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Democratic conspiracy

M.A.M. KHAN

While assessing any write-up on the topic of the current communal situation in India, readers will first gauge the likely ideological background of the writer before rating its credibility. A faceless writer gets a stereotyped identity.

In this connection, the articles recently published in The Hindu by Justice Markandey Katju should become a new benchmark to proceed from, particularly for right thinking people and intellectuals. I wish to rise above any pre-conceived mindset and write as a professional, being the senior most practising Muslim psychiatrist in the country. I am also a practising Muslim. Being aware of my possible bias or prejudice, I genuinely fear for the peace and safety of the country. When the threat of a civil war was mentioned recently by a political leader, I realised how perilously close we are towards chaos. Civil disorder, a prerequisite of chaos, is already there, and no one can deny this.

Emerging threats

Are we close to the beginning of ethnic cleansing? It may sound too strong a sentiment today, but so did it look even in Bosnia, some years ago. But the socially engineered rift between the communities is already evident. We are proud of being a multi-ethnic society and the majority would still like to keep it that way.

Journalist Siddarth Bhatia wrote in 2002 that “the possibility that a one billion strong, secular, diverse nation, that prided itself on its multiculturalism long before the phrase became fashionable, could fall under the control of religious bigots should make people around the world really scared. If the Hindu right is successful, that is exactly what will happen. To the U.S. establishment, that will not matter as long as economic policies favour American companies. But it could spell the end of secular, liberal India.” The resurgence of nationalism, after the fall of communism, resulted in genocide in Bosnia and this is very well documented by the well known psychiatrist Stevan M. Weine of the University of Illinois, who cautions that ethnic cleansing in Bosnia is a wake-up call from the nightmares history is now bringing home to us.

“Cultural bundle”

The sociologist Edward Tiryakian, dealing with the tension between human diversity and national unity, described its interaction with religion, ethnicity and race as a potent “cultural bundle”.

Benedict Anderson characterised the nation as an imagined political community. It is said that communities are bound together not only by demographic factors, such as race, religion, ethnicity and economics, but by something that lies in the culture people share, including the stories they tell one another about who they are as a nation.

If we remind people of these stories in today’s context, there is no hope for the peaceful co-existence of different communities. One community’s practice is another’s anathema. The secular fabric of India is tearing apart, when intellectuals use the jargon of pseudo-secularism.

Fortunately, the strident hatred promoting community is only a fringe element, but the recruitment of intellectuals, particularly medical professionals including psychiatrists, is alarming. There is hope in despair that there cannot be any mass scale ethnic cleansing in India as in Bosnia, though there are some sporadic outbursts.