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Failings of False Gods
There are many myths we Indians love, and one of the most pervasive and enduring is that we are a peaceful and peace-loving society. It is baffling how this myth flourishes despite newspaper reports that are daily reminders to the contrary. Perhaps it is something to do with Mahatma Gandhi and his twin principles of truth and non-violence that are embedded in our national psyche. As a former Chinese ambassador once told me in private conversation, "The trouble with you Indians is that you believe your own propaganda."
How can we believe our propaganda that we are a non-violent society when violence lurks from the time of conception? It starts with the silent screams of a girl foetus being destroyed, becomes louder when the newborn girl child's head is smashed by the midwife in certain parts of Uttar Pradesh and Bihar. Louder still, when baby girls are raped before they can even walk properly by middle-aged men. The screams continue all the way to adulthood when some are burnt for dowry. Women bear the brunt of both poverty and violence, yet violence isn't a gender issue. Men are not spared violence either—the Dalits who are brutalised by upper castes, the poor men who are kicked around by the rich landlords, the male servants who are underfed, overworked and beaten, sometimes to death. Blood of our men, women and children is spilled in homes, offices, streets, farmlands and factories...everyday, day after day. Murders are common all over the world, but this kind of societal violence erupts only in India, Pakistan, Africa and a few other backward places. And yet our pet myth endures.
I have no illusions about our being a non-violent society, but I do wonder about the pattern and savagery of violence we are currently witnessing in the country. Leave aside the insurgencies (they come under a different ambit), what could be the explanation for the ongoing violence in West Bengal, Kerala, Bihar and Andhra Pradesh? Could it be mere coincidence that Communism is a common element in these four states? The Marxists are fighting Trinamool Congress in West Bengal, Marxist-Leninist groups are taking on upper-caste armies in Bihar, the pwg is fighting the State in AP and the Marxists are fighting the rss and Muslims in Kerala.
Having come to expect violence, its eruption is not as perturbing as its savagery. Even more frightening than death is the brutality of its execution. A bullet in the head or a stab in the heart is sufficient to kill... but the current lynching, hacking and beheading is pushing the frontiers of terror. Nowhere is this savagery more extreme and shocking than in Kerala. The whole nation focuses on violence in West Bengal just because Mamata Banerjee makes a hue and cry over it. But the violence in Kerala doesn't disturb the nation only because there's no Malayali clone with Mamata's street-fighting skills. But the absence of sustained publicity doesn't extenuate the virulence of the violence.
Bombs explode in Kerala, leaving in its wake children blinded or with amputated arms and legs. Children are mostly the victims, but they have been perpetrators too. In one of the attacks, the accused is a 13-year-old boy. Kerala takes pride in being India's heaven of literacy, but it descended into hell the day Marxists hacked to death a pro-bjp teacher, Jayakrishnan, while he was teaching in the classroom—in full view of his students. Can you imagine the children's trauma as they watched their teacher's blood stain the walls? rss workers hacked off the arm of Jayarajan, manager of Marxist newspaper Deshabhimani.Yashoda was serving her 19-year-old son Biju a breakfast of tea and tapioca when a group of attackers barged in. Biju, an rss worker, fled but was hunted down by his Marxist opponents who beheaded him with an axe.
What's the use of literacy when such crimes can be committed? What's the difference between Bihar and Kerala? The so-called model state for its social indices and climate of political tolerance and communal harmony is now a cauldron of hate. There's violence between Marxists and the rss in Kannur, and between Marxists and Muslims in Kozhikode. As in West Bengal, it may at first seem to be an ideological war. But it is, in fact, plain and simple turf-battles. A crude and violent power-struggle. In both states, the ruling Marxists are losing ground to new opponents. The greater the threat to their hold on a territory, the more violent their reaction. What this savagery shows is that we should never equate literacy with education. Kerala is losing its cultural, moral and philosophical underpinnings. Communism has played its role in this erosion. Communism glorifies uniformity. But we are not a uniform, homogeneous nation. Mediocrity replaces creativity, mass tyranny stifles individuality, trade unionism ruins industry and denouncing God has destroyed humanity.
Perhaps this, more than anything else, accounts for the savagery in communist-ruled nations and states—be it in Russia or in Latin America. Atheism, or absence of belief, is benign and different from virulent vilification and destructive denial of God. Indians are basically a God-fearing people. And still they can be violent. How much more violent they can be when they believe there is no God to fear! Many rationalists have argued that societies invented God. Perhaps. Whether God exists or not is debatable, but the fear of God has certainly kept societies intact, preserved order and nourished humanity. When that deterrence is destroyed, there is no restraint on savagery.
Humankind has an intrinsic need for God, or a Higher Ideal they can venerate or look up to for answers or guidance. So even as they smashed the old Gods, they erected a new God—communism. But as Arthur Koestler, Ignazio Silone, Louis Fischer, Andre Gide and others pointed out half a century ago, Communism is a God that Failed. How much worse it is when God Fails in God's Own Country!
(The author can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)