Politics of Morality

What defines the following: good thing, morality or the rightness of a deed? The early liberals came up with the concept of rationality of man to answer this, while the communists concluded, it was that which would benefit all equally. Above all definitions, it is ones’ conscience. With a saffron Taliban taking shape in India, one finds individuals increasingly losing all their rights of self determination as fundamentalism has set out to define the virtues one must live by. And what is even more unfortunate? We see this fascist regime gaining legitimacy.


The Shri Ram Sena, after shamelessly assaulting young women in Mangalore pubs, has now come up with the strangest justification for attacking flowers. Some absurd statements were made by it on these lines; Jasmine flowers being cultivated by the Christians, bought and sold by the Muslims and finally given to Hindu girls. One does not really know how to see sense in such a statement, perhaps they are hinting against cultural intermixing within India alongside the whole ‘anti-west’ act. However, their purpose remains quite apparent, and divisive politics continues to thrive in India.


Such politics of hate often brings about the forced realization of ‘hate’ as a phenomenon, a notion of ‘being hurt’. As a counter process of hate, one looks for an object to blame, like in the case of Christian-killings in Kandhamal, the perception of the extremist Hindu wing was, that forced conversions have deprived the people of their right to freedom of religion. In Maharashtra, people were led believe that their livelihood was being threatened by the ‘North Indians’. In case of Mangalore, they find an ideological enemy in the values of the west. Thus, we see a creation of an artificial enemy, a common enemy that puts most others in the same boat. The ethnic and communal identity becomes the basis of articulation of common economic interests and political mobilization. They fail to see the cosmopolitan character of a fragile, infant democracy and refuse to acknowledge the Indian identity as a multi-cultural, multi-ethnic whole.


The government’s response has remained predictably lax and misleading. While the chief minister of Karnataka seemed more or less in denial, the home minister snubbed the incident as ‘media hype’. When burning of churches continued in full swing, the government cleverly distanced itself from the Bajrang Dal. It is trying to follow similar tactics in the case of Shri Rama Sena, while at the same time, not taking any strong action against the aggressors in fear of losing the conservatives of BJP vote bank.


The fundamental problem remains that who decides the right the wrong and the dividing line? Life is a parable of paradoxes; terrorist for one is a revolutionary for another. But there has to be some broad consensus on the correct and the incorrect. Constitutionally speaking, any act that does not offend a law is justified be it clubbing, public display of affection, or any other. Cultural insecurities cannot be allowed to encroach upon the fundamental rights of an individual. All the above instances can be widely seen as nothing less than a parochial form of terrorism, the only difference being that the perpetuators are immune from the extraordinary anti-terror laws, perhaps ironically by virtue of being ‘Indian citizens’ or organizations of a majority, which does not even endorse their opinion.


We must not forget that we are a society whose strength lies in cultural diversity and progressive adaptability. A brief modern phenomenon of separatist politics which is marketing morality must not undermine the firm foundation of this democracy.


Saumya Saxena

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