The Post-human age?

At the dawn of the 21st century human beings are staring into an uncertain future. Back home in India, many of us Indians are threatened by a malevolent law passed by a brute majority. Coming as it does in the wake of clearly anti-Muslim steps taken by Union government, it excludes Muslims on the ground of religion, which is prima facie unconstitutional.

Combined with a nationwide NRC (threatened by Union minister of home, Amit Shah) the CAA is going to be a lethal combo, which with its demand for umpteen documents (that rarely anybody can have or get) can turn Indian Muslims in their hundreds of thousands into stateless people. That this is clearly aimed at destroying Indian Muslims is clear from Shah’s declaration (repeatedly) that Hindus should not worry because document or no document they will remain Indian citizens.

This message is reinforced by the facts of CAA. Hindus, Sikhs, Christians and others coming from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan do not have to present documents for obtaining Indian citizenship. Only Muslims have to prove their bonafides to get a place in NRC even though they have been living here for hundreds of years. As said earlier, barely a few can prove their citizenship with unrealistically determined criteria. Nobel laureates Abhijeet Bannerjee and Esther Duflo have stressed that this is clearly an anti-Muslim law.

Peaceful, constitutionally-mandated protests against the arbitrary law are continuing over much of India. So does state-sponsored repression, the bloodiest of them being in UP, whose ruler proudly parades his bigotry.

With this, let us pan out and look at the globe. We find ethnic, religious and material resource-driven conflict in a sizeable part of the world. State-sponsored anti-Muslim pogroms and lynchings as well as organised violence against Christians, Dalits and tribals in India fade into insignificance compared to the viciousness of raging conflicts and civil wars in Middle East and Africa. However, a far larger and more fearsome threat for all life forms on earth is looming on the horizon. It is the threat of climate change. Consider below a quote from David Biello’s The Unnatural World: The Race to Remake Civilization in Earth’s Newest Age:

“…The globe warms, the ocean transforms, the insects go missing, and nuclear weapons proliferate, among numerous woes. People even fight more and connect less in an anxious world. There is no scientifically informed managerial elite to rationally manage this planet for the greater good; instead there is more and more evidence of how irrational and narcisstic we humans can be. The best name for this new epoch in which people change the planet irreversibly might be the Garb-Age, for the layer of trash around the Earth, waiting for future geologists or recyclers. There is a non-trivial chance that people will find themselves living in air conditioned bubble cities or underground because it is just too hot to cool off by sitting. And each and every one of these problems seems to be accelerating, like civilisation itself. What can be done?”

Scientists have been trying to bring down the earth’s temperature for quite a few years, conducting intensive research, using new measures (as pilot projects) to grapple with the dangerous rise in temperature. It bears reiteration that the end of the last Ice Age came as recently as (in geologic time) about 10,000 years ago. It was around this time that the earth’s temperature and climate patterns became favourable for agriculture. The erratic climatic pattern, so clearly visible now, can shift away to a new one that can make agriculture difficult or far less productive That can unleash great hunger or famine, trigger mass-scale food riots (as witnessed in bread riots in poorer countries in recent memory). These can destabilise governments and trigger civil wars, leading to hundreds of thousands of persons from weaker groups being forced out of their home countries’ borders and compelled to seek refuge in other, unfamiliar, unsympathetic countries.

Difficulty for agriculture is difficulty for horticulture (fruit growing), pisciculture (overland fisheries) and all kinds of livestock raising, from poultry to piggery and all kinds of meat industry, from mutton to bovine meat. This is so because all these require stable climatic conditions. Across the entire live stock-raising for the table, the feed required for all the species is grain-based. If there is not enough for humans, how can they feed these birds and animals for meat?

With the rising temperatures we have to worry about falling water tables. Three-fourth of the water is used for agriculture. The rest is not enough for safe drinking, bathing, washing clothes and cooking. This is going to be a great menace within a single life time, not just in distant future. Forty per cent of the world (including India) is water-scarce and the problem is growing by the day. As the seas continues to rise and much of Bangladesh, nearly all of Maldives, parts of Pakistan and India and other countries on the seas go underwater the world will be flush with environmental refugees. Have Muslim intellectuals and academics ever spared a thought about the human, political, economic and strategic costs of this relentless change?

That way, Prime Minister Modi and home minister Shah are far more smarter than our intellectuals and academics, because they know whom to welcome in with readymade citizenship and whom to kick out of India as alien even if they have been living in India for centuries. According to rough estimates, millions of Indian Muslims can be kicked out to bring Hindus (other being like a drop in ocean) into India and to settle them here on the Israeli model, the ideal of the Sangh. The grapevine says two crore Indian Muslim will be kicked out and an equal number of Hindus will be brought in.

A point to remember here is that the environmental disasters staring us in the face are, in the final analysis, not natural, but manmade. It is the same with huge famines. As Amartya Sen has proven in his research, famines have not been a problem of production, but distribution. In times of famines hundreds of thousands have perished even though there was enough food for everyone. It was simply the case that those who died had no money to purchase food.

Imagine a scenario of multiple crop failure. A government under a man like Mr Modi (who famously declared at the beginning of the current anti-CAA-NRC agitation that “those who are indulging in violence can be recognised from their clothes”– a thinly veiled reference to Muslims) can easily declare that those who have not got the papers will not get food ration while others will get it, paper or not. Abhijeet Bannerjee and Esther Duflo have clearly said the CAA-NRC is meant exclusively to discriminate against Muslims alone. Before getting back to the larger global context we would do better to analyse the full potential impact of these laws.

This is possibly one of the most worrisome aspects of the “post-human age” where, because of climate change, agriculture fails across a large swath of the earth, livestock is drastically reduced because of insufficient grains and disappearance of grazing land to become agricultural fields and crashing of ocean fisheries because of overfishing with big trawlers. This is surely going to destroy millions of jobs and cause lost livelihoods across diverse sectors.

This will create hundreds of thousands of new economic refugees all over the world and no country would be ready to take them in. Add to that the malicious CAA-NRC crafted by anti-Muslim politicians who have spent their lives devising ways to throw Muslims out. There is the blood of large number of people on their heads.

As an Indian Muslim this is an extremely dark side of the dreaded “post-human age.” But losing hope being unequivocally rejected in Islam, I assert that all is not lost for Indian Muslims, nor is this the case with the entire humanity worldwide. All of us will together overcome challenges, all humans anywhere, everywhere.

I want to end it with a couplet from an Urdu poet, Javed Akhtar, whom I confess I do not admire. He is not half as great as his father Jan Nissar Akhtar, or a quarter as great a poet as his brother Salman Akhtar, who is a prominent scientist (psychiatrist) teaching in a medical college in the US. Our dear Javed writes:

Dil nakaam nahin nashad hi to hai
Lambi hai gham ki shaam magar shaam hi to hai.
(My heart is only saddened, not frustrated. It is a long, sad evening, yet it is merely another evening.)

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