Rape is horrible; indeed the most horrible of crimes against innocents. It scars the victim(s) for life. During rape one person enjoys and the other suffers and it lasts for a few minutes. Then there is gang-rape in which a number of people seemingly enjoy their having their way over helpless, innocent victim(s). The perpetrators of rape rejoice in their power over those who find themselves cringing in abject helplessness; whose sense of dignity and belief in the goodness of humankind have been torn to shreds.
Noise during Indian festivals is a gang-rape that goes on and on and the authorities respond to your complaints by saying, “People’s sentiments need to be respected.” So, in this rape, rather than the victim’s, the rapists’ sentiments are to be respected. It is a shame really.
Why are people’s sentiments to be respected? Simple: in a democracy, the majority elect the government and there is no way that the elected representatives and those who hope to become elected representatives can ignore the people who not only vote but vote en-mass in the same manner as they en-mass turn up the volumes of the loudspeakers during the festivals with scant regard for the silent sufferers. And that is precisely the reason that everywhere you go in Indian cities, you see large hoardings of political leaders sponsoring this pooja or that and small – much smaller, at least – pictures of the gods and goddesses for whom the pooja is to be held.
Commercial interests during the festivals seem to have overwhelmed religious sentiments. The media routinely reports about how the government keeps pandering to these “sentiments” by subsidizing electricity and making it easier in every which way to hold these super-spectacles whilst the organisers vie with one another as being the biggest gross earners. Some of them even give vent to the specious logic that the money thus collected goes into charitable organisations. It makes you wonder whether making unwanted noise is the only way in which we can be seen as charitable? Does religion have to be the one that is tilted heavily against the right of privacy of individuals? Or is that in this mobocracy individuals don’t matter at all?
Why did the heinous attempt to silence Malala Yousufzai by the Taliban shock the majority of us in India? It is because we intrinsically hate the imposition of an erroneous interpretation of religion by the Taliban on the general population. It is the same in India too. Most of us are deeply religious and have intrinsic reverance for our ancient religion, gods and goddesses. Unlike other religions that have been dictated by the religious originators, our religion followed a gentler evolutionary process. Thus liberalism of religious concepts and reasoning has been an essential part of our religion. The fact is that whenever such liberalism is sought to be done away with, great leaders and reformers have brought us back to preserving it. The foreign concept of aut concilio aut ense (either by meeting or by sword) has not been anywhere close to the essence of our religion.
We have a deep sense of deprivation in our people. More than six decades after the independence the aspirations of the majority of our people to have a better life have been denied (Read: How Proud Should We Be of Indian Republic at 62?). Our leaders have been responsible for this state of affairs in a significant manner. Afterall, if the idea has been prominently to fill their own coffers, then, the nation and the people are to relegated to much lower priorities. In such a scenario whence the conscientious people are increasingly asking questions (a la Kejriwal and Anna and others), the best bets for the political leaders are two. One is to garner the support of people by rallying them against foreign aggression. This ploy of obtaining public support by the fear of the insidious ‘foreign hand’ worked for a number of decades but doesn’t appear to be working any more. The second is to keep them seeped in religiosity (some of them willingly do that) and parochialism of state, region, caste, religion, and community. This appears to be working as it has been proved time and time again that people would do anything to “protect” their interpretation of their religion, caste, creed and community. Indeed, getting rid of all reasoning and logic and locking horns against “non-believers” is the heady ingredient that exploiters of people are happiest with. People when in large communities or mobs also tend to forget the simple fact that they are in that religion or community by birth and not by any intelligent choice.
This then is the truth about the “sentiments of the people” hogwash routinely dished out by the political leaders who themselves gain the most by unleashing of such sentiments. So, whilst most of us are reeling under abject helplessness against unbridled noise, these worthies promise the communities that whilst this year they would have to stick to midnight limit for making noise, next year, they would consider increasing the number of nights when noise would be permitted up to midnight.
Most of my posts always have suggested solutions. Here are the solutions for the ubiquitous bombardment of noise during Indian festival season:
- We need to ban all loud-speakers in open-air during all festivals and respect the right of privacy of the silent.
- Loud-speakers for religious festivals should also be only permitted indoors and after obtaining permits and licences in the same manner as with other cultural functions.
- Religious sentiments need to be expressed in manners other than by making noise and in competing with others in making the biggest noise.
- People on their own need to shun ostentation and noise in the name of religion and shift to better and much more effective and useful methods of appeasing gods by feeding the poor and donating money directly to such organisations. Indeed, rather than having awards for the most ostentatious ‘pandals‘, awards should be given to those who come up with novel ways of helping the poor and the needy, eg, by empowering people to earn livelihood by obtaining better skills.
- Roads in our cities are already overcrowded and have the most dangerous driving conditions. Having pandals, processions and other festivities on such roads only complicates the problem. Do we want our cities and towns to be totally unlivable due to noise, confusion, chaos, filth and disease?
- In the next elections, lets vote only for the non-corrupt and the upright and the candidates who steer clear from agenda that divide our people along the lines of religion, caste, creed, community and region.
- Lets not just separate religion from politics but also religion from such commercial activities.
We are a democracy that has not yet put power in the hands of our people. Lets make use of this power now to set ourselves right rather than by a difficult choice being imposed on us; for example, the realisation of keeping our cities clean only after a plague. It is the same with noise: people are already feeling the pinch; a large number of people don’t have to become hearing-impaired or perish before we act.
Until then, I feel, there is one big commonality between the daredevil and recent feat of Felix Baumgartner and Indian festivals………..both can break the sound-barrier!
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