This is a profoundly disturbing book and for that reason should be read by everyone interested in some distorted patterns of thinking and action in our society.
The title and the sub-title speak for themselves. The end notes for each chapter indicate the factual basis of the conclusions arrived at. The sources of information are credible; there is no exaggeration, no speculation. Each happening lends credence to the wave of inhumanity and public apathy that seems to have taken possession of our souls. Each is a denial of fundamental rights. Most are also glaring instances of impunity, of state failure.
We as a people take pride in being dharmic. We glorify our diversity. Yet, some questions do confront us:
• Do we understand the difference between religion as an enlightening state of human existence and religiosity as exaggerated, intolerant, religious ardour? The first leads to love and compassion while the second to excessive zeal for certain beliefs or practices and of enforcing them through social or governmental pressure?
• Do we differentiate between dharmic and demonic?
• Do we practice intolerance towards fellow humans who may be different in belief or practice?
• Is religiosity being used as a camouflage for baser objectives of social and political dominance?
• Do we believe in fraternity and practice it?
• Do we as a people seek to promote social cohesion?
• Do we comprehend the implications of social discord for our national objectives?
We recite parrot-like a verse from an old poem:
Mazhab nahin sikhata aapus main bair rakhna
Hindi hain hum watan hai Hindostaan hamara
When Gandhi ji was assassinated on January 30, 1948 the poet Majaz had written:
Hindu chala gaya na Musalmaan chala gaya
Insaan ki justuju main ek insaan chala gaya
Yet, seven decades after his brutal assassination, some people recently publicly re-enacted it.
The author observes that “India is being unmade, one lynching at a time. The core of our pluralist secular democracy has survived the assault of mass communal violence. But I fear that it may not survive the current normalization of hate and bigotry.”
Despite this gloomy prognosis, his conclusion gives hope. Allow me to cite the last five lines of the book:
“Darkness can never be fought with darkness, only light can dispel the enveloping shadows. And so also a politics of hate can only be fought with a new and radical of love and solidarity. In battling ideologies that harvest hate, we can win only equipped with love. We need to garner across our land a plenitude of acts of love.”
I felicitate Harsh Mander ji for writing this thought provoking book.