A friend asked me to provide my comments on the following post on social media by a third person completely unknown to me:
“I love India’s diversity in terms of different cultures, ethnicity and religious communities. But more than that I take pride in unity in this diversity … Historian Stanley Wolpert once commented on this unity: A country which has stayed united for two thousand years will remain so for at least another 200 years. That is indeed true. But unity cannot be preserved without taking cognizance of forces of disunity. Strength of a nation does not rest on nourishing all sorts of diversities. Cultural and ethnic diversities pose no threat to national unity, communal religious sub-nationalism does … Muslim communalism always had a separatist dimension. It led to the creation of Pakistan and jihadist terrorism in Kashmir. Why anti-CAA protests have shrill slogans of ‘Azadi, Azadi‘? Sad truth is there is a thin line between Muslim communalism and separatism. It poses serious threat to nation-building as well as national unity … Sane voices, asking country’s Muslim community to choose modernity and integration over identity politics and isolation, should not go amiss …”
My friend asked me: ‘How do you react to this? I have read this on FB; it made sense to me.’
I had a quick read of the post. It appeared the author of the post was perhaps well-intentioned. Furthermore, the person – like any other human being – is entitled to his / her opinion, I did not wish to comment. One must respect the intrinsic human dignity, everyone has right to speak and express.
My only comment was: ‘The following statement from the post does not seem to be accurate: A country which has stayed united for two thousand years will remain so for at least another 200 years. As such, there was no ‘one country’. There were around 565 princely states and territories in 1947 that comprised the ‘Indian subcontinent’. All these princely states would fight one another and that is why the alien powers could succeed in subjugating them one by one and eventually ruling the subcontinent.’
My friend commented: ‘I feel diversity does no good to a country. There are always some groups who will have problems with the decisions taken. Government cannot possibly satisfy all. This gives rise to conflicts and the resultant violence.’
I was taken aback by what my friend had said but I could not help in voicing my honest feelings: ‘That is an interesting realisation on your part. Sadly, however, that thought of yours may logically lead to either (a) further disintegration of the country, with mono-cultures in each part; and / or (b) annihilation of conflicting cultures to attain a mono-culture in the country.
‘It is most unfortunate that even you, as my friend, have not read or understood the issues – as well as their solutions – as noted in two of my books on India – Issues White-anting India (2017) and Does India need a Dictator? (2018). The second book is all about practical, doable, humane solutions – without strife or any discrimination, whatsoever, towards anyone. I may have asked for a human dictator – one who would look after ALL Indians equally and earnestly strive to address their growing living and liveability issues, without bias or discrimination, whatsoever, based on religion, caste or region. I have never asked for any other kind of dictator. All Indian people would undoubtedly follow a benevolent dictator – one who would serve ALL Indian people blindfolded in terms of caste, creed, gender, region or religion – one who would treat ALL Indian people equally, with equal care, respect and dignity.
‘If rational people like you also support this kind of thought (against diversity), the country may undoubtedly have no hope. You may be unknowingly supporting potential social unrest, leading to a serious social discord, which is extremely unfortunate. Perhaps, you can’t help yourself from thinking that you are right, which alarms me. And, on my part, I also can’t help being honest in expressing my thoughts without political correctness. In such a situation, when both sides believe they are right, one or both of them must logically be wrong. Alarmingly, that may lead to an ugly showdown at some stage, the consequences of which may potentially be utterly devastating and, thus, unfortunate, as no one may really win in the end. In the Mahabharata, each side believed it was right. But who does not know how it all ended? Some avoidable tragedies become unavoidable. Intolerance gives rise to bitter feuds and violence, with each side myopically proving it is correct and, in the process, becoming blind to the bigger picture. Tragedies have occurred and will continue to keep occurring.’
My friend hastened to challenge me: ‘True, but who decides who is right? And what is a human dictator? In today’s day and age, everyone has an ideology, which may not match with the other people. Take, for example, Mr Modi. He has himself never uttered anything that divides the society. Maybe that is there in his mind. If there are a lakh of people who hate him there are ten lakh others who love him. For any lynching or law and order issue, you cannot hold him responsible.’
I felt my friend was completely oblivious to the vote share that the esteemed Prime Minister’s political party, the BJP, received in the general elections of 2019.
I replied: ‘Firstly, it is the might, the majority and/or the muscle that will decide who is right and what is right, which always happens. Secondly, please note that the BJP’s vote share in the 2019 general elections was only 37.36%, although the NDA’s combined vote share was 45% of the total 60.37 crore votes. This means 62.64% (i.e. a little less than two-third) of the voters did not vote for the BJP. Likewise, 55% voters did not vote for the NDA.’
My friend reacted quickly: ‘Sir ji, Mr Modi is a democratically elected Prime Minister. Those who have pathological hatred for him should bring him down democratically.’
I was forced to defend and represent myself: ‘That is a reaction; please prove the numbers that I have presented to you are wrong. Numbers don’t lie. To start with, I did not bring Mr Modi in this conversation, you brought him. And I did not say anything wrong against him. It is your country, you must work to fix it. I have no voting rights in India. So, I could not have voted for him or anyone else in India, nor do I have any voting rights to vote against him. By ‘pathological hatred’, what do you mean, for whom? I have supported Mr Modi’s slogans in two of my books on India, published earlier in 2017 and 2018. I think you are angry at some other people.’
My friend was in no mood to give up and, therefore, continued venting: ‘It is not the question of Mr Modi. What I am questioning is the pathological hatred for the man. This was just to illustrate my argument. How can it be only a lakh or 10 lakhs? People don’t mind shouting ‘Pakistan zindabad’ out of context just to provoke. These people don’t understand that, in a bid to empower the vulnerable Muslim community, they may have empowered the majority Hindu community as well.’
At last, thankfully, my friend presented a logical perspective but I chose to go silent, albeit with some bitter sadness in my heart. Any further discussion was possibly futile and, therefore, frivolous. Our discussion was heading nowhere, what we two small fries thought did not matter in the scheme of bigger things to come and how powerful people thought, which is a sad but alarming realization. Having said that, I wondered if we all are treading a slippery road to nowhere but sadness? … Bill Koul (22 February 2020)