Noise in the Neighbourhood

‘Silence can be either protest or consent, but most times it’s fear.’ This is a quote from The Sellout which I just finished reading. This line struck me and probably stirred up my silence on recent world events. It will be relevant even in a thousand years, provided humans don’t kill each other before that. But tonight, this line has made me temporarily lose my sleep, open my laptop at midnight and record my thoughts and frustrations.

The Sellout is an almost 300 pages long satire on historical and present racial discriminations in America. However, discrimination among people in Asia cannot be grasped by racism. In Asia, the discrimination against the wrongly assumed ‘inferiors and outsiders’ is largely governed by religion and region. And in recent years, we can find two such occasions, in Nepal and in India, where the government tried, with success, to revert the efforts made in their countries that make every citizen equal in their state’s eyes.

For the last few weeks, I haven’t been able to stop myself from drawing parallels between anti-CAA and anti-Article 370 protests happening currently in India and anti-constitution protests in Nepal four years ago. The similarities are stark. The patterns are predictable. Cases like CAA and Nepal’s Constitution happen when the governments are led by individuals and organizations that thrive on their hatred towards a minority and carry a huge ego.

Passed with an easy majority with little to no discussion and imposed in a time when there was no need. Nepal was in the wake of the most devastating earthquake of the century in Nepal and India is struggling to find a path to a better economy. It is not a coincidence that the governments chose a time when their country was most vulnerable to push ahead their hate induced divisive plans.

‘A handful of people have “misunderstood” it.’ ‘The protests are being operated from beyond the borders.’ ‘This doesn’t affect the minority they’ve been misled for political reasons.’ These are a few statements both Nepal’s and India’s governments have come up with in defense of the legislatures they passed. The minorities in both countries have been unofficially treated as second-class citizens by the state. They are the ones who always need to show their “loyalty” to their country. But the irony is they are loyal to their respective countries but those asking for proofs of “loyalty” use state and country synonymously. Madhesis in Nepal share the same, if not worse, fate as that faced by Muslims in India when it comes to the way their state treats them.

Just like the bhakts of the right-wing pro-Hindutva Indian government want to send all the dissenting voices to Pakistan, the ultra-nationalists of Nepal want to send all those who disowned Nepal’s constitution to India. Police brutality, targeted killings of the protestors and relentless provocation of the protests with hateful statements and state-sponsored hooliganism are some of the common characteristics that they share.

What happened in Nepal on a much larger scale of atrocity and injustice. The constitution was not only discriminatory towards Madhesis and Tharus, but it was towards women too. Not so long ago, the inequality could be explicitly mentioned. There was no need for political correctness. But now even people politically wrong motives need the maximum political correctness they can get. In modern times, governments do not, in written, exclude a section of people based on their religion, region, and gender but they don’t include them on the same basis. Nepal’s constitution did not include mothers in the citizenship rule. India’s latest CAA does not include Muslims. They were just left out. But is that in any way different? No. That is the evolution of discrimination.

It feels as if the world is shrinking. I say this because currently the major countries in the world and ours have democratically elected regressive leaders in the rule. And the reason they got elected was that they were completely open about their philosophies. So, what does it tell about the voters? Why do they vote such leaders into power? Is it because xenophobia has resurfaced from the past into this post-modern world and it is making people make these retrograde choices to keep their fears at bay?

There has been a rise of leaders who bank on the fears in the majority that they have helped grow if not gave birth to. This politics of populism and fear makes an already suffering and marginalized minority a demon and vows to protect the majority who already have a superior existential status than the minority. Why I feel the voters fall for it is that they do fear the rise of minorities. They feel they will be at a loss if the minorities come asking for their deserved places in all areas of the state.

When you’d think the means of communication would help youths from different communities to understand and interact with each other, they are being used to distort facts and events and support their propaganda. The hate brewing in the minds of the fanatics has got a channel to reach the masses.

Some educated influencers instead of being awake and demystifying the issue are busy coming up with propaganda that exploits the fear residing in the common public. Even in this time of global migration, a feeling among people that there is a need for a haven in this world in case of an apocalypse. Maybe that is the reason Mr. Modi gets loud cheers from Non-Residential Indians and Non-Residential Nepalis make the loudest ultra-nationalist noise on the internet.

Nepal has been peaceful for a few years now. Right now, we have an opportunity of observing the consequences of a bigoted government’s actions targeted to a minority. An interesting thing about observation is that seeing things/events at a distance is more enlightening. It is like when we try to see something too close to our eyes, we cannot. There has to be a distance for some clarity. In one way or the other, we need to learn our lesson before the peace in Nepal, which was achieved by excessive use of force, ruptures into another series of anti-establishment protests.

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