Monday, December 22, 2014
In Mary Shelly’s original novel written in 1818, Victor Frankenstein is a scientist who builds a live monster in his laboratory. The author described it as 8-foot tall and hideously ugly with black lips and glowing eyes. But she gave the creature no name. Frankenstein himself refers to his creation variously as Fiend, Spectre, Demon, Devil, and so on. The namelessness was seen then as a literary eccentricity. But perhaps there was more to it. Perhaps the author was saying that the most monstrous things in life had no name, that indeed it did not matter whether they had names or not.
In our time, the Frankenstein monster has assumed different names to suit different occasions, all of them coming under the rubric of communal hatreds. The most debasing of these hatreds rise from fringe Islamic groups. They produce the biggest shock waves because their barbarism is of a kind that cannot be matched by Christian, Jewish or Hindu fringe groups.
A case in point is the Islamic State’s (IS) massacring of even Muslims whose faith lines are different although they all worship the same God. Their extermination campaigns against Shias and Yazidis, and their turning of women captives into slaves were seen as the limits of human depravity. Yet, the IS attracted young Europeans and some Indians who joined them.
Now IS has been overshadowed by TT, the Tehreek-e-Taliban of Pakistan. That this group has gone beyond the human range became evident from three developments that followed the murderous attack on Peshawar's Army Public School. First, it quickly claimed responsibility for the killings. Second, supremo Mullah Fazlullah came up with the perverse argument that the TT was humanitarian since it killed only the older boys, sparing the small ones. Third, it said in no uncertain terms that more attacks would follow.
These are pointers to a seriously hopeless situation. Even Pakistan, which has long years of experience in nurturing terror groups, will find it hard to suppress an outfit like the TT. In their extremism, such outfits become demons threatening their own creators, as the monster threatened Victor Frankenstein for creating him and then abandoning him to fend for himself. By attacking Pakistan's elite army school, the TT killed the loved ones of many military families. This was a good time for Pakistan's army and the ISI leadership to realise that bloodletting led nowhere and that an effective way to stop the Mullah Fazlullahs was to stop the Hafiz Saeeds. But Pakistan has been sending out mixed messages; the 26/11 terror attack mastermind Lakhvi was released on bail, then put under 3-month house arrest. The concept of good terrorists and bad terrorists will devour those who believe in that impossibility.
But of course the monster of our times is not confined to one country, one doctrine or one religion. It has turned universal. At one end are the Southern Baptists of America who insist that Darwin's theory of evolution is bunkum and that the world and all living things in it were created by a Christian God. At the other end, we have a lone fanatic shooting people in a Sydney coffee shop, saying that he and he alone is right. In between, we have the Government of Israel persecuting and sometimes killing Palestinian citizens and, not the least, our own fringe Parivar that pits Indians against Indians.
But for its mischief effect, the Parivar tantrums could be dismissed as farce. What else is it when a woman divides India's population into Ramzade and H....zade? Many Indians whom she defines as Ram's children would have themselves felt annoyed. Some others want to put up Nathuram Godse statues to compete with Mahatma Gandhi statues in our cities. Why not, as long as they don't proceed to the naming of roads; new NG Roads will be mistaken for familiar old MG Roads. As for Christmas, why not abolish December itself? It is a Roman invention imposed by British imperialists on our ancient civilisation.
Conversion is more serious because conversion by any religion is condemnable. Latterday Christianity has taken it to ridiculous extents by offering inducements including the promise of curing incurable diseases with a preacher's touch.Pentecostal evangelists in Kerala make themselves ludicrous by trying to convert other Christians. There are specific laws against conversion in our country. These laws should be used to suppress fake salvation merchants. The Parivar's conversion-to-Hinduism farce will only flatter Islam and Christianity by imitation. No one will win and all will lose.