Next week, we will celebrate yet another independence day. Yet another independence day with fighter planes whirring, tanks roaring, military bands playing and prime minister speaking. We celebrate this independence day with many uncertain dark clouds.
The second economic survey tabled by Ministry of Finance paints a gloomy picture on the economy and almost neglecting any numbers on employment position in India.
After few decades, we are, to put it lightly, in a delicate situation with China. No one knows the end game. All it takes is one man’s anger in Delhi or Beijing or one soldier’s trigger finger to what could not be but called catastrophe.
What we are witnessing is a propaganda machinery being run over India. Last year I wrote on various methods of propaganda and provided examples to reconcile those methods. It has only grown further.
What we are also seeing is a surveillance state in the making. To crudely translate an old Tamil adage, “In overdose, even the elixir becomes poison.” This touted elixir is Aadhaar. And this has crept up from birth to death, trying to enslave us without our consent.
We cannot much do about economy and war, except to work hard, pay taxes and morally support our valiant soldiers.
But on propaganda and Aadhaar, we, as individuals, as friends, as family, as colleagues, as strangers meeting on social media, we have immense responsibilities. Responsibility to know, responsibility to question, responsibility to agree or disagree, responsibility to keep guard, stay vigilant and thus responsibility to protect our liberty.
On forces dividing us:
One important aspect of liberty is freedom of thought and expression. This expression, invariably will consist of opinions of others which we may never agree. But how do we manage these opinions? There is a long line of tradition in India where very divergent and diverse opinions were accommodated and respected. A very stark case in point. Adi Shankara, in a debate, was challenged in the art of love, by a woman. He was a saint, a celibate, a Brahmachari. But this did happen in our own country. Don’t believe me? Take a look here.
How are differences of opinions handled these days with respect anything that the government does? We can distil it down to “you vs I” theme, or “us vs them” theme.
This ‘us vs them’ theme is identity based. It asks the question ‘are you with us or against us.’ This starts with knowingly false assumptions used to manipulate our innermost identity, here the innermost identity is being a Hindu. You can see the list of propaganda techniques in this post.
This ‘us vs them’ game is called as Hindutva, a political ideology which has to be differentiated from my morning Surya Namaskar, prayer before a meal, festivals, rituals and our temple visits. It can be argued by many that these are one and the same. Don’t trust me. Few sentences will help understand what it is.
“Thus, the seeds of today’s Hindu Jagriti, awakening, were created the very instance that an invader threatened the fabric of Hindu society which was religious tolerance. The vibrancy of Hindu society was noticeable at all times in that despite such barbarism from the Islamic hordes of central Asia and Turkey, Hindus never played with the same rules that Muslims did. The communist and Muslim intelligentsia, led by Nehruvian ideologists who are never short of distorted history, have been unable to show that any Hindu ruler ever matched the cruelty of even a ‘moderate’ Muslim ruler.
It is these characteristics of Hindu society and the Muslim psyche that remain today. Hindus never lost their tolerance and willingness to change. However, Muslims, led by the Islamic clergy and Islamic society’s innate unwillingness to change, did not notice the scars that Hindus felt from the Indian past. It is admirable that Hindus never took advantage of the debt Muslims owed Hindus for their tolerance and non-vengefulness.”
Do you want to know where this is quoted from? Contact me separately.
It cunningly links Mughals of centuries ago with Muslims of today. I am sure each of us have Muslim friends and if you really think that above paragraphs are correct, pick up the phone and read it aloud and say to him or her that you believe in this. Most of us wont. Because, we don’t believe that we must hold our fellow Muslim friends responsible for an act which was committed centuries ago. So here, we take the easy route of placing the crime on some unknown, that is, ‘them.’
Alternatively, how many of our parents worked in government institutions? Do we say that they are corrupt? No. But generalise that ‘government is corrupt.’ This is another example of ‘us vs them.’ We ignore our immediate surrounding and generalise the fault on unknown ‘them.’
