Thursday, December 4, 2008

Sounds of Silence

One of the things that stand out a bit starkly is the relative silence of the minority groups in condemning the recent anarchy in Mumbai. This is not to say that Muslim and Christian or other minority groups have stayed silent necessarily, but if they did speak up and condemn all that happened, the voices were perhaps not that loud enough.

By not speaking out at moments of national mourning and grief – if mourning is the word, they run the risk of marginalisation and being labeled as sectarian – which of course some but not all are. While being concerned about the fate and welfare of your own people is important, it is unhealthy if that happens or appears to happen at the expense of a larger concern and identification with one’s fellow human beings and citizens.

After all, terror is no respecter of faith or ethnicity or any of the recognised markers of identity – at last count 44 Muslims were killed and 35 injured in last week’s Mumbai blasts. Of course this piece isn’t about Muslims alone; it is merely a handy example from a context where all leads uncovered so far are leading to people who claim to be acting inspired by that particular faith and that of course is unfortunate.

Should minorities be in particular being asked to proclaim their solidarity by being loud and vocal? Is that a healthy thing to ask for or expect? Probably not. But perhaps eminently desirable; partly because the voices that were decrying the events at Kandmahal and Batla House were loud and vociferous and suddenly when those voices become quiet in the face of an equally colossal tragedy, if not more, the silence looks deafening.

But this is not about Mumbai and how to react to that either. It is merely to amplify the human identity that we fundamentally share and pay lip service to and ever so often love to forget

t is merely to amplify the human identity that we fundamentally share and pay lip service to and ever so often love to forget.

And so Hindus who speak up only when Hindu terrorist groupings are unearthed and seek to justify them as cultural terrorists count. So do Christian leaders who lament only when one of their flocks is in trouble in Orissa or else where. As do militants from the North East who find a common religious faith not good enough and called Bandhs at the slightest perceived slights to their ethnic (and only their) ethnic pride. Silence is also cruel when North Indians react only when one of their own is lynched or killed. And of course it is cruel when Maharasthrians only worry about their own home grown Marathi manoos.

Is it wrong to care about your own and air your own slights? No, of course not. Especially when it is a matter of minorities, in insensitive times, if you don’t care about your own, may be no one will. But there is a problem if we all suddenly start retreating into our fortresses and peep out of the ramparts looking out through our spy glasses for just our own kind. For then, we have to conclude that we are not just short sighted but truly blind!

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