“The hottest places in hell are reserved for those who, in times of great moral crisis, maintain their neutrality.”
Whether Dante Alighieri said it or John F Kennedy made it up in the name of Dante, It is a catchy phrase. It is also a strong warning to those who play safe by avoiding confrontation wrong doers of the world. It is a piece of philosophy repeated by many thinkers across many time.
On the way to my college in Calicut, on a bus stop at Eranhippalam, a statement from Vagbhatananda was displayed saying that “You should not rest as long as there is an injustice, fight restlessly”. I used to get inspiration from this quote every week, to continue my political crusade in the college. Jesus whipping the traders from Jerusalem Church, Prophet Mohammed saying that a Muslim is duty bound to speak out in favour of the truth and justice, even if it is to our own loved ones, all are examples of the same philosophy. When Krishna says to save the world from oppressors, I incarnate from time to time, same philosophy is exhibited.
Martin Niemöller’s poem categorically showcases the need for a response when a neighbour is attacked. Following the rise of Nazi’s to power, the German intellects had chosen silence when the government purged group after group. It was also an expression of his own guilt for not standing with Jews when execution started. He believed in Hitler’s ideology and was a Nazi supporter in the beginning, but changed his opinion after an imprisonment for opposing Nazis’ state control of the churches.
Now, India is going through a phase of lynchings. Upper casts find lynching the lower casts as a universal solution to their problems, Dalits lynch Upper casts to solve their issues, Hindus finds it easy to kill few Muslims to solve their problems. Those who are in the majority in an area find the presence of minorities irritating and want to eliminate them. It is not confined to a community or caste. It is there in every cast and community. Because India is a Hindu majority nation and the feudal patriarchal system of social relations ensure that certain communities and casts suffer more than others.
If everyone wants to kill others, it is due to rising intolerant attitude in the population. People are frustrated and disillusioned about the progress made by the humanity in the ongoing era. They are looking for a solution and are attracted to easy solutions like the Nazis. Nazis were satisfied that the reason for all their problems was defeat in First World War and that in turn was due to Jews. We forget that the problems of life and its solutions may not be so simple at times. It may be an interweaving of multiple factors playing at different levels.
I don’t think that the killings happening in India are state sponsored as some of the intellects want to say. It is neither encouraged by the state. State machinery was never used in the recent killings. State machinery never talked in favour of the killings.
But to add to this I cannot ignore the fact that State also does not discourage the killings considering the quantum in which a state is duty bound to discourage crime. The state machinery never acted promptly to ensure that the justice is ensured to the killed individuals. When Mohammed Akhlaq was beaten to death, the first debate was whether it is Beef or Mutton, as if there is no wrong in killing him if it were Beef. The meat sample was immediately sent to the laboratory for examination, while the case of murder was set aside for later. Many of the members of ruling party, including the members of legislature openly coming up with hate speech and threatening the peace and security of the nation, without any attempt to prosecute them as per law of the land.
Certainly, though the state and the government are not guilty of commission of any crime, it is guilty of omission for not doing its duty properly. There is a clear dereliction of duty entrusted by the Social Contract when people die and State is a silent observer.
Many of the intellects and the common men who are enjoying their life, without being bothered about the killings around them, not interested in the politics of killings and killings of politics, they are also to be compared to those cowards who fail to respond when his brethren is destroyed.
People who claim to be neutral are to be burnt in the hell of conscience for their cowardice because neutrality is a disguised malice. People mistake neutrality is a virtue, while it is actually a vice. People are confused between neutrality and impartiality. Impartiality is a judgement based on merit. It may not be a neutral position. An impartial person will lean to one side which has more merit according to him. But a neutral person keeps the same distance from right and wrong. A neutral person is actually promoting evil by being silent while an impartial person judges the merits and decides what is evil before questioning it.
The state is only as powerful as its people and if the people doesn’t rise against injustice around them, the state is hopeless and useless.
*Vagbhatananda (1885 – October 1939) was a social reformer in British India who found the Atmavidya Sangham, which was fundamentally a group of professionals and intellectuals who sought change.
*Friedrich Gustav Emil Martin Niemöller (14 January 1892 – 6 March 1984) was a German anti-Nazi theologian and Lutheran pastor. He is best known for his statement “First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out-because I was not a Socialist. … Then they came for me-and there was no one left to speak for me.”