Here is a list of events in our recent past which shows what one must and must not do in India today:

WE ARE TOLD WHAT TO BELIEVE AND SAY

 A Muslim man and his family were forced to say “Jai Shri Ram” by a group of members they believe belonged to the Bajrang Dal in Bihar after they threatened to set the family’s car on fire if they did not oblige. The incident took place on June 28. The man, a journalist by profession, was travelling with his family members, and the women folk were wearing the veil. Afraid for their lives, the family did as they were told.

WE ARE TOLD WHAT TO READ AND HOW

Censorship in books: According to the change in ISBN rules, publishers, for instance, have to provide the book jacket, which carries synopsis and blurbs from authors. Politicians are asking for changes in how history is shown in school textbooks to propagate their religious views. In 2016, a social Science textbook for Class VIII in schools of Rajasthan erased Jawaharlal Nehru from the pages of history. It does not mention who India's first Prime Minister was, says a report in the Indian Express.

WE ARE TOLD WHAT TO WATCH AND HOW  

Censorship in films : Director Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s film Padmavati’s sets had been trashed for allegedly depicting history wrongly and Lipstick Under My Burkha had been given the ‘no’ sign from the Censor Board because it catered to female fantasies. Then you had Pahlaj Nihalani asking for the word ‘intercourse’ to be removed from Jab Harry Met Sejal’s trailer and when challenged he asked for votes from people 36 and above on his decision. He lost that one but the mentality shines through still – repress, hide and delete anything that is offensive to patriarchal, to religions and to the conservative mindset.

HUMANS ARE KILLED OVER COWS AND SUSPICIOUS LOOKING MEAT

On June 29, a mob of more than 100 people in Jharkhand’s Ramgarh district lynched a 45-year-old Muslim trader on the suspicion of carrying beef in his car. This was the second attack in June by cow vigilantes in Jharkhand as a 200-strong mob thrashed a 55-year-old Muslim dairy owner and set his house ablaze after a cow carcass was found near his home in Giridih district.

In May, R. Sooraj, PhD Scholar at IIT Madras and a member of the Ambedkar Periyar Study Circle, was attacked for taking part in a beef fest. He sustained serious injuries to his eye in the attack. The scholar was attacked for exercising his freedom.

POWER BELONGS TO ONE RELIGION

Back to religion, in June this year, a mentally-challenged woman was beaten with a rubber pipe in Nagaur district of Rajasthan. A  pipe-wielding man repeatedly hit the woman and commanded her to say 'Allah', 'Jai Shree Ram', and 'Jai Hanuman', which she did under duress. What was the need you ask? Beats us. Just an exercise is showing  the power of a name.

WE ARE ORDERED TO STAND AND PROFESS OUR PATRIOTISM

In November, 2016 , the Supreme Court of India directed that cinema halls across the country must play the national anthem before the screening of a film and that it is mandatory that people should stand up as a mark of respect. The court also directed viewers to stand while the anthem was playing, and ordered that the national flag be displayed on the screen during the anthem. Salil Chaturvedi, a wheel-chair bound poet got a rude shock when he went to the movies in Panaji, Goa. He was beaten up for not standing for the national anthem. Soon 12 individuals including 2 women were detained by police at the International Festival of Kerala for not standing up during the national anthem.  In a separate incident, a group of 20 people in Chennai assaulted 8 people including 3 women for not standing up during the national anthem ceremony in a cinema hall. Here the court ‘forced’ a country into being patriotic. It is a feeling which is developed from a sense of pride. Now the question is ‘would you still feel proud?’

WHERE DO WE STAND?

Freedom of speech and expression two of the most important ‘rights’ that we see missing in the India of today. Even freedom of life and living is under threat. Our conservative and narrow-mindedness have brought us to this point where everything we do, say, think, eat or show is offensive to some person or the other. When did we become a nation of touch-me-nots? Where is that secular and democratic Indian culture that we so proudly boasted of? Tolerance is no longer India’s greatest virtue, intolerance is our tribe now.

No matter what the Prime Minister or the President says or condones, the damage has been done. It has become an India of division – we don’t need to blame the British on this one – we brought it upon ourselves. The solution today for everything ends in violence and religion a weapon for radicalising minds and creating a fragmented country. If India would deign to look back upon the last few years, we may realise how wide the gulf has become from developed to savage- the journey did not take long.