Looking Away: Inequality, Prejudice and Indifference in New India
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This feeble blemished light, this dawn mangled by night,
This is not the morning we had all so longed for?
?Faiz Ahmed Faiz
In the two decades since the early 1990s, when India confirmed
its allegiance to the Free Market, more of its citizens have become
marginalized than ever before, and society has become more sharply
riven than ever.
In Looking Away, Harsh Mander ranges wide to record and analyse the
many different fault lines which crisscross Indian society today.
There is increasing prosperity among the middle classes, but also
a corresponding intolerance for the less fortunate. Poverty and
homelessness are also on the rise?both in urban and rural settings?
but not only has the state abandoned its responsibility to provide
for those afflicted, the middle class, too, now avoids even the basic
impulses of sharing. And with the sharp Rightward turn in politics,
minority communities are under serious threat?their very status as
citizens in question?as a belligerent, monolithic idea of the nation
takes the place of an inclusive, tolerant one.
However, as Harsh Mander points out, what most stains society today
is the erosion in the imperative for sympathy, both at the state and
individual levels, a crumbling that is principally at the base of the vast
inequities which afflict India. Exhaustive in its scope, impassioned in its
arguments, and rigorous in its scholarship, Looking Away is a sobering
checklist of all the things we must collectively get right if India is to
become the country that was promised, in equal measure, to all its
Harsh Mander, writer, human rights worker, columnist, researcher and teacher, works with survivors of mass violence and hunger as well as with homeless persons and street children. His books include Unheard Voices: Stories of Forgotten Lives, The Ripped Chest: Public Policy and the Poor in India, Fear and Forgiveness: The Aftermath of Massacre, Fractured Freedom: Chronicles from India's Margins, Untouchability in Rural India (coauthored), Living with Hunger and Ash in the Belly: India's Unfinished Battle against Hunger. He regularly writes columns for The Hindu, Hindustan Times and Mint, and contributes frequently to scholarly journals. His stories have been adapted for films, such as Shyam Benegal's Samar and Mallika Sarabhai's dance drama Unsuni.