June 24, 2020
Hate has been a human trait forever. Hate is unique – it destroys the hater much more than the object of hate.
Anger is a manifestation of hate, Bapu (Mahatma Gandhi) said that anger is an acid that corrodes the vessel in which it is contained more than the object on which it is poured. Hate yields similar results. Bapu believed and practised truth, compassion love and non-violence. For him, non-violence was equivalent to no hate. He believed that the practice of non-violence and subsequently no hate was a human trait and he utilised it to win freedom for India.
But, as India inched closer towards freedom towards the end of his life, events unfolded that convinced him that what he had believed to be the natural trait of his people was untrue. He realised that the faith reposed in non-violence by his people was a sham, that their true characteristic was hate and violence. True to his practice, Bapu held himself responsible for this character flaw.
In the autumn of his life, this was his greatest tragedy and the defeat of his ideology, betrayed by the very people he considered his own.
After the Muslim League call for ‘Direct Action’ to get its demand for Pakistan granted, India witnessed continuing cycles of violence. First, Calcutta erupted in an orgy of violence where Muslims massacred Hindus, then Hindus retaliated and massacred Muslims. No one was bothered that it was taking a toll on humanity.
Then two districts in East Bengal (now Bangladesh), Tipperah and Noakhali, erupted. Muslims murdered Hindus and in retaliation Muslims were murdered in Bihar. All this while Punjab and Sindh were witnessing growing communal strife. Bapu was rushing from place to place attempting to put out the fires.
Although he succeeded, each incident of hate was breaking his heart, shattering his dream. He is blamed for Partition and it is cited to justify his murder, but the truth is his was the only voice pleading to put off Partition amidst a cacophony of hate and lust for power.
It didn’t end with Partition
Independence brought about another round of hate-fuelled violence. Punjab and Sindh burned, the whole of North India was enveloped in an inferno of hate. Calcutta and Delhi went mad. It took a fast by Bapu to restore sanity, but the embers were smouldering, threatening to burst into an all-consuming blaze. At the slightest whisper of a breeze, many blew on the embers to coax them to burn fiercely.
Bapu’s blood had to be spilled to shock the nation out of its blood lust. It was only the shock of Bapu’s murder that brought Indians back to sanity and for the next 60 years hate remained significantly oppressed, but never absent. At the first hint of a conducive atmosphere, it burst forth.
Post-independence India has had many communal riots but, although political, they were never officially patronised, at least not blatantly. Till the politically motivated and patronised massacre of Sikhs in the wake of Indira Gandhi’s murder.
Even if the massacre is to be considered a spontaneous reaction to Indira Gandhi’s murder, and it definitely wasn’t, it was a well-planned and executed anti-Sikh operation. It succeeded and was so widespread in North India because of the hate of the majority community instilled by the brutal militancy and excesses committed by Khalistani terrorists. When innocents Sikhs were massacred, most of the majority community stood by and allowed it. The 1984 pogrom was a result of hate and a misplaced sense of anger.
The politics of hate
Hate became a political strategy with the loud and strident campaigns of the insinuation of Muslim ‘appeasement’. The Rath Yatras of 1990 and 1992 were the first instances of hate becoming a political strategy in the quest for power. The first Rath Yatra resulted in equating the Ram Janmabhoomi issue to a patriotic crusade, which led to the demolition of the Babri Masjid in Ayodhya in 1991. Post-Partition, it was the most significant incident that drove a wedge between Hindus and Muslims. Partition had caused a division of territories; the Babri Masjid demolition resulted in a division of hearts.
Since then, hate has become an easy path to power. But was it the politicians that discovered hate? No, emphatically not! We as a people have always harboured prejudices. As a result, prejudice-fuelled hate has been just below the surface in our collective psyche; politicians only identified and exploited this.
The communal violence in Gujarat in 2002 is an example of how hate has dehumanised us and how politicians have mastered the art of exploiting hate to wrest power. Not a single election campaign since has been devoid of it. Those who have mastered the art of fostering and nurturing hate have earned rich dividends.
On the subcontinent, every religion other than Hinduism is made up of converts. So at the most three generations before us we were all of Hindu stock, have always been divided and have harboured prejudices and practised subjugation and oppression in caste hierarchies. We consider our fellow people as sub-humans and some we don’t consider human at all, treating them traditionally with contempt and brutality. So, hate is hotwired into our psyche. We persecute on the basis of caste, we oppress on the basis of gender, we ill-treat on the basis of regionalism. The ‘outsider’ label is enough to make the ‘outsider’ the other, not worthy of compassion and fairness. Look at the forced and panic-stricken exodus of migrant labourers due to the lockdown and our characteristic apathy.
The last half of 2019 and the coronavirus pandemic of 2020 have been glaring example of how hate-filled and hate-fuelled our public life has become. ‘Goli maaro!’ has become a recurrent refrain and we have embraced it with enthusiasm. Elections have become campaigns of hate; we relish the rhetoric.
Even the pandemic has become an excuse to foster hate. Under the guise of criticising the Tablighi Jamat, the entire Muslim community is demonised and the majority has accepted the argument.
One glance at social media and we experience unbridled hate and violence of thought dominating the dialogue. Hear a TV ‘debate’ and see the popularity of hate-mongering channels and anchors, and one realises that hate is the dominant belief. This is a very well organised and orchestrated strategy, but its success is due to the fact that hate and brutality, not love and compassion, is our creed.
Bapu had said: “Hate the sin, not the sinner.” Unfortunately today we have embraced hate and violence and we allow it to be practised in our midst without restraint or outrage. We are containers of hate and it has corroded our souls.
Tushar Gandhi, great grandson of the Mahatma, is an activist, author and president of the Mahatma Gandhi Foundation. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Pictures courtesy: Wikipedia, Unsplash and Flickr