‘Child grooming’ means befriending a child, developing an emotional bond and exploiting this connect to take advantage of the unsuspecting victim. It is easy to understand why these kids fall prey to their abusers- they lack the intellect to make a distinction between good and evil. Cash, gifts or a sham emotional connect are some of the lures abusers use to trick the child. Most cases of child grooming go undetected and unpunished with the child suffering the repercussions of exploitation virtually throughout her/ his adult life.
But why refer to the above when talking about what we have termed ‘mass grooming’ in Indian politics?
That’s because both are comparable. Take a quick look at the political environment in the country. What is that one thing that is common in every poll campaign of the ruling party? It is fear-mongering. Leaders and cadre of the ruling party at the centre are using exaggerated rumors of some ‘threat’ approaching the majority faith. Religion is being invoked in virtually every poll rally of the ruling party, and persons occupying constitutional offices have become a mere politician rather than being Prime Minster or Chief Minister. The head of the government has been visiting places of worship of the majority faith, and this has become a part of the design of ‘mass grooming’ that is going unchecked in India.
There are two things to note here. One, the meaning of ‘secular state’ isn’t recognition of all faiths but absence of faith and other related elements from governance. Basically, this means the state does not have any religion when there is an express or implied mention of the word secular in the constitution. Two, the term ‘minority appeasement’ is nothing but a sham. In electoral politics, where the first-past-the-post system (candidate with most votes wins regardless of vote share) prevails, a clever politician will always steer clear of being projected as appeaser of the minority class.
Now compare the common man with that child who is being groomed by the abuser. Similar to the child, the common man lacks adequate understanding of critical issues at hand. Terms like rule of law, equality before law, opportunity of hearing, affirmative action are complex for this common man. Reasons are many- lack of education, prevalence of patriarchy and conservatism, and short-sightedness. But all this doesn’t mean that the common man is to blame here, just like the child isn’t to blame in cases of child grooming. It’s always the abuser who’s to blame, for he/ she employs tricks and tactics to lure the victim, and in politics this trick involves fear-mongering, empty rhetoric and majoritarianism.
The ruling party’s misadventures, which include denotification of currency notes, rushed through laws, and reliance on lies and deceit during the pandemic, did not dent its prospects in polls, and this could be achieved by ‘mass grooming’. Regardless of all pains including price rise and joblessness, the common man has yet to realise that the abuser has built this ‘emotional bond’ only to further own vested interests. The unsuspecting victim has yet to realise that the long-term negative impact of this ‘mass grooming’ which he his unintentionally falling prey to will be so severe that not one but many generations would feel the pain. Drugs, money or gifts used by child abusers is comparable to exploitation of faith and abetment to mobocracy by politicians. Indeed, ‘mass grooming’ will someday be brought to justice, abusers will be booked, but its stains and marks will be so tough and deep that the healing process will take a lot of time.