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The most important aspect of human evolution is justice.
The development of a society can take place only where there is peace and peaceful coexistence. One cannot imagine a strife-torn and conflict-inflicted society flourishing and making progress. Therefore Mahatma Gandhi highlighted the importance of love, peace and non-violence; no matter how simplistic or idealistic they may appear, they are actually the mantras for peace and progress. The happiness quotient of a society depends entirely on them.
During our childhood, the words ‘tolerance’ and ‘intolerance’ were not part of our lives. People were not concerned about the spiritual beliefs of others, or what their faiths professed. In fact, the faith and belief of others were respected deeply and sincerely. There was no question of ‘tolerance’, but it was ‘understanding’ that one exhibited. No doubt it was justice. All our friends and their families shared with each other their happiness and sorrow alike. There was simplicity and there was mutual respect, mutual dignity and mutual understanding.
I will not be able to claim that there existed no fanatics at all in those times. Of course, vices exist at all times and they existed even during those times. The difference is that such people did not have social acceptance and their behaviour was looked down upon by people in general.
Our generation, I believe, was a middle generation. It was a post-world war and post-colonial generation where the world had already learnt the lessons that war and hatred take us nowhere. This was the generation that followed the doctrine of Mahatma Gandhi.
As our generation witnessed the painful partition and mutilation of our nation, there was no widespread bitterness. There weren’t any politicians at that time who felt the need to divide society on communal lines for electoral gains through ‘community vote banks’. This middle generation was a generation that possessed a great happiness quotient. It was an evolved generation.
Feeling of injustice and breeding of vengeance
The generation that followed ours has once again started becoming victims of political conspiracies that benefit from division in society.
The very narrative of ‘tolerance’ and ‘intolerance’ today points to negativity.
Justice seems to have been left far behind. Every pillar of democracy seems to have become bereft of justice. Moreover, the technological explosion is speeding up this destructive change at an unimaginable pace.
It is strange to witness the innate sentiment of perverted pleasure that some people demonstrate in the public domain when a human being is lynched, abused, violated and killed. It is surprising that even animal rights activists, who dutifully express anguish when any animal receives inhuman treatment, never raise their voices when men and women are treated with hatred and sheer violence.
The feeling of injustice, in the heart of an individual, expels the sentiments of belongingness from the heart and allows hatred to enter it and grow like cancerous cells. It is not, therefore, in the interest of society to breed hatred in the hearts of individuals. Moreover, there is nothing more contagious than these destructive emotions. Individuals must keep in mind that a temporary sense of victory may actually be the commencement of doom for everyone around.
Whenever a Dalit girl is raped and killed and the police attempt to cover it up by burning the body at midnight without allowing even the family to be there, it instils a feeling of injustice in every section of society that associates themselves with that girl.
Whenever a Rohith Vemula is compelled to die by suicide, the anguish of injustice reaches those concerned. Whenever protesting farmers are crushed to death and the culprits seem to be “being protected”, whenever protesting students are branded as “anti-national” and sedition charges are slapped against them, wherever efforts are made to label protesting farmers as “terrorists”, whenever the courts deliver judgements that seem to have bypassed all principles of legal jurisprudence and instead depend on the “larger social sentiment”, whenever individuals are mob-lynched, whenever young girls are raped and killed for the crime of having been born in a particular community, whenever atrocities are carried out against Kashmiri Pandits or against any community that is in minority anywhere, injustice is felt and an individual after an individual starts losing faith in the system.
Once again, it cannot be claimed that such incidents did not take place at all during earlier times. Evils and crimes have always existed in society.
The difference, however, is that these heinous acts were not celebrated or glorified at that time, as it is being done now. Today, an act of crime is defined largely by against whom the criminal act has been committed. If the criminal act is against an individual from a particular community, then it is not considered a crime and is publicly celebrated.
Of course, this behaviour is bound to breed a sense of injustice in the minds of the victim and all those who associate themselves with the victim as a particular section of society. This feeling of injustice which eventually converts into a feeling of vengeance can infect individual after individual till it grows into an uncontrollable pandemic of hatred. Then it will be almost impossible to restrain. It extends far beyond the targeted victims and spreads its venom into every nook and corner of society, taking a large section of the population in its clutches.
When a large population carries this vengeance, it is certainly not beneficial for a nation that is dreaming of becoming a superpower.
Our challenges, therefore, are the ambition and greed for power of those politicians who believe that anything and everything is fair when it comes to electoral gains.
Their efforts to arouse majoritarianism actually steer the nation towards the death of democracy. This is for the simple reason that democracy and majoritarianism are conflicting values and cannot co-exist. It can be either former or the latter. It cannot be both together at the same time.
Therefore, one has to be eliminated for the other to survive.
Here is where the acid test of justice lies, which is the sole antidote to revive the severely diseased and diminished happiness quotient from our lives.
Fauzia Khan is a Rajya Sabha member and represents the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP). She also heads the NCP’s women’s wing.