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Mainstream, VOL LII No 50, December 6, 2014

His Master’s Voices: They Are Loud

Sunday 7 December 2014, by Badri Raina

Ah, those cocksure voices on prime time, strident and self-righteous in their condemnation of whatever be politically out of season—most of all, even the least suggestion that what is with nauseating insistence peddled as the “national interest” may at bottom comprise merely the greedy vision hugged by a minuscule Indian neo-upper class. And the cussed temerity of those who refuse to conform and say an instant “yes” to what is blared from the big-brotherly megaphone in sickening, filmy style.

The cry is that all Indians must consider themselves, upon pain of perfidy and exclusion, one. Does it matter that a billion lambs and a few million lions yet follow their own immiscible inclinations, one to exist, the other to gobble, regardless of the coercive homilies from the pulpits of the cultural and economic tzars of our time.

In a word, what they say to us is simply: “think and do as you are told, or else.”

Thus the poorest of Indians are to imagine that their lot having catapulted into luxury over the last six months because the megaphone so says, they no longer require any sort of guaranteed welfare scheme—of right to work, right to food, right to education, not to speak of the right to health—silly and sentimental things which a deleteriously cuddly government ere now had unleashed at mortal cost to those who alone truly deserve the paternal attentions of the state, namely, the destitute corporates—destitute even after every government that comes writes off what they legitimately owe to the state and the people in taxes worth several lakhs of crores each year, not to mention the bank loans they never repay and that are thoughtfully disregarded as “non-performing assets”.

We are to think and propagate that all social oppressions have melted into holographically non-existent justice and fairplay, that rapes and sundry other distractions associated with women are now a thing of the past, so that a budgetary provision of a hundred crores suffices to take care of their safety issues countrywide while some two thousand crores must be allocated to the building of a Patel statue in Gujarat: we are to think and propagate that prices have plummeted when they have actually gone up, despite the so fortuitous drop in global oil prices, that corruption in public life is an old legend, that what was black money now shines as crispy white in the virtual coffers of the dregs and the labouring whose penury has been embellished by moneys brought back from hideaways as per electoral promise, that all black money has been lying in foreign lands and none within swachh Bharat, since admitting to such a truth could be fatally self-incriminating. We are reminded that the most tubercular Indian breast must dutifully inflate with pride at the way that the world, which ostensibly used to think nothing of us, now thinks we may be big shakes, certainly big game; that Pakistan has been obliterated (even as border and ceasefire violations have astronomically multiplied since the new strong Indian Government came to power) and China put to rights as well (even as they make ever bolder dashes deep into what is presumed to be Indian territory)—all of this because we now have “Hindu Rule after eight hundred years” (this from no less than the big chief of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh), and, if you believe Shri Modi, “after twelve hundred years of slavery” (flourish dating from the Madison Square Garden mega-rock event), both pronouncements calculated to drive home the point that Muslims in India are foreigners whose ancestors were colonisers long before the British).

Thus all those who are still hungry, still untouchable, still raped, still trafficked, still without a roof or sanitation, without medicine and without work, without the least bit of dignity, must all feel they are now the rulers of the realm, if and because they were born into Hindu families. An old sleight-of-hand and devious “nationalist” lie, but one seen to be pregnant with political promise. Hopefully for not too long, since a time must come when hard knocks displace sweet and disingenuous words, when, yet again, a preponderant majority of Indians across religions and denominations realise that the nation never belonged to them, except in name, except as a mantra legitimating the appropriation of the fruits of their labour.

 No surprise that the erudite Minister of Education (crudely in India nomenclatured “Minister of Human Resource Development” as, maybe, of coal, steel, or cement, commodities all), having been richly schooled in the party office and upon the stage, rather than distracted among colleges and universities, and pointless books thereof, should everyday be asked to incorporate these new resurrective disinformations among the syllabi and textbooks across the nation, so that the generation that has thus far been misled and those to come may now imbibe with purity and piety the final truths about this land without a beginning and sans an end.

