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Demystifying symbols

By Ananya S Guha.

In India we have now a new group of monitoring agencies. They are known popularly or not so popularly ( sic!) as ” vigilantes”. Their duty is to monitor carcasses notably that of the cow and inflict punishment on those who are skinning them for whatever reason, commercial or otherwise. The vigilantes have been notoriously known for in turn lynching such people and making them eat the dung and drink the urine, of the cow of course. This happened in Gujarat. Such atavism in the heart of the 21st century when we are talking of using technology to usher in revolution, when we are talking of make things in our country to export, is the height of animal behaviour. Even the cow I am sure would be ashamed.

And why is this happening? This is happening because for some reason or the other we are associating the cow with a myth, a pristine belief very much dissociated with fundamental economy, that people need to use it to sell, to eke out living; that the hide of it is an animal product; that its milk is used to produce butter which we all consume. Consumerism is understood only in clever terms of market and profit. That the poor man be it the Dalit or whosoever needs to subsist is a point not only glossed over, but these people are relegated to the backwaters of an intangible mass unwanted and uncared for. In fact castigated for existing!

So let us perpetuate the myth of holiness of an abstract sanctification and bludgeon people who consume the animal and use it for petty consumerist reasons. So teach them a lesson and we as a nation must expiate for their sins.  Ever since the tragic killing of Mohammed Akhlaq there has been an increased perpetuation of this myth, to the extent that consumerist habits and economics have been put in a time warp of ancient religion and art of what is sacrosanct. People have been pushed into traditional beliefs of purification supposedly antithetical to animal slaughter. Do most people really believe in this image of cow holiness? And when there is man slaughter as a result of violating this belief, who remains inviolate, the people of India who are mostly Hindus?

This is  21st century India. The whipping up of an ancient past for purely ‘ historical’ reasons and polluting  the mind with combos of myth, religion and fanaticism is not only rightist tendencies but fascist as well. There is a split personality in the nation. Outwardly it projects a myopic internationalism, but inside it protects those who are egregious fundamentalists.  Not surprisingly there was violence in Gujarat and the Dalits resisted such perversity. Violence can only beget violence. Haven’t we learnt this?

Vigilante groups are best left to self examination and introspection, instead of being unwanted conscience keepers. Too many in a country with little will not only derange the social fabric, but will be blatantly retrogressive, paradoxically in the demand for progress and marching ahead with the times.

To confound economics with politics is only limited to short sighted gains. To induce fanaticism in people can also be short lived in a country which has tasted all the nuances of pluralism, multi cultural ethos in terms of ethnicity and secularism. The idiosyncratic corrupt too knows in heart of hearts that he must profess secularism to remain corrupt. Ironically it  is that pervasive corruption which unites the country even in the midst of unabated jingoism.

The cow then will continue to haunt us as an inchoate symbol,  a myth  which we will not be able to unravel. Perpetuating this myth of expediency will only lead to more turmoil, conflict and internecine strife. Declassification of  society in terms  of antediluvian laws will only spell anarchy. Let’s decode these ominous signs of the times. Balancing these acts of justification with fables of a certain community in UP will only create divide between people on the basis of religion and antagonism. Is that what we want? The Central Government intervened tirelessly to rescue an Indian lady from Afghanistan. The lady is a Christian, that is some proof of the Centre’s commitment to the notion of secularism, but ultras and mayhem creators should not be allowed to rule the roost.

For some time now we have been working on symbols: the cow, the sun, annihilation of history covered as ‘ dark periods’ in the country’s history; these are beheading the times with false sense of history, myths and time warp. It is time we get rid of them and address realities: cold and insidious ‘ war ‘ with Pakistan, which remains as intractable as ever, the ineluctable separatist  thinking in J &  K, the uneasy ‘ quiet ‘ in North East, the plight of slums and landless labourers, the labour work force, the burgeoning poverty, floods in different states and plight of the tribal India. It is time we demystify  these arcane and meaningless symbols of bigotry.

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