Our country has been walking the edge between communal harmony and hatred for a while now. Every now and then, acts of hatred have made members of majority communities lash out at members of minority communities. Linked to this is the ages old Indo-Pak animosity. Several members of the armed forces have laid their lives down in a never-ending battle of mustachios between India and Pakistan. Civilians, too, have long been collateral damage.
Some of the acts have been heinous, and have cost the lives of innocent little children, little flowers who should have been protected. The latest acts of terror in Jammu & Kashmir have opened up another can of worms, with people attacking Kashmiri civilians living in other parts of the country. Along with that came clamouring of war from the Indian polity, most of whom have never been in the armed forces themselves, but it doesn’t stop them from banking on the votes that may come in at the cost of the bodies of our children, our siblings, our parents.
But those who support such extreme acts don’t just exist in the polity. They surround us – the well-meaning friends chatting about their latest foreign trips, or designer purchases, often trying to make the most of their armchair politics through a misplaced sense of nationalism.
We sit in our hipster cafes on our latest phones opining on how the country should go to war, with Bollywood stars sending out videos shouting “How’s the josh!” Yet most of us do not have the guts to pick up arms and go to the borders, especially the actors who, while they might give award-winning performances that make our kids ride high on patriotic (and sometimes nationalistic) euphoria, are as far removed from the reality of the jawans who laid down their lives for us.
Not too long ago, though some millennials will disagree about the timeline, this sub-continent was on the verge of being an undivided country under one flag. However, fate intervened and created three countries instead of one. Even today, we have friends and relatives across the borders, not to mention business alliances that carry on despite the political powers shaking their fists in the air and the skirmishes at the borders.
My family, like several others, was affected by the partition of 1947. Some of my relatives didn’t make it out alive. Yet, to stoke hatred for an entire nation of people on the basis of an act carried out by a few people years ago is not only unjust but also highly illogical. We cannot carry on feeding hate to generation after generation of people who have mostly only witnessed battles and wars on cricket fields. They have no notion of the horrors of war, nor the cost that civilians have to bear when politicians use them as little pawns in a game.
This jingoistic fervour has led to a widow of one of the martyrs to be trolled online for beseeching Indians to say no to war. It’s also creating a space for people to lash out against marginalised communities such as queer people and comparing them to people across the border – as if it’s derogatory to be queer, or to be Pakistani.
Where’s this poison flowing from? Who’s feeding it? It’s about time we stopped hiding behind our LED screens and started coming to the forefront to own up to what we say, and defend our statements logically instead of hate mongering, and in turn, war mongering. There have to be other solutions to this never ending cycle of venom and violence between two countries and their communities.
Artwork credit: Pawan Dhall