blogspace:-)


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