The recent Tehelka sting operation that caught Narendra Modi’s conspiracy on tape is as appalling as it could get. The vivid descriptions of how the massacres were committed, without any remorse but instead pride make you wonder what these men are made of.
I had a talk with one of my friends about it. He was angry at the guts of those men, their inhumane killings, and the probability that the BJP would be voted to power again in Gujarat.
And then he committed the fallacy every one of us does. Castigate Islam as a religion when a suicide bomber attacks. Castigate Hinduism for what those men did. As appalled as I was by those heinous acts, I have lived my 24 years knowing Hinduism to be nothing but good. I have known about the atrocities committed by the Hindus during the riots in Mumbai, in Gujarat, the riots at the time of independence. I hated those who did it as much as I respected my religion. And when he attacked that faith my first reaction was to defend it. I asked him to not extrapolate about either Hinduism or Hindus. Because by doing so I felt like perpetrator of the crime.
He was appalled that at such a time when he was expressing his anger at the genocidal nature of those crimes, all I could think of was defend my religion. I did not jump the wagon and go Hindu bashing with him. I did not express with as much passion the anger I felt at those men. So why did I not? You might think I am being inhumane too. But do you not jump to defend if a part of your identity is attacked. The impact of the tapes, the anger my friend felt and expressed, the shame I felt that the crimes were being committed in the name of the religion I identify with, the sudden flash of similar atrocities during riots, they all attacked my sense of identity that I derived from being a Hindu. They were trying to take away an identity I did not want to give up. Most of my ideals, beliefs, actions, and ethics come from this identity. I was born and brought up in a family that believed in it with all its heart. That voted for the Janata Party and the BJP. Because of the severity of the crimes of those men, when he attacked Hinduism I wanted to protect it even more. In that one moment he had not only attacked my identity as a Hindu, but also my upbringing, my parents. It was like pointing fingers at all of us. At all those people I consider to be some of the most gentle and humane.
Probably I am taking it too far. Trying to rationalize my appalling reaction to his attack on Hinduism. But that is where the reaction came from. I would have reacted the same way if I were a Muslim and he had attacked Islam. It is not the religion that is in the wrong, it is the men who did the act. This is probably one of the easiest escapes to it all. But it is the truth. That is why it is easy for fundamentalists to gather support. They play upon the fear of possible loss of identity that people feel when their religion is attacked. It is a fact of life that most people identify themselves with some religion and put a lot of faith in it. It is no wonder that when you ask someone who they are they answer as being a Muslim, a Hindu, a Christian. They react the sharpest when that identity is attacked. It is no wonder that during riots, in spite of ample evidence of what their fellow men are doing, the Hindus back the Hindus and the Muslims back the Muslims.
If you think about any conflict situations you have been in, you will find that every time you react with anger, or get defensive it is because the other person is threatening one of your identities. Your identity as a good manager, a good wife, a righteous person… anything that you hold dear. Every time you succeed in dealing with a difficult person it is because you have someway taken away the threat to his identity. That is why almost all arguments will have someone saying things like “why are you taking it so personally?”
The Tahelka has done a good job at unmasking Narendra Modi and the BJP. They will suffer if there are midterm elections. But as my friend pointed out Modi might win again in Gujarat, due to the support for his economic policies. The perpetrators will go scot-free, even more confident that they can get as brutal as possible, as no one can touch them. Questions will be raised about India’s democracy. Where the country is heading politically and morally. How it will affect our international image. Weather we will be able to keep the Islamic fundamentalists from wanting revenge. And thanks to our short term memory, everything will be forgotten until someone again threatens our sense of identity.