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Mainstream, VOL LV No 38 New Delhi September 9, 2017

Godmen, Grief-ridden Scenario, Dissent

Saturday 9 September 2017, by Humra Quraishi


Don’t tell me there is no nexus between the self- proclaimed godmen and the politicians! How can abusive fraud babas flourish for long years without the rulers and the administration not being part and parcel of the long list of the horrifying happenings...well, so horrifying that it gets difficult to believe that ‘developed’ we stand or sit or survive.

Tell me who can believe that we are marching ahead (don’t ask me where to!), when there exist well-constructed ‘gufaas’/caves where virgins are raped amidst a sanction of sorts, where young men are castrated to get fitted into the category of ‘safe guards’, where those ‘off with your head’ sentences are passed ever so often that one cannot keep count of the murdered and done away with!

Those yesteryears’ tales of over-sexed rajas and ranis’ bizarre sexual encounters are nowhere near today’s sexual perversions; on and ongoing amongst the mighty and rich who insist on using camouflages and guises! Only a few are exposed, others manage to carry on with their fraud right till their very end. After all, the nexus provides that protection.

Why are we getting so weak and idiotic to be conned by these godmen? It’s an extremely worrying trend, with no possible explanations save one—today’s creature is hit with worries and sorrows, with little relief coming from any of the expected quarters. Screens, big and small, compound the gravity as they relay visuals of violence and killings. Of course, they are simply portraying what’s happening on the ground.

In fact, as I am filing this column this mid-week, all possible news reports of today carry the dismal—another 42 children lie dead in the last 48 hours in that ‘killer’ BRD Hospital of Gorakhpur. Another round of sheer havoc in Mumbai as rains rip-off the bogus propaganda that the Mumbai Municipality was prepared to handle the crisis. Another child rape victim (a 14-year-old whom I would prefer to call a child) wants to give up her flesh and blood, that is, her newborn, as she and her family are unable to cope with the complexities involved. Another two men lynched in West Bengal on mere suspicion of carrying beef...the list of the ongoing tragedies is long. I don’t want to burden you with the details of the dead and dying but just to relay some of the realities of the day.

Perhaps, the strong-willed can withstand the everyday traumas but the average seeks relief. He or she has had enough of the bogus assurances tucked in those craftily worded speeches; knowing too well that ground realities are worsening by the day. After those initial rounds of inquiries there spreads an eerie quiet, at least on the political turf. Tell me, why were those cries for the removal of the Chief Ministers of Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Kashmir drowned, if not brushed aside?

Compounding the grief-ridden scenario is the unwritten order of the day where one is not supposed to question and query the State. An array of hurdles are put in place for the dissenting voice. The apolitical is in the grip of fear; after all, who can face the State machinery and the aftermath!

India Dissents—latest volume from Speaking Tiger

In fact, this brings me to focus on this just launched volume—India Dissents: 3000 years of Difference, Doubt and Argument. Published by Speaking Tiger, edited by Ashok Vajpeyi, it dwells on the significance that ought to be given to dissent. To quote from it, ‘Throughout Indian history, various individuals and groups have questioned, ensured and debated authority— be it the State or empire, religious or political traditions, caste hierarchies, patriarchy or even the idea of god. These dissenting voices have persisted despite all attempts made to silence them. They have inspired revolutions and uprisings, helped preserve individual dignity and freedom, and promoted tolerance and a plurality in thought and lifestyle.’

And tucked in the 546 pages of this volume are thoughts, essays, letters, verse, reports, poetry and lyrics and songs, calls-to-action from texts ranging from the Rig Veda to Ambedkar’s Annihilation of Caste; to the words- cum-thoughts of Buddha, Nanak, Gandhi, Tagore, Ghalib, Akka Mahadevi, Lal Ded, Manto, Maha-shweta Devi, Jayaprakash Narayan, Amartya Sen and several others... As Ashok Vajpeyi writes in his introduction to the volume, “It can be reasonably argued that in India, from the beginning of its civilisational enterprise, nothing has remained singular for long; in fact, nothing has been, in a sense, allowed to be singular for long. Whether God or religion, philosophy or metaphysics, language or custom, cuisine or costume, every realm is marked by plurality. It is not accidental that in many Western languages the word India is plural—‘Indes’, meaning ‘Indias’... Commenting on the climate of intolerance, the Economic and Political Weekly wrote recently: ‘While Dabholkar, Pansare, M.M. Kulburgi’s murders (as well as harassment meted out to others like them) are deplorable, what is even more despicable is the silence of large sections of the population and the continuing support of political interests to their tormentors. This lack of response is a clear indication that citizens feel they are not safe if they speak out against entrenched religious vested interests and that the State will not take their complaints seriously. A society that cannot tolerate dissenting views or keeps quiet in the face of a violent reaction to such views is staring at a cultural and intellectual abyss.’’’

Notice: The print edition of Mainstream Weekly is now discontinued & only an online edition is appearing. No subscriptions are being accepted