I write to you not as a public servant but as a concerned citizen.
Several of the blaring Bollywood songs are heavily right leaning. These set the mood for the evening that is supposedly secular. In one of the elite management institutions that I had the opportunity of being an audience for their inter college dance competition I noticed something that really took me aback. There was a huge right wing undertone to almost every performance. This was even more shocking as I’m in a state with a very strong left based student movement!
On confronting some of the students belonging to the majority community, I observed that they didn’t even notice that there was a right wing shade to every performance. I told them, if I was an audience from a minority community I would be deeply taken aback at this ‘in your face’ expression of religion. Out of nowhere in a hip-hop performance there came a cloud of coloured powder floating mid air to the tune of ‘ganapati bappa’. What if I was a minority student and wanted to participate in this event and my team had such choreography? Would I be able to participate in these things? I doubt it. It would make me severely uncomfortable.
The irony is that many of them didn’t even realise this rightward shift is happening in the leftist heartland, especially among students that come from so called left dominated campuses! There is this subconscious shift of the centre towards the right. This is extremely disturbing because this is how Hitler’s Germany prepared the population for the Holocaust; how the Bosnian media was hijacked by anti Muslim propaganda. These are some of the few instances of manufacturing consent for maligning a minority. They were bombarded by media and there was a subtle acceptance that the majority were a superior race and everyone else should perish.
I was appalled when I spoke to a student from a minority community; she told me that she had already resigned to the fact that this is now the norm. The media has bombarded the subconscious so much that the minority have resigned themselves to be satisfied at the fringes. She opined that every other festival is celebrated with great pomp and splendour, but for Muslim festivals there is just an email that is sent. Blame it on lack of numbers (which is a problem in itself) or the lack of interest in the majority to celebrate a festival that isn’t from their religion. Both these problems show insensitivity and lack of respect.
It is completely normal to wear your religion on your sleeve, but when you bring religion to a stage performance it becomes a statement. You are sending out a message to the world, to the audience that this is what we believe in. If the so called intelligentsia of the country have not realised that then there is no meaning or value in the fancy marketing degrees that they will walk out with in a few months.
I tried talking to some representatives from the first year who would be the student council and cultural committee for the next year but my pleas fell on deaf ears. They said that they wanted to go off stage with a grand exit, in reply to that I asked them ‘Why are colleges pandering to this religious sentiment? Do they hope that by evoking these sentiments they will be better rewarded by the audience as well as the judges?’ It was difficult to reach out to them and make them see the light of day, probably because they were architects of the performances and were feeling accountable or maybe they didn’t see anything wrong in sending a religious message on a secular stage. I hope it was the former.
There were students who didn’t realise that they had become right wing or were dancing to right leaning songs. Soon they will not realise that they are defaming anyone who isn’t subscribing to their religion and this insensitivity would just go on until someone is killed over a trivial matter and a riot will break out. Our society has seen enough violence and this insensitivity must be nipped in the bud.
As an individual belonging to the majority religion, there is a greater onus on us to make the minority feel equally represented ideologically and respected. But these types of incidents, especially amongst the intellectual elite of the country is something that needs to be given some thought. I’m afraid we are allowing the centre to shift towards the right without us realising and we are allowing ourselves to be steered by mass media that is predominantly biased since it doesn’t have proportional representation of all sections of society.