There is an apparent decline in valuing human life in recent times. The mob lynching of Abhijeet Nath and Nilotpal Das; the killing of Girish Dutta last year etc. are just a few instances indicating this trend. Depending on specificities of each incident the factors are many including the rapid spread of hate speech, circulating fake news, spreading hatred, intolerance in multiple platforms like social media, etc. These factors act in combination with socio-economic, educational backwardness of the places where these incidents took place.
Along with these factors, the overarching cause of lessening sacredness of human life can be traced to the fundamental historical factor of ‘binary’ creation; where each group claims superiority over other groups. While emphasizing and prioritizing on ‘We’, the process automatically creates ‘other’ and dismisses them as inferiors. Not only the status and culture of the others are made inferior, but the value of their lives is also made inferior. While the former inferiority of status and culture is announced explicitly; the later inferiority ascribed to their life is more subtle and implicit in its operation. It is the case with every binary whether it is man-woman, heterosexual-homosexual, indigenous-non-indigenous, plains-hills, or binaries created by caste, religion, race, etc. In these binaries, the appeal to humanity loses its relevance.
The humanitarian appeal of Dr. Bhupen Hazarika “if humans will not think for human, who else will think for them…” finds no place in this culture of binaries as the group thinks only for themselves. It pushes the other to the margin sometimes and at other times the others are simply displaced. Therefore, these binaries need to be reconstructed. The boundaries of these binaries need to be redrawn; redrawn with the discourse of inclusiveness; redrawn from the perspective of the marginalized, from the perspective of the oppressed.
Speaking about socio-economic backwardness it must be mentioned that no society can progress towards a civilized society where noble principles of equality, justice, freedom can prevail if it cannot come out from its socio-economic and educational backwardness. The role of the state is crucial and inescapable here. It is primarily the state that needs to build socio-economic infrastructure. If basic needs are not provided; basic amenities are not there – then the quality of lives led by the people is compromised already. Similar is the case with education. In this period of privatization of education, education must remain a ‘public good’. The public character of education must remain intact. The reason is everyone has the right and access to public education, which is not the case with ‘private education’.
The state, therefore, needs to enhance its role in the field of education, providing the opportunity for modern and quality education to all. The same argument holds for health as well. If people die for lack of adequate health care; if Maternal Mortality Rate, Child Mortality Rate, etc. are still higher –the responsibility is on the state to take care of these problems. The principle of providing healthcare is that health care should be provided to those who are in need of health care; not due to purchasing ability to buy health care. Private health service is based on the later dimension whereas public health service is based on the former principle.
A quality life can only be ensured if we give proper and adequate attention to these aspects. Reducing socio-economic and educational backwardness will not only result in a good quality of life among the inhabitants, but it will also pave the way for the flourishment of noble values like respecting the rights and liberties of others. The prosperity of noble values is essential to prevent vices like hatred, intolerance, etc.
This is the age of electronic media. Social networks and electronic media give multiple platforms to raise voices. At the same time it also provides the space to express hatred; to circulate hate speech; to spread fake news very rapidly. This phenomenon was not experienced before. Though social media gives space for a plurality of opinions, simultaneously, the intolerance to dissent and criticism also finds a breeding ground in it. The spark does not take much time to become fire now a day due to the mobility provided by it.
Nevertheless, social media is inevitable. The regulatory vacuum regarding the circulation of hate speech etc. needs to be taken care of urgently. Besides, what we all can do at least is to become responsible digital citizens. How do we reinvent the discourse in social media is the challenge before us.
Speaking about reinventing discourse, the overarching appeal should be to the sacrosanct nature of each and every human life. This is the basic principle to understand and imbibe upon. The right to life is fundamental and it cannot be violated at any cost. This teaching must be imbibed from the childhood of an individual. It is because the binaries are learnt by individuals from their childhood only, consciously or unconsciously.
Not merely the absence of hatred, but an active culture of love towards humanity is the need. The seed of love needs to be planted to eradicate animosity. An ethic of love needs to be cultivated to uproot the place of hate and violence from society. The way forward can be found from the vision of Rabindranath Tagore – “Where the mind is without fear and the head is held high; Where knowledge is free; Where the world has not been broken up into fragments by narrow domestic walls; Where words come out from the depth of truth; Where tireless striving stretches its arms towards perfection; Where the clear stream of reason has not lost its way into the dreary desert sand of dead habit; Where the mind is led forward by thee into ever-widening thought and action – Into that heaven of freedom, my Father, let my country awake.” The vision may seem to be a utopia, but this utopia is inevitable to prevent any further erosion in valuing human lives.