The Indian engineer who was killed in cold blood and the other who narrowly escaped death in Kansas were ‘mistaken’ by the murderer to be ‘Middle Easterners’. The sub-text is that if the victims had, indeed, come from the Middle East, then their murder would be fully justified. The two Indians were victims of the atmosphere of xenophobia that has been created as a matter of State policy in the United States after Donald Trump was pitch forked into the White House. What is surprising is that such acute xenophobia should get ready acceptance of a people who are all descendants of foreigners settled in the New World. Can Trump himself deny his mixed German-Scottish ancestry? The murderer had yelled: “Get out of my country”. How would he and his fellow compatriots react if the Red Indians of America were to turn round and yell back: “Get out of our country”?
When the ruling party or the ruling personage of a country divides the people into ‘we’ and ‘they’, unwittingly they create a boiling cauldron of hatred. This is as true of any other country, including India, as of America. Hatred of a different kind is now being worked up in this country. This hatred creates the ideal atmosphere for targeting innocents anywhere, from the suicide of a dalit student in Hyderabad to the mysterious disappearance of a student of the Jawaharlal Nehru University to clashes between different groups of college students in Delhi. The atmosphere thus created makes ‘moral policing’ easy. A couple may be booed and humiliated for holding hands in public ending in the suicide of one, or a film may be banned from showing because it is ‘lady oriented’ – whatever that may mean
The mentality of intolerance and hatred which is being created and which enjoys official patronage is real. The hate mongers may win elections and interpret their victory as people’s endorsement of spreading hatred, distrust and disgust for ‘them’. But the damage that they are causing to the body politic of this country with a plural polity is very real. It is for the saner elements of society to come together and raise their voice against the forces that seek to divide society on grounds of religion, caste or political beliefs. If they succeed, then the sap of life that has nurtured this country through its power of assimilation through the millennia will dry up.