Sunday, April 09, 2017

Disillusioned Bhaktas: Barbaric Times, Not Good Days, Ahead

Tavleen Singh (Image: Indian Express)
Senior journalist Ms Tavleen Singh was, and is, seeking Hindu renaissance but so far all she's got is gau rakshaks (cow vigilantes) on a terror spree—harassing, beating, killing Indian citizens in the name of protecting cows, considered holy by Hindus.

In her latest Indian Express column (“Is This Hindutva?”, 9 April 2017), Ms Singh has lamented that India no longer seems to have “Rule of Law”. Exasperated over the recent lynching of a Muslim dairy farmer from Haryana, she writes:
"A man was beaten to death in a manner that reminded everyone of earlier barbaric times when there was no rule of law."
And again:
"This is not about cows and cow slaughter. It is not even about Hindus and Muslims even if the killers were Hindu and the victims Muslim. This is about whether India is a country in which there is the rule of law or not."
For a long time, week after week, Ms Singh used her mightier-than-sword pen to advance the saffron juggernaut. Every Sunday, she tried to convince her readers that the rise of the home-grown fascists is good for the country. What made her, a foremost English-language journalist, a non-card-carrying member of the Hindutva brigade? To understand that we must pay attention to her peculiar intellectual journey.

Coming from a privileged background, Ms Singh received best of education in some of the elite educational institutions. But modern, Western education had an alienating effect on her. She opens the preface of her 2012 book Durbar with this sentence: “When I was sixteen years old I first became aware of being a foreigner in my own country.” She goes on to explain that the elite classes who eventually ruled India since Independence have been too Westernised and did not have any deep understanding or appreciation of  their own country. She says further in that Author’s Note: “I would go so far as to say that my generation of Indians was possibly more colonized than those who lived in colonial times and out tragedy was that most of us lived out our lives without ever finding out.”

Ms Tavleen Singh is, thus, on a mission—the mission to decolonize India’s ruling elite. Sadly, she saw the ruling elite only in the Westernised upper class and not in the brahminic revivalists. To defeat the former she put her trust in the latter. To help vanquish the dynastic disease in Indian politics, she put her trust in the communal poison—only that the cure proved to be worse than the disease. Hence, Ms Singh who rightly abhorred the rule of dynasty, now rues the demolition of the rule of law.

By the end of that preface, Ms Singh is pining for an “Indian renaissance”, which in today’s column she calls “Hindu renaissance”, and which she assumes has been held captive by the Westernised ruling classes. Five years later Ms Singh, in disillusionment, writes: “No renaissance can ever come from this [horrible violence in the name of the cow].”

This perhaps is the fate of all our modern-educated, elite supporters of the brazenly Hindu nationalist party.

Arun Shourie (Image: Indian Express)
Nearly a quarter of a century ago, another top journalist of India, Mr Arun Shourie attempted decolonization of the Indian mind by an unfair attack on the missionary movement of the nineteenth and twentieth century in India. In his 1994 book, Missionaries in India: Continuities, Changes, Dilemmas, Mr Shourie had rehashed the popular myth that missionary movement was the handmaiden of British imperialism.

Vishal Mangalwadi, an Indian Christian writer and activist, began to write letters to Shourie responding to many of his allegations. However, as Mangalwadi points out the real problem with Shourie’s book wasn’t the calumny or attack or bitterness, but a certain way of presenting history.

Mangalwadi rightly points out that in the true postmodern (pre-modern brahmanic) fashion, Shourie had already made up his mind as to what he wanted to say and then used the evidence in a selective way to prove his prejudice. While closing his last letter, Mangalwadi had an important observation to make. He wrote:
"Let me conclude: it does not disturb me greatly if you write untruth concerning missions and the missionary motive. The bigger problem is that you are promoting a relativism which assumes that nothing really true can be known; this means (whether you acknowledge it or not) that everything is relatively false. In this setting, truth is whatever suits me at this moment. … I understand, Mr. Shourie, your intellectual compulsions behind accepting a worldview of half-lies. But I am sad that you do not seem to have thought through the long term implication of this position. To begin with, your commitment to relative falsehood will undermine your credibility as a writer. You will, no doubt, still be useful to one or other interest group … however, the community as a whole can be blessed only by rigorous commitment to Truth."
By promoting half-truths and utter lies, Mr Shourie, has helped create an atmosphere in India where today people, especially on social media, are not interested in honest, truthful debate but getting their point—or prejudice—proved. If they don’t have facts to back themselves, they resort to shouting, abusing and threats of physical violence. Mr Shourie himself has been a victim of the viciousness of Internet trolls. And, why only Internet trolls, election campaigns are run on lies in this post-truth era.

When the elite of any culture is driven not by truth but by a misplaced sense of prestige and pride, it does irreparable harm to the society. It strengthens the forces that eventually shatter their own cherished dreams.

What both Singh and Shourie's experience tells us is that their reading of their own history is erroneous and their solutions to India’s problems will be nothing but catastrophic.


Sathish Simon said...

Indeed very insightful. Those who seem to liberal voices within the 'far right' will either become exposed or be carried away by the ideology that they too nurse deep within. Truth indeed Triumphs, but as you have shared the damage done can be irreparable too. We are loosing precious lives.

Ashish Alexander said...

Thanks, Sathish! We have a long ways to go before we are able to see the log in our eyes. Just because we speak and write fluent English doesn't mean we have overcome our primal biases.

Sushant Das said...

Thanks Ashish for the thoughtful post.
Dealing with frustrations (dynastic rule) with “anything is better than this”, invariably lands one in the fire.
As this article ( in the Tribune suggests, “evil persists because good men do nothing”.
Do keep writing! I remember Mangalwadi's talk in YWCA "The church as the conscience of the nation"

Ashish Alexander said...

Thanks, Sushant! That Tribune article mentions the bankruptcy of our current liberal thinkers, who have "made a silent conversion to majority view", which I think is a telling point.