By Sandeep Balakrishna, Bengaluru
August 04, 2016.
One of the SMSes doing rounds fresh in the wake of the Congress’ repeat victory in the 2009 elections was this: “There’s nothing right with the Right and there’s nothing left of the Left.”
Just seven years later, the latter half of that SMS has remained time-tested true. But I’m rather oversimplifying and getting ahead of myself.
Speaking at the National Writers Meet at New Delhi organized by the Syama Prasad Mookerjee Research Foundation (SPMRF), veteran journalist and BJP Rajya Sabha MP, Swapan Dasgupta made two significant observations.
In the first, he recounted the remark of a “Marxist cretin” professor who urged his students to “quote Marx to get marks.” In the second, he said that it was time for the thinkers and writers of today to use the picture of Nurul Hasan for dart practice.
The note on Nurul Hasan is perceptive because he represents a perverse turning point in the academia, heralding a process which slaughtered scholarship at the altar of Communist ideology. If today we rue the deplorable state of the Humanities (the umbrella term in my view, which includes all sorts of “studies”) in the academia, the intellectual vandalism of public discourse and the irreparable depravity of the English media, we can trace the roots to Nurul Hasan.
Until Hasan came along, the Communists although ascendant politically and ideologically, didn’t have an intellectual and ideological HQ. Nurul Hasan supplied this Mecca by bequeathing generous patronage to the Jawaharlal Nehru University. Its senior alumni and their sympathizers, friends and fellow-travelers continue to dominate the academia, the intelligentsia, the literati and the media.
Consider for example, the support base of the completely undistinguished and forgottenNayantara Sahgal, the chief instigator of the award wapsi charade. Her only claim to fame was being Nehru’s niece. And her support base, drawn from various fields, includes the selfsame inheritors of Nurul Hasan’s legacy.
But the greater perversion was the complete takeover of public discourse first by the capture of institutions and the media and more dangerously, poisoning children’s textbooks with propaganda aimed at de-Indianizing them.
To a great extent, sections of the print media and majority of English TV media continue to push this propaganda, which has alarmingly assumed an anti-India tenor. Of late, especially after Narendra Modi became Prime Minister, even the pretense of decency—forget neutrality—has been wholly abandoned. Nothing else explains the brazen depiction of the uncouth Kanhaiya Kumar and the terroristBurhan Wani as wronged heroes by these worthies.
Needless, this protracted national fraud couldn’t have persisted for this long without sustained political patronage by the Congress-Left combine. While the Left supplied the Congress with intellectual assault weaponry, the Congress in turn gave it political cover fire in face of opposition attack and generous doles in peace time in the form of ads, empanelment, university and institutional positions.
The mess in the HRD and Culture ministries even two years after the Modi government assumed office is a testimony to the continuing Leftist stranglehold over institutions that shape and influence public discourse.
On its part, the larger family of the so-called Indian “Right” (for want of a better term) struggles to craft a compelling, independent narrative of its own. Popular or commercial platforms—print and TV—are, again, more or less in the thrall of the aforementioned Leftists who today call themselves liberals.
While the so-called Right dominates the online space—a significant factor that contributed to Modi’s 2014 electoral campaign success—it is yet to evolve lasting institutions and platforms to take on the Left-Liberals in terms of the scale, scope, and physical, academic and intellectual infrastructure, which has wide and deep international networks.
Indeed, the existence of this kind of sprawling infrastructure is what enabled the Left-Liberals to push through nation-wrecking legislations like the RTE, Food Security Bill, and to even attempt to halt India’s nuclear energy programme at Kundankulam. Aside, to learn the truly disastrous long-term impact of RTE, this is a great resource.
Equally, the Left-Liberal circuit seems to have finely honed the issues to pick, choose and attack. Apart from award wapsi and the intolerance sham, a small sample serves to illustrate how the operation works.
Of all things, the New York Times chose to do a long form “report” on open defecation in India barely two months after Modi became PM, and more recently, on Perumal Murugan without touching the key issue in his case. Needless, “native informants” or our own English language journalists provide the raw material for such slanderous stories.
The result: the so-called “Right” is caught unawares. Yet again. And again. And again, it is forced on the defensive, to respond and rebut. H L Mencken’s words beautifully characterize this Leftist tactic: “the way they set about giving that good show was by first selecting a deserving victim, and then putting him magnificently to the torture.”
