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Three Cheers for the Indian

January 09, 2018 09:19 IST

'Thank you to those citizens of India who, every single day, quietly, anonymously, and decently refrain from targeting, hounding or murdering their neighbours, no matter how much they want to; and thanks also to those who loudly stand up for each other in the face of threat,' says Mitali Saran.
Illustration: Uttam Ghosh/Rediff.com

Illustration: Uttam Ghosh

Well, there was Ed Sheeran's Shape of You, which got 13 million views in two days on YouTube, and edged out every other song in your head until you wanted to throw both Ed Sheeran and YouTube off the balcony.

But in fact, most of the greatest hits of 2017 were not songs, and most landed on our skulls.

This year will forever be in my bad books for taking the life of one of my closest friends.

But personal loss aside, it's the year we've spent in a fast slide to majoritarianism.

In addition to the chaos of demonetisation, Aadhaar, and GST, we did as much as we ever have to dismantle institutional role and precedent, and to enshrine sentiment—national pride, cultural or religious sensitivity, cultism of all sorts as a kind of unofficial-but-official regulator, a consultant willing to take a blunt instrument to complex problems.

Stuck with certifying a controversial movie like Padmavati? Outsource a decision to loony right wing outfits, news editors, and royals -- yes, really, royals. (As @suku06 snarked on Twitter, 'Please get Jurassic Park certified by the dinosaurs.' Not that one is making any subliminal connections between royals and dinosaurs.)

Sentiment is a politically useful court of appeal, setting rules on the fly. It allows the BJP to ardently support meat-eating in the North East, and ban Delhi meat shops from displaying their products because it hurts the sentiments of vegetarians.

Absurd, right?

2017 was the year of the absurd. Power, for instance, got absurdly meta.

Should you have a dispute with the Unique Identification Authority of India, which both generates and regulates Aadhaar, you are welcome to appeal to the assigned arbiter, which is... the UIDAI. Good luck with that.

Meta power wins, especially if you're a chief minister facing criminal cases, like Ajay Bisht, aka Yogi Adityanath, chief minister of Uttar Pradesh.

Adityanath demonstrated that solutions are simple if you are only willing to put rationality aside, which isn't hard for a person who thinks the Taj Mahal doesn't represent Indian culture.

Salil Tripathi put it best, on Twitter: 'Yogi was appalled to discover that there were criminal cases pending against Yogi so Yogi asked Yogi to stop the cases against Yogi, so Yogi agreed and took immediate steps to stop any prosecution of Yogi on Yogi’s orders.'

2017 was the year of anti-journalism, when channels like Republic TV and Times Now led by sending journalistic self-respect and raison d’être right off a cliff.

And it was the year of real journalism, when startup Web sites and citizen journalists and concerned citizens stepped up to the plate to hold power accountable in a climate of servile media capitulation, often in the face of legal intimidation and straight up death threats.

Death threats were bandied about both by random trolls -- who most recently forced a fantastic satirical handle called Humans of Hindutva to close down -- and by government, like Union Minister of State for Home Hansraj Ahir.

Death threats got horribly real for independent journalists like Gauri Lankesh.

It was the year of insult, when all our politicians stuck their tongues out at each other and then crying about the other guy.

The PM, in particular, spent a lot of time actually crying, which everyone knows is what Indians respond to. Just ask Nupur Talwar.

Anyway, as we ended this pretty awful year and gird our loins for the next one, which experience tells me is likely to be worse, I want to summon up some love for a change.

So here's a huge shout-out to the people who spend their lives shoring up the Republic as she should be: Thank you to the farmers who feed us, yet can't get an audience with power; the armed forces who stake their lives for us and don't deserve to be used as political pawns; those lawyers who constantly challenge the abrogation of Constitutional values and individual rights; those judges who serve the Constitution; those journalists whose loyalty is to the public interest; and those politicians and bureaucrats who work sincerely in the interests of citizens.

Finally, and most of all, thank you to those citizens of India who, every single day, quietly, anonymously, and decently refrain from targeting, hounding or murdering their neighbours, no matter how much they want to; and thanks also to those who loudly stand up for each other in the face of threat.

All of you are the reason this country can still hold its head high. Have a drink and kick back for an evening -- it might be a long haul.

Happy New Year!

Mitali Saran
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