Letter to My Right-Wing Uncle

Dear right-wing uncle,

I am writing to you because I still love you, but I don’t like you anymore. I suppose you feel the same way about me.

Till a few years ago, I was the child you were proud of. You wouldn’t hesitate to bring me up in conversations with friends.

I remember peeling oranges under the warm Delhi winter sun while we debated for hours on end. You taught me to argue, reason and debate. I can’t remember clearly what your political leanings were, but I do remember that during those days, your leanings didn’t dictate how you engaged with people.

The disappointment I see in your eyes when you meet me now is a sign that those days are long past.

We don’t talk anymore. We don’t listen to each other anymore. The last time we spoke, you called me an anti-national and an urban naxal. You told me that I was being brainwashed by a left-wing media that is out to divide the country.

When I tried reasoning with you that being anti-government doesn’t translate into being anti-national, you moved the subject to Jawaharlal Nehru and how his multiple illicit affairs led to corrupt morals in the country.

In response, I called you a bhakt who no longer uses reason and logic when it comes to support for the right-wing party in power. Our argument ended on a bitter note, and we have been avoiding each other ever since. You no longer send me lessons from your WhatsApp university and I can’t decide if that is a good thing or a bad thing. I too have stopped sending you articles and videos that were solely aimed at changing your political (and also social) allegiances.

Somewhere in this tussle of trying to change one another, we stopped accepting each other. Our political leanings became our only identity while we interacted with each other.

Also read: Why You Shouldn’t Judge the Students Protesting in Your Neighbourhood

I want to set aside our political differences and bridge this gap because I feel we have played into the hands of the state which has quite effectively divided the society into pro and anti-government groups. However, I am unable to do so. Your complete silence about my views doesn’t help either. I want to accept you, but now your social and political allegiances are not about the upliftment of your own self, but are deeply rooted in the subjugation and vindication of others.

It is no longer about supporting one party over another. We often agreed that most political parties are two sides of the same coin, but as our right-wing government passes and creates new laws to unravel the carefully stitched fabric of our country, one side is turning out to be way more sinister than the other.

How are you okay with it?

When I spoke about government anti-minority stand and majoritarian agenda, you told me that I was reading too much into it and that the government, at its heart, only cares about economic reforms.

Five years later, we are looking at an economic crisis, but you are still in denial that our government faltered. Of course, the economic crisis has not solely been created by the government, but the sheer audacity they display while being in denial is something I can’t understand. Help me if you do?

I have also seen your upper caste Hindu pride surge with the power of this government. I never thought of our families as Hindu chauvinists while growing up. Did I miss something? Or have I fabricated a memory where you taught me that humanity trumps all religion?

You tell me that previous governments have been appeasing Muslims and it’s a good thing that Muslims have been pushed to their back by this government. Have you ever witnessed a loss of opportunity in the face of this alleged appeasement? I have only seen your fortunes rising over the last two decades – irrespective of whichever government was in power. What are you afraid of then?

Weren’t you the one who explained the meaning of xenophobia to me when I was 12? Didn’t we discuss the dangers of dividing the society into ‘us’ and ‘them’ when we watched Pinjar together? A few months ago, you took a jibe at ‘sickulars’ at a family gathering. I wanted to remind you the shared pride we felt on the day when Manmohan Singh was sworn-in as the prime minister in presence of a Catholic party chief and a Muslim president. Were you lying then or are you lying now?

I am questioning you because I can no longer make sense of my upbringing. The upbringing you played a huge role in. I fail to accept you as a xenophobic Hindu chauvinist of today, because if that were truly you, I would not be out on the streets protesting with your phone number on speed dial.

बातें तो बहुत है करने को लेकिन

कुछ आप  सुन्ना नहीं चाहते

और कुछ हम  कहना नहीं चाहते ।

Your estranged niece,

Bhawna Jaimini is an architect and activist in making.