As I mentioned elsewhere, the so-called “Right” needs to invest in building institutions and platforms that attract and nurture top talent drawn from various fields. This was accomplished to a significant extent in the run up to the 2014 Lok Sabha polls but was squandered away subsequently. The result has been hasty responses to motivated campaigns of say, award wapsi, intolerance, and the rest while these should have been anticipated in the first place.
But hearteningly, it appears that the pushback has begun. If anything, the July 30-31 National Writers Meet saw the confluence of some of the brightest minds drawn from the non-Left persuasion in one place. At 300-plus, that number is definitely significant.
And the impact it had shows for example, in this “featured” opinion piece on the Far Left portal The Wire, which spins the purpose of the Meet as “yet another indirect way to revive Hindutva.” The merits or otherwise of Hindutva apart, the Wire has its facts wrong intentionally or otherwise. Speaking as someone present at the meet,Hindutva was not discussed even once on both days.
On its part, News18.com rather hilariously characterizes the meet as a gathering where “bloggers and thinkers seen to be sympathetic to BJPs ideological mentor RSS, will learn the craft of discourse-domination.”
What both these “analyses” show is how badly the Left-Liberal circuit is rattled by the Meet. Had it bothered to sincerely learn how the RSS functions, it wouldn’t have written in this vein. But then, as history shows, the Left can’t be accused of being either sincere or acting in India’s national interest even once: from repeatedly sabotaging our freedom movement to acting in the USSR and China’s imperial interests, and waging a proxy war via the Naxals/Maoists against the Indian state.
But it’s a trifle too late in the day. For at least five decades, the Left-Liberals have been used to the cushy life of denouncing and slandering the RSS and others sympathetic to India’s national and cultural interest. And now, shorn of the political patronage that afforded that cushy life, it’s not hard to see why they would even bother to study the RSS with honesty and rigour.
Among others, some of the distinguished speakers and participants at the National Writers Meet included Prof Vamsee Juluri, the fine scholar Aravindan Neelakantan, Prof Bibek Debroy, and Swapan Dasgupta. If anything, the Meet was a genuine meeting of minds and an experience that afforded mutual learning.
That said, there is certainly an urgent need for a non-Left-Liberal national discourse. And I use the term “non-Left-Liberal” in the sense of it being distinct from an “alternate” or “Right” narrative. The dominant Left-Liberal narrative, truthfully, is no narrative at all—it is premised on falsehood and deception and has consistently wreaked havoc on the unity and integrity of India and has created religious and societal fissures.
Although the influence of Left-Liberal discourse is in terminal decline in India today, its potential to inflict significant short term damage is immense because this discourse believes in no rules—it makes up rules along the way. The numerous NGOs, think tanks and “policy” and “advocacy” bodies that flourished under the successive UPA regimes continue to recruit impressionable college students and fresh graduates.
As I mentioned earlier, nowhere is this more evident than in the media’s disgraceful conduct over the Kanhiya Kumar and Burhan Wani episodes. In the latter case, the entire country wondered whose side Barkha Dutt was on.
This episode is also a testimony of sorts to the state of flux the English media is currently in. Just two years ago, an incident like Barkha Dutt writing open letters toArnab Goswami was unimaginable: the media omerta of not calling out the faults of one of their own was pretty much in force. As Swapan Dasgupta remarked at the National Writers Meet, Barkha Dutt has taken to writing open letters because nobody watches her show anymore.
This augurs well for public discourse as a whole: just as the voters’ verdict is final in the polls, so is the credibility and survival of media houses decided by those who consume it. Or stop consuming it.
In the end, any national narrative that undermines the nation is no narrative, as Europe and the US are learning to their peril—at the least, it has enfeebled their defenses where Islamism is concerned, and continues to ruin their social structures through extreme feminism and unfettered consumption. The landmark books, 101 Professors, A Nation of Victims and Saving our Males should be made mandatory reading in this regard. In many ways, Europe and the US are now undergoing the phase that India suffered in the 1960s through the late 90s at the hands of this discourse.
And so there is space and there is a vacuum to be filled with a truly Indian narrative premised on all the best that our ancient traditions and corpus of knowledge have to offer us, and there’s time now to rid ourselves of the various theoretical blindfolds we’ve had on for so long.
And there’s both time and space to evolve the Grand Indian Narrative. That basically was one of the underlying themes of the National Writers Meet.