The Savage Indian

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I am a badly frightened man. With each passing day, I watch the society in which I live descend into savagery.

Ahimsa paramodharma. Non-violence is the ultimate religion.

So said a man whom we venerate as the Father of our nation. He died a violent death himself, ironically. The violence that followed the death of this apostle of non-violence claimed dozens of innocent lives and underlined the importance of his message.

It is a message that never seems to get through in our country.

Mob justice is for savages. Violence leads to more violence. Revenge leads to more revenge.

I’ve seen what happened in India in 1975, what happened in 1984, what happened in 1992, 2002, 2004, 2015, 2016.

I’ve watched buses being burnt, shops being looted, men being hacked, women being stoned, children being terrorised. I’ve had friends sobbing on my shoulder as they told me their personal stories of horror and brutality.

Even in the cyberworld, or especially in it, the savagery is genuinely frightening. Social websites bring out the worst in people. My friends on Facebook post ghastly stuff on my timeline, gory pictures of maimed human beings, scary sermons of savagery.

Recently, some whacko in Chennai did something cruel to a feral dog, and posted a video on Facebook. And the entire nation erupted, as people poured out violent invective against him. Kill him, hang him, castrate him, burn him, throw him off a roof, rip off his head.

The man was arrested, but that didn’t satisfy anyone. The invective just got worse. Jail is not enough, hang him. No, hanging him is not enough, first torture him. It went on and on.

Yesterday, someone posted a story about an alleged rape victim who chopped off her attacker’s penis, before he could penetrate her with it. The man is now in critical care and fighting for his life. And once again, the invective was scary in its intensity. What was even more scary in this case, was the cruel joy that many women showed in their messages. Well done, he deserved it, all men must have their dicks chopped off, and much much worse.

Hundreds of men in India get trapped in false rape cases and are ruined for life. How come no one says we should chop off the private parts of women who file these fake rape cases?

India leads the rest of the world in the number of deaths due to dog bites. Twenty thousand Indians die of rabies each year. How come no one says we should burn those rabid dogs, chop their heads, rip their nuts off?

What’s happening to our society? Mob justice, violent invective, brutality, savage glee. Riding on the pavement. Breaking traffic lights. Running over elderly pedestrians. Throwing garbage into the neighbour’s yard. Chucking beer bottles on the road. Midnight rave parties. Blaring loudspeakers. Bhajans through the night. Firecrackers at odd hours. Defecating in public. Urinating before children.

If someone says something nasty, beat him. Someone eats something that you don’t like, lynch him. Someone looks different and dresses differently, strip her. Someone has a god’s image tattooed on his leg, break it. Kill. Maim. Dismember. Decapitate.

Mind you, not all these savages who bay for their fellow human’s blood are illiterate roadside thugs. Some of them are my friends on Facebook, educated people in corporate jobs, people I eat and drink with, people I share my city and my life with.

And that is exactly what frightens me. It’s only a question of time before these savages turn on me. Only a matter of time before my maimed and mangled body appears on someone’s timeline and everyone posts messages saying I deserved it.

We were always a society that found it easy to justify gratuitous violence. We are rapidly becoming a society that gleefully celebrates savagery.

Mera Bharat Mahaan.

Tea without sympathy – An Era of Darkness.

dsc08186History belongs in the past, but understanding it is the duty of the present. So Dr Shashi Tharoor proves in his latest book, An Era of Darkness, The British Empire in India.

Tharoor takes up the task of dispelling any illusions one might have had about the British Raj in India. In this he succeeds very well. Unlike many of my fellow Macaulayputras, as Tharoor refers to us (and himself), and in spite of my Catholic schooling, I always knew the British were not the ‘enlightened despots’ that our textbooks would have us believe.

Over the years, my own informal research into the subject made me realise how brutal and exploitative the Raj actually was.

Even so, An Era of Darkness is an eye-opener. Tharoor brings to light several nasty facts about the Raj that I never knew, and by his own admission, he did not know himself. Consider India’s caste system. Like many other Indians, Tharoor included, I too thought that the rigidity of our caste system and its consequent evils, predated the British.

However, “the idea of the four-fold caste order stretching across all of India…was only developed…under the peculiar circumstances of British colonial rule“.

As also the Hindu-Muslim divide, which haunts India till this day. “Religion“, states Tharoor, “became a useful means of divide and rule“. The Hindu-Muslim divide, we now learn, was a deliberate British strategy.

It comes as an unpleasant surprise that much of what we were taught about India’s pre-Raj history, and still are being taught, is essentially of British construction.

As exemplified by India’s most notorious Anglophile, the “cringe-worthy” Nirad Chaudhuri, as Tharoor aptly describes him, “colonialism misappropriated and reshaped” how we saw our own history and cultural self-definition.

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The good Doctor endorses my copy of his book.

Thus, page by page, Tharoor’s book unapologetically and systematically lays bare the reality of the Raj. The scientist in me demands hard evidence, and Tharoor does not disappoint. The book is thoroughly researched, with an exhaustive list of references at the end. One expects nothing less from a scholar who holds multiple doctoral degrees.

What I admire about the man is his lack of hesitation in pointing out the wrong-doings and mistakes committed by Indian leaders of the day, that served the British cause well.

Take for example his explanation of why Nehru’s decision to order his colleagues to resign from all provincial ministries in 1939, was “a monumental blunder“. As also Tharoor’s unflattering and accurate analysis of the Quit India movement of 1942.

Notwithstanding their errors of judgement, he does acknowledge Mahatma Gandhi and Jawaharlal Nehru as the great leaders and statesmen they really were.

Tharoor is especially harsh though, and very deservedly so, on Winston Churchill. The truth about this alleged “apostle of freedom” is described in considerable detail in the book.

Thankfully, Tharoor firmly dispels any apprehensions about my favorite English author, PG Wodehouse. There were times when I would feel a bit guilty about enjoying Wodehouse so much, on the belief that he was a colonialist. Tharoor assures me that I am wrong, to my considerable relief.

Frightening, enlightening, educational, spine-chilling, profound and made immensely readable by the author’s characteristic style of writing, An Era of Darkness is a volume that one would recommend to serious students of Indian history and to connoisseurs of the English language alike. Tharoor is the only English author for whom I need a dictionary (or Google) by my side.

One reading of the book will not suffice, I must tell you. You will need to read the volume two or three times to understand its import, that “sometimes the best crystal ball is a rear-view mirror“…

… and that one does not need to espouse right-wing values in order to be a true nationalist.

Cheers … Srini.