Men build too many walls and not many bridges


Men build too many walls and not many bridgesPTI Photo

Abza Bhardwaj

Intolerance has been raising its head in India over the past three years. This has been manifested by repeated incidents of threats, and lynching all around the country. As a result, while the left and right ideologies and consequent identities have further been solidified and polarized, it has also, unfortunately, given rise to a particular section of loud-mouthed, irrational and ill-informed, left. This section within the left makes accusations of fascism from the other end of the wall, cloaked in their own egos and preconceived notions, incapable of listening, and realizing the true essence of Marxism, which lies in dialoguing.

A recent example of the irrational conduct of the pseudo leftists is the backlash against KailashSatyarthi's recent visit to the RashtriyaSwayamsevakSangh (RSS)

function in Nagpur. The reaction brings out in bold the narrow understanding of Marx and Marxism of these pseudo-leftists, which limits all efforts towards a positive social change.

The Left's strong negative reaction to Satyarthi's visit has been primarily because of two reasons. One, why did a "Peace' Laureate chose to go and speak at a religious and right-winged platform and two, does this indicate that Satyarthi has been "saffronised" by the right-wing, like the rest of India?

The irony is that the answers to these two questions could've been found if these peoplehad heard his speech. But, Alas!There is a growing tendency among people in general and this particular section of "Leftists", in particular, to blindlyput sectarian unity, its goals and interests first, making everything else, including the greater good, secondary. What they do not understand is while doingso,they end up avoiding discussions around finding liberal, unbiased and rational solutions.

Here I would like to just hold on to this thought a little bit and raise two important questions. The questions which I am asking myself and would also like to ask the readers, as to when did the causes of democracy, universal human rights, and tolerance through "dialoguing" leave the leftist domain? How fair is it to "assume" that someone who isand has always been more radical than all of the left in India, as far as child rights are concerned,had become partner with people on the "other side of the fence" or had got converted to their ideology and beliefs?

The answer to my first question lies in the need for dialogue. I talk of the importance of dialogue here because it is through these discussions and debates that a wide range of issues pertaining to human rights has historically been addressed. From the Apartheid in South Africa, to the Hutu and Tutsi in Rwanda, and the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia, many such fear inducing manifestations of division and exclusion have been resolved through interactions between opposite parties. A dialogue thus, is a necessity. Nehru in 'Discovery of India', points out,

"Nationalism can only come out of the ideological fusion of Hindu, Muslim, Sikh, and other groups in India",

This fusion that Nehru talks about is an amalgam of multiple facets of democracy such as its heterogeneity, its inner contradictions, and differing positions. This diversity must be retained to strive for a better society using interactions and discussions.

Here I'd like to revisit Karl Marx to reflect upon some of the most cardinal elements of his philosophy that directly links to the need for dialogue.

Marx and Engels contended in The Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts of 1844 and the Communist Manifesto,

"My own existence is social activity, and therefore that which I make of myself, I make of myself for society and with the consciousness of myself as a social being."

This statement by Marxrecognises the need for social interaction for mutual enrichment between individuals in society. Exchange of ideas, values and thoughts are very instinctive to human beings. Another concept which was at the very core of his philosophy was "dialectical materialism", which defines the world to be a dynamic, evolutionary environment where realities are interconnected, interrelated and determined by each other. It considers nature as an integral whole. From this comesthe necessity to increase the understanding of multiple perspectives, their freedom to express differently, and for them to co-exist and interact. This forms the very basis of Marxism as well as democracy.

It is in this context that I answer my second question and also simultaneously highlight the need for freedom of expression, which too has always, ironically, been on the leftists' agenda. Everyone should and must have the freedom to go to any platform and express their views, fearlessly and frankly, without being judged, for the benefit of the society. Walls and compartments limit this brazen expression of varied perspectives and thus, the realization of democracy. Platforms are irrelevant, especially for a person like Stayarthi whose goal transcends the barriers of ideologies, as well as party-faction. He shouldn't be judged on the basis of the platform he chooses to use to solicit support of the members of society. The cause to which Satyarthi has devoted his life and in the course of which, he had to face a lot of opposition, including physical assault, is completely apolitical and for the greater good. No political front can claim that the cause of children is not dear to him. Therefore, it's only natural for Satyarthi to go to any and every platform to propagate the cause of children. In fact, I would go on to say that any activist who chooses and is selective about the platforms for the furtherance of the cause held dear to her/him, is not truly and fully committed to their cause.

What Satyarthi did in Nagpur was nothing but this, initiatediscussions and bridge walls. He made an attempt to break out of and transform this vicious circle of violence, build connections between people and realize a civilization of creative coexistence that will embrace the whole of humankind. At the event, Satyarthi spoke of increasing intolerance, something that the left, post the JNU controversy, has been talking about. He said that there can be no tradition, and no religion supporting this kind of intolerance, by merely witnessing violence against children, and women. He spoke of a unifying force, a realm of morality and compassion for children that transcends all the binaries of the left-right, majority- minority, extremists- moderates, traditional-modern, past-future, and compliance versus questioning. It is when people, as radical as him, who started a revolution for protection of children in the 80s, who stood against the outdated state policies for children in the world, and who has been the face for social change, talks of striving for greater levels of convergence, plurality and co-existence, that we can finally understand the importance of dialogue.

As I have tried to answer both my questions, I would like to now go back to the ones in question- the pseudo-left. Last I checked I was not right-winged, perhaps not even left-winged. Maybe I could call myself closer to the Left. But when I see such mindless backlash I am made to believe that as theright-winged ideology moves into its more extreme fringes, its oxymora responds with similar extremism,contradicting the very essence of "Marxism". In times like these, we tend to getstuck amidst these extreme dichotomies of left versus right and the translation of each one of these is only aggressive and unidirectional.This is exactly what has caused the harsh reactions against Satyarthi's visit to the RSS event. The narrow-minded and ill-informed reactions only displayed that the so-called "Left" is unable to understand the importance of discussions, debates and interactions.

In my opinion, contrary to what self-proclaimed so-called leftists would say, Satyarthi's visit to RSS Shakha was not reminiscent of the fact that he has been saffronised, in fact, it was very well in the domain of the Left and emphasized that no social change can be envisioned without interactions and discussions between contrasting ideologies (drawing from Hegel's dialectics wherea positive result- "the synthesis" is reached, upon the unification of the two, earlier, opposed concepts, thesis and anti-thesis).As Dominique Pierre points out "Men build too many walls and not many bridges". Satyarthi's visit was an attempt to build bridges. A bridge of instinctive morality corresponding to the innate compassion within human beings; a bridge that could bring opposite forces together; a bridge for the protection of our children; a bridge that transcends all hatred, agony, ego, irrationality, fanaticism, ideological dichotomies; a bridge to freedom, freedom of our children.

Here's an article written by Abza Bhardwaj on Mr. Kailash Satyarthi's recent visit to the RSS Vijayadashmi event. She is a researcher and child rights activist.

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