The plus side of a Muthalik....
Pramod Muthalik’s threat to invite himself to tiny Goa has ruffled so many feathers, and made us all hot under our collective collars. This should be enough to make us wonder: why so much of a hullaballoo about this hero from Hukkeri (in nearby Belgaum district)? Why does he make us feel so threatened?
On Facebook and in cyberspace, in news and views columns in the media, at meetings in Margao and amidst Congress politicians, this suddenly became the hot topic-of-the-day. Is Goan politics and the public discourse so fragile and meaningless that we need a bogeyman such as Muthalik to spur on the discourse? To make us define our own priorities?
In fact, we should be grateful to a Muthalik. Like the actions of a Timoja, some five centuries earlier, Muthalik reminds us of what a divided and hypocritical society we are. Of how we yell when someone else does something to us, but we have no problem if we ourselves are inflicting the same on our own people.
The first level of hypocrisy that emerges is the fact that communalism is nothing new to Goa. For the last five decades (and for far longer, if seen in other ways), we have been playing the game of low-intensity communalism. Quite successfully too. Based on continually-stoked memories of the past, stereotypes and some questionable claims, bitterness in the present is built on the basis of bogeys of the past.
Party after party has ascended to power based on policies of divide and rule. This was starkly true of the MGP and it 16-odd years in power.
The Congress, dominating the 1980s and 1990s and the latter part of the first decade of the 2000s, played a different game. While bringing in its own biases (take a look at the representation of different communities in government and police services, for instance), the Congress built a cottage industry of pretending to be the ‘saviour’ of the minorities. At the same time, it chose minority leaders whose dubious interests ensured they sold the entire State for cheap. The BJP’s record in power will be judged in due time.
Is it anyone’s case that low-intensity, long-duration, soft communalism is okay, but the harshness of a Muthalik campaign - with all the sensational headlines it generates - is somehow not kosher?
Look beyond party politics. Because of its own history - both colonial and post-colonial - Goa is saddled with the fact that even its civil society, its educational sector, its media and its cultural sphere is divided by religious-based and communal divides.
There is nothing wrong in having diversity and plurality in any society. But for each side to believe that life is a zero-sum game, that we can rise only if we pull someone else down, and that diversity is a bad-word which needs to be erased.
So we end up damaging other people’s long-term educational interests by citing all kinds of pedagogical principles. Killing some languages or scripts and attempting to promote others.
Opportunism levels being so high in Goa means many influential in the public sphere are willing to swap sides, make the most of whoever is in power, and not bother about the ideology or politics involved. How else does one explain the activists of the 1970s and 1980s becoming the power-brokers of the 1990s and 2000s?
Pramod Muthalik only reminds us of the risks of religion-based conservative politics. This isn’t about ‘minorities’ and ‘majorities.’ As the Mangalore pubs remind us, when a tiny, dominant section begins defining what is ‘good’ for society, then it overwrites the right of large sections to do what they would like to.
Women who had a different idea bore the brunt in Mangalore, recorded dramatically on television. But is it less serious if we don’t have any media record left behind? Every non-dominant section - whether it is the subaltern castes or migrants or linguistic minorities - keep paying the price.
Muthalik-style campaigning would force Goa to decide what kind of a society it wants to be. It could force everyone to stand up and be counted if they really are in favour of a liberal, forward-looking, fair and unbiased society.