Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Do Indians Take Things Lying Down?



Has anyone heard of Francois Gautier? He is a respected journalist and has worked for various newspapers and magazines, including ones in India. He has several books to his name and they are all about his perspective on India. Fran├žois is now the editor in chief of the Paris-based La Revue de l’Inde and a director of a book collection on India with the same publisher. Fran├žois, along with his wife Namrita, is also the trustee founder of FACT – India, which does exhibitions and commissions films documenting Human Rights abuse in South Asia. 

Amongst them:
·       an exhibition on the persecuted minorities of Bangladesh
·       one on the plight of Kashmiri Pandits (which was shown to the US Congress in 2005)
·       and another one on the testimonies of the Mumbai train bombings of 2006.

He obviously knows what he’s talking about when he writes on India. Take the following article Are Hindus Cowards? He wanted to make the point that Indians took things lying down. He spoke of Islamic militancy, Chinese bullying, the US not handing over the chap who master minded the Mumbai attacks, the Saudi Arabians giving shelter to Tiger Memon, the Kashmiri pundits... In Kashmir, the land of yogis, where Hindu sadhus and sages have meditated for 5000 years, Hindus have been chased out of their ancestral home by death, terror and intimidation: there were 25% of Hindus at the beginning of the century in the Kashmir valley… and hardly a handful today.

All of the above is definitely part of our history. It is something we know for a fact but Gautier suggests we prefer not to acknowledge it out loud. Our politicians don’t either. It is almost as if we are browbeaten and cowed into silence. And that makes us cowards. The only confusion I had was whether in the article he sometimes meant Indians instead of Hindus.

On going over my response to his article I now feel it simply proved his point even further. I spoke of individual freedom - the ability to think and decide for oneself - and the fact that more Indians are able to exercise that freedom than our Muslim counterparts.  

To be honest I believe this is only part of the solution. Why do we Indians generally prefer not to talk of the aggression committed by others on us? Why do we feel we shouldn't mention such things? I think it isn’t cowardice. It is the fact that we don’t have the stomach for a spat. We know that the others will start arguing and defending their actions loudly; that a war of words might ensue; that we don’t want to appear uncivil or to stir up a wasp’s nest. And perhaps, this war of words might escalate into something bigger. That is enough to subdue us. 

Is that cowardice? Or is that a desire for peace at any cost? 

Can we not have that peace if we state things as they are? As they happened? Or are we afraid that the others who we argue with won’t let us move on? That there will be some other, indirect, vengeful consequences? That, in order to win an argument we might get caught up in some bigger undefined threat?

Till we try learning to stand up to bullies and to state indisputable facts, perhaps quietly and civilly, we will never find out. We won’t be able to move on. And others will continue to play their little (or huge) games with us. 

What is heartening is that at least we’ve started speaking out against the wrong doings of our own politicians. Their appeal to our finer senses while ignoring their own lack thereof doesn’t work anymore. Their final trump card that we are being disloyal to India by speaking out against their individual excesses doesn't fool us anymore. That seems to us like the fudging of issues. They are not India. We all are. They are our representatives. Where is their loyalty to India and to us when they commit their excesses like dipping into the Indian treasury, indulging in bribery, corruption, land grabs etc is what we'd like to know. 

Change is definitely in the air. Wonder how Indians will vote in the 2014 elections. As Manu Joseph rightly said, All Indians, including voters, lament that corruption is destroying the nation, but again and again they return the corrupt to power. Wonder if we will have the guts to give the non-corrupt a chance this time.

Note: On Gautier’s blog the comments section deteriorated into a spat. Both arguers were right in their own way but each dug in, indulged in a lot of name-calling and refused to see the other’s point of view. What could have been a mature exchange of views became childish. We have a lot to learn about arguing civilly and effectively to arrive at a satisfying conclusion – to take the best from each point made and move on. 

Here's the link to the post on Gautier's blog again.

Nothing is ever black and white. For shades of grey read the comments, some measured, after the following post that outlines a few episodes where India could've reacted more strongly and a few examples of how other countries have behaved in the face of muscle flexing bullies. India never had guts; so will never be glorious
 


24 comments:

  1. I don't think it is cowardice. Partly desire for peace. More than that the attitude of not bothering much about anything that does not affect one personally. Indians are quite lazy. Nirad C Choudhary wrote in his autobiography that the very climate of the Indo-Gangetic plains saps the vitality of the people. There's something - don't know whether it's the climate - which makes Indians lethargic.

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    1. Such excessive and relentless heat does affect living things. Even animals remain passively in the shade waiting for evening. If, on the other hand, we had to deal only with the cold, would we be spurred on to move? Don't know because we have another non incentive.

      We depend on others to do things for us, others who are available in great numbers, are poor, will work for a pittance (although I am told, not anymore:) and who don't have the luxury of letting their energy be sapped.

      Perhaps such conditioning - physical laziness - makes us cowardly too. Pure conjecture but something to think about?

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  2. Thank God he didn't go to medieval history, attacks on our temples, to British Raj.

