Our forefathers were right, I guess, to call this era “Kali Yuga” (Age of Vice). In Hindu mythology, Kali Yuga started with the battle between the Pandavas and the Kauravas in Kurukshetra 5,000 mythical years ago and is supposed to last 4,32,000 years. Everything around us suggests that Kali Yuga is indeed just the right term to describe these times.
How else would you explain the curious spectacle of India’s richest community, the Patels, breaking the law to demand reservation? The young leader of the agitation said that if the police came in the way, they would be hacked to death.
The national scene gets curiouser when you juxtapose the Patels’ disregard of the law with that of the lynch mob that killed a 50-year-old Muslim near Dadri on Delhi’s outskirts. Before the lynching, a rumour was circulated that he was having beef with his family at their village home, adding a religious aura to a cowardly crime.
The man infamous for allegedly orchestrating the anti-Muslim violence in west UP’s Muzaffarnagar in 2013 hit the headlines once again as a saviour of the “holy cow”. BJP MLA Sangeet Som visited Dadri after the lynching, adding fuel to the fire beneath the communal cauldron that has been painstakingly kept on the boil by the Sangh Parivar and its labyrinthine maze of frontal organisations over the past few years.
Soon, the media was abuzz with reports that the cow-loving MLA owns a beef-processing factory in Aligarh. So much for the Hindutva value system that prescribes, promotes or at least condones the killing of beef-eaters and those who slaughter cattle for a living, but doesn’t mind when a champion of the ideology and a leader of the drive against cow slaughter runs a beef-processing factory. Hindutva, it seems, is clear that profits condone everything, even businesses based on cow slaughter, even as it “inspires” its cadre and other assorted footsoldiers to go after poor Muslims (also Christians in, say, the Adivasi areas of Odisha) in the name of saving the “holy cow”.
Elsewhere, the ideology of the ruling party at the Centre and several states — an integral part of the Sangh Parivar that swears by the ahistorical idea of “Hindu Rashtra” — led to the killing of Govind Pansare, CPI leader and author of a biography of 17th-century Maratha ruler Shivaji, in February, followed by the murder of MM Kalburgi, Kannada scholar and former vice-chancellor of Kannada University in Hampi, in August.
Hearteningly, however, police apathy in investigating the killings and bringing the killers to book, as also the silence of the Sahitya Akademi, led to an unprecedented protest in defence of our constitutional right to freedom of speech by some of the best writers India has produced. Starting with Nayantara Sahgal, the list of renowned writers returning the Sahitya Akademi and other state awards for literature is growing longer by the day, restoring our faith in the idea of the “public-spirited intellectual”.
The Shiv Sena, meanwhile, went down several notches more in the eyes of non-communal Indians by directing its ire against one of their kindred spirits, Sangh ideologue Sudheendra Kulkarni, because he organised a book launch for a former Pakistan foreign minister. The blackened face of Kulkarni became a symbol of 21st-century India’s leap backwards to the dark ages.
Not just Hindutva lynch mobs but also stray dogs are a threat to ordinary people. A pack of dogs killed the seven-year-old son of a rickshaw puller in New Delhi not so long ago while he was playing at home. Hundreds have died of dog bite. When my colleague Radhakrishnan was bitten by a dog and went to a nearby government hospital, he was shocked by the long queue of people, mostly slum-dwellers, waiting for a shot of anti-rabies vaccine.
My colleague’s experience reminded me of a Cabinet minister who often lashes out for the rights of dogs and cats. The elites, clearly, have no clue about the ferocity of dogs in the streets at night and so can afford to stand up for their rights. The minister, however, went on to cancel the licences of 13 orphanages run by Mother Teresa’s Missionaries of Charity, despite the organisation providing shelter and care to around 10 lakh children abandoned by parents due to lack of money or because they are differently abled.
A country whose biggest contributions to the world is Mahatma Gandhi’s message of non-violence and Mother Teresa’s message of love for all humanity seems to be rejecting the values for which it is known across the world. But let it be like that. Let only dogs and cows live for they are perhaps the only ones regaled by the idea of ‘Digital India’.