Identity insecurity

Vandalism for the sake of any lofty purpose still remains vandalism and it needs to be condemned in the harshest words.

This post is with regards to the repeated acts of vandalism by political outfits in Maharashtra. At the outset, let me mention that my mother tongue is Marathi. Though I have stayed outside Maharashtra for most of my life, my family and I continue to adhere to many Marathi customs. Hence, I believe that I can stake some claim over my Marathi identity. But I am sure there are many outfits which will reject my claim. Going by the way events are taking place today I might very well be wrong in saying that my identity is my own prerogative and nobody else’s. But I will still stick to my claim.

On a related topic, one of the favorite pastimes of many Indians is a debate about regional identities. The debate involves stereotyping people from a particular region or state and enjoying a friendly banter on the basis of these ideal types. I must confess that I enjoy this pastime immensely.

However, recently I have found it extremely tough to defend my identity. A big reason for that are the repeated acts of vandalism committed by some political outfits. Though the grouses being addressed through protest may/may not be genuine, there is absolutely no place for vandalism in the Indian republic.

Acts of vandalism that have become a common feature in Maharashtra are harmful for all Marathis. The local Marathis face a direct threat to their safety. On the other hand, those not directly affected can in no way defend such acts. Hence such acts must be condemned in unequivocal terms by people from all classes and regions across the country and particularly by the proud people of Maharashtra.

To all people who think vandalism is heroic, consider these brilliant words by one of the greatest sons of the soil-

If we wish to maintain democracy not merely in form, but also in fact, what must we do? The first thing in my judgement we must do is to hold fast to constitutional methods of achieving our social and economic objectives. It means we must abandon the bloody methods of revolution. It means that we must abandon the method of civil disobedience, non-cooperation and satyagraha. When there was no way left for constitutional methods for achieving economic and social objectives, there was a great deal of justification for unconstitutional methods. But where constitutional methods are open, there can be no justification for these unconstitutional methods. These methods are nothing but the Grammar of Anarchy and the sooner they are abandoned, the better for us.

The second thing we must do is to observe the caution which John Stuart Mill has given to all who are interested in the maintenance of democracy, namely, not “to lay their liberties at the feet of even a great man, or to trust him with power which enable him to subvert their institutions.” There is nothing wrong in being grateful to great men who have rendered life-long services to the country. But there are limits to gratefulness. As has been well said by the Irish Patriot Daniel O’Connel, no man can be grateful at the cost of his honour, no woman can be grateful at the cost of her chastity and no nation can be grateful at the cost of its liberty. This caution is far more necessary in the case of India than in the case of any other country. For in India, Bhakti or what may be called the path of devotion or hero-worship, plays a part in its politics unequalled in magnitude by the part it plays in the politics of any other country in the world. Bhakti in religion may be a road to the salvation of the soul. But in politics, Bhakti or hero-worship is a sure road to degradation and to eventual dictatorship.

Dr. B.R. Ambedkar’s ‘Grammar of Anarchy’ speech


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