A modern art

Stone pelting is a way of life here. It's an art with innumerable advantages over more mainstream weapons. Stones are available for free and in abundance, they can hardly be identified as a weapon, you can easily dispose them and it's potential for destruction is directly proportional to your level of intent and exasperation.

Sometimes we pelt stones just for fun. That's what happened when the slum dwellers lining the railway tracks of Mumbai came up with a proprietary and ingenious way of fighting boredom for free. They began pelting stones at railway passengers without any provocation. It was great recreation and it soon became a rage. Innocent passengers were injured ( I don't remember if there were fatalities although I do remember someone losing an eye), and watching them suffering had an innate element of satisfaction. Let's face it, sadism rocks!

What happened to the entire and prolonged episode? It died a natural death. People gradually lost interest and the impotent administration heaved a sigh of relief for the humanitarian service rendered by the slum dwellers by not attacking passengers!

Pelting stones is often one of the few means of registering your protest when all other means of influencing nonchalant officials prove futile. We are a poor people and much of our daily living goes into the struggle to survive. Possessing man-made weapons is a luxury most can't afford and don't bother to, expect perhaps for the politically affiliated goons of Bihar and UP. I'm sure if we could afford, we would have many good reasons to possess them.

I would be dishonest to say that pelting of stones is exclusive only to India. People from a few other equally devoid (of culture/wealth) civilizations are equally at ease with this paleolithic art. Parts of Middle East and Africa still regularly put this practice to efficacious use.

Anyway, getting back to a civilization that prides itself for being one of the oldest, stone pelting is in the news yet again for another burden of our grand inventions: the Caste System. The Indian army was deployed to restore order in the tourist hotspot of Rajasthan yesterday after nine people were left dead in rioting by 30,000 members of a caste who are demanding to be socially downgraded in order to gain government jobs and university places.

Belonging to the lower castes was a curse only in the prehistoric ages. It's now a great privilege and people are ready to lay down their lives to fight for this (ig)noble cause. Belonging to an officially acknowledged, downtrodden caste throws open the floodgates of great opportunities that would have otherwise been grabbed only by the deserving. How boring! So we invented a modern day slick malady of our own to keep us engaged forever. It's called the Reservation Policy and it includes many and burgeoning avatars. To describe it in a nutshell, Reservation is a labyrinthine social institution with artificial complexities thrown in for good measure to empower those whose never-knew-so-never-forgotten ancestors belonged to the lower social stratum. We can't mend history but we surely can redress the anomaly of the past by providing privileges to a select few.

But we're losing focus here. Remember, it's about stone pelting! Bangalore has had its own grand exhibition of the art. When an aged local superstar left for his heavenly abode last year, people's remorse of the national calamity knew no bounds. So what did they take to? Stone pelting, of course! When a Canadian friend of mine visited the city for the first time (famed for having the most number of engineers in the world and being an IT hub), she was greeted with a rather curious spectacle and had to run for cover.

And if I race my memory towards childhood, at least one incident comes to mind. Those were the pre-Jharkhand days. Well, let's not get into the gory details. But it's fairly easy to imagine how supporters of the movement to create a state of their own were gradually going bonkers over the government's curtness to their demands. So they resorted to the same time-tested trick. Even our school wasn't spared and I remember a sudden volley of stones being furiously thrown at our classroom window. Thankfully, no one was injured and we had to acquiesce with a bandh. Needless to add, Jharkhand did become a reality not long after.

Such is the cumulative power of the modern art!

Comments

Vivek said…
Deep, they're presently in the OBC category & are demanding inclusion into the STs. See?

So, the demand is for an upgrade if you ask me.
Deepanjan said…
I don't see it that way, Viv. At the end of the day, it's just another fight to be identified as 'backward' and to exploit all the goodies that come with it.
Have you ever come across someone from the lower castes asking for an upgradation to an upper caste? Never! The privileges of being 'backward' are just too good to be junked that easily.
And yes, one often hears of the demand by community leaders to downgrade their castes/tribes. The pitch is feverish.

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