That the facts don’t matter, after all
I intended to get right into the current fracture in Indian politics and tell you exactly what Yogi Adityanath becoming Chief Minister of Utter Pradesh means for India.
And I’ll get right into every shade of our new Saffron-Infused India if you would indulge me and allow me to digress for one brief minute.
I found myself fixated on a piece of news today that left a familiar ache in the bottom of my belly. Back in 2012, Darren Rainey, a Florida jail inmate with schizophrenia was killed by correctional officers who literally boiled him to death in the shower. Temperatures of the water were up to 180c and he was left there for hours.
Screams were heard by several inmates in testimonies, in fact, one inmate said he had to clean up burnt chunks of flesh from the shower floors. In spite of this, medical examiners said his death was accidental and could be linked to his heart condition and mental illness. The judge refused to charge the officers. Boiling a man to death had zero consequences.
If this isn’t an illustration of how little facts matter in this era, I am not sure what is. Social media outrage has severe limitations, but I still seek the solace of knowing other voices are present, and are – at least in theory – ready to protect humans on the grounds that they are equal beings and have the right to pursue their constitutional freedoms. Darren Rainey has nothing to do with Indian politics, but he is another victim of this new global era, where facts, evidence, and truth has no place in determining who is trusted with the power to serve the people.
So what does Yogi Adityanath becoming the Chief Minister of Utter Pradesh mean to India? It means, precisely, that the Indian majority is willing to prove that India works on idols, not rights. It would be wise to bet our new 2,000 rupee notes on that fact: that we don’t in fact, like facts.
And since facts, videos, and documented statements don’t matter anymore, then why attempt to pull out already established proof, consolidated listicles, and other video links that demonstrate the new Chief Minister’s pure bias, bigotry and Hindutva agenda?
You’d think that facts have some kind of appreciation within the urban elite. But that’s where I start to giggle. Excuses run from the tepid ‘well let’s give him a chance’ to the more forthcoming ‘well it was time someone spoke up for the rights of Hindus’. Most of these fine people are Hindu, educated, and well-employed men both in the USA and urban India. My hands quiver at the thought of having to deduce the obvious intersectional patriarchy issues in this mess as well. Let’s leave feminism alone, we can’t even get the basics right.
This week, I had a mildly amusing, but completely disturbing debate with a pro-yogi Adityanath NRI on social media, who unabashedly declared that ‘Hindu daughters’ needed education instead of falling prey to ‘Muslims boys’.
One of my good friends messaged me minutes later after reading the thread of comments.
“So, isn’t it now so easy to see why the Holocaust happened?” he asked.
And it all clicked right there. Think about it. The hush in our voices when we mention the Holocaust, this was the one thing we globally agreed upon to be the worst thing mankind ever participated in – although history loves to make other horrific genocides like Rwanda, Bangladesh, and Indonesia, almost innocuous in comparison. This little discrepancy in an otherwise ‘sane’ world – what could have caused such a genocide?
The people did.
The people, and their absolute refusal to take a moment and question what was being said and what was being asked of them. It is surreal to be a woman in 2017 writing about the similarities in mindsets of Nazi Germany and what is happening not just here in India, but at a global scale.
But the matter is simple. News, facts, documentation, a past-record, a track-record, whatever your record is: it does not matter. If you can leverage the insecurities and secret biases this country holds under the parochial charm of a state a majority, then friend, you can do whatever the heck you’d like.
It’s all about how you feel. Feeling secular and liberal? Well there’s plenty of news channels and magazines there for you. Feeling conservative and threatened by minorities who are cramping your privileged style? There’s a magazine for you too, and it will reassure you that facts are all lies. Besides, for the less religious, we have the right-wing ‘development’ to consider. That in combination with the tender stroking of male Hindu privilege is enough to overcome rational thought.
Facts don’t matter anymore. So why write? Why lament? Because we are a part of history too. This moment, this time, must be documented, deconstructed, and filed away. One day, maybe a generation or two later, when the wheel realigns itself, when facts matter again, we’ll have done our homework. People can look through our archives of facts, listicles, essays, and editorials.
They’ll say: How could this happen? How did a country this equipped with history and diversity throw their brains away for the temporary warmth of a revolution they knew nothing about?