No Barkha Dutt, it’s the twisted sense of secularism that is sick

This Barkha Dutt article in Hindustan Times would have made perfect sense had we been living in times when secularism didn’t mean continuously pitching the minority community against the majority community and always pointing an accusing finger at the majority community — Hindus in this case. Alas! We don’t live in such times. We live in the times when political manipulations are the norm of the day. We live in the times when journalists and writers have sold their souls to their political masters. We live in the times when social and political discourse is tainted with ideological warfare of the worst kind.

Barkha Dutt, sadly, is one of the most important footsoldiers of the ideological warfare that has been waged against the majority community for diabolical reasons that had been so far incomprehensible to the common man and woman on the street. But due to rising levels of awareness thanks to social networking websites and the Internet, and to a great extend the availability of mobile phones, people are aware that such warfare is being waged and one community is being pitched against the other using psychological machinations and strategically timed misinformation bursts.

An atmosphere of fear is being created. Debate after debate on the news channels and opinion pieces after opinion pieces in print publications are being carried out to drill down the fear of sectarian and religious restlessness and acrimony. Even if people are not ready to accept, they are being forced to accept that they have become enemies of each other. Muslims are being forced to believe that Hindus are trying to impose their way of life on them, and Hindus are being forced to believe that they are being reduced to the existence of second-class citizens in their own country and they are not supposed to do anything about it. Any sort of protest against this warfare is termed as intolerance, polarization and communalism.

The forms of secularism, pluralism and liberalism being practiced by a particular class of intellectuals, journalists and writers is totally skewed, whether it is skewed purposely or unintentionally. Instead of helping people, it is harming people. Instead of strengthening the social fabric their one-sided clarion calls are causing great damage to it. You cannot keep the majority community in ideological doldrums and expect the country to remain stable for a long time. There has to be a balance.

Yes, whatever the Shiv Sena did is deplorable and its actions need to be discouraged using all political and legal means. Similarly, what happened in Dadri shouldn’t repeat. If rationalists are being attacked it is a sorry state of affairs no matter how nonsensical these rationalists sound. Intellectuals, if unpalatable, must be countered intellectually rather than being threatened with physical or mortal harm. Nobody disputes this.

But this litany of harangues must also stop. Public figures like Barkha Dutt should acknowledge that yes, the majority community, the Hindus, have a problem. They are going through existential angst and these angst must be recognized first. Sometimes, all it takes is, accepting that yes the other person is going through some problem; it isn’t necessary that you offer a solution.

This happens with individual as well as societal level — people need to be heard no matter how illogical they are. If you are constantly accusing them and putting them on the back foot, sooner or later they are going to end up doing things that they shouldn’t be doing. Their plight does not absolve them of their misconduct, but that’s the reality. Whether you like it or not, it is going to happen and no amount of sermoning and preaching is going to stop it.

So how do you stop this simmering anger snowballing into something volcanic? Stop this battle of we and them, you and us. We all live in this country. We all have expectations. We all have problems. Nobody is going anywhere. Hindus know that Muslims are here to stay, and Muslims know that Hindus are here to stay, and the same applies to Christians, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis, Sikhs and hundreds of other religions and sects that manifest in our country. Stop pitting them against each other. Instead of constantly pointing at the problems, come up with solutions for once. And come up with solutions that don’t feel like exploitations. Be fair. People don’t hate each other. What they hate is the treatment meted out to them in the name of appeasement, tolerance, pluralism and the much-maligned-but-noble word, secularism.

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