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Sugata Bose in the Indian Express
I am not in agreement with those who say that the parties are obsessed with a non-issue, 62 years out of date. The issue which revisiting partition brings to the fore is full of contemporary relevance. It is the search for a substantive rather than procedural democracy that protects citizens from majoritarian arrogance and ensures justice in a subcontinent where people have multiple identities.
Majoritarianism, whether in secular or saffron garb, continues to be a potential threat to Indian democracy. Regional rights were once thought to be a counterpoise to the anti-democratic tendencies of an over-centralised state. Regional parties run by petty and insecure dictators are proving to be as ruthless as the all-India partiepression of internal dissent. In such a scenario freedom of speech and expression remains the best guarantee of the future of Indian democracy.
Pratap Bahnu Mehta on how not to make it "into a high-pitched contest, supposedly between a prudish, patriarchal traditionalism on the one hand, and an assertion of freedom and progressivism on the other" and instead have a real conversation on how our sense of self and society is constituted, about "what is shaping our sense of self at different sites: family, school, religious institutions. What sense of lack and what anxieties are we encumbered with?":
If our social mores are producing characters that feel no compunction in beating up women in the name of tradition, if the mere holding of hands seems so threatening, if our sense of self esteem is so fragile that it will express itself in all kinds of violence against “outsiders”, what kind of politics are we likely to produce?
...Secularists lost political traction, because the secular/ anti-secular debate simply degenerated into slogan mongering and a show of force; secularists could not find a way of addressing real anxieties and complex issues. It became more a matter of thumping one’s own self rather than solving real problems. The debate over freedom also risks undermining the cause of freedom. The concept of freedom, in the liberal sense, is still not very deeply embedded in Indian society.
The principle of individual liberty has to be defended vigorously; no majoritarianism can take away individuals’ rights to lead the life they wish to, compatible with respecting others’ rights. On this there can be no debate. But we have to acknowledge that the culture wars we are witnessing about liquor are also about something else. Just around the time that Ashok Gehlot made his notorious statement, journalists in Rajasthan made a big fuss over Vikram Seth having wine on the podium while discussing literature. This fuss was almost laughable.