HIMMAT is starting off as a blog by Rajmohan Gandhi who has written on the Indian independence movement and its leaders, South Asian history, India-Pakistan relations, human rights and conflict resolution. His latest book is Modern South India: A History from the Seventeenth Century to the Present (New Delhi: Aleph, forthcoming).

Bully as Victim

It’s happening in country after country. Groups that are historically powerful, numerically large, and socially dominant are being incited to see themselves as victims persecuted by an alliance of ‘pampered’ minorities and ‘anti-national’ liberals.

The incitement is frequently successful. Ignoring the testimony heroically and credibly provided by Dr. Christine Blasey Ford of how she was sexually assaulted in the 1980s, the US Senate has confirmed – after a close vote -- President Donald Trump’s nomination to the Supreme Court of the man accused of the assault, Judge Brett Kavanaugh.

‘White male rage’ is the talking point in America. ‘She didn’t prove her allegation!’ ‘It’s so easy for a woman to destroy a man’s reputation!’ ‘White males won’t be bashed around any more.’ 

‘We’re taking our country back!’ 

Does a country belong more to one group than to another?

In India, the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP), created by the RSS, has just announced a series of demonstrations in state after state for a Ram temple to rise on the site of the 16th-century mosque that was razed to the ground by a violent mob in 1992.

In the 26 years between then and now, no one has apologized or been punished for the illegal act. ‘We are the victims,’ cry Hindu extremists who egged on the 1992 demolition. ‘Muslims are the aggressors.’

Some would prefer not to know that India’s ‘pampered’ Muslims are in fact under-represented everywhere, including in legislatures, government jobs, schools and colleges, the police and the judiciary. Along with Dalits and tribals, they constitute India’s poorest segment.

If a Muslim in India summons the courage to report a violent attack, relatives and friends of the victims are often booked for having provoked the attack. The attackers are left alone.

Evidently it is the attackers who need society’s sympathy and the state’s protection. 

This toxicity is not confined to the US or India, and it is hardly new in history. Eventually it will go away the way other poisonous winds have gone in the past.

It is not easy to know how to hasten history’s corrections. Those who can inspire millions to realize that we are all the same underneath do not show up when we want them to. The Mohandas Gandhis, Nelson Mandelas and Martin Luther Kings of our world appear only when circumstances are ripe.

Until such persons show up, or until – as they have so often done – the people themselves defeat the bullies, the rest of us can do a few simple things. We can speak out in defence of the bullied and the violated. We can liberate our own hearts of ill-will. We can act on the motto, ‘Fear not, and bully not.’

There’s another little thing that we can do. We can make sure that our own circles, small or large, remain friction-free. We can be nicer to one another. Our solidarity will eventually scare the bullies.

And we can take heart from seemingly little things. Whether we notice it at home, in our work-place or on the street, every act of courtesy or kindness, forgiveness or honest apology, responsibility or caring, courage or compassion, can add to our morale. We can let our minds dwell on such acts.

Doing so is likely to strengthen our faith that bullies will get their comeuppance, and the violated innocent their day of glory.

Something else should encourage us: throughout history the dispensers of hate have ended up hating one another and fighting among themselves.

Pran Nevile, 1922-2018

The man we would like to forget