By Anuradha Bhasin Jamwal
In 1959, there was a lilting melody from the Bollywood film Dhool ka Phool 'Tu Hindu banega na Musalman banega, Insaan ki aulad hai insaan banega.' Written by Sahir Ludhianvi, sung by Mohammed Rafi and picturised on character actor Manmohan and a child, it became popular not only for its lyrics, its melody and its visual ambience. It became popular for its basic essence, its magnanimity - the popularity reflecting the massive appeal for secular values not only in this country but throughout the sub-continent and upholding humanity. The powerful lyrics of the song did not only dwell on secular polity but also socialist values, exhorting a fight against the capitalist greed and selfish politicians. It was potently political. But decades ago, that kind of politics had a wider appeal - politics of compassion, of tolerance, of equal rights was something that was eulogised, not only in this sub-continent, just years after it experienced one of the bloodiest partitions of the world, but elsewhere too, where this song was never heard. Today, many people across the world, even as they rhetorically preach humanity, they take great pride in demonizing the collective 'other'. What happened down the years that made human beings less conscious of their existence as humans and more mindful of their compartmentalisation as per their economic, social or religious classes? These divisions certainly existed and so did their realisation even at that time but what really happened to make these differences so unacceptable, so bitter as to inspire such unbearable hatred? Certainly, the divisions existed, as did racism, communalism and casteism but never did these receive the kind of popular endorsement as they do now, often with a sophisticated denial.
The sub-continent is not the only example with its increasing cases of Islamic fundamentalism as witnessed in Lahore and Karachi or the Hindu chauvinism that surfaces in Malegaon or Gujarat, often in forms that are such a slur on humanity. Fanaticism is currently in a high cycle of intensive activity everywhere we look.
Controversies like the mosque at Ground zero and call for burning of Quran are shameful indicators of how humanity stands divided torn apart by hate soaked divisions. Identity politics that have existed since times immemorial have become so intrinsic to the socio-political fabric around the world in the last one decade to an extent that politics, global or local, shapes itself around these. The process has indeed been accelerated in the aftermath of 9/11 and Bush invoking the clash of civilizations theory. The divisions into binaries of 'us and them' have become quite well pronounced throughout the world, evoking not just venomous hatred and intolerance but also lethal violence. Besides, it is giving rise to competitive fundamentalisms in almost all societies of the world. No one single event in history of recent centuries has so badly brutalized the psyche of the human society as did this single event in history and divided human beings. But hatred inspired by fanaticism and deep rooted divisions were in the making for quite sometime. Why?
There may be several explanations. In a changing world order, where traditional patterns were being demolished, were not something that many were comfortable with and so the process of religious revivalism began in many parts of the world. The trend was gradually picking up, gaining strength by repeated demonisation of the other within the misplaced superiority doctrine - all this endorsed by propagandist tactics. But above all, such trends of religious revivalism, legitimizing the use of force and violence against the 'other', in a new liberalised world with fresh ideas of freedom, democracy, liberty and equality were nourished essentially by the greed of the politicians and the economic elite. Power politics has always been at play when ethnic, racial or religious divisions become so pronounced, encouraging and legitimizing violence, terrorism and wars by state players or non state actors.
In the midst of all this dismaying hatred that is consuming the world, it is humanity that gets lost. The victims are sympathized with not because they have been victimized but for who they are on the graph of ethnicity, nationality or religion. The superiority doctrine that fuels the hatred invoked divisions forbids criticism against select perpetrators. Everything stems from a misplaced feeling of superiority and demonisation of the 'other', at the bottom of which lies the collective ego and greed. And intoxicated by this spell of greed and hatred, everybody forgets words of pacifism and compassion, like those of Martin Luther King, who said, "An individual has not started living until he can rise above the narrow confines of his individualistic concerns to the broader concerns of all humanity." Or those of Sufi saint Rumi, who said, "This ego is hell, and hell is a dragon not diminished by oceans of water. It drinks down the seven seas, yet the heat of that man-burner does not become less. It makes a morsel out of a world and gulps it down. Its belly keeps shouting: Is there any more?"