My last full-time job in journalism, about 15 years ago, was editing a Gujarati newspaper out of Ahmedabad. Coming from Surat, which is more relaxed about identity and meat than the awful Amdavad (as its inmates call it), it was not easy to adjust to this other Gujarat. It was mean and petty and highly communalised. Surat is also partitioned, as are all of our cities, and has always been. My mother’s house stands on a lane where only or mostly Patidars live. But in Ahmedabad, the segregation of religions was total and it was adversarial. Surat also has empowered ‘lower’ caste communities that have space in popular culture. The Ghanchis and Khatris, among the Hindus who are meat-eating, have stalls and restaurants in Surat. Not so in Amdavad.
Because of this dull uniformity, living in that city for me was not particularly pleasant (I cannot emphasise this enough and hope to deter any readers who fancy moving there). The other thing that was not appetising was the politics and the Society as it was developing under its genius Chief Minister, who knew me and whose company I enjoyed.
The ease with which the narrative of politics slipped towards the hating of minorities was frightening. There was total contempt for the victims of the violence that had visited that state only a couple of years earlier, particularly for those people who were demanding justice and resisting the narrative that they “deserved” the violence.
As other journalists in our vernacular newspapers will know, it is not easy to express the liberalism in which most journalists are (or should be) steeped, in such an organ as I was editing. And so the work, as much as the city, became insufferable. It was in this period that I came upon an essential truth. Gujarat is, and has almost always been a two-party state. But it was possible to understand the nastiness that underpinned its politics without taking a side.
What I mean is this: if you are concerned by and afraid of Hindutva and what it does to your fellow Indians, you could be votary of any number of parties in this country. You could vote for the Congress, the TMC, the TDP, the NC, the PDP, the TRS, the DMK, the AIMIM, the JD-U, the JD-S, the SP, the BSP (as I do) or any of the other formations that you can think of. But if you like majoritarianism, if you want to force your diet on others, and if you wish to avenge the defeats of people you did not know from the 16th century inflicted on other people you did not know in a place you had never been, then there is only one party for you in India.
There is only one trick that they know how to play really well in electoral politics. And they have no compunction in playing it. Unleashing the chief minister of Uttar Pradesh — a man who justifies the lynching of his own officers (“an accident” he said) — across India can have only one purpose.
The political defeat of this ideology in Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh is to be enjoyed and savoured. It doesn’t matter one bit which force defeated it and I don’t really care that the Congress princeling got a deserved hammering in Telangana and Mizoram. It is the defeat of that mindset, of hating other Indians for crimes committed centuries ago, of judging people by their faith and food and birth that is repellant to me.
And it is with great concern that one then examines the nature of the defeat that it received. After 15 years of anti-incumbency, after having shot dead farmers protesting against the government, after what is in my opinion a mediocre performance by its government in the Centre, the BJP in Madhya Pradesh was still able to match the vote share of the Congress.
In the Battle of Asculum in 279 BC, the state of Epirus defeated the Romans but at a severe cost to themselves. Their leader Pyhrrus (from whom the term ‘Pyhrric victory’ came) said that “If we are victorious in one more battle with the Romans, we shall be utterly ruined.” Quite so.
What should have been a wipeout in Rajasthan turned out actually to have been a close-run thing. This does not portend well for our future in general and for 2019 in particular. Again, I do not have a problem with any party. I have an objection to the ideology which I believe is dangerous for my country and my fellow Indians.
If a full 40% of us continue to stay on with such an ideology even in defeat, it means that the future some of us dread is already here. A few seats here or there in 2019 is hardly the issue if the change has already happened in society.
And it seems to me that the Gujaratifiction of these parts has been accomplished.
DISCLAIMER : Views expressed above are the author’s own.
via TOI Blog
The post The Gujjufication of Indian society is already upon us appeared first on CommentWise.