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President Barack Obama had once said (my highlights)

“I believe that overall, humanity has become less violent, more tolerant, healthier, better fed, more empathetic, more able to manage difference. But it’s hugely uneven. And what has been clear throughout the 20th and 21st centuries is that the progress we make in social order and taming our baser impulses and steadying our fears can be reversed very quickly. Social order starts breaking down if people are under profound stress. Then the default position is tribe—us / them, a hostility toward the unfamiliar or the unknown.”

This is also called ‘othering’; a term that refers to the many expressions of prejudice on the basis of group identities.

By “othering”, we mean any action by which an individual or group becomes mentally classified in somebody’s mind as “not one of us”. Rather than always remembering that every person is a complex bundle of emotions, ideas, motivations, reflexes, priorities, and many other subtle aspects, it’s sometimes easier to dismiss them as being in some way less human, and less worthy of respect and dignity, than we are.

Why do certain BJP supporters refer to Kejriwal as Kejruddin?

BJP supporters are mainly, if not exclusively, Hindu. The BJP has gained tremendous success through consolidation of Hindu votes and raising the bogeyman of the minorities – the others! Divide people and conquer! The age old recipe of the British Empire works even now. and why not? It is being used on the same peoples anyway.

A lot of ‘othering’ is normalised by constant repetition, in the best imitation of Gobbels’s Big LieIncidentally, before the horrific Rwandan genocide of 1994, when nearly a million Tutsi people were slaughtered by their own countrymen in 100 days, there had been a systematic campaign of ‘othering’ Tutsis by calling them cockroaches. Studies have shown that it made it easier for the Hutus to justify killing the Tutsis. That is the power of othering!

Since a lot of the repetition is brought about by mindless, paid & unpaid, ‘internet warriors’ using social media, there is need to keep it simple enough so that the dumb idiots with intelligence of 6 year old can understand and repeat. Hence the renaming blitz

  • Rahul Gandhi becomes – Raul Maino (pointing to his mother being Italian) or Pappu (a derogatory term implying that he is a half-wit).
  • Arvind Kejrwal becomes Kejruddin (giving him a Muslim sounding name) or Khujliwal (derogatory, disease sounding term)
  • Mamata Banerjee becomes Mamata Bano (a Muslim sounding name)

Even those who are critical of the government are not spared. I have seen a journalist named Salil being called Salim / Zalil.

The point is ‘othering’ makes them easy to hate. It makes it easy for others to hate them. It makes it easy to dismiss them.

The best way to deal with this renaming is not by renaming BJP supporters or leaders because that too normalises othering. It is by NOT using these names and debunking them when possible.