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Posted at: May 13, 2018, 12:06 AM; last updated: May 13, 2018, 12:06 AM (IST)

Real issues lost in the noise

Ira Pande
TOUCHSTONES
Ira Pande
Today’s youth, it seems, have no interest in serious events and news. Media, too, is feeding them what they want
Real issues lost in the noise

Ira Pande

I don’t know about you, dear reader, but I am sick of the noise in our media over the forthcoming elections in Karnataka. From a potted history (often wrong) of its various regions, to their religious and ethnographic differences, to rallies, roadshows and ‘exclusive’ interviews, what have we not been bombarded with in the past weeks? To top it all, a leading journalist decides to eat his way through mounds of food as he talks to fellow foodies in canteens and roadside eateries. Is this stuff to be aired on prime time news? Seriously, I am as clueless as I was before this deluge about what the real issues are. 

What is becoming increasingly clear is that elections in this country are morphing into the popular IPL matches and the one-dayers that entertain our cricket-mad youth. Add to this the posts that are flying around on social media and you have a country on so high on adrenaline that even a little spark can set off a fire. To this new generation, serious news appears something so boring that only unclejis and senior citizens watch it: that is, those who want to know about the devastation being wrought by climate change, the slow but determined march of communal dadagiri and the dismantling of our institutions of higher education. For the young and restless, trigger-happy with the remote, it is so much more fun to see the shenanigans at Sonam Kapoor’s wedding instead. I can’t say I blame them because they have defined their lives neatly into fun and boring events. In the space their brains occupy, language and long discourses have ceased to be ‘fun’. Jinnah bad? Yes, so off with his portrait. By the way, who was he? Kathua rape? Bad? Yes, so hold a candlelight march and go back to your mobile texting. Modi or Rahul? BJP or Congress? Who or what is the JD(U)? Can a man seriously name his son Ravana? Oh, is it Revanna? Ewww!

Simple choices and simple answers are what they want and that is what they are fed, both in their classes and by our media. If a topic is not important for an exam, then why waste time trying to read about it? By the same logic, who cares in the north about the nuances of the caste wars between the Lingayats and the Vokkaligas? When even our Prime Minister talks of Thimayya and Cariappa as if he hastily read up some notes provided by a bhakt, why make fun of the poor naamdar, who only knows what his family did for this country (if that!).

To shake off this depressing scenario, let me play a round of ‘What if?’ with you. What if the Partition had never taken place? What if Gandhi had not died in 1948 and Jinnah soon after? It is all very well to say that Nehru and Jinnah conspired with the British to partition the subcontinent but if the Partition had not happened, would this vast land have been governable under a single government? Can you see many similarities between the tribal chieftains of Balochistan and the Pashtun areas and the Dravidian cultures of our South? What wars would we have not fought over language, culture and faiths amongst ourselves in these 70 odd years? When even a small island state like Sri Lanka could not handle ethnic tensions, it boggles the mind to think of these separate areas forever locked in strife and bloody insurrections. Instead of one Kashmir, there would be a hundred no-go areas.

Similarly, if Gandhiji had not fallen prey to an assassin’s bullets in 1948, what would the Congress Party done with him? He would never agree to become the Prime Minister (or President) and would be a perpetual thorn in the side of the ruling party with his insistence on truth and honesty. He may have even gone on a spree of fasts to force an issue, placing the government of the day in a very embarrassing situation. His economic vision would have clashed violently with the industrial development Nehru and his cabinet chose to follow and his dream of independent village republics would be a tough map to hold together. Idealists are easy to admire but hard to follow.

So like it or not, we are in for interesting times. With the country now loaded in favour of the young, you can expect many old and hard-held articles of faith to be junked. The old and familiar election campaigns, where contemplation and long thoughtful pauses marked speeches and orations are now passe. It is now all about high-octane oratory, with crowd-pleasing slogans and promises. The old rath-yatra is now a called a roadshow and a darshan of the leader weighed under garlands and flower petals a mandatory ritual. It reminds one of the old temple yatras when the local deities were taken out in a procession once a year to show people that even the gods descended to visit them once in a while. For the next five years or so, these new gods will vanish into their plush offices and homes and operate through their chosen few (the new priests, one could say). 

Forests will be cut down, common lands will be pillaged and natural resources looted by cronies as we hurtle through to yet another election. Ho-hum.

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