20 April, 2021

Shush, Boo

Watch your word. Or get egg on your face. Culture cops brook no argument on received wisdom.

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Shush, Boo

We loved it when he called us "argumentative Indians" a few months ago, celebrating our culture of pluralism, our traditions of heterodoxy. But is that what we really are these days? Argumentative? The truth is, Nobel laureate Amartya Sen's affectionate tribute to his countrymen and women is beginning to sound misplaced. The reason: openness to new ideas and a willingness to discuss them rationally in the public domain seem to be in alarmingly short supply.

It keeps happening, time and again. People using public platforms to challenge conventional wisdom, or to tell a story differently from the way we like to hear it, being greeted not with arguments but with a stale paan masala of political rhetoric, salaams to national honour and regional pride, and accusations of "betrayal" and "treason". And for the targets of particularly vicious and well-organised moral or cultural police, add chappals, broomsticks, eggs and tomatoes. Plus a stream of criminal complaints...

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