There is something called society, or its Indic equivalent- “Samaaj” and there is another thing called “Individuality“. In today’s times, Samaaj and Individuality are frequently pitted against each other. All political systems- Dictatorships, Democracy, Kingship etc. work for creating/strengthening “Samaaj”. A Communist state aims to create an egalitarian Samaaj, a Theocracy works for creating a religiously pure Samaaj, Aristocratic regime tries to create a Samaaj based on rewarding lineage and so on. These movements work towards drowning/curbing the differences amongst people and creating a homogenous Samaaj. Individualist movements on the other hand, work on the differences between people. They emphasize the uniqueness of an individual and aim at creating a fluid system that creates a set of commonly accepted values (which are flexible). As an example, a Khap Panchayat tries to maintain Samaaj’s control, while Feminist/Liberal movements aim at breaking Samaaj’s controls. In an ideal situation, “Samaajist” and “Individualist” forces must be present in any society and balance each other out so that saner logic may prevail.
Unfortunately, Democracy doesn’t always create a system which encourages the peaceful coexistence of these two forces. Democracy, especially Liberal democracy, as a system is more supportive of liberal forces at the cost of Samaajist forces. Thus, you have a situation, in which viewpoints of a minority, however, abhorrent they might be, will be proclaimed from loudspeakers, whereas majority viewpoints that uphold the Samaaj will be depicted as regressive or intolerant. The emergence of independent media, that is high on noise but low on content and intellect further propagates the Individualist mindset that amplifies differences. This media therefore acts as a force multiplier for the Individualist cause.
India, as the largest and probably the loudest democracy serves as a very interesting experimentation chamber for the behavior of these 2 forces. A country, born out of partition along religious lines, displayed no appetite for theocracy and whole heartedly embraced democracy. Instead of moulding the Samaaj to create a common cultural identity, politicians identified vote banks who could be exploited to meet their political objectives. These vote banks whether caste based or religion based came in the way of effective integration of differences that should ideally have been subsumed within a larger Samaajik identity. Instead of focussing on commonalities, people focussed on differences- how Caste A had deprived Caste B of its rights, how community X and blasphemed against Community Y’s gods etc. etc. Reprisals followed and the “Samaaj” became toxic.
Cut to the present times, Media’s role as the torchbearer of liberal ideas has meant that genuine issues are also portrayed as a battle between liberalism and Conservatism. Minority vs Majority issues are often portrayed in a way to showcase minority issues more favorably. For example, take the case of beef ban, Of the entire population of this country, not more than 20% would be consuming beef. Of Hindus, specifically, the number might be closer to 90%. The states that have a history of beef consumption are either in the North East or Kerala. The law banning beef was passed in Maharashtra. It was portrayed as though the country was banning beef, disrespecting the sentiments of the majority of its citizens. Media helped generate toxicity in this case. Take another example, Madrassa education is known to be notorious. Every educated Indian would feel that people, irrespective of religion, must be educated and join the national mainstream. But God forbid, if someone were to even squeak about reforming Madrassas, liberals would be up in arms, wailing about the attack on secularism. A final example, introduction of Vedic mathematics- Everybody knows that it helps students do better at Maths, yet, Media reports continue to lambast it as being “Hindutva” agenda.
A modern society needs to be proud of its heritage and confident of its future. A modern society must balance its Samaaj and its liberal ethos. That is the need of the hour. It is easy to mock, judge and misrepresent. It is more difficult to be sane, rational and logical.
Once again, It is elementary, my dear Watson!