In the ensuing ‘Modi years’, let us not shut out dissenting voices.
Human experience anchors itself in man’s innate gift of expression. Within us lies that unseen and untouched ‘voice’ that is the seat and the vehicle of this gift. The voice gives life to emotions of every kind that touch our beings in the form of words, tunes, rhythms and sometimes, just sound. It is the voice that takes thought into action, articulates our unanswered questions and gives collective strength to communities. Without that ‘voice’ we will be dumb followers of a deaf state.
Exactly as may be expected in a democracy as lively as ours, political voices of many pitches and hues have risen, but, essentially, in two dimensions — critiques of Mr. Modi and in fans’ acclaim of Mr. Modi. I am not going to discuss the two sides of the argument as that has been done in so many ways to deconstruct or eulogise our Prime Minister. Yes, I have said ‘our’ Prime Minister, which means that I, like everyone else, respect the constitutional position he holds. But that does not deny me the right to voice my scepticism regarding what the future may hold.
Every individual within a social fabric is in constant negotiation between the larger societal canvas and his own very personal space. He hopes to find a balance between his needs and all that the world around requires. This translates into what he looks for in a leader or government. These thoughts don’t remain thoughts; they very quickly, in a flash, become opinions. And this is where we hit a roadblock. We read events and say what we want to in a way that will support that pre-conditioned opinion and stay fixed there. Seldom do we change our positions, even partially, let alone completely.
Post the elections, Modi ‘fans’ seem to be shouting down any voice of dissent. Voices are getting louder, uglier and aggressive, pointing to an unpleasant future. This is not to deny that Modi-sceptics also stooped to very tasteless comments about him during the election campaign. But deeply polarised as it was, the election was not a civil war; it was our way of signposting the future.
In the after-glow of the victory, the attitude of many ‘fans’, however, points to the burgeoning sense of domination. This negative triumphalism is deeply insensitive, apart from being totally un-democratic. It seems to want to demolish all voices of opposition. Nobody has the right to silence or marginalise any voice. The so-called Gandhians, Nehruvians, Ambedkarites, Modi supporters, leftists and those who don’t belong to any of these categories encapsulate the political past, present and future of our country equally. The pre-Modi past was not as ugly as the demonising ‘fans’ would like to portray it. Nor will the future under Prime Minister Modi necessarily be a perfect world.
In a healthy democracy we need ‘Naysayers’. They are essential, not just for political balance but for what I described at the beginning of this column as the seat-vessel of human expression. Let the fans disagree with the ‘Naysayers’, but threats will only weaken the society that ‘fans’ believe Mr. Modi will transform. Every voice is crucial to providing multiple narratives to the currents in societies. Every voice picks up a few threads and ties them together. The weave that emerges from this is the collective consciousness of our society.
Elections are not about the victor and the vanquished; they are about the health of the community. Those who believe that the country will get a fresh lease of life under the present dispensation have every right to feel elated and thrilled. But that does not make those who are uneasy or disappointed, irrelevant. No one wins or loses, everyone hopes for the best within their own understanding of life.
Let no one be bulldozed into keeping silent. Let us all listen and allow everyone to be heard. Let us disagree but with the willingness to redraw our positions. I for one will not remain silent and will say what I say with the humility to acknowledge that I can be wrong.
I am one of the Naysayers. I am not comfortable with the chasm between the Muslim Indian and the Indian who is being triumphalist about Mr. Modi. And I find his idea of development deeply unsettling. But let me recognise that I will be happy to be proven wrong; as this is not about me. It is about this country, which we all hold so precious.