All societies are haunted by its demons and monsters. Monster theory suggests that inside every monster lurks a human being. Unfortunately, in today’s India, we may have to regretfully say that it appears that behind every human lurks a monster. Monstrosity seem to have become the order of the day. St. Augustine says that we can learn a lot from monsters. Monsters do teach us about ourselves. Through their bodies, words and deeds they show our deepest selves (monstrare goes with demonstrare). Monsters perform important tasks for ourselves as individuals as well as communities. They police our boundaries. They define our norms and morals through their inversions and transgressions. They discipline our society. J J Cohen agrees with St. Augustine that monsters exist to teach.
What do the monsters that dominate our political discourse tell us about us? Maybe we have to learn from Edward Said. His 1978 book, orientalism tells us that the West understands its self through the false vision of the East created by West itself. Therefore, question that haunts us is : does India understands itself though its demons ( Pakistan or Minorities who are demonized and rendered as monsters). Does this monstering of the Pakistan and the minorities in India weaponizes the religion of the majority community and exclude, disempower and dehumanize the minorities in our country ? I am afraid a study about the manner in which monsters haunt our society may manifest the reigning monstrosity in our country. This is because when we convince ourselves that our society is being haunted by monsters, we have a compulsive need to expel them. if minorities are rendered as monsters, we have a need to expel the monster.
The acute sense of existence of monsters has fueled a conviction that we are living in dangerous times. This is why an unreasonable slogan like ‘Hindu katre mein hai’ succeeds. It terrorizes Hindus into several hate responses in our society. It indeed seeds greater power to monsters. We may have to become aware that more and more we are living in a country that is being converted as a monsterland. Our motherland has become a monsterland.
India as a monsterland has also been subject of mini web series like Ghoul and Betaal. Ghoul engages terrorism, Hindu nationalism and Islamism, Betaal on the other hand portrays our troubled red corridor. Betaal is an apocalyptic narrative. It projects the colonizer and his imperialism as benevolent to Indians. We can see what came to be known as the white man’s burden is tied to orientalism, colonialism and imperialism. Betaal symbolizes all the three. Imperialism attaches to the invasion of the corporates ( Internal colonization) in the tribal land for mining and development of infrastructure. The corporate Surya construction wishes to reopen the tunnel built by the British ( colonizers). This is profoundly symbolic. The corporatization of our country is nothing but reponing of the colonial tunnel.
The tribals dislike the idea of tunnel being open. The tunnel on mount Betaal is believed to be a place where Betaal resides. Therefore the tribals think that the building a tunnel will open the divine powers that lies imprisoned within. It was during 1857 when the first war of Independence was taking place an entire British regiment was trapped by resistant fighters in the tunnel. The entire unit was killed in the action and tunnel was closed. But Lt. Col. Lynedoch appropriated the powers of Betaal and became immortal. He then was waiting in his tomb in search of human sacrifice to escape his tomb and conquer India. Lynedoch, then, becomes betaal and his zombie army wait to free itself from the prison. To this end they are unwittingly assisted by Surya construction corporation that invaded the habitat of the tribals. Opening of the tunnel and letting loose the colonial powers that were hidden within it is a manifestation of the continuation of colonization in our days.
Monster polices the borders of the possible. Hence, until than physical boundaries of the tunnel were undefiled, there was peace. But when the invading corporates attempted to open the tunnel and build a road, the tribal protested only to be crushed by the brute force of the administration. The tribals were then labeled as Naxals and were blamed for a bomb blast that was planted by corporate design. When the work started some workers are killed by the unknown entity that lies within the tunnel. Those that survived fled the place and fortified their position until it dawns on them that Lt. col, Lynedoch as Betaal can possess anyone and use his zombie army to destroy anyone. Thus, it becomes clear that history came back to square circle. Colonization did not die with the natives taking power. In fact, new modes of colonization were unleased in our society and we are still under its burden.
To come to terms with the reign of monstrosity n our society, we have to discern how monstrousness has become a mode of a cultural discourse. It tells us about our own monstrosity rather than that of the monsters. Monsters cross many of our bodily, cultural, geographical and technological boundaries and become very much part of our identity formation. We become what monsters are not. Hence, a monster is best understood as a harbinger of difference and a breaker of a set categories and is best thought as a resistant other.
We have indeed opened the tunnel of colonization and have come under the colonization and capitalism of our very own. The monstrosity of the continuation of colonization and capitalism is very much legible in our society. The concentration of wealth in the hands of the chosen elites, the politics of hate and its consequences for the minorities, particularly the Muslims, the rising prices and lack of employment are some of the indicators that point out that we have opened the tunnel of colonization and are haunted by the monsters that were imprisoned within it . As the tribals in betaal were destroyed by the monsters that were set free from the tunnel by the corporates, we too are in danger of being annihilation by the new monsters that are haunting our society.