This hate is poisonous. It has become so poisonous that we attribute meanings only after we know the speaker or author of a particular opinion. Even in this example, if I say that I have written it, I will be called a Congi, slave and what not. If I say that this was written by my fellow Muslim friend, well, there are stereotypes for him as well, readymade and ready to fire venom. Or if I say that these are the words of disgruntled supporter of current government, there are other stereotypes for them as well. Is this not right? Have we not seen such instances?
So what this ‘us vs them’ identity based on fake whatsapp messages, fake images, fake quotes, fake testimonials, fake inventions have done is, to either use our existing prejudice or try to create that prejudice in first place.
When Amir Khan felt growing intolerance, I opposed him. I still stand by it. We, as general citizens are extremely tolerant. But this ‘us vs them’ division can co-exist with tolerance and just divides us without us knowing it and we play an unsuspecting target in this con game.
This ‘us vs them’ also sees every issue through this prism. If you have ever disagreed on policies, you would have noticed. Thus, this ‘us vs them’ scheme reduces our freedom of expression, because, it makes the dissenter think twice before what she or he wants to speak. That is not the state of liberty which our independence was supposed to mean.
So this independence day, lets not give into this ‘us vs them’ manipulation of clever propagandists. Its in our hands. No one can come into our brain and take a decision or create that prejudice if we do not allow them to.
This was created for a specific purpose. That purpose was to check the leaks which occur in government bureaucracy and target the rightful recipients. And it was supposed to be of choice. How righteous the cause!
In 2017, this righteous cause has become mandatory. To be a citizen of India, you have to have Aadhaar. Now the immediate question that I had in my mind is, what about the tribes in Nicobar Islands? Are we going to mandate Aadhaar? Or are they not Indians? Never mind. The learned counsels of government will come up with some spin.
This unique identity, which is now mandated, was questioned in the supreme court of India. Government went ahead and said citizens do not have rights over their bodies. If we don’t have right over our bodies, then who does? At this point, we have to be very clear.
THE GOVERNMENT IS FOR US. WE ARE NOT FOR GOVERNMENT.
Why would any government go to such an extent in defence of a scheme whose benefits have been disproved time and again? There is no other answer but the foundations of a surveillance state.
An innocent question posed to us is – “what have you got to hide?” The answer to this is – by liberty, I choose to reveal what I want to reveal. That is what freedom is. Don’t confuse this with income and crime which we have to disclose by duty. There is an interesting question before our supreme court now which asks “is privacy a fundamental right?” We don’t have an answer yet. But the government states that it is not.
An example of surveillance state goes back to World War II and its aftermath. The dreaded Nazi spies and post war Soviet spying on citizens in an era of less technology must deter us from going in that direction. But we are assured. Assured that no, its not. Assured that, this is in best hands with no motive. It says, “trust us.”
It is worth remembering John Stuart Mill on this day. He wrote ‘On Liberty,’ which is a must read for any person who wishes to understand what freedom means.
“…if by momentary discouragement, or temporary panic, or a fit of enthusiasm for an individual, they can be induced to lay their liberties at the feet even of a great man, or trust him with powers which enable him to subvert their institutions; in all these cases they are more or less unfit for liberty: and though it may be for their good to have had it even for a short time, they are unlikely long to enjoy it.”
Person that we must infer here is Aadhaar. We are allowing this to subvert all our institutions. We are allowing this to spread its tentacles to all walks of life. We are allowing to surrender our liberty to this master.
By now, most of us have Aadhaar and must have linked it t our bank accounts or PAN. If you haven’t, continue your resistance. If you have, lets us pray that this monster will be slayed by some government in the future, for we must demand it.
I will end by quoting Mill again, for even after many days I could not think of a better sentence to convey.
“There is a limit to the legitimate interference of collective opinion with individual independence: and to find that limit, and maintain it against encroachment, is as indispensable to a good condition of human affairs, as protection against political despotism.”
Happy Independence day!!
Originally published here.