To the Seekers of Justice
Swami Gulagulaananda said:
"Situations are almost always more complex than they appear at the outset. Unless we dive deep to fully understand it, we are most likely going to err in our judgements"
Social media has resulted in the democratisation of media. Before the advent of Facebook and Twitter, we had to consume what was fed to us, and it was nearly impossible for our voices to be shared and to check the pulse of the nation. We consumed information from newspapers and news channels, and they could project information in any manner they wished. Social media has largely remedied the situation.
At the same time, this has come with its own share of issues. The handy mobile devices are prompting people to blurt things out as soon as thoughts form in our minds without due consideration. And this is also resulting in several simplistic thoughts being put out. One would be wise to remember that situations are always complex with multiple factors playing their roles, and it is not easy to conclude in such matters.
Take the example of actor Sushant Singh Rajput's untimely demise. What started with an apparent case of suicide resulted in myriad debates on mental health, nepotism, rape charges, political involvement and cover-ups, drug rackets and more as the story unravelled. There are also numerous conspiracy theories that shocked people and disappeared with no subsequent mentions. What I found interesting along the way was the manner in which news channels were portraying information, how people immediately formed groups and started fighting with other groups. What was also interesting is that it is always easy to guess which line people will toe - They can be profiled.
Let us first discuss how the media reports information. If a woman is raped and murdered, one would logically expect the headline to convey this information. The headline instead reads "Dalit woman raped and murdered". This headline makes it appear to the reader that the woman was raped and murdered because she was a Dalit. The rest of the article, however, mentions nothing of that sort. This subliminally sets our mind to believe that Dalits are unsafe in the country, and upper-caste men are constantly trudging all over them. What is the role of the word "Dalit" in that headline? It is important to note that they never write "Gowda woman raped" or "Saraswat Brahmin woman raped", but "Dalit woman raped" is a constant headline . This often gets picked up by the international media and presents a dangerous image of India to the world . This international article, for example, goes into detail to talk about India's caste history and specifically mentions how the Hindu religion grapples with the caste discrimination menace, presenting a certain picture.
Such articles are dangerous as they do not point to specific data points that should ideally lead us to believe in the picture presented. Let us see if we know the answers to the following questions:
- In what percentage of rapes are the victims Dalits?
- What percentage of those rapes have upper-caste men as rapists?
- In what percentage of those rapes, where rapists were upper-caste and the victim was Dalit did the rapists rape because of caste?
- What percentage of rape victims were non-Dalits, and how many rapists were Dalits?
These questions are quite pertinent because of our approach to these topics. Some topics are treated as holy cows - Those that shouldn't be questioned. The other day, a panellist on a debate said, "A Dalit has been raped, and this is your response?" Had the previous statement been about caste, it would have been okay, but the word Dalit is unnecessarily being dragged.
This is also relevant about how we treat the topic of religion in the country. As most terrorists in the world are Muslims, and there has been some general Islamophobia as a result, several groups have pivoted to the opposite direction to either make Muslims appear innocent or paint Hindus as dangerous. These approaches are equally dangerous. Let us take a topical instance of a Tanishq advertisement that has caused outrage among the so-called "right-wingers". I have not seen the ad myself, but I did read about it - an ad about a Hindu bride married to a Muslim household. People who were opposed to the idea said that it promoted Love Jihad, while people who were pro-ad said that it was 'Yet another inter-faith love marriage - What's the big deal?'
If you put it like that, it feels like the 'right-wingers' are trolls who are simply being anti-Muslim pure-blooded Nazis, akin to those who call everyone Mudbloods in the Potterverse. However, the ground reality is a lot more complex. Here are a couple of questions that we need to ask:
- Do we know how many inter-faith marriages happen in India?
- How many of them have Muslim grooms and Hindu brides vs how many have Muslim brides and Hindu grooms? Have both families been equally open?
- How many girls have converted their religion post-marriage vs boys?
These are important and objective questions to ask because the answers to these will also answer the question "Is Love Jihad a real problem or not?" The same is true about Christianity as well. One should not oppose the notion of Love Jihad without having answers to these questions. S L Bhyrappa's book, Aavarana - The Veil [available in English as well], captures this beautifully. These topics are deep and complex, and a simplistic dismissal of "old-world goons opposing beautiful love" would be grossly misjudging the situation.
For starters, all religions are not the same, and anyone who says that doesn't fully understand religion. Anyone who has a basic understanding of Abrahamic faiths (Islam and Christianity) will know that there are fundamentalist views baked into the religion - Any religion that says "My religion is the only correct one and everyone else is an infidel or a heretic, and something needs to be done about it" is a religion that cannot peacefully coexist with another. I would encourage a deeper study of texts like the Hadith  or research on how Kaafirs should be treated. Doing adequate research on various topics like these help us understand that the world is quite complex and it is not as easy as saying "One must love everyone or allow inter-faith marriages" blindly. There may also be deeper agendas, and being aware of this is important - This study also helps understand why there are so many people wary of Love Jihad and sceptical of inter-faith marriages.
Let us take another example before wrapping up. Indian union territories of Jammu and Kashmir have been treated differently throughout my life (until the sections were scrapped recently), and I was surprised to hear that a lot of rules were very different there compared to the rest of the country. For example, people who were not from J&K weren't allowed to purchase land in J&K. This may seem like a simple rule if looked in isolation. However, the Kashmiri Hindus (Pandits) were presented with dire situations that resulted in en masse migrations out of J&K. This resulted in the local demography altering in favour of Muslims. Existing Hindus are forced to leave, and no new Hindus from outside can come in. This was systematically arranged by the ruling dispensations - A look into the Roshni Act land scam  gives greater insight into this. The number of Muslims that have benefited from the land regularisation, and how it was arranged based on the existing demography shows a clear objective of ensuring a steady alteration of demography in favour of the Muslims.
The common man is always good. There are good Muslims and good Christians all over the world, and the goal of this post is not really to sideline a community or another. The main objective, however, is to ensure that we do not pooh-pooh concerns of people who oppose NGOs, many known to be evangelical or worse, seditious, or oppose anything else for that matter. It is important to understand the complex dynamics of society, polity and others and how things are deeper than they appear.
The summary of this post is that we have to look deeply into every aspect before jumping to conclusions, and analyse how different pieces fit together. We should be willing to ask probing, uncomfortable questions to get to the bottom of things or refrain from forming opinions if that is too difficult. But rushing to conclude without looking at different perspectives is almost always going to lead to poor results as it also sours relationships and creates ill-will about our country and countrymen.