Dear Shiv Sena,
There has been a statement from a prominent member of your party some days ago, advocating the withdrawal of voting rights to Muslims. Unsurprising, considering the recent spike in inflammatory rhetoric from all and sundry politicians and underlings across India, but appalling all the same.
Your explanation for that unfortunate remark was that owing to the vote bank status of the Muslim community, they are deliberately being held back from making progress, by political outfits which gain from their backwardness. A curious observation to say the least. Professional suicide would be the apt term for such a policy, even if one were to overlook the grotesque position of it vis-à-vis ethics and morality.
The way I see it, there are two ways to respond to that statement. Two contrasting interpretations .Unfortunately both are equally disconcerting.
The Idiocy interpretation
We'll assume, for the sake of argument and in a spirit of adventure, that your 'vote bank' statement was a bona fide one keeping the best for Indian Muslims in mind and not (this is weird, you see) a vote bank statement to appease whoever would be appeased by a statement of its nature.
Let's be honest—our democracy thrives on vote banks, and every coherent community is, in potential, one. Hindus , Christians, fishermen, cabbies, Marathas, Malayalis, fanatics, homophobes, entrepreneurs, manual scavengers—there's no end to the list. So, in order to rid ourselves of this 'counterproductive democratic bane' as per your questionable logic, we should disenfranchise every one of them. In this way, we can strengthen the system and empower one and all and overtake China in growth. It will work like magic. Except for the part that it'll cease to be a democracy and become something else, which I don't know the name for.
Don't you see how ridiculous this sounds? The hypocrisy is too naked it is embarrassing. Enough with the sarcasm.
The sinisterness interpretation
Or we can just be sane, not so politically correct, logical human beings and take your statement for what it is much more likely to be. You want to rob a portion of Indians, close to 15% of them, off their constitutionally granted right to vote. A granted right, not a fundamental one, which means it can actually be messed with.
Your statement is more dangerous than many others of its kind which, as I have already mentioned, have been callously launched into public sphere in recent times in alarming frequency.
Because Vote is power. Vote is voice. Vote is a great equalizer, (although not as compelling as death). It is the tool given to the common man to chip in and shape the country's future, the whip which holds sway over those who rule over them. Its the only grip the people have on this huge, rumbling, crawling machine.
That power is something a lot of people have fought for in various ages in different nations. Indians in British India. Women in England. Black's in America. They fought for it like their lives depended on it because, forgive the pun, it really did. Taking that away won't just mute them, it'll choke them and paralyse them. They'll be excluded from the system, they will whither away for lack of sustenance. Now is that what you really want? To lay siege to 1/8th of Indians? Why? What do you wish to achieve?
To sooth myself I'm taking a huge leap of faith and hoping that, your intention was not total alienation of a community but reaping short term political gains by catering to some bigoted sensibilities. In which case I am urging you, to be more watchful with what you speak in future keeping our nations long term future in mind.
For all the color and kitsch India gets from our much celebrated Unity in diversity, pluralism has its jagged ends, too. It can hurt us at uncomfortable places if we are not careful while playing with it. And in this age, our rainbow fabric is being stretched, its strength being tested, like never before.
We have become a paranoid people. We fear too much , we are scared of too many phantoms. We have a cluster of minorities, intimidated by xenophobia, most times unwarranted, but justified every once in a while.
We have a majority which feels endangered by the minorities despite their huge numerical advantage, annoyed by their occasional waywardness and disruption. The sailing is rough, weather rife with mutual distrust and intolerance.
Indian Economy is booming and erudition is enviable but wisdom, disappointingly, seems to be on the decline. Science is scaling great heights, but Gods are growing in power day by day. For His kingdom and His temples people are ready like never before to kill or die or both.
It is, in such a context, the first pillar of our great democracy. To appeal less to emotions and more to senses. To be conscientious rather than pragmatic. When our republic was born, many predicted it to crumble and break up within a decade because it was too disparate internally to survive as a single unit. So far, we have proved them wrong, because we have had giants at the helm, leaders of immaculate vision and iron will.
Let's continue to do that.
Ashis John, Mumbai