There is unease in our social environment. Disagreements slip into disquiet. Surely, new India is going to be a very angry and disagreeable social order. If one follows social media, the anger and irritation are palpable. Drawing room discussions too, if not consisting of strictly like-minded persons, have the potential to break the party. Matters political obviously generate the heat, but questions of food and fashion too easily become political. Taste is no more a personal matter or, to wit, everything personal has finally acquired a political tone. And once something assumes a political tinge, we fret and fume, abuse and arrogate, shout and scream. Beyond the realm of small-group discussions, once we step into the public arena, it is strewn with threats and litigations. You are either threatened (and included in the hit list or blacklist), or someone simply starts filing FIRs against you across the length and breadth of the country. Criminal defamation is today’s buzzword, just as hurting sentiments or causing disharmony between communities are pet grounds for engaging you with endless court cases.
But is it only about the style of conducting public debates? Or is it about organising public power and regulating ideas of good and bad? Or perhaps, is it about our confusion as to who we are and what norms we should adhere to? Does the irascible nature of our public sphere manifest a symptom of larger crises—about identity, nationhood and foundational norms that arbitrate contending claims?