The ugly, cruel media brouhaha over who will be the next ‘Dalit’ President of India, Ram Nath Kovind or Meira Kumar, brings to mind two anecdotes:
- When Dr. Zakir Husain became the President of India, a journalist asked him – Was it not the victory of secularism in the country that a Muslim had become the President? Dr. Zakir Husain replied – “I would have been very happy if you had not mentioned my religion. It is because of the beauty of our Constitution where every citizen is equal that I have become the president.”
- A famous pianist accidentally bruised his finger severely minutes before a major performance. Despite his heavily bandaged finger and pain, he insisted on playing as scheduled. The Master of Ceremonies was aghast. Having failed to dissuade the pianist from performing, he sought permission to inform the audience about the accident, and that the maestro would perform nevertheless. “You shall do nothing of the sort!” cried the maestro. “Why, tonight I might perform better than I ever have or ever shall in my life…yet, remembering your words, the people in the hall will shake their heads and look at one another and say: ‘The maestro played quite well tonight…alas, if only he hadn’t injured his finger, how much better his performance might have been!’ No, no, I shall play to minds unclouded by irrelevant sympathies for my finger!” And so he did. The performance was brilliant.
Consider, gentle reader, the case of Ram Nath Kovind, nominated for the post of President of India by the ruling NDA government. The entire Indian media sees Kovind as nothing more than a ‘Dalit’; indeed, barring a precious few noble exceptions, our journalists see Kovind’s nomination as being based on this single loathsome argument: by nominating Kovind the Dalit, the BJP-led NDA is assuring itself of Dalit votes in the 2019 Lok Sabha polls.
Worse, the media couches its twisted presentations in the enervating, patronizing gobbledygook of political correctness. One example is an editorial which brightly suggests that there is ‘rich symbolism’ in the prospect of a Dalit president [click here to read]. Such an outlook views every Indian through the narrow, warped lenses of caste, religion, ethnicity, language—lenses that are selected and discarded as per convenience and context to make this or that argument. It is this very vision that fractures Indians into thousands of mutually hostile social groupings; that continues to prevent the Dalit from ever shedding his/her ‘Dalit identity’ (our intellectuals have even coined a term for this: ‘dalitness’); that indeed drove Rohith Vemula, the student from University of Hyderabad, to take his own life in despair.
When K R Narayanan, and later APJ Abdul Kalam, assumed the office of President, great swathes of us ‘educated, urbane’ Indians did not, or could not, recognize or celebrate the fact that these were self-made men of humble origins, who were supremely qualified for the highest office because of their humaneness, moral fibre, formidable intellects and scholarly achievements. All we saw was that a ‘Dalit’ and ‘a Muslim’ had become President! And thus we diminished them. …as we now diminish Kovind.
As we now diminish Meira Kumar, nominated by the Opposition against Kovind.
Thus do we diminish, degrade ourselves.
This narrow-minded vision of humanity has cursed India and its populace for thousands of years; like a long-lived radioactive poison, it has spread across the country, seeped into our educational policies, our political and governance structures, our minds, our deeds. The only cure is incredibly simple: to awaken to, and accept, the simple, scientific truth that beneath our many-hued skins and assumed symbols of religious, caste, and other forms of social exclusivity, we are all simply and equally human. It is a truth that frightens the hell out of the bigots among us, the casteists, communalists, racists. But it brings incredible joy…for we truly then see the One in All, and All in One.
Nothing religious about that, no?