Strange as it might seem, amid a wave of raucous protests on everything from nationalistic slogans to making the cow the national animal, India is seeing a new awakening that suggests that every generation finds its own voice and tries to improve the social mores of the times. It is a surprise for sure when a senior official of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) goes so far as to get lenient on homosexuality as Dattareya Hosabele did this week,when he said gay sex is “not a crime as long as it does not affect the lives of others. Sexual preferences are personal issues”. Coming from the joint general secretary of the ideological parent of the ruling BJP in the backdrop of the fact that homosexuality is still a crime under the Indian Penal Code, this is a forward leap in thinking. There is a glasnost of sorts in the conservative RSS, it seems.
Just a couple of days earlier, a BJP MLA in Uttarakhand got into serious trouble with media outrage provoked over his thrashing a horse and fracturing its leg enough to warrant its amputation. He has since been arrested, though not clear under which law. In the land of the sacred cow, it is heartwarming to see some horse sense on animal rights. Elsewhere the University Grants Commission has tightened its rules on ragging. Calling someone “Chinki,” often a pejorative term for northeasterners, or “Bihari,” a cuss word for some, will no longer be kosher in the nation’s campuses. Come April, the Supreme Court will hear an appeal from the Shiromani Gurdwara Prabandhak Committee (SGPC) against jokes involving the stereotyping of Sikhs which it says hurts the psychological well-being of young members of the community.
Such developments are new in independent India, where laws exist to protect religious minorities and Dalits from discrimination in official dealings, but many other holes are left unplugged. Everyday racism in India is a matter of fact in India, but that is being increasingly questioned in the media, which is often nudged by social media posts. This in turns influences thought processes in civil society organisations, political parties and the judiciary, and leads to corrective action. What we are witnessing then is a globalisation of ideas and ideals, not easily reconcilable with the disturbing reality of vigilant violence in pockets of the country on issues such as food habits and love affairs. The surge in political correctness is probably a result of an interconnected globe, where activism and new media are sensitising average citizens to higher levels of human responsibility. Such evolutionary thinking towards more civilised values is decidedly welcome. But we do hope this does not stop us from occasionally laughing at our own idiosyncrasies.