It is often an assumption that the right and the left are two entirely separate factions in India. Who knows where those pseudo-liberals live and breathe, and the right bigots must go about their hatred in an entirely different world of their own. But the truth is that the left and the right are more intricately mingled in Indian middle-class households than we would care to acknowledge.
I grew up believing that the right to freedom is crucial, whether it be that of expression, speech or beliefs. So imagine my surprise when I realized that my close ones do not always share this belief. Sure we all are progressive, and sure we all encourage education and career over religion and faith. But we really are not above the biases or Islamophobia that the current regime has been subjecting us to. We are either with the popular narrative, or against it, and thus are undesirables. There’s no in-between.
And unfortunately, my family is a great representation of the masses who have made this possible. Every other day, when I hear how ‘shameless‘ these Muslims have become and how they are out to get us, I wonder how it is that education bears no effect on us. I was taught in school that those who do not remember history are doomed to repeat it. And even though all of us are history enthusiasts, we’re repeating it word by word, letter by letter.
When an uncle says that these Muslims breed like rabbits so that they can take over the world, I am overcome with an urge to remind him that Churchill used these exact words for Indians when condemning millions of Bengalis to famine, killing them in one fell swoop.
When an uncle says that these Muslims breed like rabbits so that they can take over the world, I am overcome with an urge to remind him that Churchill used these exact words for Indians when condemning millions of Bengalis to famine, killing them in one fell swoop. It was Churchill’s sheer bigotry that killed millions and for what? To stock the supplies of the empire while they waged war in a different corner of the world.
When my father says that the only way to stop these Muslims is to stop any form of business with them, to ostracize them in an attempt to stop them in their tracks, I am overcome with grief. I rarely am objective enough around my father to have a sane disagreement. Still, I cannot help but think of how the Jews in Nazi Germany were subjected to this exact form of ostracization before they were killed for being Jews. The root behind this was antisemitism dad, just like how Islamophobia is behind yours.
When I overhear a family friend saying that it is only a matter of time when India becomes a Hindu country as opposed to the ‘secular’ garb that the opportunists had put on it, I am scared. I am scared for your daughters, who have found their voices amidst this ‘secularism’. For women are killed today in a radicalized Afghanistan. It wasn’t the case in a secular progressive one.
When my friend rants about how stupid these migrants are for heading back to their villages in hoards and spreading the virus to the rural areas, I shudder to think of the alternative. Would he rather want them to die of hunger and misery in the cities? Viceroy Willingdon, in 1931, had similarly dismissed the grief of Indians during the great depression as he scoured gold from farmers and sent it back to England in a bid to revive the British economy.
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My family, which clapped and cheered as the intellectuals and the professors of the country are being incarcerated, conveniently has forgotten the long line of academicians in our own family. The cost of speaking up for the right may have been lost on you as you moved away from the ‘difficult’ profession of academia. But these people are the ones upholding yours and mine right to dissent, to speak, to rebel, to question.
Religious bias or Islamophobia has been fed to us as a prescriptive measure, first by the British, then by the ruling class. And now, you, my family, where I borrowed my identity from, whether against the tides or for, have decided to be a party to a megalomaniac’s quest to rewrite what each of us stands for.
Dearest family, what is the point of education if all that you gain from it is a certificate that allows you to retrain for a job? We fail to realize that employment in itself comes to us as a form of caste and class privilege because we have convinced ourselves of our hard work and tenacity. Nobody is accusing you of being a slacker but you honestly haven’t had to deal with the morose reality most do while trying to get a basic education in a system that doesn’t deem them important enough to receive an education. But if only those poor and marginalized tried harder.
Religious bias or Islamophobia has been fed to us as a prescriptive measure, first by the British, then by the ruling class. And now, you, my family, where I borrowed my identity from, whether against the tides or for, have decided to be a party to a megalomaniac’s quest to rewrite what each of us stands for. Khushwant Singh predicted this when he said, “India is constipated with a lot of humbug. Take religion. For the Hindu, it means little besides caste and cow-protection. For the Muslim, circumcision and kosher meat. For the Sikh, long hair and hatred of the Muslim. For the Christian, Hinduism with a sola topee. For the Parsi, fire-worship and feeding vultures. Ethics, which should be the kernel of a religious code, has been carefully removed.”
You too seem to have removed humanity from your religious perspectives. I would have been that girl married with 4 kids by the age of 25, had I not been born in this privilege. You would have been that guy who cannot feed his family irrespective of how hard you worked.
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Why boast of this education when it cannot show you the true face of humanity? Why call each other names when all you care about is being wrapped up in this superiority complex? Marquez once said that human beings are not born once and for all on the day their mothers give birth to them, but that life obliges them over and over again to give birth to themselves. Maybe we can try reinventing ourselves, or maybe not. In any case. I have decided not to be a silent spectator to your hate.
Preeti is currently studying literature in Pune and trying to find hope through the pages of history, She is a carrot cake connoisseur and currently spends most of her time reading fantasy and science-fiction. You can find her on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
Featured Image Source: India Today