The election results have been sobering. I wrote an article before the elections for those of my friends who supported BJP. And today, I write this for those of us who were against it (and it hopefully holds true for everyone). No, I don’t believe hate or bigotry has won. One election result doesn’t mean that the same country we live in, grew up in, call home and deeply love, has overnight turned fascist. Nor does it mean the same people we went to school with, the college with, called friends and family, are going to trounce our freedoms and rights over the next 5 years.
The BJP has won with a clear majority. And it would be deeply unfair, incorrect and judgemental of us to say that they won because everyone who voted for them is a terrible person. Because the truth is: the majority of our country just wants a better life for ourselves.. not a worse life for someone else.
It is easy for us to reduce each other to our political beliefs, ideologies or our votes; but it is simplistic to say that supporting a political party means that you are supporting its most extremist or unethical viewpoint. Because if everyone supporting BJP is supporting Pragya Thakur or Yogi Adityanath (and yes, some certainly are), everyone supporting Congress is supporting dynasty politics or corruption or, well, Kamal Nath (and yes, some certainly aren’t). No party is perfect, no ideology is completely moral, no leader is selfless. So if we look at every election outcome as an ego battle between morality (or moral superiority) and evil (or stupidity), no matter which politician wins, it is we, the people, who would have lost. Because India is not its politicians, India is its people. There has always been and will always be more that unites us than that divides us.
Indian Politics and The Liberal Outrage
I have always found an inherent irony in the idea of being ‘liberal’ when it comes to politics. How can one be ‘liberal’ if we do not try to understand, empathize with, or ‘shut down’ ideologies that are unlike ours? Yes, supporting and championing the rights of minorities means having empathy for those who have lived a more difficult, lesser privileged life than ours. But if our morality comes from our empathy, why does our empathy stop at trying to understand those whose views may differ from us? What is the great victory in shutting down conversations with anyone unlike us?
The fact is, empathy is a privilege too. If we truly have empathy, it is because we have grown up in circumstances, with awareness or exposure or information or access, or with having gone through things that have made us feel not only for us but for others too. But, in seeing ourselves as social justice champions, we can very well put our love, kindness, and voices behind those who don’t have social justice; without challenging or attacking those who aren’t fighting for the same. Everyone is fighting a battle that we know nothing about, behind every opinion is a life lived full of struggles and obstacles and circumstances that we have never bothered finding. Then why does it have to be ‘us’ vs ‘them’? Why does our empathy live on a pedestal and a moral high ground, standing on which we look down upon anyone who doesn’t support us in our battles, with the presumption that by not being with us, they are against us? How is it empathy then?
Our Society Is Not Binary
Everyone votes for different reasons – same for a better life, some for better policies, some for pride and yes, some for hate as well. But if we color everyone who disagrees with us with one brush (whether it be a Hindutva one or a hateful one or an ‘unwoke’ one), the very idea of India we are fighting for: that India needs to come together as one, will never ever take shape in the way we want. Because in being inclusive to only those who think like us, we are creating a cocoon that leaves out so many more, who don’t necessarily think unlike us, but have perhaps not been part of a life or a conversation to know any more, any better or any different, because of how we pride ourselves in blocking or shutting down those who are different.
Human beings aren’t binaries. We aren’t all good or bad, moral or immoral, woke or stupid, right or wrong or even right or left. And honestly, none of us can claim to know who we are or, as an extension, what India is because we only ever know India in our own circles: that speaks like us, behaves like us, and thinks like us. In fact, so many of us haven’t even ever met or worked with or interacted with the people whose rights we are proudly defending. So it’s high time for us to expand these circles and interact with India we haven’t before. Because that’s the only way forward is together: through conversation & through a shared love for making India better.
It is because we have created, fed into and are conditioned by a toxic online culture of anger and outrage, we would rather be right than be kind and true to oneself. In blindly defending our political views and parties, we attack and hate on each other. Even though the parties themselves don’t exist in binaries, and each have good, bad and ugly issues within themselves. If we are to come together again, we will have to acknowledge that somewhere, most of us have embraced our worst impulses in following cacophonous media, irrational influencers and divisive political pundits. Trolls exist everyone on the internet, but not every critic is a troll, not every one who differs is a Bhakt (or a Libtard), and most people who support a party we don’t like aren’t dumb or uneducated.
So as we look towards the next 5 years, here’s a hope, however naive it may be: I hope that supporters of Congress (or the opposers of Modi/BJP) take the loss in their stride today and focus on fixing the problems that led to this result versus only spending time in more anti-Modi rhetoric. And at the same time, I hope the supporters of BJP don’t mock the rest because we are all India, and our differences don’t need to turn into a divide.
I hope that we ALL demand better leaders in opposition and work towards that. And I hope that those who support the ruling government hold their leaders accountable if anyone within their party goes back on election promises or tries to divide India into communal lines.
Choose India Over Politics
Democracy is alive and kicking, and that’s a good sign for all of us. But let’s all come together in condemning the unsavory elements of every party when they arise: and keep choosing India over our politics. Instead of letting social media outrage dictate our understanding of India, it is time we respect each other and understand each other: as fellow Indians who have lived side by side for centuries.
Congratulations to the BJP and its supporters. The election is yours, but the country is all of ours: Let’s work on overcoming these divides now.
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