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    1. He's mentioned the British Raj too, Meenakshi, as "the humiliating colonial yoke of the British". To have people of another race, however wonderful, take over the whole country is very disturbing to the psyche. Thank goodness for Gandhiji's courage and unique way of fighting that rule after 200 years. No doubt there were other pockets of resistance but on the whole we did accept it without a murmer which is Gautier's point. The two countries remained friends (or business associates) but individuals from both sides, in various ways and to varying degrees, have still not forgotten that unfortunate episode in our history.

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  3. "Desire for peace at any cost" is but a winded out phrase for cowardice. If anything, it tempts the assailants to behave more atrociously. That is a fine mirror you have worked up in that post.

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    1. Guess a bit of introspection doesn't harm us. We should thank Francois Gautier for fearlessly stating what he feels.

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  4. The "desire for peace at any costs" has gotten severely misinterpreted over the centuries. Sometimes, to sustain peace, you have to eradicate bullies and threats like the British -- then you have true peace. India did not do this, and ended up paying a heavy price. Still, Gautier was way out of line for calling Hindus cowards simply because we don't go picking a fight and are more tolerant. But as far as Indians taking things lying down, that is absolutely true -- we put up with so much crap and that's why our country is in the state that it is in.

    Excellent thought-provoking article, KayEm. I may end up writing a post on a similar topic.

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    1. Would love to read your thoughts on the matter, DK

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  5. There is a thin like between cowardice and patience. The problem is that if you exert too much patience, the bully will take it as a sign of cowardice. There is a point when you have to take a stand and Indians are usually incapable of it.

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    1. I guess the first step is to acknowledge this shortcoming. The second, I think, would be to unite and take a stand as we know we cannot individually appeal to the sense of what's right or wrong in some people like our politicians who've looted the treasury for instance.

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  6. A very thought provoking post. Tolerance and non-violence only works if the other party also believes in the same values. Being tolerant with violent parties can often be confused with cowardice. Also, sometimes its not really cowardice, more of indifference. We are remarkably undemanding of our politicians/leaders. But that is changing a little, take Jyoti Pandey's case and what an outpouring there has been. On a smaller level, the incident of the Italian marines. Baby steps, but things are changing, thankfully.

    Off topic, but truly liked the name of your blog, don't think I have mentioned it earlier :) Have a great weekend.

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    1. Whatever name we call our attitude - tolerant, indifferent, easy going, mild, lazy or apathetic - sometimes it might also be cowardly. Hopefully we won't react to that by being provoked, hasty nor hurt or stung. I like our easy going and laid back attitude. But on occassion when we should react more strongly I hope our actions are measured, planned, well thought out and beneficial to us long term. In Jyoti's case our greatest strength was our UNITY, willingness to be in it for the long haul and our determined resolve to ensure the culprits were brought to justice.

      As for your other comment, thanks :)

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  7. I think we are coward. It's something we are taught, not to speak our mind. As far as our politicians are concerned, they want money and they are not bothered what is happening to the people of India. It's very sad what has happened in Kashmir. The only thing I like about China is that no one can say anything to them, not even big brother. Will read what Gautier said. Thanks for sharing this thought provoking read.

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    1. I agree that sometimes we, as individuals are often subdued and cowed into silence. At least we've made a start - by becoming conscious of this dimension to our nature. Hope we don't learn aggression but convey our feelings tactfully yet CLEARLY and firmly. As for our politicians can't say I understand their priorities. What drives them? (besides tax payer money in some of their own pockets, of course.)

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  8. Change is surely in air..There is a positive outlook towards life but still we need to get out of our comfort zone..

    love
    http://www.meghasarin.com

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    1. Will say Amen to that! Thanks, Megha.

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  9. Appeasing the minority to get more support for the party - that's how Indian politicians survive. Playing one section of the community against another, using the reservation card to create strife...it's not just the Hindu, but also the liberal, middle class who's feeling threatened.

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    1. We've woken up to their games, we're aware of how they operate before, during and after elections, how they loot the treasury and why they are able to get away with it. Wonder what we'll do to feel less threatened.

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  10. Guts and glory make history, for sure. But neither matter at the end of the day-- what matters is survival, and India and Indians have made a swell job of that.

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    1. Agree to a point, Damyanti. There comes a time when you do need to speak up. Take one example - when more and more lowlives start believing they can get away with rape by simply blaming women for their own ugly actions, decent Indians (both male and female) do need to unite (for safety) and speak up as they have. (The police were forced to arrest those creeps and not let them get away as they have in the past.)

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  11. Those who cling to power and chase it to eternity have only one mission - Cultivate power! Any 'mature exchange of views' with the potential to ruin the harvest has to be preempted. Watch panel discussions on Indian TV channels. I felt compelled to write about it recently: http://www.teega.com/2012/11/schhh-we-are-looting.html

    Your words stirred my thoughts. Look forward to more such posts.

    Best Regards

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  12. Thanks, Rajuda. Read your post and left a comment.

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