The historical truth is that in the war for human dignity, the victims are the true heroes. Martyrs are born in death. With their sacrifice and survival, they rewrite the narrative of prejudice to shame the inheritors of bigotry. Last week began with Martin Luther King Jr Day, honouring the memory of America’s most famous Gandhian, who became a global symbol of the fight for human equality and dignity. Had he not been shot down on a wintry day in a Memphis hotel, he perhaps would not have been such a symbol of racial equality. But he had a dream.
“I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: ‘We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal’.”“I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the colour of their skin but by the content of their character.”Nowhere else does it apply more than to the India of today. The week began with a Dalit being tortured on a Muzaffarnagar street, and forced to say ‘Jai Mata di’—as if his religion was in question.
Is it? Dalits in various places are still not allowed into temples of caste Hindus. A 15-year-old Dalit girl in Haryana was gangraped, tortured, objects inserted into her private parts and drowned in a canal—a dark Nirbhaya echo. Crimes against women have more than doubled over a decade, according to latest statistics from the National Crime Records Bureau. As many as 26 crimes against women are reported every hour—one complaint every two minutes.
A four-year-old girl student was sexually assaulted in school by the owner but the staff who witnessed the rape did not report it—the police have now arrested them. According to WHO doctors, two-third of Indian children suffer from sexual, mental, emotional and physical abuse. An alarming 8,800 cases of child rape were registered across the country under the Protection of Children Against Sexual Offences Act (POCSO). Tribals, daily labourers, the illiterate, the ailing and the old are routinely abused or exploited.
The sad truth is that India doesn’t protect its vulnerable as it should. Which explains why the secularists dominate the social discourse. The success of secularism is that it holds the patent for supporting the underdog. Both in city drawing rooms and protesting streets, the Left comes across as vehement champions of all victims—Dalits, labourers, factory workers, exploited tribals, women etc—while the Right flounders in the vocabulary of grievance.
Nationalists are too busy blaming Nehru, the British, the Gandhi family, and perhaps rightly so, for the ills of India to address the plight of the Indian. Unless the Right abandons its unhealthy obsession with the past and occupies the liberal space as the harbinger of compassionate equality, the Left will continue to dominate the mindspace. Keep Nirbhaya’s sacrifice alive in the public mind. Promote the deep, fervent Hindusim of Mahatma Gandhi.
Believe more in Make in India than Made in India. Create a nation where the Dalit and the Thakur is equally honoured. In this India, give the children of the disadvantaged acceptability in top educational institutions so they are judged by their achievements instead of their caste. In the hurry to dominate the intellectual pantheon, forget not the emotional substance that occupies the high moral ground. That must be India’s dream.