Opinion

Gujarat bishop’s plea to save India from nationalist forces is an act of citizenship we must support

The Election Commission has asked Thomas Macwan to explain his letter calling for prayers for the victory of ‘humane leaders faithful to the Constitution’.

As a child, I remember my father making me stand in front of convex and concave mirrors so that I could understand the joy and laughter of both the self and of physics. The exaggerations in front of me were unbelievable and watching a bloated self and then a constricted one was always a moment of discovery and surprise. I returned repeatedly for the gift of that experience and the understanding it provided.

As I grew up, I realised that physics gave me a sense of order and then sensed that the disorders of politics were of a different kind. I remembered this insight as I read reports of the Thomas Macwan incident and the hysteria and hyperbole that accompanied it. In a pastoral letter dated November 21, the archbishop of Gandhinagar called for prayers to “save our country from nationalist forces” and for the victory of humane leaders “faithful to the Indian Constitution” in the Gujarat Assembly elections in December. It prompted the Bharatiya Janata Party’s Sudanshu Mittal to demand his arrest for inciting religious hatred. Macwan later clarified that his appeal was not against or in favour of any party.

I also realised it was not just the text of Macwan’s letter that was made problematic but the very presence of the man. Macwan is a Christian, an archbishop writing on the state of current politics. As a Christian, as a minority, as a suspected missionary, the BJP would have changed his sane letter into a red letter day of exaggerations. One also senses that unless the BJP creates storms out of these teacups of sanity, it cannot sustain the tsunami of the communal mind, especially before elections. A simple act of citizenship and caring is construed as an intrusion into politics. The minority becomes alien when it criticises the current political state or appeals to the Constitution.

The archbishop was expressing a worry that many critics have, that majoritarianism has become a substitute for nationalism, and patriotism and citizenship have become terms the BJP will define. When majoritarianism becomes nationalism, the minorities have to be concerned. The nationalism Macwan refers to threatens democracy and the Constitution. Beyond the logic of number, Hindutva patriotism has no sanctity. It is brutal, it is jingoistic, and like a macabre Alice, it uses words to say whatever it means.

Faith in the Constitution

The critics do not understand the pathos and irony of the letter. The nationalism of our fathers was a unifying force, a source of diversity, where differences added to the power of the idea. It was a nationalism where diversity went hand in hand with liberty and equality, which dreamt of a democracy that went beyond the brute power of electoral demography. There is power and irony when Macwan states that “nationalist forces are taking over the country”, as the tragedy and the irony is complete when the majority becomes the nation. It is an ethnic cleansing through concepts because by definition it excludes minorities and dissent and pretends to sanitise a world of violence.

Macwan’s text is, therefore, one of concern, care and courage. It is not a parochial note of an archbishop writing to his flock. The good shepherd is not warning just his sheep. He is warning the nation of the wolf packs of jingoism overrunning the country. His letter is sane, rational and constitutional. His is an act of citizenship that needs to be defended against the inquisitorial vigilantism haunting our country. In fact, his critics seem envious of his choice of words and language. Macwan does not take the high ground, he appeals to the common ground, to the openness of the public and the Constitution. It is his critics who take the hysterical high ground, desperate for an act of television lynching.

Many people miss a subtle point. Macwan acknowledges religion and belief but he talks of faith in the Constitution, which is a faith in democracy. His is an appeal to citizens emphasising the coming election and the difference it could make in their lives. Here is a man who wagers on democracy, even when the odds are against him. It is an act of faith, a statement of hope that his critics – used to political lynch squads and mob jingoism – are not familiar with, a singular man standing up for his way of life and its truth.

Act of prayer

Macwan understands a more creative sense of secularism. He is not referring to the emptying out of religion. His is a dialogic pluralism between his Christianity seeking justice and solidarity and the Constitution and democracy as similar quests for the human and the humane. He believes in prayer and he emphasises that faith and prayer can move majoritarianian mountains. Like Mahatma Gandhi, he believes in the power of prayer and in the courage of conviction. Prayer creates history, he says. Prayer overthrew authoritarian regimes. But he does not stand by prayer alone. He demands courage and citizenship, he demands a greater involvement with democracy where every vote is an act of faith in that great text we call the Constitution.

