Scientists say that it gets darkest before the first semblance of light. Philosophers say that darkness is the absence of light. Sociologists say that society must reach a breaking point before it builds itself once again. Anthropologists say that civilizations die when civility dies. And Bob Dylan had said, “It’s not dark yet, but it’s getting there…” This 3-chapter series is my analysis of why it is necessary for us to go fully dark as a nation before we see light. The viewpoint is totally personal, and the belief is intensely strong!
It was the 10th of April 2022. The onset of the festive season across India. Navratras. Ugadi. Gudi Padwa. It also happened to be the first day of the month of Ramzan. I wished members of a certain WhatsApp group “Ramadan Kareem”. Let me share the verbatim reactions of some members without disclosing their names…
Member 1 – Seriously?
Member 2 – Tells you about our country (No offence Avik Da). That more will wish Happy Ramadan than Happy Gudi Padwa or Happy Ugadi which together are celebrated by more people than people who celebrate Ramadan
Member 1 – U mean the slave mentality or pseudo-secularism of educated Hindus, who celebrate festivals of their ex-masters…
Member 1 – I remember our missionary commie principal used to make us sing ‘plo’ and ‘saf’ national anthems and never Vande Mataram…
Member 2 – When are they changing the category [of Mughals] to Invaders? …if Akbar is India, Lord Clive ka grandson bhi Indian hai kya?
Member 1 – And the sobs go crazy on Christmas carols and Sufi shit. Celebrating our mothers’ rapists. I tell my Punjabi friends that even after 10 gurus and Gurmukhi, u jokers talk in Urdu and now English… Chalo time to go to the gym and punch some red-green bags
Member 2 – Haha
Member 3 – But seriously speaking, we should refrain from such discussions and punchings.
Member 1 – I disagree, sir, why we should wish on all festivals? We may wish on relevant festivals… But I see logic except a slave mentality to wish a group of non-Muslims on Ramazan…remaining silent on a relevant one but shouting on an irrelevant [one] is disgusting behaviour akin to abusing the people in the group. This is what has exactly made secularism an ugly word.
Member 1 is heading the India office of an MNC.
Member 2 is a leading political strategist and psephologist.
Member 3 is a retired senior automotive professional.
My childhood friend, who happens to be a Christian told me that his wife got him a new rosary from her last trip to Kerala. Normally he would instantly put it up in his car. That day he was travelling to Noida in UP for a meeting and decided not to put it up…lest someone take notice of an offence!
It surely is getting dark in this land that celebrates the 75th year of its independence this year. In the 75 years of this fledgling nation, never have so many symbols of division and power come together to create the unique atmosphere we reside in right now.
Earlier we did go through our moments of trials and tribulation like the war with China, Naxalism, Emergency, Sikh separatist movement, Delhi riots, Kashmir exodus, Gujarat riots, 26/11 and many more, but on no occasion was the impact pan-India and affecting all aspects of our social structure.
In fact, only after the freedom movement of the 1930s and 1940s are we undergoing a nationwide movement of the same spread and depth. It has affected almost every household in the country, directly or indirectly.
The symbols of totalitarian imperialism are all there. The flag, the colour, the diktats, the collaborators, the revisionists, the cadres, the lumpen and the masses of unemployed youth. 90 years ago too there was a flag along with the colours, the resolution, the sympathisers, the reformers, the followers, the activists and the masses of aspiring millions!
I see the symbols falling into three clusters – symbols of division, symbols of power and symbols of performance.
The Symbols of Division
There are five clear symbols that first typecast, then divide and finally exclude. They collectively work towards mental wiring that leads to reactions like those of my two friends in the WhatsApp group.
“Flies Mosquitoes Sparrows Rats”
I take the term from a big programme in China just preceding Mao’s Cultural Revolution that mandated every Chinese to kill as many flies, mosquitoes, sparrows, and rats as possible. Basically, the unwanted in society. People of certain faiths and ‘levels’ in the social structure are not required in the grand vision of things. Being a democracy as they cannot be structurally dispensed with, theologically they are being brought to a position of either open revolt, violent reactions or total submission.
Freaks and Monsters
Another term from the Maoist age is to stereotype those that differ in ideology, thought, expression and the narrative of history and the nation. Communists, liberals, secularists, rationalists, artists, writers…anyone who does not flow with the central narrative.
The National Socialists had divided German society in the mid-1930s into “National Comrades” and “Community Aliens”. The latter had three sub-sets – racial enemies, political enemies, and moral enemies. We have a long way to go but the classification has begun. After the British were made to leave, for the first time, classification of all three types has begun.
Roughly 30% of the nation is trying to flex its muscles the rest to become vegetarian. The incidence of meat shops being closed during certain festivals is becoming routine. Previously it used to be at a local level by force while now it is becoming a policy under governance. And even if you wish to remain impure and eat non-vegetarian, you are now being told which type to eat. Certain meats are being banned on the pretext of sensitivities knowing very well which specific sections of society get hurt by such bans. The subliminal purpose is to create economic impact as the business employs people primarily from one faith.
I need not spend much time on this subject as we all know what the nation is going through right now on issues no one would even turn a deaf ear to. They have become cornerstones of identity now, for both sides of the coin, the perpetrator and the perpetrated.
If anyone thinks it is going to stop at just that piece of attire, that is a cruel form of social satire.
Totalitarianism has always used art as an effective medium of propaganda. Mostly writers, artists, sculptors, and filmmakers of high calibre are roped into the cause of the ‘revolution’ to produce works that make the masses believe the narrative. Masters like Gorky and Kandinsky fell into the trap. Since independence, we have always had the ‘favourites’ of the ruling class who carried the message across platforms.
Disruptions were also tried like the Left Front government in West Bengal producing Satyajit Ray’s “Hirak Rajar Deshe”, a movie clearly against authoritarianism and propaganda. The purpose in each case was to unite, create a favourable image and bring more people into the ideological fold.
The objective now is to use art to divide. And films are a popular medium. So we have creations like “Tashkent Files” with the clear intent to vilify and “Kashmir Files” with the clear intent to induce hate. A “Delhi Files” is also being planned as I write, again with the objective not to build consciousness against such events but to vilify specific people. Such projects with tacit government support will only multiply over the years to carry out the gradual but complete brainwashing of the masses.
Next week I shall share my thoughts on the symbols of power.
And the week after that shall be about the symbols of performance.
That hopefully should be my trilogy on how dark it is getting here in India.
I end chapter 1 with the opening stanza of Bob Dylan’s seminal “Not dark yet…”
Shadows are fallin’ and I’ve been here all-day
It’s too hot to sleep and time is runnin’ away
Feel like my soul has turned into steel
I’ve still got the scars that the sun didn’t heal
There’s not even room enough to be anywhere
It’s not dark yet but it’s gettin’ there
Till then, Jai Hind!
Also Read: Too much cake, too little bread!
(Avik Chattopadhyay is co-creator of Expereal India. Also, he is the former head of marketing, product planning, and PR at Volkswagen India. He was associated with Maruti Suzuki, Apollo Tyres, and Groupe PSA as well.)
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