India is a country that has come to take pride in taking offence. Every community has somehow decided that they will boycott something or the other. Where is our sense of humour? Have we decided to forego our traditions and culture of being open to different thoughts and opinions for a few statements made by people who don`t even matter?
It first began with the arrest of two girls from Maharashtra, when they posted something on Mumbai shutdown following Bal Thackeray`s death. What followed was indignation, vandalism, while some were putting up posts in support of the girls and others were `asking for respect` through violence. It was an unnecessary debacle because some people decided to use the law to fan their egos. There are others who sit on dharnas at the slightest incitation, halting work and city traffic because they didn`t have their way.
And it is not just political parties. The hairdresser community gets offended if `Billu Barber` is released. The movie had nothing that hurt the sentiments of barbers or the hair styling community in any way. The title `Ram-Leela` is somehow maligning religious sentiments of a particular community because it has the term `Ram` in it. Recently, Wendy Doniger`s `The Hindu`, was banned because of its apparent criminal content. People have even gotten miffed by the title `Gulaab Gang`; because it signified that pink was feminine! Added to that there are people who get offended by women who protest violence and rape, with the excuse that, after all, the victims were `asking for it`.
However, the same people don`t feel disrespected at the abysmal state of our education, or rising crimes, caste systems, or racism. The same communities can turn a blind eye to the growing injustice that our system has meted out even to their own. Evidently the `dramatic` injury and trauma appears only when there is money to be minted or press coverage to be garnered.
It seems that the terms like `derogatory`, `defaming`, `hurts religious sentiments` are being used freely for anything that one doesn`t agree with.
The sad bit is that India`s history is dotted with examples of being a subcontinent of acceptance and tolerance. From the establishment of the Indus Valley Civilisation, the subcontinent has exchanged ideas and imbibed different opinions into its culture. The extent of the `glory days` or the period when the land was compared to a `sone ki chidiya` was such, that Europe strove to find out this peninsula and take it over. We thrived in welcoming new religions and new thoughts. It wasn`t just the sub-sects of the existing religions in India, we as people learnt to co-exist with invading Aryans, Afghans and Europeans; as well as the growing popularity of Buddhism, Jainism and Sikhism. One of the reasons why our scientific progressions were so advanced in that era was that independent philosophy was encouraged.
It`s sad that in a democracy like India, a good effort is often maligned. Blame gaming has been an age old practice for the politicians of all statures, but religious invocation has now become a national pastime. We as a nation have failed to keep the secular idea that our constitution promises us. Whether it is because of propaganda or not, a majority of our country has started mistrusting every other community. And why not? The divide-and-rule policy is a well-learnt lesson in politics from the time of the British Raj. Then it was just religious, now it has matured into a full-fledged monster, pitting class against class, sect against sect, region against region, man against man.
We have proved that we are stupid enough to fall for the same trap that our ancestors did two centuries ago. Ironically, there are some people who have become smart enough to use the loopholes in law for their profit, making an impression of a pertinent regressive behaviour that the West has blamed us for so long.
This might be a good time to take offence to `taking offence`, and maybe have a law that punishes unjustified publicity mongering.