Scientists see the end of humanity looming in the distance. Google’s chief of engineering Ray Kurzweil says humanity will end in 2045, and robots will take over. Stephen Hawking, playing theoretical physicist-turned-soothsayer, gives man a little more time. The professor thinks the humanity will be obliterated in a 100 years by climate change, asteroid strikes, epidemics and population growth. Personally, I wonder if humanity is not dead already, and not for the reasons cited above. I’m going by the hatred that is all-pervasive in India today.
In Bangalore, feisty journalist Gauri Lankesh, who openly spoke and wrote against the rise of communalism and rightwing politics and supported the causes of Dalits and women, was killed on her doorstep last week by a man wearing a helmet. Most people were stunned, as much by the murder as by the way it was done. Our home is our haven; we do not expect to be followed and gunned down there. Not when we are not in the business of killing others.
After minutes of stunned silence, the public came out to grieve and protest, personally and virtually. So far, so normal (whatever normal means these days). But then other voices piped up, singing a different tune. These voices of supposedly normal, everyday people took to social media to exult in Lankesh’s death. She got what she deserved, they said; karma, they called it, and asked for other women who speak in a similar voice to be dealt the same fate. Their harsh words, the sinister tone almost rivaled the crime in brutality. Lankesh was a political being with a strong voice.
It’s only natural that many would disagree with her views strongly, even completely. But ideological disagreements are a part of life; they can’t be the cause of death or the rejoicing over it. Every society understands the ‘sanctity of life’ and forbids murder. We used to, too. But in the last few years, not only have we taken to killing those who worship a different God or eat different foods, we are even celebrating the murder of those we are not in sync with. Is it that we no longer believe that human life is inherently valuable? As fellow beings, the news of anyone’s untimely passing is supposed to trigger feelings of sadness.
After all, we’re wired to show empathy to other beings. Or is that a thing of the past? Have we reached that tipping point as a society where we can only live with carbon copies? Much has been made of the fact that the main gent exulting in the death of Lankesh is followed by Narendra Modi on Twitter. His apparatchik has countered the criticism with the assertion that the Prime Minister cannot be expected to keep track of everyone he follows. That is a fact.
Modi must have had his reasons for following Lankesh’s key detractor on Twitter. Why he did it is not important. What is important is that, despite the man’s despicable talk, he has not unfollowed him. Gauri Lankesh is not the fi rst person to be killed for the ideas she held. Most likely, she won’t be the last. But perhaps her vilest detractor could be the last troller that the leader of the nation supports. If only to assure the nation that he believes that all lives are sacred.