06 Freedom or Farce? - Eddy D’sa

posted Aug 10, 2017, 9:35 AM by Neil D'Souza   [ updated Aug 10, 2017, 9:36 AM ]
As India approaches its 70th year of independence, have we done enough to realise the promises made in the Constitution? As we celebrate India’s independence, the role that beasts have played in Indian history since 1857 is yet to be clearly understood. Some 160 years on, we may have resolved most of our differences with our former colonial masters. But differences over the cow and the pig, harboured amongst ourselves, remain mysteriously resistant to resolution. The politics associated with these mute animals is exemplified in the killing of Muhammad Akhlaq in Dadri last September, followed by similar incidents in north and central India. The recent Una agitation saw beleaguered and beaten Dalits refusing to clear the carcasses of cows, to protest the violence they suffer at the hands of gaurakshaks. These incidents are a translation of the difficulties we face in figuring out the limits of our freedom. India’s increasing Hindu supremacist rhetoric and rising intolerance betrays a dangerous kinship.

This hardening of attitude has increasingly been visible in the display of violence in Kashmir, in Darjeeling and in the rampant rise of ‘cow protectors’ across India. Prime Minister Narendra Modi recently made some noises against cow vigilantism, but the silence of the state so far has legitimised a form of hooliganism which swears by Hindutva ideals. It’s only now that the Hindutva ruling classes are realising that Hindu supremacist tendencies will end up generating a polarisation– Muslims, Dalits, Adivasis, and other underprivileged classes on the one hand, and upper caste Hindus on the other. And this could be detrimental to their own (electoral) well-being. The story of the Dalits being stripped and beaten was prominently carried by the New York Times, which also wrote a stinging editorial on the subject, may have had some influence in breaking Modi’s silence.