Dehumanizing Language In Slippery Political Slope
Politics has touched a new low. The language used in political dialogue does not cause any distress to the actors. The new normal in politics does not entail a sense of morality, fairness and dignity towards their political competitors, opponents and enemies. The trend is mud-slinging theatrics of the political actors. The language of power and wealth, on the one hand, became legalistic and threatening and, on the other, less humane and more animalistic.
The language became procedural as the political parties and leaders started interacting with the competing political groups through enforcement agencies. It became legalistic, as it was asserted that the civil society activists have no right to dictate the Parliament to enact pro-people laws. The language became threatening as it started witch-hunt of those who were in opposition to the government. The message was that only the pure, who has never committed a sin, has the right to point a finger at the sinner.
Not to be contended by this, the language of power became dehumanised. The dominant trend in politics till recently had been not to lose civility in political discourse. In a reply to no-confidence motion, Atal Behari Vajpayee, former Prime Minister of India, took serious offense to the use of adjectives to describe his government as “incompetent, insensitive, irresponsible and brazenly corrupt.” He asserted that such language should not be used for democratically elected governments.
Now in contrast, the political leaders are using foul language against each other. Arvind Kejriwal in 2012 used word “dalal” (broker) for Sheila Dikshit, the then Chief Minister of Delhi, and labelled Arun Jaitley as “crook” during the defamation proceedings.
Further, the rhetorical statements are being used for branding and equating the adversaries with the animals, and these range from being uncouth, abusive and barbaric. For instance, Narendra Modi described Sonia Gandhi as a “Jersey Cow” and Rahul Gandhi as her “hybrid bachhada (calf).” Similarly, Smriti Irani compared Rahul Gandhi with “Chhota Bheem”, a popular dwarfed cartoon character. And, to attribute Narendra Modi as “monkey bitten by a dog” by Arjun Modvadia, a Congress leader from Gujarat, to a virus called Namonitis by Renuka Chowdhry, a Senior Congress leader , Kutte ke bachhe ka bada bhai (elder brother of a puppy) by Smajwadi leader Azam Khan, etc; with a message that opposition to Modi does not amount to harming a human being. Even Priyanka Gandhi exclaimed that the BJP leaders were scampering like “panic stricken rats.” Amit Shah in a rally said “the countdown for 2019 polls has begun. Attempts are being made for opposition unity. When huge floods occur, everything is washed away. Only a ‘vatvriksha’ (banyan tree) survives and snakes, mongooses, dogs, cats and other animals climb to save themselves from the rising waters. Due to Modi flood, all cats, dogs, snakes and mongooses are getting together to contest polls.” And, Devendra Fadnavis, Chief Minister of Maharashtra compared the opposition to “Wolves”, while Kailash Vijayvargiya BJP leader from Madhya Pradesh, compares the opposition unity to “pack of dogs.” It appears that dehumanisation is emerging as a new norm in politics by introducing animal comparisons leading to the marginalisation of the human species.
The sexist dig of Akhilesh Yadav, former Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh, on Mayawai, BSP leader, while addressing a joint press conference with Rahul Gandhi, became evident when he said, “how could we have given space to her (Mayawati)? She takes so much space, even her party symbol is that of an elephant.” These animalistic expressions are nothing else, but psychological violence caused to the opponent and hurt to the supporters without any moral restraint.
The sexual objectification of women leads to a disconnect with their humane, pro-people, compassionate and intellectual capabilities. And, presenting the enemies as anti-national is to represent them as less than humans undeserving of any rights. For instance, the student protestors in Jawaharlal Nehru and Jadavpur Universities have been labelled as anti-India brigade or breaking India brigade. These labels lead to moral and political exclusion of the individuals who are fighting for justice and are otherwise nationalists. And, those who are targeting these individuals, position themselves as the saviours of the great nation. The need is to demystify this labelling, otherwise, it will lead to chaos that would be difficult to contain.
If the people oppose globalisation, demand activisation of justice systems and question the dissemination of “pre-digested knowledge and easy to understand capsules”, they are branded as undesirable against the particular notion of nationhood. There are leaders who, if elected, promise jobs to the youth in a jiffy; electricity tariff reduced to half, and so on. But, if the people protest and demand the promised bright future, they are branded as anti-development.
The logical consequence of this is to morally exclude a large section for fair play, compassion and justice. Therefore, the language of de-humanisation, a derivation of the language of power must be demystified and be replaced by the language of justice.
Albert Camus once famously said, “I would like to love my country and justice too.” History has witnessed that the better way to love one’s country and have pride in its greatness is to appreciate and tolerate critical ideas without dehumanisation of the political discourse. I remember once having been interviewed by a self-appointed custodian of the Indian nationalism, a television anchor, on the hanging of Kasab. He reprimanded me for not supporting his idea that Kasab should be hanged expeditiously rather than getting bogged down to time-consuming legal processes. He asserted that not hanging him will make India look weak in the comity of nations. In other words, the idea that the countries emerge stronger by becoming justice-oriented was dismissed as anti-national.
( Courtesy : Deccan Chronical )
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