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Rohit Dhankar

Living and flourishing together in harmony requires acceptance of some principles and some dispositions. The first principle to my mind is to recognize all as your equals. This is to recognize that as you have a right to live in this world as per your own percepts others have the same right too. As you have the right to influence the words so that your chosen life becomes possible others have the same right too. But the differences are bound to be in perceptions, imaginations of desired lives, and therefore, proposed schemes of social organizations. The living and flourishing together necessarily requires ways of resolving these differences without making shared social life impossible and without subjugating the other; as subjugation will violate the recognition of the other as an equal. That makes it necessary to engage with the ‘other’ in a negotiation, a dialogue.

No dialogue is possible without an attempt to understand the other’s position. Therefore, the second principle has to be to make an attempt to understand the other without willful distortion. If one assumes the other to be evil even before the dialogue begins there can be no possibility of apprehending the other’s position. The third principle, then, has to be to begin with an initial position of trust. This trust is not a commitment to always consider the other as acting with good will. It only requires to keep an open mind, till it is proved otherwise. It demands a certain mental alertness to catch nefarious intentions and willful distortion of reasoning by the other and still maintaining basic trust in his/her humanity and authenticity as a person. The fourth principle I would propose is an unconditional commitment to the wellbeing of your opponent, even when in a serious battle with him/her, just because the other happens to be a human being. I know it is difficult and may be misinterpreted, but a genuine public dialogue is impossible without this. In this scheme of things the fifth principle has to be of being consistent in public reason. This demands epistemic fairness; you cannot use two different sets of reasoning, one for your friends and another for suppose o be opponents.

We as Indians now have a long history of divisive politics on the part of BJP and RSS; and of partisan politics on the part of left and Congress. That has violated all these principles. And has vitiated the atmosphere so much that the basic trust in and good will for other almost completely destroyed. The present day politics from both sides is a politics of hate, a politics to completely subjugate the other. It is not a politics of listening to the other; it is a politics of willful distortion of the others meaning to discredit. And therefore, it generates daily new cycles of stupidity.

The most recent cycle of stupidity is between Bhagwat and Owaisi. The steps of this cycle of stupidity can be roughly outlines as below.

  1. The Indian state fails to uphold the principles of justice, equality, freedom and dignity for large populations of its population. (Something could not be properly addressed after independence. Mainly due to control of a section of the society on the state.)
  2. This instigates some left-leaning students to shout slogans that indicate rejection of the state and the very idea of integrity of the nation. (The students are incapable of analyzing the complex situation. They fails to grasp the implications of rejection of the state and integrity of the nation; and to estimate the costs of such actions. They also choose wring symbols.)
  3. Bhagwat sees in this the opportunity to emphasize his narrow brand of nationalism, and declares that “Now the time has come when we have to tell the new generation to chant ‘Bharat Mata ki Jai (hail mother India)”. (He fails to recognise that there might be genuine reasons for the disaffection of the students and large sections of the population. He also fails to recognise that you have to improve the situation and get into a dialogue with the disaffected students, rather than “telling” them. He is blind to the fact that this country might have people who resepct it as much as he does but do not endorse the metaphor or imagination of the country as “Bharat Mata”.)
  4. Owaisi sees in this the opportunity to highlight his brand of divisive politics and declares “he will not chant ‘Bharat Mata ki Jai’ even if a knife is put to his throat” (The Hindu, 15th March 2016). (He deliberately accentuates the issue completely ignoring that Bhagwat is talking to ‘teaching’ this to the new generation and not at all of forcing people with knives at throats. Owaisi also ignores that different people come from different backgrounds and may use different metaphors and languages.)
  5. Now Shiv Sena jumps in and tell Owaisi to go to Pakistan! (As if it is a constitutional necessity to chant ‘Bharat mata ki jai’. They want to misappropriate the love of India for themselves and those who don’t agree with them should leave the country.)

Another related cycle of stupidity involves Professor Nivedita Menon. Which develops as follows, from the same starting point.

  1. The Indian state fails to uphold the principles of justice, equality, freedom and dignity for large populations of its population. (Something could not be properly addressed after independence.)
  2. This instigates some left-leaning students to shout slogans that indicate rejection of the state and the very idea of integrity of the nation. (The students are incapable of analyzing the complex situation. They fails to grasp the implications of rejection of the state and integrity of the nation; and to estimate the costs of such actions.)
  3. This gives an opportunity to the government to make an attempt to show that the JNU is a hot bed of anti-nations, and handle the issue in a highhanded manner by arresting Kanhaiya. (Without allowing the internal process of the university.)
  4. JNU in its wisdom stats a series of lectures to preach the kind of nationalism or its absence espoused by the dominant faction there. (Through this successfully converts the issue to that of freedom of speech and draws attention away from the real issue of slogans.)
  5. Professor Nivedita Menon happily declares that the whole world considers Indian occupation of Kashmir illegal. (Without defining under what parameters the accession of Kashmir is illegal. I have written a piece on this, it is here.)
  6. Some media channels start a campaign against her for this, some ABVP people also lodge an FIR (?). (They resort to vilification rather than taking on her in a debate.)
  7. The university academics and students come to her defense and call Professor Menon’s declaration of illegality of Kashmir occupation as ‘right to free speech’ but others’ rejoinder as ‘attack’, double standards. (They also eulogize her work and her teaching style but none provides answer to why the Kashmir occupation is illegal? As if a good academic and good teacher has all the right to make baseless declarations. They successfully fabricated another case of throttling freedom of speech while the government did nothing in this case. Also, completely ignore and make public forget her untenable claim.)

Now it should be clear to the common Indian citizen that the both parties (they are not homogenous) are grinding their own axes. Want public support for their espoused causes; but both are severely assailing the capability of the people to think clearly. They are fast distorting the public thinking and destroying public capability for rational thought, by being deliberately partisan. The Indian public is on its own in keeping its cool and keeping its mind clear. The BJP and RSS were always for indoctrination and brow beating their opponents. The so-called intelligentsia is more interested in perpetuating their brand of dogmatic thinking rather than clarity of reason and reflection. Both want to convert our not-so-well-functioning democracy into mobocracy of their choice.

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