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Humanity Comes First: The Rest Is Propaganda – OpEd

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There are two kinds of people I tend to be wary of: one falls under the broad category of individuals who could be termed as ‘traitors,’ because they lie and deceive to make it to positions of power and another is those who betray their friends the instant they need to protect their own interests. Although I am certain that Arvind Kejriwal is a comparatively honest politician, not corrupt, and an open-minded person, I never forgave him for the way he treated Prashant Bhushan and Yogendra Yadav and expelled them from Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), despite the fact that they played an important role in the formation of the party. I could relate to why George Carlin called Susan McDougal his “hero” for having served a prison sentence of almost two years, rather than testify against Bill Clinton. 

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Loyalty matters and people have to be admired for who they are rather than for what they claim to stand for. Yogendra Yadav is one such intellectual politician who has been steadfastly loyal to a non-virulent brand of politics, which is a rarity in the modern world. He was suspended by the Samyukta Kisan Morcha (SKM) for having met the families of BJP workers killed during the violence in Lakhimpur. In an interview later on, Yogendra Yadav said: “I have no grudge or complaint (against the SKM’s suspension decision). Whatever was the collective judgement, that is all right. I will abide by it. I wouldn’t waste my timing in comparing who got what punishment, why did I get this (long) punishment. In a larger picture in the movement of this scale, these are side issues. And I think it is important to not get distracted by these smaller issues. My suspension is also a side issue. It would be a pity if a movement like this got distracted in the side issues.” In the same interview he added: “we should share in the grief or in the bereavement of anyone. Especially, when someone’s death is – in one way or the other associated with the Morcha.”

This is the kind of attitude that has nothing to do with being on the right or the left. It is just plain, simple humane behavior. Why would the death of BJP workers be any less tragic than the death of the others who were killed during the same violence? Gandhi famously said: “What difference does it make to the dead, the orphans and the homeless, whether the mad destruction is wrought under the name of totalitarianism or in the holy name of liberty or democracy?” When people get killed, irrespective of the reasons, their families suffer and need to be counselled and consoled. If you cannot see that, it really doesn’t matter whether you’re a leftist, rightist, centrist or whatever label that you are fond of attaching to your own self! People are human beings in the end. Whether the “mad destruction is wrought” to fight for a so-called just cause or an unjust cause, it makes no difference to the “dead, the orphans and the homeless.” 

The human condition comes before everything else. Empathy is the antidote to the poison of self-righteousness. The amount of toxicity that is generated by the proponents and opponents of political and ideological causes, irrespective of whether they are from one section or another, is unbelievable. The oceans of the world would pale in significance compared to the venom of blind hatred that even well-meaning people sometimes indulge in without basis. 

In another news report “A private school in Udaipur district of Rajasthan terminated a teacher after her alleged celebration of Pakistan cricket team’s victory over the Indian cricket team in the T20 World Cup match played on Sunday generated huge backlash on social media questioning her patriotism and demanding her sacking.” Frankly, who the hell cares!!! I am astonished with the kind of antipathy that is triggered by films and sports in this country. A job is a source of livelihood. It’s inhuman to remove someone from their job because they supported a team that we are opposed to, during a match. I don’t understand how people have so much time at their disposal that they can go on social media and waste it on pointless causes.

The whole idea of a game is that one person wins and guess what, another person loses. We don’t always win. We don’t always lose either. If India wins, let it win. If Pakistan or any other country wins, so be it. If someone wants to celebrate for one reason or the other, as long as they don’t do it in a way that disturbs my immediate environment by burning crackers or polluting with noise, I am perfectly okay with what they do. For crying out loud it was a WhatsApp status that led to the woman’s termination from her job! Seriously, I want to meet these people who really think that it is so important to know other people’s WhatsApp statuses, so much so that they can forget the pressing issues related to their own lives! 

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This kind of virulence that we are familiar with is peculiar to countries where there is a vast number of unemployed people, who have nothing to do, are bored and frustrated, and want to take out their bitterness on others. Filled with anger bordering self-hatred, what they fail to realize is that the lives of the others are as sad and as tragic as one’s own. 

I am always touched by what Charlie Chaplin said at the height of the anti-communist hysteria in the United States: “I am not a Communist, I am a human being, and I think I know the reactions of human beings. The Communists are no different from anyone else; whether they lose an arm or a leg, they suffer as all of us do, and die as all of us die. And the Communist mother is the same as any other mother. When she receives the tragic news that her sons will not return, she weeps as other mothers weep. I don’t have to be a Communist to know that. I have only to be human being to know that. And at this moment Russian mothers are doing a lot of weeping and their sons a lot of dying.”

I remember a story from my childhood where the Buddha picked an injured lamb and carried it to a sacrifice being performed by a king. Moved by the gesture, the king said, “who is this man that cannot even bear to see the suffering of a lamb!” Apparently the king stopped the sacrifice altogether. That’s the kind of sensitization we need on a mass scale towards people who are hurt and in pain, irrespective of whether we like them or not, for countless extraneous reasons. When we use the word ‘civilization’ it should mean that kind of a sensitization to the pain of others.

Mothers, whether in Kashmir or Pakistan or the North-East or any other part of the world, weep like any other mother in our neighborhood, when their sons do not return home. Families are shattered and broken, unable to fill the void that comes with the death of one of their members. It doesn’t matter which political ideology that they subscribe to! What matters is that they are entitled to the kindness and dignity that we would give one of our own. When an intellectual politician such as Yogendra Yadav is able to mourn with the family members of the BJP workers, it’s a recognition of the simple fact that they are entitled to the empathy that we would unconditionally offer to a member of our group. 

Humanity comes first; the rest is propaganda. It has never worked any other way since the beginning of human history. I don’t think there is any other way either.  

Prakash Kona

Prakash Kona is a writer, teacher and researcher who lives in Hyderabad, India. He is Professor at the Department of English Literature, The English and Foreign Languages University (EFLU), Hyderabad.

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