The problem with expecting preferential treatment from those in power is not that they will not give it or that you are a fool to expect it. The problem is that any system based on such bias will eventually not be good for anyone involved. The problem isn’t that you will learn a lesson about people in power having no loyalty to you. The problem is that even the expectation of such loyalty is damaging to everyone.
We are going through an unfortunate time right now. And it should give no one any pleasure to point out what I am about to point out. But much of the outrage about the failings of our system is actually not new. It has been expressed by many people on many occasions in the past. It’s just that some of us were convinced these failings will never come to haunt us and so we not only allowed them to exist, we even applauded the oppression of those who these failings were affecting. We fell for the lie of preferential treatment. They told us they were only going after “those people” and we, thanks to our own biases and a monumental campaign of demonisation, let them do it.
This brought us to where we are now. Dr Kafeel Khan went to jail for pointing out that there was something seriously wrong with the Oxygen cylinder situation in Uttar Pradesh. Several scholars, leaders, and intellectuals have faced legal action for pointing out that the government’s policies towards dissent do not bode well for Indian democracy. We let them suffer and even applauded the government for causing such suffering. Now, we are at a point where our family members are dying inside and outside hospitals not only because of the disease afflicting them, but also because of lack of Oxygen cylinders, hospital beds, and adequate medical care.
Our outrage is second-hand. It was first expressed by students of Jamia, the old women of Shaheen Bagh, protesting farmers, the people of Kashmir, and anti-caste activists. It was expressed by everyone that our news channels demonised, everyone who went to jail without a trial, everyone who was blamed for the atrocities committed against them. The fire that we thought to be beautiful as it burned someone else’s house has finally touched our own homes.
Now, when we are outraged at being abused for criticising the conduct of members of the ruling party, what we need to remember is that this is not new. We are just the latest inconvenience for them. And the fact that they will treat us no better than how they have treated “those people” should not cause us surprise. It should only make us more compassionate towards each other.
And if all else fails and we decide to stick to our old ways, then let us at least be honest about it and start saying, “hum logon ke saath aisa hee hona chahiye.” There is no unn logon. There never has been. They are us. We are them. Those who told us we were different and that they will work only for us had no intention of working for anyone except themselves.