By Antony Cony, Karkala/Qatar
Dec 13: India is known to the world as "Land of Diversity" as well as "Epitome of the world". Being a large country with a huge population, India presents endless varieties of physical features and cultural patterns. It is the land of many languages. It is only in India people professes all the major religions of the world. The vast population is composed of people having diverse creeds, customs and colours. However, recently India has been grabbing attention for 'Ghar Wapsi', 'Award Wapsi’, 'Medals Wapsi’….and why ?
It is high time to ask ourselves, where do we stand in this land of diversity? Are we practicing tolerance? Do we stand together to promote peace and harmony between us, between various castes, creeds, religious communities, or are we pitted against each other by vested interests to fight through political ideology called Polarization?
Polarization is a concept that comes from science, and it involves light, radiation, or magnetism moving in specific directions.
Outside science, polarization usually refers to how people think, especially when two views emerge that drive people apart, kind of like two opposing magnets.
As a 'social media user' in the Logical Indian rightly pointed out: "Are we witnessing rising polarization that is gripping our nation? We identify ourselves as Indians, yes. But we are becoming increasingly comfortable with attaching ourselves to ideologies and people who embrace the politics of anything goes. This division has crept into our mind and society.
"People have stopped judging their leaders by facts, and begun judging the facts based on their party loyalty. This is most overtly seen and covertly overrated on social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter; nearly any post, actually – will always feature derogatory debates, hate and cursing, just because we have different political preferences. We can blame many factors for this polarization – the political class, the media, ourselves etc," the article states.
But the truth remains that we, the citizens of this country, are behaving LESS like 'we Indians’ and MORE like political spokespersons; stringently alloting ourselves to political blocs.
By polarization, ideals of people are so much blinded that when we became the first Asian nation to reach Martian orbit with Mangalyaan, most people chose to debate over who should take the credit - Narendra Modi or Manmohan Singh. Even as the world applauded India for its phenomenal achievement, politcal debates filled the social media in India, almost completing obliterating the efforts and success of the scientists who were responsible for taking India to new heights in space exploration. Political ideologies and party heroes have made us completely bankrupt of our credibility as one citizen or Indians.
Debu C in his article 'Beware of Vote Polarization' observes: "India’s political landscape has always been differentiated along caste and communal lines and these take center stage during the run up to every election. Caste has always been a major factor and all parties exploit the sentiment by picking candidates along caste and communal lines, which can swing votes for them".
Predominantly, our political blocs are made up of our voting patterns, blinding us from being politically aware that electorate is the backbone of any democracy. Thus, the focus is not the well-informed citizen, but a sycophantic bunch of people who defend every word and action of their party or leaders, even if those words and actions happen to be insensible or downright wrong. It is here that we have to teach ourselves to be more tolerant of diversity of ideologies.
Politics of polarization may also be a threat to India's growth prospects as it leads to social conflict and incidents of communal violence.
Recent incidents like lynching in Dadri over rumours of beef, riots at Muzaffarnagar and religious conversions show the level of intolerance in the country of late. But it is not religion alone - social conflict and intolerance in India have other facets too - the way linguistic minorities in places like Maharashtra are threatened, or the ethnic conflicts in north-east, caste-based discrimination faced by Dalits or backward classes, or even gender discrimination that results in crimes against women. One could add to this list the recent attempts to enforce eating habits too, with beef ban in parts of the country especially during Jain festival 'Paryushan' that led to conflicts in various parts of the country, the Ghar Wapsi drive, and the killings of rationalists that led the intelligentsia in the country to raise a strong voice and return their awards, in what was popularly termed as 'Award Wapsi'.
India being an emerging economy has seen sustainable growth since the last few years. Even international organizations like IMF and World Bank have predicted that in future, India’s growth rate may surpass that of China. But rising social conflict not only threatens this optimistic economic growth but also its peace and harmony. Therefore, it is more important that government take pragmatic steps to reduce these intolerance-causing differences by bringing all the stakeholders to the negotiation table so that advanced developmental drives like Smart City Mission, Digital India etc could be given adequate focus.
On December 4, I read news in Daijiworld that during a press meet, MLC Ivan D'Souza gave his 18 suggestions for the Smart City project. First among them, the emphasis laid upon most, was #1 which said: "Making the people of Mangaluru smart before implementing the Smart City project". Motive seems to be really good but can it be practicably achievable? Taking a leaf from the past communal incidents, will the political leaders give up hate speeches? Will moral policing cease? There is so much political clout in each communal violence incident that the first suggestion should have been of self-examination - that politicians need to be smartly reforming themselves before implementing the Smart City project. This should be because people are following their leaders blindly. If leaders are reformed, it is as if people are reformed, and thereby we can achieve sustainable peace and harmony in society.
On another note, people are already smart due to the increasing digitization of information, coupled with the impact of innovations such as the Internet of Things (e-mails and the world wide web) having a profound effect on all aspects of city life. Therefore, arrival of monorails, express roads, Wi-Fi hotspots or smart structure or even smart drone replacing the smart phone in the pocket may increase people's standard of smart living, but it will not allow people to think smart.
SP Dr Sharanappa made a statement on December 5 that "Dakshina Kannada is known to be a communally sensitive district, but in the next three years, we must turn it into a place that would be known for communal harmony. In this direction, public groups and associations, educational institutes, the media and people in general should take special initiative." Dr Sharanappa is right. However, on the contrary, it is politicians who should lead and who are the cornerstone if the society has to achieve and maintain peace and harmony.
The contemporary Indian political scenario is that the parties although having different ideologies, practice opportunism for the sake of reaching the threshold of 272-plus Lok Sabha seats and not for the overall development of the country. It is really frustrating that in India all the political parties are working for their own political ideologies of polarization. Political party resorts to polarization only to serve its political ends. Some political parties divide the county on caste lines and some others divide the people on religious lines for their vote banks. By this, all politicians from any political party become one and the same.
India is a great country in terms of diversity, with so many religions, so many caste, so many languages, so many ethnic groups. The only way to keep them united is secularism, giving respect to everyone, enlarging the horizon of our thinking, keeping no demarcating borders like majority and minority, castism etc, for we all are one and children of the same Mother India.
What we see nowadays is that one party accuses the other party of being 'corrupt', and the latter accuses the former of being 'communal'. Now the question we need to ask is whether politicans can be reformed? If that part is achieved, ambitions of the politicians would change drastically and so would their ideologies compelling them to stop vote banks politics, stop spreading hateredness and stop polarizing and inciting the people to fight each other. This would initiate real development, and whoever takes the opposition's place in the parliament would allow parliament to function during the monsoon session, winter session and budget session which in turn would initiate sound economic policies and projects where the standard of the people keeps on rising. Each citizen of this country is thirsting for real development and not for ugly politics of hate and crime.
As I wind up, I am reminded of what Swami Vivekananda had said: "Give me 100 men of steel and I will and I will change the world". We too are responsible citizens, we should play our role by not allowing the political class to divide us. As the social media user on Logical Indian puts it, "We must understand that we are not cattle to follow a party leader. We do not owe any leader anything; we don’t need to defend anything and everything that they say. We have the right to criticize our politicians when they need it, and defend them when they deserve it. We don’t owe them ourunquestionable loyalty – they owe us their unquestionable loyalty. Our allegiance lies to the Tricolour, the Constitution and the Law". Jai Hind !
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