My song for the night was Yeh Kahan aa Gaye hum: a classic from Silsila. It typifies my mood: I truly feel a growing sense of impotent rage. Intolerance has always existed in this country, only never before has extremism been legitimised so brazenly by powerful sections of society.
A man is lynched in Dadri and very few truly empathise with the grief of a poor family. Instead, rabble rousers continue to pursue their agenda to decide on what people should eat: the obvious aim is to stir a Hindu Muslim divide. Ink is thrown at a public figure, a music concert of one the greatest ghazal singers is stalled: the debate isn’t about free artistic expression but becomes about who is ‘patriotic’ and who is not. Sahitya Akademi award winners return their awards and their right to dissent is not accepted; instead, they are abused and targeted as ‘pseudo-intellectuals’. The new buzzword is ‘selective outrage’: if you didn’t outrage about a crime against a Hindu you have no moral right to outrage when a Muslim is killed.
Killings it seems have become a zero sum game: your riot versus mine. We don’t spare anyone who might wish to break from the official narrative that seeks to promote majoritarianism in the garb of silencing all those who might insist on a greater reach out to the more vulnerable minority groups. When Naseeruddin Shah, arguably the finest stage actor of our generation, says he is being made conscious of his Muslim identity for the first time, being dubbed ‘anti national’ for attending a seminar, you wonder what kind of a civil society are we bequeathing to the next generation. Even our respected prime minister from whom we seek leadership and guidance will tweet to wish Navjot Sidhu a quick recovery from hospital but will not say a word on Akhlaq’s family’s loss. This is an India which is crying out for a Mahatma who puts compassion and tolerance above all else.
We are left instead with men with self proclaimed broad chests but very small hearts. As I said: yeh Kahan aa Gaye hum.