He also stands up to his responsibilities when he cites the innumerable times the Church has been attacked or vandalised. He is appealing to the public and the Constitution, where his faith in secularism is impressive, when secularism has become an empty act of political correctness, a hypocrisy of table manners pretending to favour the minority. Note that his refrain is not minoritarian, it is openly, secularly constitutional. What threatens his critics is two-fold – a critique of majoritarianism as an ersatz nationalism and a public act of faith in the Constitution. It is a gift of citizenship one must be grateful for and defend at a time when Indians are giving in to jingoism. His is not an appeal to a party; if he is partisan, it is in his loyalty to the Constitution, appealing to conscience and citizenship. One cannot ask for more from this act of prayer and its candid critique of current politics. It shows truth can stand up to hyperboles. Thank you, Citizen Macwan.

Shiv Visvanathan is Professor, Jindal Global Law School, and Director, Centre for the Study of Knowledge Systems, OP Jindal Global University.

We welcome your comments at letters@scroll.in.
Sponsored Content BY 

Not just for experts: How videography is poised for a disruption

Digital solutions are making sure it’s easier than ever to express your creativity in moving images.

Where was the last time you saw art? Chances are on a screen, either on your phone or your computer. Stunning photography and intricate doodles are a frequent occurrence in the social feeds of many. That’s the defining feature of art in the 21st century - it fits in your pocket, pretty much everyone’s pocket. It is no more dictated by just a few elite players - renowned artists, museum curators, art critics, art fair promoters and powerful gallery owners. The digital age is spawning creators who choose to be defined by their creativity more than their skills. The negligible incubation time of digital art has enabled experimentation at staggering levels. Just a few minutes of browsing on the online art community, DeviantArt, is enough to gauge the scope of what digital art can achieve.

Sure enough, in the 21st century, entire creative industries are getting democratised like never before. Take photography, for example. Digital photography enabled everyone to capture a memory, and then convert it into personalised artwork with a plethora of editing options. Apps like Instagram reduced the learning curve even further with its set of filters that could lend character to even unremarkable snaps. Prisma further helped to make photos look like paintings, shaving off several more steps in the editing process. Now, yet another industry is showing similar signs of disruption – videography.

Once burdened by unreliable film, bulky cameras and prohibitive production costs, videography is now accessible to anyone with a smartphone and a decent Internet bandwidth. A lay person casually using social media today has so many video types and platforms to choose from - looping Vine videos, staccato Musical.lys, GIFs, Instagram stories, YouTube channels and many more. Videos are indeed fast emerging as the next front of expression online, and so are the digital solutions to support video creation.

One such example is Vizmato, an app which enables anyone with a smartphone to create professional-looking videos minus the learning curve required to master heavy, desktop software. It makes it easy to shoot 720p or 1080p HD videos with a choice of more than 40 visual effects. This fuss- free app is essentially like three apps built into one - a camcorder with live effects, a feature-rich video editor and a video sharing platform.

With Vizmato, the creative process starts at the shooting stage itself as it enables live application of themes and effects. Choose from hip hop, noir, haunted, vintage and many more.

The variety of filters available on Vizmato
The variety of filters available on Vizmato

Or you can simply choose to unleash your creativity at the editing stage; the possibilities are endless. Vizmato simplifies the core editing process by making it easier to apply cuts and join and reverse clips so your video can flow exactly the way you envisioned. Once the video is edited, you can use a variety of interesting effects to give your video that extra edge.

The RGB split, Inset and Fluidic effects.
The RGB split, Inset and Fluidic effects.

You can even choose music and sound effects to go with your clip; there’s nothing like applause at the right moment, or a laugh track at the crack of the worst joke.

Or just annotated GIFs customised for each moment.

Vizmato is the latest offering from Global Delight, which builds cross-platform audio, video and photography applications. It is the Indian developer that created award-winning iPhone apps such as Camera Plus, Camera Plus Pro and the Boom series. Vizmato is an upgrade of its hugely popular app Game Your Video, one of the winners of the Macworld Best of Show 2012. The overhauled Vizmato, in essence, brings the Instagram functionality to videos. With instant themes, filters and effects at your disposal, you can feel like the director of a sci-fi film, horror movie or a romance drama, all within a single video clip. It even provides an in-built video-sharing platform, Popular, to which you can upload your creations and gain visibility and feedback.

Play

So, whether you’re into making the most interesting Vines or shooting your take on Ed Sheeran’s ‘Shape of You’, experience for yourself how Vizmato has made video creation addictively simple. Android users can download the app here and iOS users will have their version in January.

This article was produced by the Scroll marketing team on behalf of Vizmato and not by the Scroll editorial team.