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The South Asian Insider

Hate in India has gone beyond control. Even Modi, RSS can’t stop it



By VIR SANGHVI
What was your first reaction when you saw (or read about) the video of a school teacher getting her students to assault one of their classmates. How did you react when you heard the audio and realised that she was actually using communal terminology and, in effect, asking the children to commit a hate crime?Did it remind you, in some way, of the railway police constable who roamed through a train shooting Muslim passengers and delivering an impassioned diatribe against the community?And did you see the news item in Wednesday’s newspapers about four students in a government school in Delhi complaining that their teacher had made communal remarks to them. According to the complaints, the teacher said: “During Partition you did not go to Pakistan. You stayed in India. You have no contribution to India’s freedom struggle.” There was more in a similar vein.
I am guessing that your first reaction to all of these incidents was the same as mine: shock, outrage, anger, disbelief, sadness and fears about the kind of country we are becoming. And that you were as horrified as I was when the organised armies on social media posted lies to explain away the incidents. Apparently, the hate-filled teacher had not said anything communal. The video was distorted. Various glove-puppets and bots then hailed her as a martyr. Likewise, the Muslim-murdering railway police officer was not anti-Muslim, his social media supporters said, he was just ‘disturbed ’. The control rooms had to junk this lie after the shooter’s own superiors admitted that he had committed a hate crime, which he was then charged with.But once I began to look beyond my anger and my despair, two things worried me. Here, in no particular order, is what frightens me.
Hate that’s unstoppable
The biggest misconception about hate is that you can control it. Politicians (from all parties and all religions) make the mistake of believing that hate is like water. You can pour as much of it as you like. But when you are through, you can just turn off the tap.
In fact, hate is the opposite of water. It is like fire.Once you light the flame, it becomes very difficult to control it. The blaze takes on a life of its own and it is almost impossible to stop it or to manage how it spreads.
It is popular among people opposed to the current political dispensation to act as though the hate we see all around us emanates from the top and is the result of some careful political calculation.
I don’t think that is true. Every Muslim-hater is not a sangh supporter who is acting on orders from Nagpur. Like fire, hate takes on a life of its own. Nobody can tell where the next conflagration will occur, where the fire will spread or who the flames will devour.
Even though the Prime Minister and his top ministers are very careful not to say anything that could be termed communal, the hate has now reached a level where it makes no difference what they say. Even the rest of the parivar — the RSS, the VHP, the Bajrang Dal and all other liberal bogeymen and villains — lost control of the fires of hatred long ago. Nobody ordered the school teachers to target Muslims. Nobody asked the railway cop to kill Muslims.The kind of hatred we see in today’s India is uncontrollable. It requires no trigger and no spark. And it is harder to fight the hatred because once the deed is done or the crime committed, an army of social media hitmen arrives to cheer on the murderers and the abusers.
It is nobody’s case that there was no hatred in India before the current outbreak. Independent India was created in hatred and bloodshed. But ever since then, most leaders (across political parties) and the media worked hard to heal wounds and to create social harmony.
Over the last decade-and-a-half or so, that effort has been abandoned. The wounds have been reopened and the blood is pouring out again. As responsible as top leaders might be, they have done little to prevent the fanatics, the fundamentalists, the Godse-lovers, and the rest from spreading their gospel of hate.
Most distressing of all: the television media is more communal and hate-filled today than at any time in its history. As for social media — including the parts controlled by political parties — that is the biggest cesspit in our country.I don’t know where all of this will lead us but of one thing, I am certain: even if the heads of all the communal organisations in the country come together and ask for social harmony and peace, it will make very little difference.

It is too late. You cannot put out a wild fire with a few speeches or public statements.
Poisoning the future: Children
The most worrying thing about this epidemic of hate is the effect it will have on children. As the two reported instances of verbal (and physical) assaults on Muslim schoolchildren show us, the poison of communal hatred has spread to our schools.

I imagine that you would need a heart of stone not to feel sympathy for the poor Muslim boy who was repeatedly slapped by his schoolmates under the supervision of their teachers. But many Muslims say that their children are abused and discriminated against in schools all over India — even if the abuse does not take such horrific a form.

Obviously, this is shameful and upsetting and tragic. But our concerns should go beyond sympathy and emotion. The big question is: what is the impact of all of this going to be for the India of the future?

Are we raising a generation of students who believe that Muslims don’t really belong here? That they should go to Pakistan? That it is okay to discriminate against them? That, in some way, they are not really as Indian as Hindus?

We don’t have to guess about the impact this will have. We have seen it in Pakistan where generations have grown up without knowing any Hindus themselves and are taught to regard all Hindus as cunning people who want to destroy Pakistan.
It may be fine for Pakistanis to mindlessly regard Hindus as the enemy. There are relatively few Hindus in Pakistan for them to discriminate against. But it is this kind of belief that has turned Pakistan into a medieval nation that seeks strength in religious fundamentalism. It is hardly the sort of future we want for ourselves; hardly the India we dream about.

And we have seen it in Kashmir. One reason why so many young Kashmiris are hostile to India is because, unlike previous generations, they have very few Hindu friends. After the ethnic cleansing of 1989/90, when the Pandits left, the Hindu population of the valley has reduced dramatically. Because young Kashmiris hardly meet Hindus, they believe the caricatures of Hindus that are spread by militants.

When you start brainwashing children, you poison a society. The children who are the victims of the hatred grow up emotionally scarred, and the discrimination makes it harder for them to feel like equal members of society. And the people doing the oppressing find it hard to ever accept those they were once taught to abuse and to torment as equals.

So yes, we are right to be shocked and horrified by the way that a teacher organised an assault on a schoolboy. But the dangers of that sort of behaviour go beyond our immediate outrage. They extend to the heart of our society and they endanger the future of India.