WE AND OUR SCHISMS

I recently watched the movie Madaari, which was very interesting. It has an everyman anti-hero revolting against a corrupt system that kills his only son in a tragic accident – a tragedy caused due to corruption. Irfaan playing the protagonist chews up the screen with his histrionics – especially the scene where he breaks down in the hospital on hearing about his son’s death, gives you goosebumps. Think of Kamalhaasan’s in Naayakan reacting to his son’s death, take it up a notch higher, and you will get an idea of how effective this scene is. It also has veteran Marathi actor Uday Tikekar, (who also happens to be a family friend) brilliantly playing the role of a bumbling and corrupt minister. Having met Uday in a few social functions, I noticed that for the movie he has changed his gait, body language and tone of voice to suit the character, which makes his interpretation notable.

The movie presents a quasi-utopian climax, parts of which are impractical and improbable. But it is movie worth watching, if only for the fact that if corruption does not end in India soon, things may come to this. But over and above all this the one thing that makes the movie memorable is one dialogue in the climax. When the protagonist makes the corrupt officials confess that they accepted bribes to pass the contract for the bridge (which eventually collapsed and killed his son), the Home Minister (essayed wonderfully well by another veteran Marathi actor, Tushar Dalvi) tells him that Indians are very weak and can be broken very easily. He says that the schisms that Indians have with respect to religion and caste make it easy for politicians to polarize the population. The more I think about it, the more convinced I am that truer words were never spoken before! Since Independence our politicians have manipulated and divided us on the basis of religion and caste. Over the years, even media professionals (and the media-houses they are affiliated to) have been won over and together with these self-serving politicians, have formed a venomous nexus that is corroding the very foundations of our country. The ever-burning Kashmir issue, the demolition of Babri Masjid, the serial bomb blasts in Mumbai, the burning of the train coach in Godhra (and the subsequent riots), the lynching of a beef trader in Dadri, the trashing of Dalits in Gujarat, are just a few examples of how religion and caste are used as divisive tools to alter and influence the Indian mindset. Add to this the advance of social media as another such tool, and the road towards decimation is well and truly laid. And in this milieu, we have dolts like Zia-Ul-Haq, the school manager from Allahabad who refuses to allow the singing of our National Anthem in his school on the stand that it contradicts the tenets of Islam – I fail to understand how religion can be above the country! While Indians fight against each other (literally and metaphorically), the politicians and their associated sycophants laugh all the way to the vote bank and back. There are even bigger problems plaguing US and Europe, but unlike Indians, the one thing their denizens do have oodles of is unadulterated respect for their nation (not politicians, mind you).

So what is it that makes us Indians so vulnerable to such divergent maneuvering? Why do Indians get so easily swayed by the words of politicians from their respective community or caste? Why does religion act as a combustible tinder-box waiting to explode with just a small spark ignited by the rancorous outpourings of a disgusting politician or a biased media-house? Why do we Indians not realize that news can be (and to a large extent is) sponsored, and that politicians can stoop to any level to ensure that they stay in power. In the sixty odd years that one “family” has lorded over our purportedly “democratic” country, we saw many instances of this manipulation, and saw many genuine issues, which could potentially embarrass the government, being conveniently swept under the carpet (like the Shah Bano case). The current government which claimed to be “different” has so far been struggling to clear the muck generated by the previous rulers. To be fair, we need to be unbiased in our judging of the incumbent government and give them time to clean the Augean stables – Hercules had only thirty years of filth to clear, but poor Narendra Modi has over sixty years of mess to tidy up. And therein lies the problem with today’s Google-empowered generation. On the one hand they are informed and totally updated with the happenings around the world, but on the other hand want things to change just like a web page – at the click of a mouse button!

My personal opinion (for whatever it is worth) is to seriously look at a common civil code for India. There are a lot of intricacies within the current form of this code, and humungous constitutional roadblocks to hurdle over before this can become a reality. We cannot remove religion from our ethos or psyche, so moving towards a common law would, according to me, be a step in the right direction. And can we be a bit more optimistic and keep our faith in the current government. As the inimitable George Bernard Shaw once said, “Patriotism is your conviction that this country is superior to all others because you were born in it”. Time to clear the cobwebs of our mind… and a happy Independence Day to all Indians.

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