Reconciliation, Not Recrimination

See past the false narratives and open uncomfortable conversations

A communal divide is the easiest to cleave and the hardest to bridge. We live in a country which has still not repaired the damage caused by the Partition Riots of 1947 and remain infiltrated by agent provocateurs at all levels who are resolute in their mission to paint monsters and fan paranoia, keeping people on edge and distrusting. These are people, leaders and groups perennially suspicious of the other and fearful of losing their privileges even as they imagine slights and denials. They live in a world of imagined persecution even as they project nefarious intentions on others and then marshal the scared and the fearful into pliant foot soldiers carrying forward their insular agendas. It is usually easy to see through their conspiracies and call them out, but the world is now becoming increasingly segregated, whispering fears in their respective echo chambers and consuming information filtered to suit their world view. Now, with elections circling around, expect these efforts to become more frenetic. The diversity of opinions and analysis necessary to “understand” issues will now be increasingly sacrificed at the altar of selective information and pre-packaged explanations. Some years ago, this misdirection was seen in the political and communal uproar over botched Census figures which accorded the nation’s Muslims an astronomically high rate of growth. Although it was almost immediately clarified that the Census officials had announced the figures based on wrong calculations, the data, even though wrong, suited the false narratives of the alt-Right in our country and remained in circulation. Unfortunately, technology, which was once expected to deliver as a tool to dispel falsehoods and “fake news”, has ended up reinforcing these problems. It is now widely accepted that technology, like power and money, takes what is already inside you and amplifies it. As a result, the resentful and the easily scared become even more so when they play in the world wide web. Of course, the same is true for the liberal and the tolerant as well, but the problem is that each side ends up becoming more convinced of their respective positions because they end up preaching among the converted instead of bridging the divide. We already live with stories of the horror created by divisions on religious and communal lines and still allow ourselves to be drawn in the same direction. This cannot be healthy. And the collective health suffers even more when technology is boosted by power because then begins the mission to homogenise a remarkably diverse people and force independent thought to conform to a narrow ideology. Take for instance the beef ban which continues to obsess some leaders and although not making headlines, has not been exorcised yet and swims under the surface still. As per data collected by the National Sample Survey Office, around 80 million people in our country eat beef. This number, believed to be under-reported, suggests that one in every 13 Indian is a beef eater. What needs to also be borne in mind that of the remaining 12, not everyone has a problem with others eating beef even if they don’t do so themselves. Most of the beef eaters are Muslims, Scheduled Tribes, OBC and Scheduled Caste. Now, reflect this against the anti-reservation, “anti-appeasement” belligerence and false narratives that have been hammered by a certain group, and the real targets of the Gau-Raksha drama becomes obvious. It thus becomes important for us, as free citizens of a free country, to challenge claims more often and demand better explanations. There are several issues kept alive in Sikkim as well by those who want to tap into the inherent parochial nature of the people to whip up fear and suspicion in hopes of creating a situation where people start believing every conspiracy theory that is peddled to them. This provides these agent provocateurs with a weapon that can be deployed at will to earn them the political clout and mileage that they crave. The people, however should know better. History shows that many crises have been the results of lack of simple reconciliation between parties. The parties involved will never come to the discussion table because their very existence in the public mindset is threatened if touchy issues are resolved and there are no enemies left to protect against. We use the word “resolved” not solved. Issues which threaten the social fabric cannot be solved by a third party, they have to be resolved by the parties involved so that there are no lingering hard feelings which would bring us back to square one. The approach has to be one of reconciliation, not recrimination, and for that we need to have difficult and uncomfortable conversations with those who do not think like us or believe in what we do. Simply put, to move ahead, we need to step outside our segregated circles.