Is it the epilogue or the prologue.

on Monday, November 3, 2008

LIKE MANY OF THE recent ones that have gone before it, 2008 has been a year of fearfully ugly conversations. Sixty years on, as the pieties of a hardwon freedom have faded from view, the idea of India has come to be fought over in increasingly violent terms. Majority versus minority. Hindutva versus Soft Hindutva. Right versus Left. Left versus Far Left. Caste versus Scheduled Caste. Shining India versus Simmering India. Liberals versus Neo-liberals. State versus State. The Centre versus the Rest. And Jihad against it all. Right action has long been forfeited in India. Now, in an increasingly fractured polity, as power becomes ever more difficult to come by, most public figures have dropped even the fig-leaf of temperate speech. Shoot them, burn them, pay them back in the same coin, our leaders urge us. And maddened by their calling, maddened by the absence of the rational voice, like insane flocks behind insane shepherds, we rush to bloody our meadows.
What is this sense of rage and hate and injury driving us all? Are there embryonic seeds of genuine grouse beneath all the aggravated rhetoric? Are there real issues to be picked out of the violence swirling around us and examined in calmer, more neutral light? Fixed positions and an unbending sense of righteousness make one dangerously opaque. What makes extreme
views most dangerous is that they are only the amplified face of a vast middle ground that thinks it feels the same injuries. It is a suicidal vanity, then, to label others and stop listening. Provocations, a series of interviews with stakeholders in the ideas of India, speaks to people across trench-lines. Airing our prejudice, triggering conversation. And, with luck, introspection.