Just one word: Sorry

Sachin KalbagThis is the story of a near-apology-but-not-really-an-apology that was made public this week and is being talked about and debated across sections of national and world media. The incident, for which the near-apology-but-not-really-an-apology was issued, happened a long time back.

When the incident took place, a community was systematically targeted and ostracised. So much so that, tired of the discrimination and the state-encouraged ghettoisation, a prominent and decorated member of the community killed himself. The perpetrators of that discrimination were seen as the saviours of religion and faith. In fact, they were, and still are, hailed in sections of the media, and a large proportion of the population in the state supports them.

But why was there only a near-apology-but-not-really-an-apology, and not a full apology? Understandably, it is not easy to say sorry. An apology means acknowledging that you did indeed do something wrong, or worse, that you committed a crime. It means that all that you stood for, for so long, has come to naught.

It also means a loss of face in front of your votaries, a large community of people of conservative leanings. And then, there is the awkwardness of time-lapse; this incident took place years ago, and many have moved on. As American author Darnell Lamont Walker says, “There’s a small window of opportunity to apologise sometimes after you’ve terribly wronged someone. It closes. Sometimes forever, but it never opens wide enough again for a good breeze.”

That may all be very well, but the community in question is a growing one, and one that is now seen as a rising power across the world in policy- and law-making. So you cannot even ignore it. Admittedly, in a democracy, whether you like it or not, you have to face the people all sorts of people especially the left-liberal lobby that is always out to demonise the conservatives, who are ultimately, at least in this case and compared to the size of the community in question, the majority. This majority-versus-minority angle is what complicates matters. Despite an overwhelming support from large sections of the media for this minority community and the “sops” demanded for them, it remains a minority.

Figures published by various agencies suggest that this community does not comprise more than 13 per cent of the overall population. There are other communities, of course, but the government, especially if it has left-of-centre leanings, is seen to support only this one; even in the highest courts of the land. Meanwhile, this is the stand of the majority: “We are the majority, and in the last many years, it is we who have suffered. It is now time that we do not give any sops to this minority community. It is time we reclaim our rightful place in the democracy. Screw diversity, it is we who shall dictate policy and laws.”

This majority voice is a growing voice; and at times their voice can be deafening. This is especially true of social media where, if the conservatives and right-thinking majority had not intervened, the left-liberals who support the minority community would have overrun that space too. Just as they have controlled mainstream media for so long. It is in this context that the near-apology-but-not-really-an-apology should be viewed. The near-apology-but-not-really-an-apology is as much meant to pacify the left-liberals as it is meant to keep the conservatives quiet for not having ceded ground.

But the truth is that while this near-apology-but-not-really-an-apology has kept the conservatives quiet (in many cases, it has been hailed by the majority), the left-liberals say they will continue to fight what they call “the good fight”. Even if it means that the attacks from the majority in the coming months would become more direct and less nuanced. The culture war between the majority and the minority (supported by a large section of the media) could turn vicious.

Therefore, perhaps, it is a good time to convert the near-apology-but-not-really-an-apology into a full apology. After all, how hard is it for anyone to say sorry? Especially for someone who is so powerful. This apology need not be a personal one; in fact, it should not be. It should be made on behalf of the state. Yes, it has been a long time since the incident took place, but it could be worth it. It could possibly bring in a new era of reconciliation, even if not the full satisfaction of an aggressive left-of-centre media. It could be a start.

Because, you see, the thing about the father of computer science and artificial intelligence, Alan Turing, and the royal pardon of his homosexuality earlier this week is that it is not about just one incident (of him being declared a criminal by the court and his chemical castration as punishment), but about a community at large. It is about human beings, and their fundamental right to live with dignity.

Because, you see, Turing never committed a crime because he belonged to a minority community. He and his community were wrongly and systematically targeted not by one person alone, but the state. That one person, or the state, had the powers to stop the injustice from taking place, but neither did. Thus, the travesty happened. Because, you see, an apology from the Queen can never heal the scars of a traumatic incident, but it can work as a soothing balm. A healing process does not deserve a near-apology-but-not-really-an-apology; it deserves a “Sorry”.

Sachin Kalbag is the executive editor of MiD DAY. His email is On Twitter, he can be found at @SachinKalbag 

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