Protecting traditions at the cost of Freedom

The recent incident in Darjeeling where the Gorkha Janamukti Morcha activists smeared people with black paint in the middle of the roads, who were not dressed traditionally, is indeed shocking. Darjeeling is still a part of the so-called “secular” and “democratic” India, and these actions in a civilized society, just leaves us dumbfounded. Previous demands of changing the signboards and number plates of cars were ridiculous enough and now this? According to the party, this temporary restriction on attire is a way of paying tribute to their culture, it would also differentiate them from the Bengalis, who have to wear their own traditional clothes. Thus, anyone not dressed in a daura surwal or chaubandi cholo, is an Anti-Gorkhaland. Tourists have been mercifully left out of this. Though the party leader had said this would not be enforced, people wearing casual clothes, who have been living there for generations, were smeared with black paint in the in broad daylight and in full police glare, by these “culture vigilantes”. Senior citizens and women were also not spared!

Whose interests are they protecting? Who created culture and created traditions? Man did. If man’s freedom is taken away, if humanity is done away with, can culture survive alone? Can tradition co-exist with force? When will these politicians realize that traditions cannot be “imposed” by humiliation; culture is something that one inherits and is proud to conform to? Attire does not necessarily prove one’s love for his or her motherland. These extremist attitudes not only leave a bitter taste in one’s mouth, but they also misguide the youth of the nation. Instead of spreading a positive message of inculcating values that would make the youth adopt our nation’s traditions spontaneously, these actions which are nothing but exploitation of tradition for political purposes, only repel people farther from their own roots. One may not go to a temple and yet be spiritual; one may go to the temple every Thursday and still break the law every day. We do not need to see two communities dressed separately to understand that they are different. It is almost like forcibly creating a divide between the people. Unity in diversity has always been the catch phrase to describe the people of India. The parties demand a separate state, but is this the example they are setting? If granted the freedom and autonomy, is this the “trailer” of the tyranny that will follow? I am not saying that one should disrespect one’s traditions, but at the same time wearing a certain kind of attire for a does not explain one’s love for his or her motherland. If terrorist wears traditional Gorkha attire and plants bombs in Darjeeling, will they( according to the GJM) be a better citizens and lovers of Gorkhaland than all the innocent people they humiliated on the streets?

The common man is always at the receiving end; tourist footfall has decreased dramatically in the past few months in Darjeeling. For every Bengali, Darjeeling was paradise near home; a place of sheer nostalgia, it still is, the hills, the toy train and climbing the rocky terrain like a snake. All these memories were enough to lure us, but now we are skeptical to pay a visit to Darjeeling. The business suffers, not the parties. It is the same case everywhere, political tussles drive out industrialists from a state and the common man loses out on lucrative job opportunities, agitations are ignited for protecting religions and innocent people lose their lives. If this mocking irony does not stop, if lawlessness in the name of religion and culture never concludes, is it possible to foresee where we will be in a few years from now? These actions only reveal how incapable our politicians are; they hurl abuses, launch attacks in the name of “protecting tradition”. If they spend at least half the time in constructive purposes, people would have more faith in them. What the colonizers had done hundreds of years back is still practiced by our leaders, only in a cloaked fashion .They divide in the hope of ruling. It is a pity that Indians have sheltered these exploiters and are refusing to confront the present situation in a practical manner. And it is scary when the youth participates in such brutal acts of slaughtering people and exploiting freedom, all in the name of tradition.

Shiny Das

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