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Yes, we are a polarised people

Yes, we are a polarised people

Author: Shubhrangshu Roy
Publication: The Economic Times
Date: December 17, 2002
URL: http://economictimes.indiatimes.com/cms.dll/xml/comp/articleshow?artid=31492095

Much as I despise Narendra Modi, I cannot help but be overawed by the BJP's clean sweep of the Gujarat polls riding on the crest of a Hindutva wave.

Over the next few days, sundry pundits will scratch their beards and pull their hair to analyse what went into such a huge mandate for the sangh parivar despite the gruesome happenings in the state post- Godhra.

Pretenders to political wisdom posing as poll analysts have reappeared on the idiot box claiming that a huge last moment mood swing in BJP's favour disrupted their calculations just about the time the electorate trooped in to vote.

Earlier, these very jokers predicted there was only a narrow gap between the people's dislike for the BJP and their new found love for the Congress.

Small wonder, they now admit, no pre-poll or exit-poll calculation could predict a walkover for the BJP. They don't tell us what caused that huge mood swing.

I'll tell you what happened.

First, there was never so much of a doubt that the BJP would win Gujarat. Not in the BJP's mind. And least of all, not in the electorate's mind.

The doubt, if at all, was how big the winning margin would be, never mind what the analysts said.

So, the mood swing theory is all bunkum. Despite all these years of secular whitewash, I am firm in my belief that the Indian society is inherently polarised.

We come across its many divisive facets in our day-to-day lives that we largely choose to ignore. Yet, when we walk out of the air- conditioned comfort of our workplaces, we come across these divisions of polarised castes and creeds.

That's the base on which the Indian society has survived so long, withstanding the onslaught of both time and invading armies, breaking up civilisations into smaller and smaller fragments where everyone lives for his own.

I won't stand in moral judgement on whether that's good or bad news for us. But I often take time off to sit up and take note of how things still remain the same even when to others they appear to have changed.

That's one reason why we still preserve in our very little corners of both home and heart, our exclusive identities as townsfolk and rustics, as employed and self employed, as rich and poor, as Bengalis and Punjabis, as Brahmins and backwards, as Hindus and Muslims.

And each time any of these of our various identities is questioned, we stand up to assert ourselves with all that we can. We've done this once too often before. And we do it in our everyday lives, betraying our polarised existence within this land called India, that is Bharat.

If you find it hard to believe what I am saying is true, just take a peek into our recent history. The coming into being of India and Pakistan was not because we were divided by race, but because we were divided by religion.

So it is with what's been happening in Punjab and Kashmir and Assam these years. Still more recently, the Mandal agitation of just about a decade ago burned Delhi and the country not because we were one, but because our very own identities came to be questioned when the identities of some others were sought to be upheld at the cost of our own. It's the same story with the elections.

In the Hindi heartland where it matters most, the elections have never been fought and won on the grounds that the people were united in race, culture, caste and religion, but because they were divided by all of these and more.

And still, to uphold our secular credentials as a nation and belief that we are united in our diverse existence, a handful of us believe that the verdict of Gujarat holds ominous portents for a nation that's on the verge of split.

That it's the beginning of a polarisation that will consume state after state if the forces of fanaticism are not held in check. Perish that thought.

Gujarat's verdict this December was the culmination of the belief of its people that their identity was under threat. In this present case, it was their Hindu identity that came under attack, first at Godhra, and then, at Akshardham.

And yet we stood silent in our secular garb lest someone question our own identity. But then we also stood up in our secular garb and questioned the identity of the Gujarati Hindu when he retaliated for what happened at Godhra.

Well, now the Gujarati Hindu has stood up as well to question our secular credentials as we watch helplessly.

Tomorrow it will be the turn of the Rajasthani Hindu to assert himself. The day after it will be the turn of the Hindu in Madhya Pradesh. And then, the Hindu in UP. And next, the Hindu in the rest of India.

This is bound to happen, unless someone begins to question our several other identities by race, by language, by caste. It doesn't matter what the secularists say, there is a Hindu somewhere in an overwhelming majority of us. I may not agree with how the Hindu asserts himself when he feels cornered. But, for now, I respect his verdict.

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