I finished reading Arundhati Roy’s essay on the Naxalites published in the last issue of the Outlook last night. And my day began with one sentence echoing in my mind from the piece she wrote: The Hindu state. The Hindu state acting against all the rest.
I couldn’t digest this. And I am trying since, to do so.
Finding Freedom in India
Perhaps the reason that I cannot digest is the fact that I am a Hindu. That I was born in the upper Hindu caste and I have also lived most of my life sheltered in a fairly well-to-do state: Maharashtra. The sheltered life is not even counting the days spent sheltered under the darkness of the abaya in Saudi Arabia.
With my childhood spent in the Muslim-dominated country, my father has an exceptional view of an Hindu extremist. And I grew up with these "Hindus are soft-targets" woes. I still have fights with him though - on the extremism. My reason is that, you cannot generalize one bunch of peoples wrongdoing as the whole religion's fault. That would mean that I too am guilty of being of the same religion as Raj Thackrey. His argument has always been that the Hindu religion has generally been very tolerant and accepting of others. The others haven’t. This is still open for debate.
With all these and the fact of being born a girl, the idea of Freedom in the real sense was very appealing. It still gives me goose bumps when I say the word. Freedom. The visual that comes in my mind is of me running in a vast field, my arms wide open, my eyes closed and feeling the sense and the power of being in control of myself. For this freedom, I loved each time my plane landed on the Indian soil. India gave me that freedom of being who I was. I loved the fact that India was still functioning in spite of all the differences: religious and political.
Now I am beginning to see that in fact, we are functioning because we turn a blind eye to any differences: religious or political. The chase of the economic power and becoming a kind of “super power” in the years to come, the IT revolution, the economic boom, the growing number of youth, etc. has made us ignore and ridicule the people who make up the country.
The Hindu Majority State
Ms Roy says that the country is being run by the “Hindu majority”. The term Hindu is so broad that sometimes I am confused who is Hindu and who is not. Sometimes, the Buddhists come in this fold, sometimes they don’t. Sometimes the Sikhs are counted as Hindus, sometimes they aren’t. So, who is this Hindu majority? The marwaris? The gujratis? The UPites? Do they include themselves in this fold too? And do they stand united as “Hindus” against all the “non-Hindus”? Do we know the divide of the Hindu fold? So, how does the Hindu majority rule when the people who sit in the parliament can change their religious fold so long as their economic benefits are intact?
Yet, I don’t know if I am right. Perhaps, in this age of personalised and selective information space - where every opinion is one-person's-opinion and with no access to bare facts - who knows what is right anyway? Perhaps all of us are right. Perhaps we are not. Perhaps contradictions do exist since the facts to base opinions and logic are no longer concrete. So, the result is: people like me, who are grappling with the crumbs of information and are trying hard to join the dots.
However, now Dantewada has a much more meaning to me. Like always the major issue – of all these dissatisfied, weapon-carrying, malnutritioned people – is the economic stability. Why would someone who has a fair share of income, a life of dignity, and a sense of well-being, be attracted to a life of living in forests, eating meager meals, and lie awake at nights hearing the shelling?
Would I ever be tempted to join such a gang, or have the courage to start such a strong force, I ask myself. Perhaps, yes. If someone took away the roof above my head, the ability and the means to work from my hands, and the land below my feet, I too will take up the AK47s and shoot every single person threatening my survival with dignity. After all, all of us want a piece if mine in the world. A place to belong to, a place to have children, a place for the children to play, to fall, to bruise and to be able to stand tall with or without the world.
After all, all of us want a life of dignity above anything else. The peace we can still compromise.