New Delhi,Atish Nagpure: My mother used to tell me this story of the time of my birth. Just a week after I was born, the then Prime Minister of India Indira Gandhi was assassinated and riots engulfed the country. Many Sikhs were brutally killed in that genocide. The situation was tense even in Maharashtra, but within a few weeks, life slowly started coming back to normal.
Aamir Khan, his wife Kiran Rao and thier son
I sincerely feel that after these riots, life in India was never the same again. It resulted in two important yet unfortunate developments from which this country has never recovered.
Firstly, the 1984 genocide gave open licence to radical forces to promote their communal and divisive agenda, by providing them with an opportunity to raise fingers at the Congress party. Second, it resulted in the rise of Rajiv Gandhi, India’s weakest PM ever. His inability to handle the Shah Bano case paved the way for radical Hindu organisations to push their agenda. He committed a blunder by deciding to open the doors of the Babri Mosque, in a stupid attempt to repair the damage done by the Shah Bano case. It was the beginning of the fall of the Congress and rise of radical forces.
Within half a decade, the country had been fully polarised. I was hardly 8 or 9 years old at the time, but memories of the 1993 Mumbai riots are fresh in my mind. I cannot forget how our minds had been occupied and indoctrinated by radical forces. Today, I cannot see any real difference between those radical forces and the Islamist extremists in the Middle East. They both preach hatred and make a lasting impact on young minds. Perhaps the only difference is in the degree of impact, the extent of violence.
My whole generation was born and brought up in an atmosphere of hatred, communal aggression and prejudiced thinking. We were the victims of a mass slow poisoning of young minds that began in the late 80s and early 90s.
What changed after the demolition of the Babri Mosque and the 1993 Mumbai riots? Before the riots, my father used to take us to the Haji Ali Dargah while returning home after visiting the Mahalaxmi temple. After the riots, it never happened. He stopped taking us to the Dargah. This may seem like a trivial thing, but it highlights how our mindset had changed.
Communal polarisation and rapid economic reforms went hand in hand during this time. The introduction of FDI and liberalisation followed by a revolution in the IT sector boosted the Indian economy. As politicians and intellectuals were too busy either in praising or criticising liberalisation, the serious issue of increasing communal divide remained neglected for decades. The young minds infected with the poisonous ideology of hate could never emerge out of its shadow. The emergence of a leader like Narendra Modi in the spectrum of Indian politics was very obvious given these circumstances, as the indoctrinated young generation waited eagerly for a leader who was the perfect blend of their so-called ‘Ram’ and an economic catalyst. They found it in the form of Modi.
The atmosphere currently prevailing in India is the peak of communal polarisation which began with the unfortunate assassination of Indira Gandhi. The nature of incidents happening in this country every now and then provide enough evidence of growing intolerance. But it’s not just the BJP and the Sangh Parivar which is at fault. Most of us common people too do not find anything objectionable about these developments. How does it matter if beef is banned? How does it matter if Dabholkar, Pansare and Kalburgi are killed? Who cares if incidents like Dadri happen? Who cares if the sanctity of institutions is destroyed? How does it matter if Nathuram Godse’s birth anniversary is celebrated? “Hungama kyon hai bhai?”, this is how most of us have reacted to these developments. It seems that the Sangh Parivar’s experiment of injecting hatred into the minds of young Hindus has achieved unprecedented success.
Instead of raising our voice, we shamelessly question those who return their awards, who express their concerns. We question their intentions, their religion, accuse them of being inclined towards a certain political ideology. Isn’t this intolerance?
What has changed in this nation in the last 18 months? The central government is dictating to us what we can eat, wear and watch. The Prime Minister of the country says in an election rally that the share of reservations for lower castes is being diverted to Muslims. The Chief Minister of a certain state asks a particular community to leave the country if they wish to eat beef, and the Governor of some other state wants this country to become a Hindu rashtra. Incidents of communal violence and atrocities against Dalits have increased. It seems that the agenda of foolish anti-social elements has been officially adopted by the ruling government at the Centre. And, to push this stupid, outrageous agenda ahead, they are making equally outrageous appointments in important government organisations.
In such an atmosphere, is it outrageous or even surprising if a star like Aamir Khan wishes to leave the country? But instead of trying to understand the concerns of Aamir Khan and Kiran Rao, most of us have heavily criticised the couple. Many have questioned Aamir’s religion. Some have advised them to go to Syria, Pakistan, Iraq or Lebanon. I don’t think that for Aamir and Kiran Rao, this is just a matter of safety. The atmosphere and ideological environment in which their child will be brought up could also be a cause for worry for them.
But this cannot be just Aamir Khan’s concern. Every secular, rational mind is bothered about the ideological nurturing of their children today. Those who do not want religion to be taught in schools, those who do not want the culture of hierarchy on the basis of caste, religion, gender to spread (i.e. the kind of culture present in RSS), those who feel that the Constitution and values like freedom and equality stand highest, those who want their children to look at the world with an open mind and not through the prism of any religion, are all scared. Because they know as well as anyone that once the minds of children are polluted with prejudice and hate, they cannot be de-radicalised easily. Though I am a Hindu, the father in me is especially worried about this.
One more concern is the pace of positive transition in this country. In the battle against superstitions, backwardness and male domination, we could hardly take a few steps forward in the last few decades. Many people seem to be scared that in the current regime, given the Parivar’s poor history, India will take several steps backwards on these issues.
I would like to quote some lines from the poetry of famous poet Nida Fazli, where he expresses his frustration when he finds it very difficult to compose poetry from his heart as the situation around him deteriorates. Let me clarify that Fazli wrote this poem long before the present BJP government came to power.
Nazm bahut aasan thi pehle
(Writing poetry was so easy, earlier)
Nazm se mujh tak ab milon lambi duri hai
(Now, poetry is miles away from me)
Kahin Achanak Bam Fatate Hai
Kokh me mao ke sote bachche darte hai
Majhab aur siyasat
Naye naye nare ratate hai
Bahut se shahero – bahut se mulko se ab hokar
Nazm mere ghar jab aati hai
Itni jyada thak jati hai
Meri likhane ke tebil par
Khali kagaz ko khali hi chhod ke
Rukhsat ho jati hai