November 6, 2015

Beware, My Captain

It was India, 2008. A different political party at the center, a different Prime Minister, a different administration. Taslima Nasreen had just left India —or more precisely, had been forced out. She was said to be somewhere in Europe, her location kept secret for obvious reasons. To me personally it was never a question of if, but when she would leave this state that had failed miserably in everything that it professed to uphold &#151 democracy, secularism, and freedom of expression. A self-serving, weak-kneed government, that had allowed itself to be browbeaten by a handful of fundamentalist thugs, who had chalked up an amazing victory over intellectuals, judges, writers, and concerned citizens from every sphere of life.

Fast forward to India, 2015. A different political party at the center, a different Prime Minister, a different administration. An innocent man, Mohammad Akhlaq, has been murdered for not consuming beef that's illegal to consume. Another man, Prashant Poojary, has been murdered elsewhere for attempting to prevent anyone from consuming beef that's illegal to consume. An author is murdered for his unorthodox views on that scourge of humanity, religion and its insane beliefs. A self-serving, weak-kneed government continues to silently watch over these attempts to set India's clock back centuries, if not millennia.

The script has not changed, although the font has. The continuing chapter on religious fanaticism in India's history hardly surprises me, although it seems to surprise some who, perhaps, have been living in a cave for decades.

I am an optimist who sees the glass half full, so I still think there is time to pay heed to the words of Kazi Nazrul Islam written at a different time, on yet another religious strife in the subcontinent:
The boat is trembling,
The water is swelling,
The sail is torn asunder,
And the boatman is losing his way,
Who will sit at the helm at this hour?
Who has the courage and the power?
The future calls you,
Come forward, all who are bold and true.
— Kazi Nazrul Islam, Beware My Captain. In Bengali : Kandari hushiar, Translation: Kabir Chowdhury
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