Of love in a time of hatred

Of love in a time of hatred

Why does Hindu pride need a total submission by the next biggest religious community to build its glory on?

A few days ago, I wrote to a high-school friend of mine that one of the strongest memories I have from the late 1980s is the way in which the whole school was made to join a rally carrying bricks to Ayodhya. What troubled me then and continues to haunt me today are the slogans that local RSS leaders urged us to raise, one of the worst being, “Ramana makkalu naavella, Baabara santati bekilla” (We are all Rama’s children, we do not want Babar’s offspring here). We had many Muslim students amongst a whole lot of other diverse groups and to this day, I can’t describe how sick I felt.

Many of us, I know, remained silent despite being 13-14-year olds. What also troubles me is that the school we went to was Christian, Catholic, in Somwarpet in Kodagu district, a little known but beautiful small town. Perhaps in 1989, the threat of political Hindutva did not loom large. Perhaps they were intimidated enough to send all their students to the rally. Perhaps at that point of time, all they saw was the building of a temple and not the ideology of hatred behind it, a hatred that has since engulfed so many of us, even people who are seemingly peace-loving Hindus, particularly those well settled in life and whose affluent and good lives are quite untouched, undisturbed, and unaffected by Muslims.

What is it that makes hatred so crucial to all fascist, totalitarian regimes? What are the grounds on which hatred is constructed and perpetuated? Unfortunately, this hatred is not just imagined but performed in our day to day lives, conversations, in our WhatsApp groups, in exclusionary practices, in institutions that discriminate, in political acts, in governing policies, and in violent murders. Why does Hindu pride need a total submission by the next biggest religious community to build its glory on?

The collective hatred of a community, created and perpetuated by the State, its apparatuses, actively (note, not passively) consumed and enacted by dominant populations, highly aided by the digital media today, is not a vision any nation can move forward with. Each of the above is worked in multiple ways to create an ‘other’. Perhaps Hinduism needs an overarching enemy to unite itself. Without this enemy, how can it ever overcome the divisiveness of caste?

Hatred of the ‘other’ is one of the strongest characteristics of fascism. In the last year or so, there has been enough discussion on what is happening in India and its link to signs of fascism: from conflating myth and history, to conflating science and religion, to totalitarianism, to insisting on one version of truth, to quelling any kind of dissent, to glorification of military values, to ideas of political and religious supremacy, to cultural/spiritual re-generation, the creation of a terrorizing enemy…the signs are visible for all to see.

How do we face this evil that is not so banal? One of the most poignant issues Timothy Snyder discusses in his small, powerful book Tyranny is how each one of us needs to “take responsibility for the face of the world.” He quotes Václav Havel, the Czech thinker: “People declare their loyalty in the only way the regime is capable of hearing; that is, by accepting the prescribed ritual, by accepting appearances as reality, by accepting the given rules of the game, thus making it possible for the game to go on, for it to exist in the first place.”

“And what happens, asked Havel, if no one plays the game?” Or indeed, can we ask, what happens if we play the game differently?

I am strongly reminded of Rohith Vemula who in his now much-quoted letter mourns the world that has lost its love for humanity. The immense possibilities of the human mind, that were never allowed to flourish… “I loved science, stars, nature, but then I loved people without knowing that people have long since divorced from nature. Our feelings are second-hand. Our love is constructed. Our beliefs coloured. Never was a man treated as a mind. As a glorious thing made up of star dust.”

I am not sure if Rohith’s innocent appeal for love is possible in these times of hatred, but to me it is powerful. But, to love, one needs some courage.

(The writer is currently a Fulbright Fellow at Queens College, City University of New York. She teaches Comparative Literature at the University of Hyderabad)

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