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The sun of reason, of a joyously profligate cosmopolitanism, of a future will surely be lost to us and our children if the deadly hate and damaging hypocrisy continue to travel conjoined as they now do. Photo: AFP
The sun of reason, of a joyously profligate cosmopolitanism, of a future will surely be lost to us and our children if the deadly hate and damaging hypocrisy continue to travel conjoined as they now do. Photo: AFP

Take back your award

Sudeep Chakravarti on returning of awards and secularism

I cannot in protest return an award to the government of India or that of any Indian province, or any government-funded agency in this country. I haven’t received any such award. My awards or citations have been from a group of publishers, booksellers. As such appreciation isn’t yet tainted by the basest politics or terrorism, I’ll hold on to them.

There is, however one award, a description, an adjective, an invective, a composite admonition created with great imbecility and facility that I would like to return forthwith, with the greatest possible speed: Pseudo-secular.

It is a gratuitous award, with its logic lost in the mists of time that go far, far back to the last millennium, circa 1990. That’s how long 25 years seem in these days of flash fiction that rules propaganda, the lifeblood of spin doctors and their masters; of those who profess piety, and yet hope their various gods—oh so many gods—will overlook their acts of perfidy.

This is addressed not only to the sort of Hindu who is surely forsaken by any god of reason, but also similarly minded Mussalman, Christian and those of any faith who repeatedly take the names of the gods suffused with their grand vanities. Your gods are not vain. You are.

Before I spurn your award, let me spurn you.

You are our ongoing Partition. People like you created or overlooked Auschwitz and Birkenau, Stalin-madness and Mao’s Great Leap Forward—they were avowedly godless, but were nevertheless gods in their own fevered minds. You are our famines in food and philosophy, our Apartheid, our Vietnam, our Killing Fields, our Kurdistan, our Rwanda, our Tibet, our Bamyan and Palmyra. People hurt, people killed. Minds bound, minds killed. Futures mined, Futures killed.

I spurn you, because you seek blood-sacrifice: blood for blood, future for a future. You are not hope. You are hate. You are not forgiveness. You are the truly faithless among humanity.

You revel in dates. Then have some dates: 16/08. 31/10. 06/12. 12/03. 13/12. 27/02. 11/07. 08/09. 18/02. 26/11. 30/08. 28/09. 09/10. Go back further. The 18th century CE (the Common Era, if you please). 16th CE. 11th CE. Before the Aryan invasion was a mote in the Orientalist eye. Who first hurt whom, and so, who must then legitimately hurt whom? Carbon-date your hatreds and your revenge.

In your vengeance for the past you kill futures. Instead of justice you offer the all-too-easy bloodletting of tawdry politics and tattered religion—these made destitute by you, not your gods. People who politick on your behalf are as sick with such disease. You justify Gujarat in 2002 because someone else justified Sikhs in 1984—while both of you forget such logic should be well past its expiry in 2015.

But I spurn you too, pseudo-secularists—because you exist, the shame of it. Your dangerous naïveté contributes to orphaning of freedom of speech and expression, and increasing duplicity and misdirection. You embolden death-dealers.

We all pay in broken dreams and, increasingly, in blood. Because you condemn one out of political correctness, but not the other. You remember Gujarat and forget Godhra. You damn majoritarian evil but neglect minority reports of those as evil, as fundamentalist, as eager to claim territories of the mind, body and soul, as eager to declare victory in the name of their gods.

Take back your award, all of you—because of you.

Take it and put away in that place that is surely the repository of such awards, a place where the sun doesn’t shine. The sun of reason, of a joyously profligate cosmopolitanism, of a future that will surely be lost to us and our children if your deadly hate and damaging hypocrisy continue to travel conjoined as they now do.

Should you wish to place our spurned award in that first place of darkness, we shall not prevent you. So take it back. Take it back right now, or my tribe may soon lack that grand courage of desperate fools.

Call it the courage of secular fools.

That’s who we are: Secular.

We aren’t sick. We aren’t hyphenated. We are believers. Deal with it.

Sudeep Chakravarti is the author of several books and a regular commentator on socio-political and security issues in South Asia

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