Many Indias and Many ways of Being Indians

The meaning of a text/ event is never frozen in time or space. An event does not emanate a single meaning. Text is also not a line of words releasing a singular ‘ god’ given meaning. An event or even a text is a space where multiple meanings cohabit, blend and clash. Hence, the meanings exist unsettled/ undecided in our social archive. There are social archives that store our memories that orient our aesthetical dispositions and shape our responses to our being-in-the-world. This means they produce us performatively as subjects. They generate a grammar of conduct when the unsettled reservoir of meaning is stirred amplifying our aesthetic dispositions. These modes of being-in-the-world are also amplified in a world driven by social media and AI and we quickly leap into being/action. The shared meanings that irrupt into our society whether socially engineered or naturally produced set in an emotive force that triggers us into thought and action. Thus, for instance, Kagarz and Qualam are Persian words. But when they entered our country they became a certifying and authorising technology that was used widely. With the coming of the printing press, this authorising technology became even more rampant. Our documents of birth, marriage, birth, land holdings and bank balances are all backed by pen and paper.

But paper and pen from our lifeworld can be political. Today we can see how Kagarz dikao or Kargarz nahi dikaiyege politics has set a strong foothold in our society. It has produced us as citizens with IDs and Adaar numbers. Perhaps, the world of IDs over the web is also among other things that are firing our identity politics which of course is grounded in an aesthetic sense of morality. This word produces our subjectivity. Given this mode of thinking, we may say that the ‘ Hindu’ subject is born in our days. This does not mean there were no Hindu people or persons until this point. It simply means today a person is performatively produced as Hindu, Muslim or Minority in our society and generates a new way of being Indian today. The new subject that appears as the author of a gesture or action is produced by the simmering of meanings that call us/ interpellate us into being. That is why to be sanskari Hindu, one seem to have to hate a Muslim or other minority. Otherwise one has to live under the burden of being bundled as deshdrohi. We are constantly named, described and called upon to be/ act by the discourses that emanate from our collective social archives. We, therefore, become what these discourses say. We can certainly verify this from the manner the Indian subject has leapt forward or is discursively produced by the reigning discourse in the last eight years. But maybe to look at this phenomena dispassionately from a neutral position is unavailable to us.

The survival or demise of the new Indian subject discursively produced by the Hindutva aesthetics depends on the survival of the reigning discourse. Although today Hindutva adheres to the Indian self seemingly as an authentic core, change in discourse has the power to displace it and lead to the emergence of a new Indian self-produced by the changed discourse. This is possible because all our aesthetically oriented discourses are sites of affirmations as well as contestations. This is why those that live within the coordinates of the reigning discourse have come to be seen as national while others that live outside the terrain of those coordinates are naturalized as anti-national. Therefore, we have to heed the fact that contestation is constrained by the constellations of affirmations that reign for a time. But the coordinates of the reigning constellations can slip and we can see the emergence of the coming of a new discourse setting in the emergence of a new subject into our society.

The affirmations and contestations that we have evoked here are plurals. But the constellations of affirmations, as well as contestations, largely share common contours. Thus, within the affirmations and contestations that generate our political discourses, we can find issues like Mandir/ Masjid, Hindu/ Muslim, Conversion-Colonization, etc., resonating vibrantly in our days, producing us as subjects subjected to our affirmations and contestations. Our performativity lives into our affirmations and contestations. We produce ourselves by living our affirmations and contestations. These affirmations and contestations are mainly aligned with our aesthetic orientations that provide force to them. This is why even educated persons unreflectively but performatively produce their communal self. This means we have to come to the awareness of the fact that it is these discourses that produce an India as well as Indians for us. Hence, the new India that our PM is speaking of is also discursively produced for us.

There never was nor there be a stable India and Indians. Both India and Indians are products of discursive formations. Both India and Indians are produced by our affirmations and contestations. Hence, it is not just to our conscious rationality but to the subconscious aesthetic moorings that we have turned in order to understand as well as respond to our condition of being Indians today. Today we seem to have rendered our wounds of the past as our weapons to produce ourselves. But these wounds of the past inflicted on us by history both real and imaginary continue to wound us. The new India and Indians are therefore wounding each other. This is why we may have to arise to a new aesthetics that will produce empathy in us and enable us to become Indians that produce a peaceful, harmonious and prosperous India. To usher in that India, we will have to reorient our affirmations and contestations as well as actively work to produce meanings that stand for peace and humanism. We can produce this India only when we intervene in our reigning discourses and bring about a change that will produce polyvocal conditions to be plural Indians. Indeed, there are many ways of being Indians as well as there are many Indias.

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Hypocrisy is the tribute that vice pays to virtue.

- Fr Victor Ferrao