Opinion | The Meaning of Independence for an Overseas Citizen of India

In recent years the party’s policies and rhetoric have helped inspire a torrent of violence: vigilantism by “cow protection” squads; bulldozing of Muslim homes; imprisonment of journalists and activists; the everyday abuse of people on the basis of caste, religion and gender. It’s impossible to summarize, but we can say some names. Father Stan Swamy, an 84-year-old Jesuit priest who spent his life working with Adivasis (“tribals”), was denied medical bail until he died in jail. Tabrez Ansari, a young Muslim in Jharkhand, was forced to chant Hindu religious slogans as he was beaten to death. Lakhbir Singh, a Dalit Sikh, was killed — with his hand chopped off first — by caste Sikhs for ostensibly touching and desecrating their sacred text.

During lockdown, I kept up my Hindi studies by making my way through “Shatranj ke Khiladi” (“The Chess-Players”), a short story by the early 20th-century Hindustani author Premchand. It’s about a pair of aristocrats in 1856 Lucknow who immerse themselves in games of chess to the exclusion of everything around them — including the invasion of their state by the British. I thought about all the well-justified criticisms leveled at out-of-touch elites today, whether British Tories or American neoliberals or the Nehru-Gandhi Congress Party. But in India the fresh conquerors at the gates are the extremists determined to build a “Hindu Rashtra” (a Hindu nation).

I can understand Hindi well enough now to follow, sort of, the ruling demagogue in his own words, delivered with immense rhetorical panache, portentous, declamatory and growling by turns. On Independence Day, wearing a turban in the colors of the Indian flag with a long bannerlike tail, he stood on the balcony of the Red Fort in Delhi and introduced a new slogan, “panchpran,” or “five pledges.” “Release the colonial mind-set,” he urged. “Take pride in our roots.” These are codes as transparent as “all lives matter” and “make America great again.” That same day, 11 men serving life sentences for rape and murder in the 2002 Gujarat pogroms were released from prison and greeted with sweets and gestures of devotion.

As an American and an O.C.I., I’ve never felt greater despair about the prospects for democracy, equality and free expression in the countries that I love most. Yet by exploring India through Hindi, I realize I have, paradoxically, gained an even deeper appreciation for the country’s polyphony and diversity. The language itself is a testament to that: based on Sanskrit, mutually intelligible with Urdu, enriched with Arabic, Persian and English words. The supremacists who trumpet their angry, exclusionary versions of “we” may be loud and in the ascendant. But India (like the United States) contains legions of dissenters, who speak in hundreds of voices. Let all who are able raise them in retort.

Soruce : https://www.nytimes.com/2022/08/20/opinion/india-independence.html

Leave a comment

SMM Panel PDF Kitap indir