NEW DELHI: The cultural fabric and ethos of India is being unmade with every passing day, says activist Harsh Mander, fearing that "hatred and bigotry" may become "the new normal".
In his latest book "Partitions of the Heart: Unmaking the Idea of India", Mander says that Muslims and Christians are at the risk of being reduced to second class citizens in India.
He that the Constitution promises that India would belong to all people who are born into it or who chose it, regardless of their religion, caste or gender.
"If this pattern of routinising systematic hate violence is not effectively resisted, the danger is that it will spiral downwards into further and further cycles of grim and deepening strife, which will continue to target innocents and ultimately tear us apart as a people, destroying the idea of a humane, pluralist, inclusive India."
He accuses the successive governments of compromising cynically with "secular and egalitarian principles", contending that they failed both their constitutional mandate and the people of India.
Mander, who quit the IAS in the wake of post-Godhra riots in Gujarat in 2002, urges his readers to learn from the lessons of the past, saying that it is imperative that people do not allow "hatred and bigotry" to get routinised.
"Solidarity with and between religious, ethnic and sexual minorities, oppressed castes and tribal people, women, poor and dispossessed people, immigrants and working class people, and people of colour must be forged and strengthened," he notes in the book, published by Penguin.
The 66-year-old activist, who works with survivors of mass violence and hunger as well as homeless persons and street children, further prescribes that public institutions must be protected and public dissent should be seen as the highest public duty.
He says that even if dissent is stigmatised as "unpatriotic, attacked and persecuted", citizens of the country should not allow it to be suppressed.
India was partitioned in 1947 by its British colonial rulers, leading to the birth of two separate nations, India and Pakistan. Mander's central argument in the book is that another partition is "underway in our hearts and minds".
"How much of this culpability lies with ordinary people? What are the responsibilities of a secular government, of a civil society, and of a progressive majority," he asks in the book.
Taking stock of whether India has upheld the values it had set out to achieve, the author offers a painful, unsparing insight into the contours of hate and violence.
He shares vivid stories from his own work and shows that hate speech, communal propaganda and vigilante violence are "mounting a fearsome climate of dread".
He argues that hate can indeed be fought, "but only with solidarity, reconciliation and love, and when all of these are founded on fairness".