The extremism of the bigots is as dangerous as the extremism of the liberals. Neither accepts alternative opinion. Neither feels it necessary to back their arguments with facts.
That they have spoken is proof enough. Both assume infallibility. Yet the former is feared, sometimes even respected, because of its propensity to advocate violence.
In many ways it is easier to handle the former because their actions and reactions can be anticipated. The latter attains superiority and acceptability because it abhors violence but is far more insidious in its respectability.
There is an air of desperation now in such campaigns. The danger is that the bitterness and divisions these have generated will linger beyond the elections. Pic/Sayed Sameer Abedi
This liberal class actually encourages the belief of discrimination, promises salvation but delivers nothing. The cap and pugree are symbols in the name of tolerance and secularism.
It finds it easier to play for liberties and believed wrongs that might have happened decades ago but sees some or present disabilities and discriminations selectively.
They come to the discussion table with their fragile egos and the self-important arguments of someone who has all the answers while the rest are presumed to be either bigots, idiots, divisive and racists or all four.
The safety of the nation and its values lies only in their intellect. Meanwhile, expect very scholarly resolutions that mercifully do not reach too far beyond the rooms from where they are issued.
After 67 years of independence our elections for the 16th Lok Sabha should have been Indian elections and not Hindu, Muslim or OBC or Backward class elections.
Sadly, some of our leaders and their followers have been ensuring that the divisions have only sharpened. Some politicians and self-appointed protectors of minorities and sections of the media see this as the path to greater power and profit. And yet one can already discern a change in the narrative as they see the writing on the wall.
National ghettoisation, through ever enlarging quotas for different sections or encouraging a national incentive to remain ‘Backward’ in the name of progress, has been the result. It is the so-called secular parties in fact who have constantly referred to religion and region in their discourse.
Their debate has been not about what they can or will do for development or progress but how they would keep the nation divided on religious, caste and regional lines. Sectarianism has been encouraged in the name of tolerance, secularism and even progress.
Quite a few of us gladly accept the pejorative Western description of the BJP as a party of Hindu Nationalists as proof of our own secular credentials and intellectual honesty. We forget that India is the way it is because the majority is the way it is, fringe elements notwithstanding.
The term Hindu Nationalism is a colonial hangover and as abhorrent as referring to the Republican Party as Protestant Nationalists or the Conservatives as Imperial Anglicans. The West wants an obedient democracy in India one that follows the various practices of free trade and capitalism enabling the country to be a resource base and a market but not a manufacturing and exporting hub that competes with them.
Nor does it want a regionally strong India for fear that it may pursue policies opposed to their interests. One of the most difficult things to give up is power — political, bureaucratic or money and also adjust to not being a member of an inner coterie and to accept the new emerging realities. It was common knowledge that the elections of 2014 would be the hardest fought and the most acrimonious ever.
But the level of invective, the low blows, the readiness to take offense and misinterpret and the absence of any wit or humour, has surprised many. The displayed animus against one person could well be self-defeating for those who wish to spread fear.
There is an air of desperation now in such campaigns. The danger is that the bitterness and divisions these have generated will linger beyond the elections. The need would be for the new leadership to not just concentrate on development but also on reconciliation.
Any leader in New Delhi, if he has to succeed, would obviously have to accept quickly enough that administering a state and the country from New Delhi require different handling.
The country would need leaders who lead their followers and not follow their followers. It would not be enough to lead with the mind; it would be necessary to put some heart into it. Meanwhile, bloody battles rage and the war is yet to be won.
The writer is a former chief of Research and Analysis Wing (RAW)