It was New Years’ Eve and we decided to have a quiet gathering near the bonfire. For us, it was an occasion to celebrate and rejoice with our family and few friends, far away from the bustling civilization of our busy cities. I too wanted to enjoy the gleaming warmth of the bonfire and have a good time in the peaceful solitude of the old Dak Bunglow at the picturesque Netarhat hill station.
But it was not to be.
As we were sitting and enjoying the glowing warmth of the bonfire, one of the family friends, a retired army official and his wife casually talked about the immense pains caused by the PM Modi’s demonetization exercise. Like our PM, perhaps they too didn’t realize what they had done at point of time. Their single informal comment was enough to set the cat among the pigeons.
The trolling was about to start.
On New Year’s Eve, only one spark was needed to light up the fire in that jungle.
In that friendly firing, another family friends, a retired doctor proudly declared, “Our family had voted for PM Modi in the 2014 General Elections. We actively support the ongoing Demonetisation drive of our PM.” He was soon joined by his vocal family members; they too vociferously voiced their approval of the same. They pompously claimed, “Mind you, both Black Money and the Corruption are going to disappear from Indian Economy in the New Year 2017.”
I wanted to laugh at that moment. But I only smiled.
Unable to keep quiet, I joined the debate and said, “I support eradication of Black Money and Corruption, but PM Modi’s demonetisation policy lacks honest intention. Had PM been serious about fighting Black Money, then he would have started with tackling Political Funding. It’s a flawed policy as it hits the poor very-very hard. Don’t ever forget that we live in a state wherein more than 1/3rd of the population survive below poverty line. They are worst affected by this demonetisation. I simply can’t close my eyes to their plights. Do you know in Jharkhand, BJP has ruled our state for the longest period?”
When I started raising these pointed questions, they did not like it.
One of their sons too dived right in and assertively pronounced that the acts of terrorism in J&K have gone down drastically. Closer home the Naxals have been hit hard. He declared with an authority that this whole demonetisation yagna has been a grand success in tackling terrorism, naxalism. The youngest one asserted, “Even stone-pelting incidents have stopped?”
Really, I tried to find the co-relation between the stone-pelting and the demonetization exercise. But I could not do so. But I kept quite. At that time, I realized that it was going to be fun night, as my family members were going to back down. Like me, they too belong to Argumentative Indian tribe and I was sure that one of them will answer.
Not the one to hold back, my younger brother returned the fire and asked them, whether they are aware that more than 60 Indian soldiers were killed in J&K in 2016 and that’s a twice as much as in the last couple of years? New Rs 2000 notes were recovered from terror hideouts in J& K recently. Also do they know that Naxals have used innocent villagers to exchange their old currency notes?
Once again, the uncle, the aunty and their two sons did not bother to answer.
Instead one of them got up from his seat; a Dentist based in Godda and asked angrily, “How dare some people can raise questions about surgical strikes carried out by our Indian Army? Don’t you think it’s an anti-national act to ask about surgical strike operations?”
Before we could answer that my mother replied, “Beta, asking question is our democratic right, it’s not anti-national act. Also so-called surgical strikes have failed to curb the terror activities.”
Then my younger brother asked them yet again, “On Demonetisation, why PM Modi has very conveniently moved from Black Money to the Cashless Economy? Why sudden shifting of goalpost?”
No one answered. There was brief silence.
After few minutes, the elder son of our uncle ji got up, he is an IIT alumnus and based in Texas, USA. He very innocently asked, “Bhaiya, why has JNU become the hub of the anti-national activities?”
And that was unexpected yorker, and we did not see it coming.
He too had shifted the goalpost effortlessly.
I asked them to listen patiently and then I replied with a straight bat, “You know my younger brother’s father in law is a JNU alumnus. He was a senior police official and served our country a distinction. He has many friends from his alma-mater. Some of them even teach at this prestigious JNU institution. I request you, not to fall for the heavily biased media-propaganda based on doctored video; especially when that video comes from a new channel backed by a politically ambitious owner, a political aspirant and prisoner of certain ideology.”
All of sudden, his younger Brother, questioned us loudly, “So do you want us to watch news-show of Ravish Kumar, a biased anti-government news-reporter?”
I tried to reply as calmly as possible, “Look, I am no one to suggest you on this matter. Personally, I do not watch Television news regularly; instead I prefer reading newspapers and news magazines.”
My polite response failed to calm his nerves.
He was ready with another noisy pronouncement, “Bhaiya, you live in Ranchi. Do you know? A Hindu with tikka applied on his forehead can’t freely walk on the streets of Ranchi, like Ratu Road?”
Their underlying message, viz., our Hindu Dharam is in trouble, was loud and clear.
Religion is a touchy subject here, so none of us reacted initially.
He had played the religious card.
But after getting over our initial shock, we assured them that Ratu Road is safe for Hindus. There is no need to spread these rumours and create unnecessary social-tension, when none exists.
For a few moments, the sanity returned. However, that was only a temporary and short-lived peace.
Doctor Uncle Ji started praising the incumbent Chief Minister. He asserted, “CM has taken a bold decision to amend CNT and SPT Acts here, it is likely usher development and make Tribals richer.”
My mother replied instantly, “You have no idea how angry our Tribal community is on this CNT and SPT issues. In coming days, it will cause more harm than good to our state.”
My younger brother requested them, “You must read a blog penned by father on it. Tata, HEC, Dams, etc were established without amending CNT and SPT Acts. Now what has changed?”
I too tried to reason with them, “Biggest grouse of Tribals is that they were neither consulted nor taken into confidence by CM on this contentious matter. And this is an act of treachery. So far, CM has been unable to convince agitating tribals. In coming days, weeks and months, I see lots of street-protests in our state. The future is full of turmoil, unless one of the parties backs-down.”
All of a sudden, the bustling of crackers and fire-works announced the dawn of New Year 2017.
Mercifully, our heated discussions came to an abrupt end.
We decided to douse our bon-fire, took turns to shake hands, gave a hug, wished Happy New Year to each other and retired to our respective rooms. We all wished for a much better year than the year that had gone by.
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