A brutalized land is India. Perhaps it happened millennia ago, with all the invasions. The myriad foreigners who followed rumor of immense wealth to make their way to the land wedged between the great river Sindhu and the snowy peaks of the Himalayas — perhaps we can blame it on them.
There was once an age of righteousness, where wisdom was prized above all else, where rishis meditated in pristine forests, where generous kings served their peoples well, where the Gods intervened when the moral code of dharma was threatened, but who themselves were subject to the laws of karma. We knew yet how to make soma, the divine elixir, and we sang praises of all existence, constructing ideas that were novel. The creation of a second heaven, the breeding of races, the notion of honor before self-interest, music, dance, poetry, mathematics, love-making, theater, statecraft, the use of spices, yoga, a dancing God, battles between supreme powers, the riddles posed by semi-divine beings, intricate epics, demons, boons given to such, the indestructibility of the soul — all this was India, glorious homeland of the noble ones. Perhaps it was so.
It is no more, if it ever was thus. It has been replaced by a regimen of coarse and extended horror.
The video recording of this week only has one single example. It shows a filthy corner of some Indian town, where four dark-skinned, young men, have been divested of their shirts, and their hands tied with ropes attached to the back of a white vehicle. They are then assaulted by the citizenry. Turns are taken. There is no hurry. Sticks are used. No heed is taken of witnesses.
Which God is for this atrocity responsible? Or is it men who are wholly guilty? Men like us — who keep their peace because afraid, who sculpt arguments to explain and trivialize the phenomenon, who are not to action moved by outrage. As well as — those who allow remarks contemptuous of human dignity to pass unchecked, who speak with scorn to servants, who chirp with delight when the weak and voiceless are mocked, who nod along when despicable accusations are made against the Other.
The tschandal is whipped. The Gods do not intervene. It is done in public view. The agents of the modern republic, the largest democracy in the world, do not intervene. Worst of all, perhaps, even more than the inaction or approbation of Gods and policemen, is that the perpetrators and the bystanders with the repulsive visages are quite blasé about the act.
It is not a special occasion. A two-headed monkey has not been seen on the village green — just human beings being stripped of their dignity, chained to a chariot, and beaten with rude sticks. And so, the crowd stays still — neither applause not protest is heard.
This is what has become of an ancient civilization. But before we extend our sympathy to the demise of a great culture, let us offer it to the four bare-chested men. Let us offer it also to the silent witnesses, who have evidently lost the ability to empathize with a fellow human. And then to the millions, perhaps hundreds of millions, of the subjugated whom the Indian experiment has failed.
A monument built at the spot would serve to remind us what must be changed. There is no money to build a monument on a dilapidated lane? Let us scratch it onto our skins, then, that human dignity is worth more than the glory of some God. Or shall the unfortunate ones find solace only in the promise that Shiva, the mightiest of Gods, will one day soon perform the tandav, the dance which heralds the destruction of the entire universe? At least then, their pain and humiliation, and our shame, will find an end.