Me, Indian?

BY GREATBONG
Aug 10, 2010

Is being “uncouth”, as manifested through various acts of distastefulness (spitting, liking Paulo Coelho, remarking about other people’s weight), synonymous with being Indian?

The Indian spirit of acceptance is something that is often not in evidence in some of the “freest countries of the world”. USA is a country that prides itself (and this is to a large extent justified) on its inherent egalitarianism. But still many people have a problem with Hillary Clinton becoming a President just because she is a woman. When the Republican smear machine rakes up Obama’s Muslim origins, the Democrats say “He is not Muslim. No, no not at all” rather than saying “So what if he is a Muslim? Why should that it be a problem?” South-Asian origin politicians like Nicky Haley and Bobby Jindal have hit big-time only after converting and strongly advertising their Christian faith. And by the way, the US is not a Christian nation, so there is no constitutional reason why there should be no realistic chance of a non-Christian/non-Jewish person holding positions of high authority.

In contrast, we in India have been far more accepting of our religious minorities and of women being represented in the highest offices of power. Can you imagine, a foreign-born woman having as her religion one not held by the majority and who speaks the native language in a very tentative way, becoming the most powerful person in any other land? I cannot.

However, in today’s India it is this tolerance which is under the most attack. Violent gangs, of for-hire goons, under the guise of “taking offense” are terrorising people who express their opinions or lead lifestyles “not acceptable”— attacking pubs, raising fatwas and pouring invective on the Net. Books are being banned, offices are being destroyed in the conflagration of “spontaneous displays of anger”. There is a justification for this too —“For far too long, we have taken insults lying down. Can so-and-so say the same thing in Saudi Arabia or Pakistan about their God without any kind of repercussion?”

Here is when I want to say in response —“Yes but that’s why we are not Saudi Arabia or Pakistan”. And I intend for my country to stay that way. No politician, even if they be born outside the country, should be deprived of their right to exploit and misrule the country. No speech, no matter how hurtful, should be met with threats of violence or crude language.

Unfortunately, we are marching fast down a path of competitive intolerance, one that will lead to us to become a mirror of Pakistan, characterised by bigotry of the worst kind.

When, and if that comes to pass, then yes I am going to raise questions about my identity as an Indian.

But till that happens, it is vital, at least for me, to not only recognise what ails us but also what does not, to stay grounded between the extremes of self-flagellation and gratuitous back-slapping.

 

This post was originally published on Random Thoughts of a Demented Mind in June 2010.

 

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