The India I love and will always be proud of appears to have receded | columns | Hindustan Times
Today in New Delhi, India
Oct 24, 2017-Tuesday
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The India I love and will always be proud of appears to have receded

Unity in heterogeneity is the silken bond that, unsung and often unrecognised, yet gently but usually firmly, binds us together. These days, it seems, that invisible binding thread is coming loose. The sense of being one – though we are different in look and language, faith and fortune – is weakening

columns Updated: Jul 01, 2017 23:12 IST
Md Naeem was beaten to death on Thursday by villagers in Sobhapur, less than an hour’s drive from Jamshedpur, Jharkhand.
Md Naeem was beaten to death on Thursday by villagers in Sobhapur, less than an hour’s drive from Jamshedpur, Jharkhand.(Manoj Kumar/HT)

I’m not just confused, I’m also shaken and upset. To be honest, I cannot understand what’s happening around us. I know the depressing details and I’m aware of the apprehensions they’ve aroused, but I remain uncertain of what to make of it all. So, today, I intend to explain my conflicted emotions and ask if you share them.

For all our limitations, contradictions and faults, I’ve always believed we’re a tolerant people. We may have our differences and quarrels but for generations multiple castes, creeds and cultures have lived comfortably together. Ethnicities, religions, languages and cuisines may distinguish and separate us but we’ve found ways of bridging the divide. This unity in heterogeneity is the silken bond that, unsung and often unrecognised, yet gently but usually firmly, binds us together.

That, after all, is what I was taught at school. This was how, with pride, I spoke of India during my years abroad. Seen in terms of our communities and cultures or our languages and regions we may be different people but, hovering above this, there is an emotion, an affinity, a spirit that renders us one.

These days, it seems, that invisible binding thread is coming loose. The sense of being one – though we are different in look and language, faith and fortune – is weakening. The feeling of being united is fracturing as the assertion of different identities seems more important.

Or else how do you explain the murder of a 15-year-old boy on a suburban train because his fellow passengers were provoked by his Muslim appearance? Or the lynching of a local police officer on the most holy night of Ramadan by a mob comprising his own kith and kin? Or repeated vicious attacks on men lawfully transporting cattle on the unverified suspicion they could slaughter them? Or decisions that people who won’t say ‘Bharat Mata ki Jai’ or choose to applaud a Pakistani cricket victory are guilty of sedition?

I could go on but I’m sure you’ve got my point. These developments don’t just contradict our self-image but betray and undermine it. If it was only one or two occurrences, and only few and far between, you could explain them away or call them aberrations. But they’re not. They’re happening every day and all over.

Now do you see my concern? What does all of this add up to? What does it suggest of our country? Of what’s happening to it and what, as a result, it’s becoming? These are troubling questions and I don’t have the answers. Nor do I want to accept the quick and easy ones that are sometimes offered. They point to an approaching darkness and they hint at the triumph of our inner demons and, perhaps even, the transmogrification of ourselves that I passionately do not want to see.

So, am I in denial? Or am I exaggerating my fears? I just don’t know. Of course, I have my suspicions but can they – should they? – determine my outlook? My view of my own country? And of my fellow countrymen? Again, I don’t know.

Yet of one thing I’m sure. At the moment this is not the country I thought it was. The India I love and will always be proud of appears to have receded. I hope this is because a light bulb is flickering and my vision has blurred. In fact, I’m still waiting for the power supply to steady itself. But am I waiting in vain?

The views expressed are personal