One can make a sweeping statement: the older a civilisation gets the more hypocritical it becomes. Diverse societies in the sub-continent are an eloquent testimony to their ability to raise the phenomenon to the level of art.
Hypocrisy isn’t accepted as something valuable if measured on the scales of values but is condoned as a sort of pragmatic approach and thus humans are hustled into it for the sake of civilised manners, social cohesion and avoidance of stress and conflict. At another level hypocrisy is consciously employed as a tool to get illegitimate advantage, economic, social and cultural. At yet another level it’s polished and used by the state to perpetuate the hegemony of those already ensconced in the echelons of power. To demonstrate level one, the following small episode will suffice.
Late Hasan Raza Gardezi, a fine poet, a notable conversationalist and brilliantly witty personality of Multan, was in the habit of lampooning his friends and foes. Once he was regaling a small gathering of friends at his residence with a lampoon about a friend. It so happened that friend in-question sneaked in and overheard what he recited. He surprised Hasan Raza: “sain, medi kund pich hon tusan eh ahdey o” (This is how you talk about me behind my back). Trying to be on his best behaviour, the poet replied: “Qibla, Tuhadey munh te eh ni aakh sagda. Aakhir Tehzeeb vi kai shae hye” (How can I say such things to your face? After all there is something called civilised behaviour).
Hypocrisy at the second level is a fact of everyday life; most of us say one thing and do another for petty gains without batting an eyelid. From home to office and from Bazaar to place of worship hypocrisy rules supreme and the behaviour dictated by it is accepted as a norm. At the level of state, it’s a policy tool engineered and employed to safeguard the vested interests of the dominant and to protect and promote the privileges of its entrenched institutions. Here foul is dished out as fair in the name of nation building and patriotism.
One needs a perceptive, very briefly, to understand the phenomenon in historical terms which has been both complex and convoluted because of our specific social evolution.
Our society since Harappa times has been subject to unending series of invasions. Its geography and fertility have been its bane. Gradual ascendancy of Arya after their arrival in the land of Sapt Sindu (the land of seven rivers) resulted in the hypocritical notion of caste society (Varun) which generally placed the Harappa people, the advanced and most civilised, at the bottom rung of newly created hierarchy. Arya heavily from Harappa society, rehashed it and then used it against the very people they benefited from. How developed were Arya is demonstrated by the Aryan warlord Indra, deified later, when he after his so-called victory makes an offer to the indigenous Asur King to rule the empire jointly. It simply exposes Arya’s inability to handle a complex urban society at a higher level of development. It prompted Brahminbid to hide the fact through hypocritical concepts and culture of Arya superiority vis-a-vis the local people who merged in the Hindu scriptures as the “civilised demons”.
In the later days Arya Varta, (the abode of Aryans/originally the northern part of the subcontinent), was itself battered by innumerable invaders which forced it to adopt hypocrisy as an element of its survival strategy. Of all the invaders the Arabs and Turks (Turuksa) posed a serious threat and caused a grievous loss to its long static social fabric.
Amaury De Riencourt in his remarkable book The Soul Of India writes what happened in the aftermath of Turkish invasions: “Muslim imperialism in India proper started when the Turks stepped on the scene of history …. Gradually the ethos of Hindu nationalism took shape: Hindus, for the most part, led double lives more or less unconnected with one another… They enjoyed whatever worldly bounties were available to them while professing to despise them. They hated their overlords for their power, then despised them when the wheel of historical fortune eventually made them weak. Hinduism, as a world outlook, gradually acquired certain characteristics that were absent before the advent of the Muslim invaders: hypocrisy and self-pity”. Such hypocrisy wasn’t confined to Hindu community. It equally affected the converts to Islam if not more because; 1, they were mostly from the lower castes and continued to be held in low esteem by upper caste Hindus and ruling aliens, 2, the converts shared little with the foreign Muslim ruling elite in terms of language, culture, ethnicity and race. Thus they were dubbed “Arzaal (the mean and lowly) by the ruling clique of foreign extraction and were treated as such. Even the so-called educated and enlightened weren’t exempt from such a malady as was expressed by Sir Syed Ahmed’s resentment for being forced to stand in a court of law along with what he called “Arzal (the hoi polloi)” in the 19th century while professing that his religion believed in human equality. And this happened after the Muslim power had fallen into eclipse.
After the Partition the culture of hypocrisy got further boost; immigrants from India especially from Uttar Pradesh pretended as if they were big landlords and wealthy. They subsequently got big chunks of land and costly urban properties evacuated by fleeing Hindus and Sikhs in the Punjab and Sindh. It was an outlandishly hypocritical act. The local influential families for their part muddied the fact that they were nouveau riche and recipients of colonial largesse. It was a shameful historical lie.
Hypocrisy has become so deep-rooted that we in our textbooks tell our young that we are from the foreign parts and don’t belong here. We pretend to be what we are not.
In short, hypocrisy has become our way of life; it’s for the powerful a carefully crafted mechanism to augment their position and privileges while for the powerless it’s a sort of survival strategy that helps to keep their abject existence from falling into oblivion. Any way it won’t take long for our way of life to enter a cul-de-sac if it hasn’t already. — firstname.lastname@example.org
Published in Dawn, July 26th, 2021