By Rev Immanuel Nehemiah
As we brace ourselves for another five years of a failed, misinformed, digital-psyched public, demonising religious minorities, Naxalising Dalits and adivasis, women captivated in moral codes of conduct, homophobia, morbid mentality, being self-satisfying, self-seeking, anti-ecological, we have to ask: has the citizenry failed?
The answer is yes: the citizenry has failed to listen to the justice-seeking voices in the country. The citizenry has opted for a rhetorical governance that legitimizes brutal violence. The citizenry has failed to choose an alternative governing pattern, it has made no efforts to think about critical and progressive ideology and politics.
What we have today is not the failure of the system but failure of a creative imagination in perceiving governance. Though Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana and Punjab have held somewhat tenuously to political credibility, even they do not strike the chord that democracy expects, in being by, for and of the people.
The projected fight is about BJP and Congress or DMK and AIDMK or the local regional party and the might of BJP. These are the revenging and avenging dualisms in Indian politics today. The clash of titans is a strategy that undermines the capacities of critical voices like Mevani, Azad, Kumar and Thirumavalan.
India as a republic has failed in creating a space for alternative political intelligence to address issues like, caste, gender, poverty, education unemployment, corruption in almost every aspect of life. Starvation, economic crises, landless farmers, farmers suicides, fisherfolks’ deaths, lynchings, agrarian crises, educational disparities, dalit students and scholars being killed, dalit students, scholars and professionals committing suicide, rural development neglected, health care eroded, religious fanaticism ruling, caste rigidity remaining.
What we have today is development that proceeds towards the destruction of humanity. Development is all about economy of the caste elite few in the country. The political party leaders and business avengers are each other’s best friends, converging with the same sort in different countries and call such a farce needed business trips to improve the economy of the country. The BJP has done what Congress has left undone to the weak and the vulnerable in this country.
In a way this country is fine with the lynching of the innocents, fine with critical intellectuals being hacked to death, even fine with the ever-increasing atrocities against dalits and adivasis, fine with the snuffing out of dissenting voices. What we have today is, history repeating itself. Is it Godse or Gandhi? Gandhi prevailed until the Congress managed to win; now Godse prevails as BJP wins. What is to happen to the egalitarian politics envisioned by great people like Phule, Ambedkar, Iyothee Dass, to mystics like Kabir, the Buddha?
The cultural framework is also to revenge the prevailing political party in power. The political imagination is not about dismissing a culture that promotes bigotry and disparity; it is all about grappling with existing party politics and their durability. The citizenry has chosen to cloud itself with the blood of the Others. The citizenry isn’t engaging in creative thinking, critical politics that could impact the lives of the most affected and creatively eradicating systems that have nurtured indifference and violence. They instead want to eradicate them.
As an Indian Dalit Tamil Christian from Bangalore what disturbs me the most is how a picture of a Bible on the podium of a chief minister’s swearing ceremony goes viral, with comments like our “Our God is still in control”; some even say “Our God will use this government to change the course of action in this country.” Some sort of theocratic democracy is popular Christianity today.
What the Christians also say is that “god” has contributed to all the mess so far. Therefore, it is important for me to speak about the religious fundamentalism inherent in my community. Christians have thought Congress as their saviour and the BJP as their enemy forgetting the fact that it was during Congress governance that anti-conversion bills were passed in the country, the Kandhamal rioting happened and the government has been silent in providing justice to the victims.
But even here the failure isn’t the government. Rather it is the failure of Christianity itself in this country. We are also taught to obey the leaders of the nation and the world while the core message of the Bible is to topple structures and systems that demean life. In Kandhamal, Dalits and adivasis were pitted against each other and succumbed to bigoted party politics.
These political pitfalls in the country show us that a narcissist nationalism has been forced and smeared on all of us by ourselves. We are unaware, in denial, as the ultimate death blow to democracy is dealt and dissent-negating polity births aristocratic dictatorship. We are the dictators. Let us quit pointing the finger at the BJP and take a long, hard look at ourselves.
Rev. Immanuel Nehemiah is a Bangalore-based pastor. His interests are varied, particularly Dalit literature, art, history, politics, activism, and theology. He is also a music teacher and a theatre artist.
Cafe Dissensus Everyday is the blog of Cafe Dissensus magazine, based in New York City and India. All materials on the site are protected under Creative Commons License.