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Saturday, October 10, 2015

Beefing up on Beef...

So this dialogue with a group of very bright school kids on Gandhi last week generated some interesting questions towards the end. "sir, what do you think of the beef killings?" or words to that effect asked one person in continuation to another one on religion on tolerance.

My response to the students, here of course more elaborate -

"the inequality in this country is rather striking. the extreme richness and extreme poverty and the co-existence of both is creating a huge social issue that we are not acknowledging. I call it 'anger at the bottom of the pyramid'. There is much anger among the physically, politically, socially and economically weak people in this country. This anger is less pronounced where the inequalities are less. It is more pronounced where there is a forced co-existence of both the powerful and powerless have to live together. This is happening as much in villages today as much in cities.

The concentration of physical strength through 'goondagiri' in the hands of the politically, economically and socially powerful class seems to be like never before today. Physical power includes capacity to manipulate the legal apparatus to their benefit, usurp property by force and pollute or destroy common resources with utter disregard for the future.

The powerful are no longer based on unique identities either. Unlike locally powerful social class that could be labelled using conventional forms of sociological labels, the new powerful class has no label that fits a conventional grouping - they are powerful and that is their definition. It does not have an ideological affiliation either, it can wear whatever suits the moment to retain its power and position of strength at the cost of all the others.

So, the weak finds strength in a crowd or mob. The strong utilize the weak as a crowd or a mob, inciting them, creating the darkness in which the lynching, attacking, looting is made possible. The weak succumb to it, the strong are able to get away with it.

The root of the problem is not to debate on the supposed 'issues' that are thrown up as a political score between the strong ones, but, how to address the anger at the bottom of the pyramid. how to ensure that there are not so many angry weak people around who fall gullible victims for the manipulations of the strong ones.

The beef issue is an old one. Dharampal wrote a book on the entire cow slaughter issue and titled it, "British Origin of Cow Slaughter in India", primarily to break the myth that the cow slaughter was an issue between the Hindus and Muslims as it is being paraded now about (not to mention the rabid reactionaries). His contention was based on a pronouncement by Gandhiji that the British slaughtered about 100 times more cows than what was slaughtered during the earlier mughal rule. Dharampal also prominently used to quote the British Queen's letter to the Viceroy in which she remarks that 'though the anti-cow killing movement apparently seems to be between Hindus and Muslims, it is actually against us as we kill far more cows than the muslims' or words to that effect. (I am writing this out of memory and not with the book in front of me).

Everyone is beefing up the beef issue. The banning of beef consumption in some parts seems to be an extreme step if done under law, however, it has been done voluntarily in small pockets forever. The real issue is between voluntary adherence in mutual trust and understanding and a forced implementation. Forced implementation reinforces the will of the strong and generates reaction from the weak. Killing someone because of perceived notion that the other has consumed beef is an extreme step and may not happen in the normal course of life unless fueled by external sources. Mobs have to be directed, equipped and created opportunity for by the strong.

It is no wonder that there is never anyone from the economically, politically or socially stronger class who is killed or lynched, it is always other weak people. In the power play of those who are strong, the anger of the weak is used to perpetrate crime and violence, the victim too is someone weak. This leaves for space to bring in a sequel of violence later on, where the victims of the first violence can be instigated against the perpetrators of the first one. Power never shifts in either case and the strong retain status quo.

Finally, one of the critical issues to see is the ascend of corporate power in India. The corporate is the new aggregated power. If the corporate can manipulate the articulation, direction and equipping of the weak towards other weak people. We may soon have people killing each other because they believe some brand of MNC food is the ultimate expression of freedom to them than tolerance and co-existence that have been the core of the Indian civilization for several centuries. Such space for manipulation would hurt something very deep in India and can only pave way for re-colonization. The motivations for re-colonization are already surfacing elsewhere in the world.

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