People say India is chaotic. Yet, what looks like chaos to some, is also an incredible diversity genuinely trying to accommodate different needs, journeys, approaches, contradictions. To achieve that, we cannot walk in neat lines. Instead we snake in and out through each other’s spaces, giving way — asking for it, or asserting it at times — connecting, separating, getting along as needed, not by compulsion but by pragmatic adjustment. The presence of many systems of thinking, several models of markets, many kinds of cultural habits, cheek by jowl in one place is what some call chaos. But really, there’s a simple word for this wrongly named chaos of India. That word is tolerance.
Family members of Mohammed Iqlakh mourn during his funeral at their village in Bisada on September 29
Absurd or well-intentioned plans, made to systematise supposed chaos into someone idea of order, simply get reset if they don’t reflect people’s real needs.
People ridiculed the beef ban — as it is ridiculous — and opposed it on principle - as principles are important. But most thought it wouldn’t play out on the ground. They assumed the culture would reset to accommodate people’s true lives.
Certainly, no one could have imagined that it would take the shape of a cruel lynching like that of Mohammed Iqlakh of Dadri in Uttar Pradesh on September 28.
Tolerance is a misunderstood word conjuring beatific bhai-bhai images. But really, tolerance is a deep acceptance of yourself, which allows you to accept others, without necessarily embracing their ways or even, liking them.
Of late, we seem possessed by self-hatred. We complain about Indians from India as well as Indians who do not choose to live in India. Our culture needs a clean up. Make it systematic, not chaotic. In this plan, let’s call it Remade in India, we must be recreated in the image of some unknown god — assembly-line, identical, fluid-free, germ-free, desire-free, opinion-free, same to same.
We will achieve this by killing off anyone who is not part of this systematic image. No need to be shocked. Just think of it as a kind of new-age efficiency.
After that we will remind everyone, as an example, that it is the victim’s own fault that a bloodthirsty mob lynched him/her. Srichand Sharma, vice-president of the BJP’s Western UP, said, “The Hindu community worships cows. Whose blood won’t boil if they see cow slaughter?” I don’t know, Mr Sharma. I guess the kind of people whose blood turns cold at the thought of over a hundred people beating a helpless man and his son to death.
For that matter, there sure wasn’t a social media trend where people said they support beef ban but not this brutality; or that they are BJP supporters but do not endorse this victim-blaming position its UP office bearers are taking. Perhaps only some people are required to publicly prove they oppose violence, despite someone from their belief system committing horrible violence.
In Remade India, we can cry tears at the pain of our difficult childhoods on the world stage. But no words of compassion and sadness at the brutal death of a fellow Indian enter our official discourse.
It should not be germane what Hindu scriptures say about beef eating. Or, that the meat in the deceased’s fridge was actually mutton. Or whether beef is banned in UP. Or that if you don’t eat beef, then other people eating beef does not violate your existence — only being forced to eat beef does that. A lynching cannot be ratified using the language of justification. But it seems there’s no place for finer points in a systematic society. They say that’s what’s going to transform our economy.
Paromita Vohra is an award-winning Mumbai-based filmmaker, writer and curator working with fiction and non-fiction. Reach her at www.parodevi.com. The views expressed in these columns are the individual’s and don’t represent those of the paper.