Starting perhaps with the foundational disinformation as to how we Aryans are in fact aboriginal to India whereas all those who came after were “invaders” (with the exception, strangely, of the Buddha who is graciously incorpo-rated into our own, but minus his most un-Brahminical teachings which were, thankfully, exiled to neighbouring territories, and their left-overs reviled at home, Ambedkar notwith-standing). And how everything that transpired here over the last eight hundred years must now be ejected from our body politic like a cancer that has finally found its cure in “Hindu Rule”—which of course only the canny ones know to be good old Brahminical fiat, in league now with delightfully accumulating currency. Thus all the riches that came to us with Christianity and Islam especially must need be systematically and without concession written down in textbooks as wounding reminders of “slavery” and equally systematically put to the sword of a newly militant Hindutva in a long-overdue Dharma Yudh.

Curiously, the two centuries of British rule do not yet graduate to the same intensity of unmitigated malignity. (Do recall that the Hindu Rightwing was largely absent in the Indian anti-colonial freedom struggle.) And American brands and habits of self-assertion may not be touched one bit since most of our beloved upper-caste non-resident Indians are their avid devotees, and still more avid votaries of the Modi raj.

Does it matter that Uncle Sam heaped humiliation on the great leader for years on end, keeping him tantalisingly deprived of the right to enter the United States? As the moolah flows, Uncle Sam too better knows. Only, in true Islamist style, our women must be taught to handle with demure restraint and self-abnegation “proper” to the “second sex” vicious temptations that those brands bring with them; only the boys may play and muscle their way to glory. And does it matter that not the non-resident Indians in America but those in the Gulf regions send back most of their earnings back home to India?

While education is thus refurbished, other compli-menting satraps busily carry out the dyarchic mandate given to them, namely, ceaselessly to foment mayhem to remind Muslims of their subsidiary status and of the desirability of their uncomplaining submission to “Hindu Rule”. This instruction goes out to them via frontal challenges to the legitimacy of their institutions (the reputed Aligarh Muslim University being the latest object of assault), of their devotion to the motherland (which, after all, is emblematised in the shape of a Hindu goddess), and of the need, therefore, periodically to keep them subdued, socially and economically, through riot, rape, arson. All that while the strong and impartial leader never tires of the claim that his grand plan is “sab ka saath, sab ka vikaas”.

Henceforth, only those must be appeased who wield social, religious, and economic clout; not the minorities and the diversely marginalised. A Darwinian project if there was one? Minus the honesty that attended a Margaret Thatcher’s enunciation of this Ayan Randish onslaught upon the weak and the struggling. God did not mean his creation to be equitous in inspiration but indeed unequal, giving unto all species according to their fitness. And who can say the lion is not fitter than the lamb? As to Reason, it has always, after all, belonged only to those who know how to place it at the service of my number one.

But here is the funny part: the economy, which, as you know, always remains immune to sweet words and loquacious self-delusions, has over the last quarter fallen behind the growth parameters of the quarter before that when the “inefficient and paralysed” Manmohan Singh regime was in the saddle! Exports have fallen, and manufacturing remains unmovingly stagnant, and no loud admonitions from the megaphone seem to scare the economy into behaving itself. That has to be the unkindest cut to the big balloon of imagined glory. Nor does it seem likely that the strong man’s dispensation can, after all, the new economic tsars notwithstanding, ride as roughshod over the social legislations and welfarist schemes put in place by the antecedent government, although not for want of intention, as the proclaimed shift to the Right would have us believe. Sooner than later, there will be the very oppressed people of India to contend with. The real worry must be as to what quantities and what quality of damage this regime will have caused to the social fabric of India before it is through doing what it seeks to do.

For now, India seems mesmerised by a canny bubble of words, especially educated India. No wonder educated India deserves the Education Minister they have got.

All the others had better learn to educate themselves. Sooner the better.

The author, who taught English literature at the University of Delhi for over four decades and is now retired, is a prominent writer and poet. A well-known commentator on politics, culture and society, he wrote the much acclaimed Dickens and the Dialectic of Growth. His latest book, The Underside of Things—India and the World: A Citizen’s Miscellany, 2006-2011, came out in August 2012.