Filled with bigotry and hatred, the lie we told ourselves as a nation is crumbling

Looking from the vantage point of the present, the medieval era appears brutal, and it was natural that the invaders searching for wealth used religion to consolidate power.

Published: 03rd September 2023 05:00 AM  |   Last Updated: 02nd September 2023 09:12 PM   |  A+A-

Recently, a video went viral in which an eight-year-old student was singled out by a teacher for punishment and she could be heard urging kids to slap their classmate harder, while the teacher commented on the boy’s religion. If that doesn’t send a chill down our spine about what we have mutated into as a society, nothing else will. It is easy to brush this off as an odd incident, but anyone closely watching how our society is regressing can easily see countless such events happening nationwide. It is a myth that India is a cohesive society.

The subcontinent carries a baggage of history, and most of it was bloody. In a world where agriculture and crafts dominated the economy, India, with its countless rivers, monsoons and fertile land, always sustained a vast population. This land, which could be cultivated almost year-round, continued to be prosperous until colonisation. It missed the boat during the industrial revolution and is still playing catch-up, but for most of history, India attracted invaders due to its richness. 

Looking from the vantage point of the present, the medieval era appears brutal, and it was natural that the invaders searching for wealth used religion to consolidate power. It is not much different from how politicians worldwide use religion today for power except for the brutality accompanying these medieval invasions. Such religious invasions have left deep scars in the psyche of our people, especially in northern India. Britishers used this cleavage in society to rule and exploit us for more than two centuries. When they left, they not only went back rich after looting trillions of rupees, but also left the subcontinent the poorest region in the world. Their rule culminated in one of the bloodiest civil wars in the modern era that claimed thousands of lives. 

All these points remind us that we are not naturally cohesive, and it takes a lot of effort to maintain peace in our society. That is why the first few decades of independent India were spent creating an alluring, albeit artificial, story about unity in diversity. This is a country of so many beliefs, cultures and languages. Every nation needs a story that can take it forward. A nation’s success depends on the success of its storytelling to its people. The story we told ourselves when we were recovering from the aftermath of Partition was that, at the core, we all are one. There is space for everyone in our land. We were scared that if we looked deeper into the graveyard of our past, many ghosts would come to haunt our present.

Anyone above 40 will remember the sickly sweet animations of the Films Division or the patriotic songs aired during national holidays that kept harping about unity in diversity. The optimistic among us sighed with relief, thinking that India had somehow achieved a miracle. We have smoothened over fault lines. We thanked our stars that we didn’t go the Pakistan way, which ended up losing more than half its population and land after an attempt to impose Urdu over Bangla. We are not so foolish to think that one language could be imposed on such a diverse country, we told ourselves and patted our backs. When Sri Lanka and Myanmar went after their minorities and ended up ruining themselves in eternal conflicts, we were sure, with our storytelling skills, we would escape their fate. 

But slowly, we are going the way of our neighbours. Most among us can’t stand diversity now. An egalitarian religion that allowed all streams of thought is slowly becoming a mirror image of medieval Christianity or Islam, but without shedding its brutal caste consciousness. We are injecting bigotry and hatred into the minds of primary school children. We are doing everything that Pakistan did. We are going back to our default mode. The story, the lie we told ourselves about India being somehow different, is crumbling. We are back to the 1940s, warming up for another bloody conflict, each side searching for its enemies. 

Those catering to the bigots on either side in search of votes, be it of minorities or the majority, are marching us towards doom. Ask the Pakistanis who did Jinnah make them fight for a nation based on religion and what have they achieved now. How do we expect a different future when treading the same path as our foolish neighbour? One is scared to imagine a nationwide civil war like the Partition riots with modern weapons. Those who don’t learn from history are doomed to repeat it.

Anand Neelakantan

Author of Asura, Ajaya series, Vanara and Bahubali trilogy


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  • Muhammed

    Hinduism is holding India together. Why Srilanka became a separate country? Why Bangladesh and Pakistan did not join Indian in 1947? Why Myanmar became separate? Were'nt these part of British India? l if India was created by British why these did not become part of India .. Why first King of Nepal called Nepal Asli Hindustan? Why Nepali peoples of Nepal who were never part of British India still consider themselves Indian?
    23 days ago reply
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