Indian culture can be summed up by things that are disallowed, rather than what it’s really about. It can simply be defined by a long list of bans, both societal and legal.
However, that’s not the aim of this topic. It’s about the culture surrounding these bans, and how those who’ll be affected mostly by this ban culture are themselves complicit in furthering it.
The Silence of Indian Muslims
Muslims in India stayed silent when Islamic leaders and Muslim organizations called for bans on things they deemed offensive.
Salman Rushdie’s “The Satanic Verses” was banned in India, and it still is to this day. He was also not allowed to attend the Jaipur Literature Festival in 2012; heck, they even canceled an online conference with him.
Taslima Nasrin, another author who has suffered immensely at the hands of Islamic fundamentalists and apathetic Muslims, was forced to stay in hiding after a mob of Muslim men attacked her. She had to eventually flee from India to Sweden. Though she returned to India, the West Bengal govt. refused to permit her entry into the state.
Why? Muslims find their literary works, ideas, and opinions offensive. Even if most Muslims don’t, their silence is a form of passive support to the religious fundamentalists. Thus, the voice of all Muslims is hijacked by a select few, and everyone has to bear the brunt of this hostile takeover.
A majority of the Indian Muslims haven’t even read any of these works even partly. They just go by herd mentality, shepherded by religious leaders and their ilk. On another note, that also explains their religiosity.
The Tamil film Vishwaroopam was banned because it was assumed that it portrayed the Muslim community in a bad light. Not many from the Muslim community spoke a word against the ban. Some were even happy. Most were, as usual, apathetic.
Such acts are termed “minority appeasement,” though I don’t really know how they really help the minorities. There’s no relevant economic, social, or even legal advantage to Indian Muslims from these bans. It only panders to the situation religious and political leaders want to set up, so that they can attract and maintain power easily.
In fact, by terming such instances as minority appeasement, the majority community gains one more reason to continue with their discrimination. After all, the persecution complex of the majority is a strong reason for enforcing bigotry.
The Ban Circus Continues
Bans to protect religious sentiments have made a full circle now. Actually, they’ve gone out of the spiral and are wreaking havoc.
With the present BJP-led government making beef ban a major polarizing issue, the main sufferers are minorities such as Dalits and Muslims. Whether someone eats beef or not is really a non-issue. It’s just a trumped-up reason to oppress minorities.
You won’t see people from the privileged majority community being dragged out of their homes and beaten to death for eating beef. It’ll be minorities who’ll be targeted.
The silence of Muslims and other liberals in the past is now being used as a justification to continue with the oppression, and to even expand it exponentially.
Surely, if a few books and movies can be banned to protect the sentiments of the minorities, the majority can do the same.
Only this time, the bans will affect everyone and not just a select few. While the earlier bans affected your freedom of speech, the new ones affect how you go by your daily life; how you interact with your fellow citizens, including your neighbors, acquaintances, and friends. A toxic climate of hate and distrust is being set up.
And those toeing the line will be dealt with strictly, with or without the legal system. The government, with the backing of the oppressors (some of who are also a part of the government), will be there to support the discrimination, either directly or indirectly.
What’s worse is that just like how most of the Muslims stayed silent during the previous bans, so will most of the Hindus now. The inconsiderate moderates are a bane to the society.
The selective outrage of the secular brigade is also a part of the problem. This gives the communal brigade a free pass, or so they think. Sadly, no matter how hard we try now, it’s going to be difficult to pull ourselves out of this mess.
The great Indian ban culture will continue as long as all the citizens wake up and smell the hypocrisy of such bans, and the unjustified reasons behind them all.
I just fear it’s too late now; hopefully not. If not tackled swiftly, it’ll take a long time to undo all the damage caused by such hateful religious-nationalist ideologies.