As Politics of Hate Takes Over, The Biggest Casualty is Compassion
Compassion seems to have become the biggest casualty inIndia. Even more so than law, reflecting a societal disorder where leaders
drive their politics with anger, hate and bigotry. Rapists feel protected,
murderers safe, with the promoters and propagandists of hate assured of their
spot in the sun. The uglier you sound the more revered you are, the filthier
your act the more macho you become, with even the social media reflecting and
condoning the language of hate.
In Kathua a young child was raped and killed, and processions taken out in
support of her killers. In Hathras a Dalit girl has been brutally raped and
murdered, and already the administration is in full mode to cover up the
heinous crime. The police on the scene came not to protect the family but to
ensure that the rape by upper caste thugs with links to the corridors of power
was hushed up. And the family was denied the basic right to cremate their
daughter, with the police setting her body on fire in the dead of night. The
evil grin on a policeman's face recorded by a persevering reporter says it all.
The police were in full deployment along with UP's famous Rapid Action Force to
subjugate the villagers into silence. And to stop politicians from reaching the
village. Local leaders like Mayawati and Akhilesh Yadav did not even try as the
word compassion has stopped ringing bells in their homes, and it was left to
Rahul and Priyanka Gandhi to set out for the village to offer solace to the
family. They were pushed and assaulted by the UP police, who seem to have
forgotten that political power is only temporary, and prevented from moving
forward. They did not give up and reached the terrified family a day later, to
hug and embrace them and offer them words of comfort.
This in itself is a major gesture - of compassion that should drive politics.
Of solidarity and unity, that are lost words in this sea of hate that seems to
have taken over our beings. And with it our ability to dry the tears, to offer
words of comfort, to just be there to tell the people facing what no human
being should ever have to endure - we care. This is what Rahul Gandhi and
Priyanka did, with courage and determination that has silenced even the trolls
on the social media. At least momentarily.
It is interesting how Compassion has become the driving force of the Nehru-Gandhi
siblings political trajectory. Their ability, and insistence, to connect with
the poorest of the poor. Their sincerity goes far beyond photo-ops, and was so
visible during this Hathras visit where the poor men and the weeping women held
on to them for sheer life. The only leaders who had cared to visit them, who
had countered Adityanath's police, and who had understood the importance of
being with the grieving family.
Without appearing to, the two are bringing Compassion back into politics. A
strong ingredient without which politics becomes hard, selfish and self
aggrandising. As one sees in even the regional parties that speak of secularism
but do not translate it into humanity. After independence. former Prime
Minister Indira Gandhi in her better days, and VP Singh are the only two heads
of government one has seen actively giving substance to Compassion. Of never
hesitating to visit the suffering and toiling homes of India's masses, of
lending a shoulder, of wiping a tear. Others barely moved out of their homes,
had little to do with the poor, and did not share or feel the agony of those at
the receiving end of an unjust system.
Present day leaders know little what the word means, and allow the politics of
hate to determine their every action. There is a strange coldness, a terrifying
emptiness that allows them to arrest the innocent, condone murder and rape, and
save the perpetuators of heinous crimes even as the victims and their families
are made to walk on fire for just basic survival. That they know are wrong
comes from the denials, with even Adityanath reportedly deploying a PR firm to
insist there was no rape. The denial coming from power is expected to be
believed, as otherwise the use of might can silence those who continue to bring
truth to power.
This time around, however, the denials mean little as the protests have
started, and even the normally apolitical political leaders have been compelled
by the groundswell to stand up ---even if on trembling legs---for the victim
and her family. The Dalit family has shown exemplary courage, and spoken out
for their girl regardless of the police surrounding their home and village, and
of the kind of pressure they must have been brought to bear.
Dalits' lives do not matter, with more and more persons and groups and
communities being added to the list of the oppressed and victimised. Over 30
years I had gone to cover a rape in remote Balia, where access to the village
(a tiny island really) was only by a broken down boat ferried by an old, wise
villager. As new in the profession I was not prepared for this throw back to
primitive times, where the Dalits lived on the outskirts of the village, were
terrified to speak and all through my stay I was followed by upper caste men
---who grew more threatening by the minute---to ensure that the downtrodden
community was not able to speak. There too the brother with the benefit of a
job in the mofussil town had spoken of his sisters rape to a news agency
stringer, who had sent out a short report, that appeared as a two line filler
in Delhi newspapers.
In the Hathras case too it is the young brother of the victim who first showed
the courage to speak out and narrate the events to a reporter. But little has
changed in these decades. The Dalits continue to live on the outskirts, are
seen as fodder by the upper castes whose fields they continue to till, are
raped and beaten and murdered at will, the political and administrative system
protects them and is weighed against the victim, and the Dalits are not allowed
to speak out of turn. Or speak at all. The terror spilling out of the
photographs and videos was the same I saw on the faces of the Balia Dalit
family, a helplessness and resignation that has been their lot for centuries.
At that time, infused with hope, we had thought that the world would change.
And the downtrodden would be brought at par with the others. Illusions that
disappeared with time, with now other communities and peoples being brought
down to similar levels. Women, like the Dalits, continue at the receiving end
of patriarchy where the fight for rights is unending and yet no substantial
change has come in gender equations. Top positions in professions remain fixed
for the menfolk, and women continue to struggle against stereotyping and
ridicule and abuse in both the professional and domestic space.
The Hathras rape has sent shockwaves down the spine of India. And activated at
least the Congress leadership. As well as sections of the media. A video on the
social media of a young woman ABP reporter was heartwarming as she took on the
entire police force stopping her from going into the village to speak with the
family, kept up a stead commentary of media rights, established she was non
violent by speaking of Gandhi jayanti and offering leaves from a shrub on the
barren land to the cops, even as she kept speaking to her cameraman lest he
lose heart. The one young girl challenged the might of the police, who were
completely taken aback as she sat down on the ground when all failed, insisting
she would not move until they allowed her in.
The contrast between this young working journalist ---and most of them today
have that passion and courage-- and the editors and owners of these channels
who come together to block news could not have been more striking. And a testimony
to the fact that journalists are still this huge task force who want to report
the truth, but are prevented from doing so by the unholy political-corporate
nexus. And of course their paid and protected anchors who dominate the