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Friday, Dec 03, 2021
Outlook.com
opinion

The Crucifixion Of Words

How bad language makes it easier to tolerate violence

The Crucifixion Of Words
Illustration by Sorit
The Crucifixion Of Words
outlookindia.com
-0001-11-30T00:00:00+05:53

In the context of such violence by their cadres and supporters, luminaries of the Bharatiya Janata Party have time and again demanded a "national debate" on conversion to their fold by Christians whose number ironically has shrunk in India from more than 2.8 per cent around the time of Independence to less than two-and-a-half per cent now. Christian groups claim that nearly 300 villages in Orissa now stand purged of Christians—they have either fled or been converted to Hinduism by force. So here is your debate on conversion—not through arguments articulated in words but scored by inflicting physical violence. "National debate" has a new meaning: bash the Christians up. Rob, murder and rape them. Along with the violence inflicted on humanity, I also mourn the violence inflicted on language wherein an innocuous word like debate has been contorted to connote a sinister new meaning. Remember George Orwell.

Several such sinister euphemisms have been introduced in our language of political discourse since the late 1980s and early 1990s. One such term is "cultural nationalism", revived in the course of the movement that culminated in the destruction of a historical mosque in Ayodhya that claimed as collateral damage over many years the lives of thousands of citizens of the nation-state. Forget that "culture" or "cultural" ever evoked associations of benign accomplishments of humankind like learning, literature, music, fine arts, spirituality, philosophy and generally a well-cultivated way of life in harmony with itself and its surroundings, including other lives. With the kind of profiling going on, promoted by such images as the kaffiyeh-wrapped accused of the Batla House encounter being paraded by the police, no wonder that Muslims now dread the word terrorist, which always seems to point a finger at them and never at anyone else, even when Muslims get killed, as in the blasts at Modasa and Malegaon on September 29, or earlier at Muslim religious places in Hyderabad, Ajmer and Parbhani, or when Bajrangis get killed or caught in the act as in Kanpur and Nanded. The latest gem in this new political lexicon comes from a quote by a Hindutva ideologue carried by Outlook in its cover story last week. It implies that a rioter, who "cannot be equated with terrorists", may after all be a respectable citizen in this doublespeak.

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