Thursday, December 13, 2012

(What of honest answers? We do not even ask honest questions)

- Surendra Bothara

What happened to Sikhs in Delhi and Kashmiri Pandits in Kashmere, what happened at Godra and what followed in Gujarat were heinous acts. What is happening in North-east as well as Naxalite infested areas can also be put in the same class. The response of the political fraternity, the bureaucracy, and the media remains disgustingly partisan. And that of the common man is, as usual,pathetic. Everyone extracts his share of mileage, political or otherwise, out of such acts of ghastly carnage. There are indeed exceptions, but they are like islands of sanity and hope in the otherwise turbulent seas.

Any such public crime should be condemned; just condemned, without qualification. When working against evil, it is essential to condemn it unequivocally and to dissociate oneself from it. Those who respond with any reservations or conditions attached, risk the chance of being counted among those who perpetrate evil. Those who sincerely fight evil should ensure that such people are counted among the evil-doers. The die-hard and the sympathetic fence-sitters may require different medicines, but both should be counted among the sick.

All analysis, recrimination, and explanation should come separately and much later, not when the atmosphere is charged with the passions of the moment. Ironically, the so called intellectuals rush too quickly to discussion, which can lead to unpleasant hardening of attitudes. The basic purpose of any discussion should be to develop better mutual understanding of views and viewpoints. Mostly discussion on such issues tends to consist of argumentative exchanges or overly heated debate that merely propagates dogmas. Such debates by people, who are not concerned directly and immediately, have a tendency to inflame both sides and provide fuel to an already burning fire.

People in the grip of the passions of the moment would do well to avoid discussion of contentious issues, or at least should allow for a cooling-off period. This is not because they are necessarily mistaken in their opinions, but because any hardening of attitudes is antithetical to compromises and peaceful solutions.

We must realize that terrorism or any sort of extremism thrives on partisan attitude hardening into dogma. Therefore, instead of an immediate reaction, we should stop and think calmly and rationally. Throwing around accusations and instigating people to raise their voices simply plays into the hands of unscrupulous leaders.

An area is continuously doused with petrol, accidentally or intentionally. No one takes any steps to stop this process and the area continues to get saturated. No one tries to cordon off and clean the area, and then someone throws a spark, perhaps accidentally, perhaps intentionally. The area bursts into flame. Who should get the blame?

Those who sprinkled petrol say that those who threw sparks should be blamed. Those who threw sparks say that the petrol-sprinklers should be blamed. Those who remained inactive blame both. This indiscriminate throwing around of invective further inflames the fire. It also makes it more difficult to extinguish the fire. In fact, each and every group should share the blame. But they never do. Once again, the leaders are responsible because they callously continue to take advantage of the shortness of public memory.

Nowadays, leaders, politicians, preachers, and advisers--both altruistic and selfish, who themselves do not follow what they advise or preach--infest our social system. It would be good for them to recall the oft repeated incident from Gandhiji's life where he postponed advising a child not to eat jaggery till he himself abandoned doing so.

Why do none of the leaders actually go to disturbed areas such as Gujarat, Kashmere, North-east and Naxal infested areas with the resolve of staying there until peace is permanently restored?  Alas, this is not what they do; instead, they utter sympathetic cliches and consider their duty to be fulfilled by means of a short, formal visit. This is because in their hearts they consider the common people to be mere stepping stones for their pursuit of personal glory. Yes, apparently they take care of their followers but how? Not as fellow human beings, but as munitions for the artillery employed in missions of their mercenary motives.

It is time we realized how we are being used--mostly in ways we scarcely suspect--by our so-called leaders. In eyes of most politicians we are simply vote-banks and nothing else. For religious leaders we are hordes of mice who dance to the tunes of their sacrosanct flutes. For social activists we are sacrificial lambs ready to be slaughtered on the altar of their ideology for enhancing their glory. For the parasitic monolith of the bureaucracy we are simply a perpetual source of illegitimate pecuniary nourishment. For the media we are a plastic explosive that can be moulded and blown up at will, like fire-crackers. The farcical irony is that each one of these leaders continues to exploit us on the pretext of our welfare, and we continue to produce more such leaders in our trance-like stupidity.

Shouldn't we pause and ask this honest question -- Are we not mere pawns on the chess-board of our leaders' selfish games? If we find the answer to be yes, we should honestly accept this reality and make earnest efforts to dissociate ourselves from leaders who seek sacrifice without giving any. If we find that impossible, we should at least extract from them what we can with our eyes wide open.

Why kill for such people? And, yes, why die for them?


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