India is going through major socio-economic-political flux and I am delighted to see it all unfold. Like you, I have waited for a very long time for this day. Like you, I think of myself as an Indian first. My christian faith opens another charming window to view this world from. Lately I find myself attracted to the political dimension of our respective faiths. It gets ugly when we mark ourselves with a faith-based identifier. It gets uglier when we mark our territorial jungle trees with squirts of righteous pride. Instead of a faith based inclusion, we now face-off with a faith-based exclusion. In direct contradiction to the spiritual dimension stands an ugly political dimension of our respective faiths.
Unlike the west, Indian democracy has a unique blend of secularism. Instead of a constitutional separation between state and religion, we have a kludgy joint-family with resident cousins from all faiths. The state takes pride in your faith-based practice. Which is remarkably beautiful in itself. It is expected of us to actively participate in a state-sponsored orchestra of beliefs and non-beliefs, tooting our own horns.
This harmony sometimes threatens us with random cacophony. At times team work fails, and at other times the state actively promotes or passively mutes, one tooting section over another. We are familiar with our past histories and we do everything to not invite it.
It is in this light that a few events caught the media’s attention. This time around, the unlikely minority candidate were the christians. A string of mostly light stone peltings that can be best termed as vandalism, were termed as “church attacks”, and a few grunts of dissaprovals became “huge outrage” on social media. Rupa Subramanya discounted each one of them, to make sure the integral was never greater than the calculus.
I adore what social media is doing to the public discourse. As a loop-back mechanism to our governance, we are to be proud of what we have created. But there was dissonance here. It was not only a percieved threat that was amplified, it was false to begin with. And many took that argument at face value. NDTV and it’s anchors lost no time in weaving a popular narrative and my christian brothers consumed it like cola going out of stock.
As a Christian, suddenly I am a stranger in my own country, writes Julio Ribeiro, blared The Indian Express. He expresses his grief for his people thus:
“…the attack on Christian churches and schools in Delhi, all added to a sense of siege that now afflicts these peaceful people”.
An article in The Hindu “Being Christian In India” by Mari Marcel Thekaekara, attempts to sustain a narrative that I find faulty. She says:
“And I, too, as retired IPS officer Julio Ribeiro said in a recent article, feel threatened for the first time in my life, in my country.”
Reading these reactions, I had a momentary lapse of bearing. I did not feel the same way as some of these fellow-mates. I can dismiss the media hype, but can I discount my fellow christians? I asked myself:
1. Am I doing something wrong?
2. Am I a lesser christian than Ribeiro?
3. Is my identity less dependent on my faith than on my nationality? Should I be reversing it?
4. Why is there such comfort in christian victimhood?
5. Who among us takes refuge in it?
6. Why does media love it when I take refuge in minority victimhood, than if I do not?
7. Why is it that this is not a simple law and order issue and is being treated as a clash of disparate faiths?
Obviously, my rhetorical questions are not begging to be answered, but infusing an absurdity into the current mathematics of victimhood. But wait, there’s more. The tipping point in this insanity was gracefully executed by our ex-Admiral Sushil Kumar Isaac, who said:
“Fear among Christians could percolate into the Armed Forces” and “Allowing [communal] virus to percolate into armed forces would be dangerous”.
How did the Admiral get to represent all christians? Or for that matter, Ribeiro? The good they did was dispite their christianity, correct? What they are saying now was deeply reprehensible. It’s dangerous too. Anybody falsely claiming victimhood in a secular setup such us India, is playing with fire.
But it’s the season of hurt, and to be cautious, one might as well be a victim than not. You lose if you are not a victim, you win if you are. Sorry, but that’s the system being promoted indirectly by India’s secularism. It’s within this echo-chamber of confirmation bias, that we dance with media moghuls, tossing colorful ribbons of manufactured victimhood narratives. And it feels good.
Christianity’s first victim was Jesus. In fact we commemorate his crucifixion tomorrow as Good Friday. The night before he died, he spent time in the garden of Gethsemane. He spent an agonizing time there begging his disciples to keep awake and pray with him. But they found comfort in sleep. His short life must have flashed in front of his eyes when he prayed. He must have asked the question if it was all worth it. He must have eventually resigned to his father’s will. Ironically, that night was tonight, a couple of millenia ago.
I sense a similar Gethsemane psychosis in some of these spokespersons that have thrown an easy mantle of victimhood around themselves. They must ask themselves if there is indeed a communal persecution underway, or is this just a mirage they would love to quench their thirst at. I truly believe that their’s is a psychosis of false alarms and false fears. Their drivel is reprehensible. I think persecution and communalism will be self-evident and we need little or no explanation in identifying them when they come knocking on our doors. I do not see them in the vicinity, and am saddened that our esteemed spokespersons have reportedly spotted the bogey.
On the other hand, media chooses drivel carefully. If enough people believe in it, their narrative gains currency and becomes popular. As all the major media networks are Delhi-based, regional vandalism morphs into a national communal threat. They have unanymously decided that this is a collective Christian viewpoint. I henceforth abdicate my independent faith-based autonomy to our fine media moghuls. They are doing everything to paint us with one sweeping brush stroke with a persecuted minority hue. We look pretty in these maudlin colors, don’t we?
Polarization at the studio level wins viewership. Fear-mongering has its immense benefits. Our broken GPS with a guiding voice set to Barkha Dutt, will help us navigate a raging sea of secularism.