Saturday, July 20, 2013

In other words, mera gaon mera des

Did you hear the news from Amsterdam about 'scum villages'. Apparently, there are 13,000 complaints of anti-social behaviour every year and now now there's a plan to create separate camps where people who are making a nuisance of themselves, or behaving in ways deemed 'anti-social' can be sent away. Families might live in caravans or be granted very basic housing while being monitored by the police.

The question is – who decides who is a nuisance to whom? There is much scope for injustice and the targetting of individuals who represent a moral/political minority, and it is a pity that Amsterdam is considering going down this slippery road. Reports say that municipal officials could identify offenders deserving of a “compulsory six month course”. Which sounds a lot like 're-education' and reminds me of non-democratic states and penal colonies.

There's a fine line between being anti-social or not wanting to follow every law in the land, and actually harassing others who might be forced out of their own homes, since they ae unable to confront or retaliate in equal measure. What makes the situation more dangerous is the politicians' attitude. One leader has been quoted as saying: “Put all the trash together”.

To think of, or describe, citizens as trash or scum is not healthy. It damages the human spirit. Which is why this whole business of 'camps' for the anti-social makes me uncomfortable.

And yet, in another corner of my head, there is also this fantasy – what if all the 'misfits' could petition the government to be allowed to set up their own villages? A bit of land where they could live by their own rules, without police interference?

We all want to pack off people we don't like to some place where they can live with their own sort. That's what ghettos are. But what if India was divided on the basis on behavioural preferences rather than linguistic or religious heritage? The only law that would apply to all would be against physical assault, murder and enslavement. At 16, children could decide whether they wanted to stay put with their parents, or start traveling to look for a colony where they share the values of the local residents.

There was an online test doing the rounds a while ago. It figured out where you 'belong' based on your values and personal politics. It turned out that many of the people I like and love 'belong' in Sweden or Norway. These are tolerant, liberal, non-violent people who believe in social justice, gender equality, freedom. Yet, none of us is trying to quit India.

Perhaps we all dream of a place in India – a village or town – where we could apply for domicile on the basis of our personal values. For instance, a colony of atheist artists who cultivate land – what would it be like? And why not have a colony of misogynists where all misogynists can live happily ever after?

If only the government could do a nation-wide psychological survey to figure out who wants a zero tolerance approach to sexual violence? Who prefers a soft apologists' approach? Who wants the freedom to harass man, woman, child or animal with no serious consequences?

I can imagine such a survey: “Whoever believes in dowry, stand in this line. Whoever believes in purdah, stand in that line. Who does not believe in legal marriage or inheritance? Raise your hand.”

If only we could all find our nearest soul-citizens, and then go off into our own scummy villages where our own rules apply... That would be something, eh?

First published here

No comments:

Tweets by @anniezaidi