Two weeks after PM Narendra Modi announced the note ban, trade union workers protest against the move in Chennai. Pic/AFP
I have been informed by a number of helpful people online that I am an anti-national disgrace to India and should pack my bags for Pakistan as soon as possible. This information was conveyed to me in terms that weren’t very polite, with frequent references to my forefathers’ religion (they converted in exchange for bags of rice, apparently), my poor upbringing and my general lack of intelligence. No proof was supplied alongside these statements.
The reason I was labelled anti-national was simple: I had dared to question a politician’s decision to render my hard-earned money obsolete. This, apparently, automatically moved me into a predetermined category of people who obviously wanted India to remain a corrupt nation. I also dared to question a minister who was supposedly hospitalised, by asking if the hospital had insisted on her paying in cash. This didn’t go down well with the minister’s well-wishers, who were never introduced to the concept of sarcasm and insisted on informing me about how hospitals function and why ministers don’t have to pay. My point about millions of people being turned away from all kinds of places because of shortage of cash was lost in all the name-calling. Why listen to reason when it is much more satisfying to abuse someone’s parents instead?
I have been labelled a number of things for a long time now, by people who wonder how I, a registered, tax-paying citizen of India, can dare to question anything that the government of India does. How dare I question an honourable minister who funds his campaigns and helps him notch up frequent flyer miles? How dare I question a decision that adversely affects me, my family or my circle of friends? How dare I ask why my taxes are being used to build statues and memorials for the dead instead of constructing public toilets and better roads for the living?
We now live in a time where the inability to respect someone’s political or religious beliefs automatically leads to acrimony and, at times, disownment. Only those who stick to one chosen ideology are welcome. Others with different voices are being pushed to the margins, with the help of a colluding state that thrives on such imaginary divisions in order to rise to power. The British divided us to rule, and their lessons continue to be deployed effectively by regional parties in Maharashtra as well as national parties across the country. This shouting down of some voices is only one of the many symptoms of that approach.
This isn’t about demonetisation or an attack on corruption or a concerted move to make India clean again. This is about demonising people if they fail to fall in line and agree with everything one group of Indians is saying. It’s why journalists are tarred as ‘presstitutes’ and people with surnames that don’t fit into our rewritten nationalist narrative are being asked to leave the country.
I have come to the conclusion that being labelled ‘anti-national’ isn’t necessarily a bad thing though, when I take into account the kind of people doing the labelling. These are members of the herd, people who ask no questions, expect no answers, and blindly follow any half-baked ideology or dim-witted leader because their lives are rudderless and their morals questionable.
These are people who despise the idea of an inclusive India, where millions of us have been free to practice our religion, follow our customs and live by our beliefs for centuries. These are people who discriminate against other human beings with impunity, then hide behind a tricolour to show that they are holier than anyone else. They attack disabled men for not standing to attention for the national anthem, but have no problem employing chartered accountants to help them evade taxes. These are people who bribe government employees with impunity in order to get their business done, prevent certain communities from living in their localities, cheer when encounter killings are announced, then put up Facebook posts on how they care about India first.
If these are the people who choose to call me an anti-national, I am happy with that tag. I am happy to be whatever they chose to call me. I find it weird that they want me to go to Pakistan though. They fail to understand that I may not have to travel there, considering how they are already in the process of turning India into a replica of that failed state.
When he isn’t ranting about all things Mumbai, Lindsay Pereira can be almost sweet. He tweets @lindsaypereira. Send your feedback to email@example.com