Wednesday, September 21, 2022

Stand up against Polarisation

There are many issues that plague the country, but the one thing that threatens to tear the country apart is growing poliarisation. The most obvious symptom is the spurt in hate crimes, but what is most worrying is not the incidents of extreme violence, but the everyday normalisation of the otherisation. Even seemingly mature people from whom one would expect otherwise, do not think twice about referring to people different from them as “they”.

“What can you expect from them?”

“They are like that only.”

“They will always act in their own self-interest.”

Implicit in all the statements is the fundamental point which is implied though not articulated — “they cannot be trusted.”

This casual use of the word “they” is what is most frightening. “They” implicitly implies that the person or group is not “us”. That what divides us as a nation is more important that what keeps us together.

This is why the Bharat Jodo Yatra is so important. It acknowledges that hypernationlaism is tearing us apart, and tries to reverse that. It is an attempt to remind people that what keeps is together as a nation is far more important than what tears us apart. Through the Bharat Jodo Yatra, we are being reminded that we are not just members of the tiny communities we define ourselves by, we are a part of a larger whole. It is a reminder that while we may have our differences, we should not allow that to translate into hate; that what matters is that we are one nation, one people.

A century back, Jawaharlal Nehru travelled to the remotest hamlets in the country, and tried to connect with the people there. He described those encounters most eloquently in his book “The Discovery of India” -

I would ask them unexpectedly what they meant by that cry, who was this Bharat Mata, Mother India, whose victory they wanted?…

… [I would tell them that]… the mountains and the rivers of India, and the forests and the broad fields which gave us food, were all dear to us, but what counted ultimately were the people of India, people like them and me, who were spread out all over this vast land. Bharat Mata, Mother India, was essentially these millions of people, and victory to her meant victory to these people. You are parts of this Bharat Mata, I told them, you are in a manner yourself Bharat Mata, and as this idea slowly soaked into their brains, their eyes would light up as if they had made a great discovery.

It really doesn’t matter whether the Bharat Jodo Yatra translates into votes for the Congress or not. It doesn’t matter whether the party comes to power in the next General Elections or not. All that matters is that an attempt was made at de-escalating social and economic divides. All that matters is that an attempt was made to bring people together. All that matters is that people stood up against the growing polarisation and hate.

In Majrooh Sultanpuri’s words-

Main akela hi chala tha janib e manzil magar
Log saath aate gae aur karwan banta gaya.


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