I recently came across a descriptive article about a symposium organised in National Auditorium in Delhi. A symposium organised by right wing conservatives to rewrite the Indian history solely to glorify the leaders who are considered Hindutva propagandists and who in their opinion have been ignored in the history taught in Secular India. I just had one expression after reading the article, the expression of horror. I wasn’t terrified by the denouement as much as the sequence of events which would lead to it.
This brings us back to the first basic question, when do we feel pride and what should be glorified? People feel pride when they accomplish something which is seemingly enigmatic to many others but can you feel proud of a random sequence of events which somehow goes in your favour? It’s a rhetorical question with a simple negation as it’s answer. So, you can be proud of getting an award for your accomplishment but would you be proud of your face? The answer might be yes, but then you can’t be considered sane at the same time. It goes with a simple explanation that you didn’t choose your face, you didn’t have a say and you can’t do anything about it. Similarly, when we think of things we didn’t choose and things we are proud of, we surprisingly find a long list which defies this basic theory. I didn’t choose Hinduism, I didn’t choose my caste, my region, my gender, my sexual preferences and I didn’t choose to be born in India. A set of accidents have ended up giving me these tags. I can feel happy about these tags but can I be proud of them? I guess not.
I keep on asking myself this question, why do so many people take so much pride in the tags they didn’t choose. The main point has to be the baggage carried by people since the inception of their lives. Acceptance of the fact that “something you have patronised all your life because you have been taught that by people you have patronised all your life is wrong” is difficult to say the very least. But this is hardly the beginning of craziness. The religious fanaticism and the jingoism comes with other implied tags of disrespect. An Indian implicitly hates Pakistan and similar feelings are reciprocated from the other side of the border. The same goes for some religions. Countries are just politically defined international borders because it’s not plausible for one governing body to serve the needs of the entire planet with so many diversities and magnanimous wealth variations. It’s the sense of insecurity among people belonging to various communities about their labels which cause them to look for aggressive expansion and spreading canards about other tags. Some are considered worse than others, I just see them as more insecure than others and the symposium in Delhi was an example of such insecurity. Words like, “Muslims should learn to behave, or we know other ways” were used. I am not a Muslim, I was born in a Hindu family, I am an atheist, I have denounced all my labels. Ideally, should I be afraid? No. Am I afraid? Yes. Because, when you give up the tags because you see them as evil, you feel empathy for the evil in minority who are being dominated by the evil in majority with a feeling of self righteousness. Because, everybody takes pride in their tags and according to them their communities are fine while other ones are evil. I don’t endorse Islam, I think it’s evil but I will never utter a word against it because I am afraid. I am afraid that others with misplaced sense of self righteousness will get an opportunity to misuse my words, continue the censure and in the process glorify their labels, thus spreading their propaganda. The same goes for Pakistan and every other insecure tag. Similarly, if I were to find a female or a lower caste individual or a homosexual doing something irrational, I would keep it to myself and filter it out so that males or upper castes or heterosexuals respectively don’t get an excuse to further establish their stereotypes. Moreover, I would want to glorify their achievements to break these stereotypes. The other aspect is that, if I don’t agree to the criticism of these tags, I will be called a minority appeaser, an armchair critic of all tags or in the worst case I would end up receiving that label.
Not taking pride in things I didn’t choose seemed to me like the only logical thing to do but now I have been shunned from giving an opinion about a world I will never fully understand. A world where atrocities on Kashmiris are justified by atrocities on Kashmiri Pandits and millions of other such examples are used everyday which only establishes the fact that individuals will never be viewed as individuals. You may denounce your labels but you can’t get independence from them and they will continue to define you from your birth to your death and beyond. It’s hysterical that nations celebrate Independence Day.