anxious time

Source: The Hitavada      Date: 18 Nov 2018 11:07:42

T HE unrelenting opposition of devotees to entry of women of specified age-bracket into the Sabarimala Temple in Kerala and the social conflict it has given rise to have brought to the larger society an anxious time. It appears that the larger society is divided clearly into two segments, one supporting the verdict of the honourable Supreme Court to allow entry to all women to the Sabarimala Temple, and the other stoutly opposing the idea as an infringement of religious rights. Frankly speaking, there seems to be no end to such a conflict where the two sides hold on to their respective views obstinately -- rightly or wrongly. This very prospect -- of an endless conflict -- is quite disturbing. 

But then, let us not shy away from an undesirable reality that is dogging the Indian society for quite some time -- the reality of countless social conflicts on grounds mostly unintelligible to common people whose sense of proportion and balance is intact. Some of the enduring conflicts relate to religious issues while some involve social issues. And in each of those countless issues that keep raising their ugly heads time and again, there appears to be no solution or resolution. For, when nobody is willing to make amends or accommodate the other points of view, no conflict can be sorted out amicably. The trouble with most such conflicts in our blessed land is that all the involved parties feel that the particular issue is perched on the precipice of terrible social abyss. With such obstinacy persisting, India is slated to roll only in social slush that will ultimately disfigure the grand edifice of the country’s social harmony.

In fact, the overall condition is so fraught with disputes and conflicts that the phrase “social harmony” carries little meaning in Indian context.
Let us not miss the fact that the founding fathers of new India tried their best to provide mechanisms to sort out most issues that the country confronted at the dawn of freedom. They had worked hard to erase caste-riddles by declaring their clear intention of evolving a casteless society. They also declared India as a secular society so that religious issues would not torment it in the future. They also wanted to give rise to an inclusive social order in which the concept of higher or lower layers of the society would have no place and reason to exist.

Unfortunately, each of those efforts went for a toss as India started living as an independent nation in modern times. Each effort became a breeding ground of a vexing issue. Each mechanism proved to be an impediment of some sort. And what we see now is something that we never bargained for.  But then, why have we landed in such massive and widespread mess? Why are we not able to sort out issues amicably? Why are we taking extreme stands in each of these issues?

Answers to these questions cannot come easily. But there is one plausible suspicion in the minds of common people. They wonder if some elements in the Indian society are spreading divisive ideas as part of a conspiracy? There may not be much substance in this suspicion, but the common people keep returning to it every now and then. The general anxiety that prevails in the larger Indian society owing to multiple disputes that are seemingly beyond resolution is very traumatic to the common people. This anxiety has given rise to the conspiracy theory.

But even if a suspicion lingers in our minds, we can only ill-afford to harbour it. Let us even assume that there are some conspiratorial elements that have tried to vitiate India’s social life. But then, we must face this fact with courage and take steps to sort out things. Of course, this is a zone of extreme patience and persistence. This is one zone where we will have to work hard to understand issues not from a partisan point of view -- that is our own angle -- but from the point of everybody else as well. And this is possible only when we have immense respect for everybody -- his place in the society, his thoughts, his opinions, his beliefs, his traditions, his religion, his history, his ethos. And even as we demonstrate all these, we also have to keep in mind India’s collective ethos and culture.

This is certainly a tough task -- of understanding our true collectivism that had led to become the world’s top country several centuries ago. But the key to such a comprehensive understanding of our own collective self is in the acceptance of the fact of our togetherness. We can hardly allow any other thought to dominate our minds at this stage. Let us first tell ourselves that we are all one -- bound by a common ethos and culture. And once that understanding gets embedded in our beings, we just become better as humans individually and collectively.

In these anxious times when nobody seems to agree with anybody -- in the name of democracy that guarantees freedom of free expression -- we will have to make efforts to build a social mind encompassing all our aspirations and inspirations sans political colours. And that will mean sitting together and thinking together of ways and means to dismantle “narrow domestic walls” (to quote the iconic Rabindra Nath Tagore) and stand together as one. Let us hear everybody. Let us sort out the uncalled for foibles in our thinking. Let us realise that we are fortunate to have had a galaxy of great persons who have given us a tremendously rich and virtuous legacy of fundamental goodness. And then, from that standpoint, let us start creating space for each one of us and our opinions. India is big enough to accommodate all of us with our frills and faiths -- of course sans politics.

Once that happens, then accommodation of everybody will become easier. Frankly, today’s anxiety has stemmed from our narrow perception of the collective space. We feel that the space is too small to accommodate all. That is an absolutely wrong perception. Our country and its polity are really great and truly accommodative in ethos and culture. If this understanding matures, all of us will be able to know the basic principle of accommodation -- both parties come a few steps back so that there is space for both. That will help us tide over these anxious times.