The Future is Beautiful. The Future is Bleak
This past weekend I was in Poona to enjoy a quiet couple of days, catch up with old friends and just spend some time lazing around. But the responsible people of the city had other ideas. Saturday night a rumour spread of some guy posting some objectionable content on some social media platform and s*** hit the fan. Members of the offended political party correctly exercised their right to free speech and all its addendums of destruction of property, vandalism, potential threat to human life etc. The event didn’t get a lot of media coverage and so I only came to know of it later on Sunday afternoon. By that time buses plying out of the city and many private vehicles had been pelted with stones, many were abandoned on the road, trucks were stopped on the Mumbai-Pune Expressway and a near-curfew like situation had descended over many parts of Poona and New Bombay. View images here. The impact could be gauged by the fact that on the Sunday night – the night of an IPL final mind you- Phoenix Market City mall in Poona was closed. There was an air of tension and fear in the city with many other shops closed or operating cautiously with half their shutters down. I don’t know exactly what the objectionable content was and its seriousness because the page had been taken down by the police with instructions that anybody ‘Liking’ that page would be arrested. Read the news report here.
Now it’s natural for you to wonder why you’re reading about this incident on this medium. You would expect to get your news in better processed form from other channels. The reason I chose to write about it though, is because less than 3 weeks ago, we witnessed a momentous occasion: the formation of the country’s new government with a clear majority. At the helm of it all is a man whose mandate of growth and development is well documented. He is a charismatic orator and an impactful personality. There is a wave of optimism in the country. The evil corporates too are happy and expecting a quick stop to the decline of the country’s economy and a rapid reversal of the dwindling economic growth of the past few quarters.
As a soulless, money-hungry MBA student, I should be happy too. But I’m not. I state here, that this piece is not a political commentary. I do not doubt our new PM’s credentials and I’m sure that he will achieve the growth and development he has promised. I really hope he does so and wish him all the best. But for me, it’s not enough.
A very short while ago in the state of Uttar Pradesh, two teenage girls were gang raped, murdered and hung from trees. The case has become a touch point for various issues regarding violence against women in India, from police corruption to the lack of basic safety protections. There is however a sense of déjà vu and apathy associated with this crime. A prime example is the statement of the state chief minister, who when quizzed by journalists during a public event mocked them saying, “You’re not facing any danger, are you?” adding, “Then why are you worried? What’s it to you?”
Just last month, his father and party chief Mr. Mulayam Singh drew flak for his “Boys will be boys. They make mistakes.” comment over a proposed death sentence for gang-rapists. A couple of months previously, another party leader Abu Azmi had made a grossly disrespectful comment that contorted both morality and Sharia law and drew criticism from inside his own family (you can see daughter-in-law Ayesha Takia’s response here).
Another topic that has generated a fair amount of newsprint over the past few months has been Article 377, the one that criminalizes gay sex. And BJP President and current Union minister of Home Affairs Rajnath Singh unequivocally put forward his stand by stating, “Gay sex is not natural and we cannot support something which is unnatural.” Another point for fundamentalist, right-wing politicos.
And I would not be surprised to see further demonstrations and more violence at the next Friendship, Valentine’s or – insert name of culture-devaluing event we borrowed from the decadent West – Day by members of political parties that stand for “Indian-ness” and fight for it by harassing young teens and breaking and setting fire to property that is not theirs.
And dear reader, this is what gives me the cold sweats. The fear that the atrocities mentioned above will be allowed to go on unchecked and maybe even multiply. The fear that anybody could take offence at any small perceived slight and feel it within his rights to set fire to a bus or two. The fear that the quagmire of the dark ages, which we had only begun to climb out of and whose stinking slime we were just trying to rub off from our clothes, will engulf us again.
For it is not enough to grow as an economy. We need to grow as a nation of free-thinking, logical people capable of making rational decisions. Money and growth are great things and something all of us desire. At the same time however, it is imperative that we don’t descend into a farcical nation that pays lip service to its laws.
A lot of people, me included, have criticised the BJP as a party with communal and regressive views. This is the chance to prove us wrong. This government has the chance to work without their hands tied behind their backs and do some real good without the pressure to bow down to coalition members. Economic growth is fantastic but it is hollow without better governance. We look forward to times when we can move freely without fear of a stone crashing through the windshield. When people in responsible positions can not make comments insensitive to the population without being answerable to it. And when there is real action towards ensuring equality for the citizens and not just talk.
I stand hopeful that this government can do something about all of this. Time to stand and deliver.
Nadeem is currently trying to make sense of Life, the Universe and Everything coming to the end of his first year at XLRI, Jamshedpur and working very hard at his summer internship. He’s also a music lover, master of 3 musical instruments, undiscovered singing prodigy, class jester, wordsmith, and the secret identity of Superman all rolled into one charming package. You can follow him at nadeemraj.insideiim.com
He’s an amateur storyteller at 42shadesoctarine.wordpress.com