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Wednesday, November 04, 2015

inequality sustains intolerance...

the recent debate on the intolerance in the country has several facets to it. i see that people who have their favourite horses to ride are riding the same under the "intolerance" banner currently. this happens with each such larger debate. same with those riding "against intolerance" too have their favourite targets and horses. 

fundamentally the issue is about whether the several instances of extreme response to perceived "attack" on the culture, religion and tradition of Hindus are warranted or not. further to this is the question whether it is to be a 'Hindu' at all to respond in such extreme ways.

there is a sense of 'having arrived' and 'now is our time' among dominant Hindu community ever since the arrival of the current government with its resounding victory. these i consider a minority within the overall Hindu community that is still dominated by survival issues. 

 it is important to understand who are these people that were feeling high after the arrival of this government. majority of these were already well to do Hindus or urban (or wannabe urban) middle class Hindus. their sense of 'well off' comes from being a dominant community in their own localities. when i say dominant 'community' as against 'dominant caste' i am using the same deliberately. caste based politics have several variations across the spectrum, however, a dominant community need not be a single caste or even single religion, it is often a coalition of those who want the status quo of their domination sustained. they are united by the purpose as much as the sense of shared power camaraderie. i suspect this is about 10% of the Indian population.

so, whatever these people are doing cannot be seen in terms of 'intolerance' alone. they are establishing a forceful way of protecting their domination or the continuation of the status quo. the status quo is an extreme case of inequality. 

some voices matter more than others, some opinions matter more than others, some people can have favourable and faster judgements more than others, some people can have everything in the system delivered to them faster and easier than others. these are people with their 'community' in the right places. 

the collective opinion of the bottom 90% of this country perhaps doesn't matter in front of the top 10% that perhaps constitutes this particular group. out of this 10% will be about 4% that is well versed in English in this country. they produce and ingest the english language media which through its vocal power and self-created dominance still demands and manages to set the agenda for the nation. the 80% of the population can't demand that their agenda ever become the national agenda, hence the farmer suicide epidemic continues to remain a tucked away story as there is no sensation in it any longer.

 but in the 90% remains the bottom pile, the angry ones who are capable of being instigated to vent their daily anger as a mob or to earn their one day's living (more on this 'beefing up on beef' I wrote earlier).
 it would be interesting to analyze where do all the 'fringe' elements that the ruling parts asks us to ignore come from. i suspect many of them come from regions and locations where the status quo is being threatened and the response from them is a means of protecting their domination. similarly, it would also be interesting to know where all the extreme reactions are coming from as well.

writer, Ashish Nandy wrote an article a few years ago that the violence in India is urban centric. the striking contrast of extreme poverty and extreme opulence in the Indian cities are most striking and can easily give way for social tension and violence as it does already.

all those protesting on the intolerance would do well if they also focus on the inequality around them. we are sowing the seeds of future violence by letter the inequality perpetrate like never before. farmers, farming systems, farming societies including agricultural labourers, rural industries, small entrepreneurs, the unorganized workers, migrant labourers...these are the 90% that is being rendered even more vulnerable even as their idea of community (whether it be caste or locale base community) has been destroyed through social-political-developmental intervention.

the 90% do not practice intolerance, indeed they have to be extremely tolerant to merely sustain their life and survive, they often have to put up with affront on their self respect, lack of dignity in their work, being rendered powerless when their homes, ancestral properties and ecosystem is taken away forcefully from them. they tolerate this and carry on.

the intolerance is with the 10% and they need to sustain the inequality. they can debate about this among themselves (it is interesting that those who are talking of intolerance and those who are opposing the idea both belong often to the same economically dominant class) indeed inequality sustains intolerance in this country. those who are demanding that this 'intolerance' come to an end, need to reflect as to how do they see a tolerant society (and not in relative terms, 'we were more tolerant under Congress' is not a response) with all the inequalities still prevailing in it. and those who claim that we are very tolerant society, need to seriously reflect why then so many people of a dominant community in several localities are more articulate and seeking to establish their domination through acts of violence than ever before. 

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