Noise is the dominant marker of a vibrant democracy. More noise means more expressive voices, more views, more questions, more demands, more healthy arguments and in general, more expectation all around. It can be cacophonous, chaotic and mind-numbing in a diverse country like India. But it is a sign that democracy is self-assured. It is confident enough to let expressions flow free.
Noise has been one of the defining traits of the span of time encompassing the eclipse and ascendance of two separate establishments in the last few years. In the five years gone by, it has emanated from every nook and crevice, from urban echo chambers to the rural
countryside, posh television studios in the national capital to dusty streets in distant states and from courts to campuses. Proof of a democracy in fine fettle? In an ideal world, it would be. But we live in a world less than ideal. Something about the noise around reeks of sickness. And it certainly carries a note of the absurd. What does one make of claims such as Indians flew aeroplanes, which plied between planets in ancient days or Lord Ganesha was a proof of Indian expertise in plastic surgery or Kauravas, who were born out of their mother’s womb, were examples of test-tube babies or television was the gift of ancient India to the world?
All this could be dismissed as comic relief in a world heavy with political muck-raking. However, there’s worrisome conviction in these assertions that flows from an ideological belief that the country indeed was light years ahead of the rest of the world in its scientific accomplishments. More worrisome is the aggressive defense of it and the consequent attacks on rational people. A pattern is discernable when historical fiction leads to loud street protests and any adverse reference to figures from history or mythology triggers a
fight. What actually is unholy about the noise is the belligerence, hate and anger it carries. Organised gangs of trolls – the current morality judges of the nation and the executioners too on social media and small groups with vested interest amplify all negatives, shaping minor differences into major conflicts. At the beginning, the anger looked justified. It was directed against an old order that had gone dysfunctional. In conflict with all sections of the society, it had, over time, lost all arguments for a mandate for survival.
However, things were not supposed to go the way they have. With the new dispensation secure in the saddle, the nature of the noise should have been different. While it should have resonated with feel good sentiments, it has turned for the worse instead. Note how many times extreme words such as enemy, treason, traitor, anti-national, avenge, attack and demolish come up on television programmes. Deployed against perceived adversaries with intensity, they make normal times resemble frenzied war times.
All pretence of morality has slipped off by now. It is reflected in the rampant play of whataboutery in the public discourse. Whataboutery is a manner of justification. In simple words, it is a counter question: ‘What about you? You did the same while in power, didn’t
you? You have no moral right to blame us’. It missed the big point though. The old order was replaced for its wrong doings. The new cannot justify the same doings citing the others did it too. It is said that morality is expendable during war. But then, who voted for war?
Right now, as the nation stands confused among the cacophony of war drums, of guttural cries, of muscle flexing, clattering of swords and war dances, the question is who is the enemy? Is it half the country, which stands branded as anti-national for thinking differently? Are they people who don’t subscribe to the belief system of the majority?
Are they people who can think and create through art and literature? The noise offers no clues. It is full of bitterness. By the look of it, it carries no constructive substance for nation-building. It is deprived of expectations. The bad news is there’s no end to it in
sight. As the big election draws closer, expect more diabolical noise to inundate your senses.
The democracy certainly deserves better.
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