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Violence for Votes

India, Politics of nativism, Mumbai, Cosmopolitanism, MNS

Every Indian has now a sinking feeling that the idea of India is under a grave danger. But anybody who is familiar with the contemporary history of ethnic or sectarian violence in India will bear out this is not happening for the first time. India has survived such threats and may survive this fresh one also spawned by an aggressive brand of nativist politics of a couple of political parties in Maharashtra. But such situations do weaken the composite fabric of India. With every new strain of political virulence, the foundation of the Constitution shakes and the faith in the idea of India wavers.

One can barely blame the newly formed MNS (Maharashtra Navnirman Sena) for the current turmoil. The party may very well say it is born into a world it has never made. Inflaming the passions of the masses and rallying the people around a real or fictitious emotive issue is considered to be a sure way to political success in India. And one can conclude that political ambition of an individual or a group or a party has been behind almost every incident of communical violence or ethnic strife India has witnessed since independence. Rioters seldom get punished and the leaders who incite them always get away with it.

The city of Mumbai sees human tragedies unfold every day, death of a gun-wielding Bihari youth on one day and lynching of a north Indian labourer in train on the other. It saddens one to see governments faff about and muddle along. Every section has a strong and roaring voice in India, except the liberal and progressive one. Intellectuals are mute. Only politicians are talking. The Hindi news channels are going into an overdrive. And that may make the crisis get out of hand. It is the liberals who must talk. It is the modern, progressive and educated Indian who must talk.

India has not nipped the culture of divisive politics in the bud. And that has made all the difference. Gandhi abhorred violence and strove hard not to let violence into social and political life of India. India has not been fully successful in carrying this precious legacy forward.

I have always held an opinion that while the causes Indian politicians espouse may have some logic, the self-styled way in which the battle is taken to the streets and settlement of such issues carried out by them and their foot-soldiers in blatant disregard to processes of law, is grossly illogical and brutally inhuman.

Mumbai stands for cosmopolitanism and we cannot expect this modern metropolis to turn the clock back.

Shockingly, there is not a single powerful voice that can rebuke the insanity unleashed by divisive political forces and prevent this great city from being pushed out of the national mainstream. The city may have got a few more skyscrapers, flyovers and a ‘Metro’ dream, but these giant structures of steel and concrete do little to enliven the flagging cosmopolitan spirit of Mumbai. The great metropolitan cities of the world like London and New York pride themselves on their cosmopolitan character.

Cosmopolitanism is as ancient as Greek and Roman civilizations. We have already embraced economic cosmopolitanism which is better known as globalization and we know it cannot be reversed now. And Indian democracy is a shining example of the most modern form of political cosmopolitanism.

Why hate cosmopolitanism, then? It’s way of life. It is here to stay, since it makes a society truly liberal and progressive.
Published: 2008-11-01
Author: Dipan Anjaria

About the author or the publisher
A chemical engineer by training and insurance executive by profession, I have a flair for creative and analytical writing. My love for the written word helps me enthuse myself in life and communicate my ideas and opinions to the larger world creatively and efficaciously. I live in Mumbai and am employed with a non-life insurance company where I assess and price various risks as an underwriter. I am 30 and have been writing since the age of 16. Besides writing, I like to read and travel also.

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