I am counting the number of people who have thrown in the towel. On Wednesday, July 26, 2017, it was Mr Nitish Kumar who abandoned his sword and steed and coronated himself (for the sixth time!) as the chief minister of Bihar. Given Bihar’s poverty, joblessness and divisiveness, it is astonishing to know that there is someone who regards the chair of chief minister of that state as a prize to be won at the cost of his credibility and self-respect. It is noisily propagated that the Modi-Shah juggernaut is unstoppable. One must board it quickly or make way respectfully or be run over mercilessly. Since July 26, six Congress MLAs in Gujarat have signed the terms (visible and invisible) of surrender. Vast sections of the media have been co-opted by the ruling party and the government. There are censors in newsrooms and editorial boards. Academia has been invaded; an invitation has been extended by the Vice-Chancellor of Jawaharlal Nehru University to station an Army tank on the campus. A retired major general hails the ‘conquest’ of JNU and promises to conquer Hyderabad and Jadavpur very soon. ‘
The Post-Truth World
In the post-truth world, more and more people are believing what is not necessarily true. They believe that ideology is dead. The only ‘thing’ you have to believe in is ‘What’s in it for me?’. There is a lot in store for you if you believe in the muscular hyper-nationalism of the true (and only) nationalist Indians. The capture of institutions has just begun, there are many more, and they will throw up numerous opportunities for the true nationalists. They believe that secularism is dead. State and religion will no longer be separate.
The re-inauguration of the Sardar Sarovar project after the height of the dam was raised to 138.72 metres will be sanctified by the presence and prayers of 2,000 priests from all over the country. They believe that liberalism is dead. Mr Dina Nath Batra and Mr Pahlaj Nihalani, and others like them, will be the new commissars of right thought, right behaviour and right culture. Anything that does not have their approval shall be presumed to be wrong and, therefore, proscribed.
Liberty, Equality, Fraternity
They believe that liberty is dead. The only liberty that deserves to be recognised is defined in the following words: ‘The only liberty worth having (is) the liberty of the State and of the individual within the State’. It is a minor detail that that definition was propounded by a gentleman named Mussolini. They believe that equality is dead. There was never real equality in India —between religions, between castes, between genders. After the Vedic age, the laws of Manu were invented, varna was the prevailing dharma and India flourished without equality, so equality is no big deal. Those who had no part in making the Constitution of India have never accepted that equality was a legitimate national objective. It is therefore legitimate to ask for unequal rights and unequal privileges, especially if you belong to the ABVP or a gau
It is therefore legitimate to ask for unequal rights and unequal privileges, especially if you belong to the ABVP or a gau rakshak group or the Vivekananda International Foundation, New Delhi. They believe that fraternity is dead. It is perfectly normal to deny a house for rent to a Muslim or a Christian or a single woman or a non-vegetarian. It is perfectly legitimate to distinguish between non-Bengali maids and Bengali maids. It is perfectly legal to raze the hutments of the Bengali maids because they are anyway from Bangladesh. They believe that English will be soon dead. The Committee of Parliament on Official Language will be requested to report regularly and frequently on ways and means to replace the use of English by the use of Hindi.
A Contrary View
I take a contrary view. I refuse to believe that liberty, equality or fraternity are or will be dead. These values are the soul of democracy and I believe that the people of India will never allow these values to die. Nor do I believe that the Indian people will abandon secularism and embrace Hindutva. The people know that secularism is the opposite of Hindutva. They also know that Hindutva will eventually mean a return to the days of domination of the upper castes and the oppression of the other backward castes and Dalits. I refuse to believe that we live in a post-ideological world. Ideology is no longer captured by a single word like capitalism or communism. Every party has to craft its narrative taking into account changes in society and in the people’s aspirations. Is not Hindutva an ideology? Does not the BJP audaciously pitch the philosophy of Savarkar, Golwalkar and Deendayal Upadhyaya as a counter-narrative to the philosophy of Mahatma Gandhi, Jawaharlal Nehru, Babasaheb Ambedkar?
I refuse to believe that the idea of India as enshrined in the Constitution can be destroyed. I refuse to believe that there are no Liu Xiaobos in India. I refuse to believe that the conscience of the media or authors or academia can be snuffed out for ever. I am reassured by the statements of 87 academics (July 13, 2017) and 114 defence veterans (August 1, 2017). It is true that, at present, the opposition parties seem to have faltered in constructing an alternative narrative to majoritarianism and Hindutva. They have only themselves to blame, but I am absolutely certain that the suffering and struggles of different sections of the people will throw up a counter-narrative.
Website: pchidambaram.in @Pchidambaram_IN