I have been pouring over reactions and news reports in the aftermath of the terror attack in Paris all weekend. Everything about the attack was chillingly similar to the 26/11 attacks in Mumbai. That is why, despite having taken place in an entirely different continent, somehow this attack hit home. I almost felt personally affected by it.
Now, before you dismiss me as yet another bleeding heart fairy or haul me over the coals for my selective mourning and remind me of Beirut and Baghdad, Kabul and Kashmir, Aleppo and Assam…before you label me a pseudo-intellectual, sickular Conghi…take a deep breath. Think before you vociferously accuse me or any of your fellow Indians, coloured residents of the third world, of having dissociated ourselves from our brown cousins to favour the ‘white first world’.
I mourn for the loss of each human (and animal) life anywhere in the world. I don’t divide my world into first, second or third as this hierarchy doesn’t quite make sense to me. Also, as someone who actively discourages discrimination and prejudice of all kinds, I do not see people as coloured or white. I see people as people. I suggest you try doing the same.
I see a lot of hate and negativity on social media. People are tearing down other people for changing the colour of their DPs! Guys please grow up! We have to stop making it a contest about which ethnic group, race or religious denomination has been persecuted the most. What we have to ask ourselves are a few simple questions:
Are just prayers enough?
How are we going to tackle the situation in our daily lives?
Will we now view every turbaned man or burqa clad woman with suspicion?
Will we allow ourselves to be blinkered by rage and consumed with revenge?
How will we look at migrants, not just in Europe, but also in our Indian cities?
Will we view those who need our help as people or as just a burden on our resources?
How will this change the sons-of-the-soil vs outsider debate?
We have to ensure that our prejudice doesn’t alienate a section of our society. Personally, I don’t like the word ‘tolerance’ because it suggests we are reluctantly putting up with each other. Indians have always willingly embraced each other. Diversity isn’t about cursory acceptance that manifests itself in visits to people’s homes on religious festivals. Diversity is about inter-cultural exchange, joyous co-existence, an acceptance of differences and a brotherhood of equals. My French friends assure me that this idea, that we Indians call Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam, is an integral part of French and the greater European culture too.
I firmly believe, deep down inside, we are all good people. Sometimes when the body is weak, we become more prone to infections and illnesses. Similarly, sometimes when the soul is weak, it gets infected by evil. Terror attacks are perpetrated by weak men whose souls have been infected by evil. They started out as young boys with delicate self esteems looking for approval. Unfortunately, there is no dearth of manipulative sociopaths who groom such men to be pawns in their devious schemes. Do you really think children grow up dreaming of blowing themselves with bomb vests at a rock concert?
The perpetrators of terror attacks are misguided people who have been raised on a daily diet of hate and prejudice. All the world’s religions teach us about the victory of good over evil. I urge you to invest in good and purge yourself off all evil. I urge you to be fair and just. I urge you not to spread venom. I urge you to rely on your wisdom. I know you are hurting. I know what it’s like. I come from a city that has been bombed more times than I can count. I’m not stupid. I know what happened was unforgivable. So I will never ask you to forgive the terrorists. But, I urge you to let the law take its course. I urge you to hold on to your humanity and not let your soul be infected by the same evil that turned those men into monsters. I urge you to not bully people who change their DPs to express solidarity with the people of Paris. Tone down the reverse discrimination. Get rid of the toxic labels. Go easy on the intellectual snobbery. Let’s accept that it is rare to find a country that has not experienced terrorism of any form.
Members of the House of Stark in the Game of Thrones keep reminding us of the weather...“Winter is coming” they say. The chill in the November air will soon give way to a bleak Christmas and a frosty new year. Many families in war torn Middle Eastern countries will starve. Many refugees in Europe won’t have a roof over their heads. Many dinner tables in Paris will have an empty chair. Mind-numbing rage will give way to heart breaking pain. Wicked manipulators will try to prod you on to the dark side. Unless you aspire to become a soul-less White Walker, you have to keep a little fire burning. You have to stay humane. Winter is coming. To survive it you must have warmth in your heart.
(Harish Iyer is an equal rights activist working for the rights of the LGBT community, women, children and animals. ‘Rainbow Man’ is Harish’s regular blog for The Quint)