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Truth Shall Set You Free

Truth Shall Set You Free

We are in an era of the re-writing of histories and the re-shaping of truth. Shashi Taroor, in his ‘Why I am a Hindu,’ shows surprise that in Rajasthani textbooks it is Rana Pratap that wins the Battle of Haldi Ghati against Akbar, though Akbar continues to rule. History taught in Maharashtra, he says, is merely Shivaji-centred; Muslims don’t seem to appear even on the horizon.

Hindutva-paid historians are labouring hard to establish that the Aryans were not migrants to India, that they were indigenous. They are not discouraged with clear DNA evidences that prove that the upper caste North Indians are related to their distant cousins in West Asia and Europe, nor with the unanimous opinion of scholars that the Aryans moved into India around 1500 BC, and displaced and dispossessed the Dravidians, the Mongoloid communities and the Austric races of the land they possessed.

The Ramayana tells the painful tale of the gradual subjugation of the Dravidian South. The history of the marginalization and elimination of Buddhist leadership in India after seven hundred years of their glory reminds us of the defeat of the Mongoloid element in our society, and of the insights they have left behind: of equality, concern for the common good and the priority of ethical values. These are captured in Buddha’s teachings and summarized in Asoka’s edicts.

The Re-writing of History

Hindutva experts think that as votes and loyalties can be bought with money, historical facts can be twisted and warped to serve their ideology if only funds are forthcoming. The perception grows that the lower the quality of the research the higher the grant, as long as the Hindutva cause is promoted. We are waiting for a time when some reputed historian will claim that it was India that won the battle of Plassey, Buxar and Warangal, and that the Indians ruled the British for two centuries.

People today want to shrink from the truth. Turkey would like to forget its association with the Armenian genocide last century; Poland its association with the Holocaust; the Neo-Nazis the Nazi responsibility for the elimination of six million Jews; the Hindutva radicals for the responsibility of their predecessors for the Partition of India, for the harassment of helpless Muslims in flight, and for creating a climate in which the Father of the Nation would be killed. If there is an attempt to glorify Godse even today, the Hindutva share in past and present violence stands established. They will only benefit from acknowledging the truth.  The Congress took 20 years before issuing an apology for the anti-Sikh riots of 1984. Modiji has not apologized yet for the 2002 post-Godhra riots under his regime. But ultimately, truth shall prevail; if not today, tomorrow.

Silencing the Truth

A recent meeting of the media in Delhi on the “Power of Truth” lamented that the media as a whole are supporting the BJP. They depend on government largesse even for mere survival. In fact, the social media has become the “paid army” of the Hindutva Money Bags. But, be sure, the denial of truth will recoil on them one day, as the suborning of MLAs and MPs.

They think that as MLAs can be bought, political opinions can be bought too; and research findings too at a little higher price. The social media is being used to keep religious issues alive in order to hold together divided Hindu loyalties (divided according to caste, class, language, region, the sectarian interests of the OBCs, dalits, upper castes). Newspaper editors are forced to toe the political line of the owners, who have a vested interest in flattering the Government. No wonder that crony capitalism keeps silencing and sidelining the truth, and intimidating courageous journalists who seek to be independent.

But people still hunger for truth. Recently there was a march in the capital for ‘Science and Reason.’  There have been other initiatives too. Raghuram Rajan, the former Reserve Bank Governor, promised that Krea University would produce “thinking Indians.” That is just what we need. Unfortunately these days there are too many people who have lost the power of intelligent thought. They live in the mythical world of the Mahabharata and the Ramayana, like Yogiji and the clerical club that have made inroads into the world of politics. We need to move away from mere Pandava-Kaurava tales while discussing political and social concerns and move on to address poverty and illiteracy, irresponsibility and corruption.

Unfortunately, it is no more political ideals and visions that count in the governing of this country today, but negotiation of vested interests couched in ‘Puranic vocabulary.’

Instilling of Fear

Amit Shah spoke of an India free (mukt) of the Congress. Sonia retorted: she did not call for an India free of the BJP, but free of fear: fear of the rulers, free of revenge, free of suffering. Yes, there is so much of fear in India today. Even Mayawati feels insecure. Dalits are afraid to file a case against the upper castes because they feel threatened.  Witnesses fear to tell the truth in court because they will have pay for it with their lives.  Lawyers are intimidated, judges are killed writers are disposed of.

 Even political parties that lose elections will need to be careful because their offices may be vandalized and their leaders beaten up, as it happened recently in Tripura.

What Really Happened in the Northeast

It was not an easy ride to power for the BJP in the Northeast in the recent elections as they claim. The use of money power was most evident. The Rs. 70 crores refused by the Churches of Meghalaya came in handy for free distribution among the reluctant. Innocent villagers went through a crisis of conscience what they should do with the money they never asked for. A sum of Rs. 1.2 crores unaccounted money was seized by the police in transit. An estimated 30,000 litres of liquor went into winning the unwilling. Muscle power came in handy for booth-capturing and multiple-voting in some places. In Tripura, the CPM alleges that the BJP used the extremists, dissidents, and divisive groups. In Meghalaya, a number of voting machines were found clearly set to vote for the BJP only. In spite of all this juggling the parties that really won were regional parties, except for Tripura. And even in Tripura, the difference in votes between the CPM and the BJP were just a few thousands only.

Dangers Ahead

With the lessons learned from these events, the nation is anxiously looking forward to the elections of 2019. Ordinary wisdom tells us not to be misled by the empty promises of leaders, but be guided by the actual behaviour of winners. If development alone was the programme of the BJP, why did their men go round ransacking CPM offices, beating up leaders, and toppling statues like the Taliban? Statue-vandalism could have set the nation on fire with the images of Ambedkar, Periyar, Shyama Prasad Mookherjee, even of Hanuman, undergoing disfigurement, unless the Prime Minister had spoken up....which he refused to do when Muslims were being killed and dalits were being thrashed, and Gau Rakshaks were taking the law into their hands.

As for the 2019 elections, we cannot go by the manifestoes, we need to go by what is happening in the BJP ruled states: by the Human Development Index, the money meant for infant care going for the erection of cow-shelters, police-encounters with civilians (e.g. in UP) like in a war-zone, dalit-oppression. We need to go by what their representatives have done: insisting on Sanskrit beyond endurance, foisting their own leaders (like Deen Dayal) on unwilling communities, eliminating cow traders, imposing Hindi. For example, Governor Ganga Prasad tested the endurance power of the Meghalaya legislators speaking in Hindi for a full hour, totally against the tradition of the House.

The reaction came from the other end of the land with M.K. Stalin of the DMK threatening to start an anti-Hindi movement and resurrect the talk of a homeland for the Dravidians. Hindutva think-tank has not risen to the level of understanding that imposing homogeneity is an invitation to fragmentation. And impositions have been going on during the last four years, and the weak and the thoughtless have been conceding. But those who have the long term interest of the nation at heart have been suspending judgement for a while and reorganizing their strength while waiting for an opportune moment to respond. That comes in 2019.

The greatest danger if 2019 fails, is the ‘Concentration of Power.’ Modi has models to learn from: Duterte of the Philippines, Erdogan of Turkey, Putin who has won for the fourth time, Xi who has been made President for life, Trump who seems to long for similar honour.

The ‘Core Leader’ Modi has the full energy of the RSS cadres to back him, which, Mohan Bhagwat claims, is superior to that of the Indian army. The RSS has grown 30% during Modi’s rule, with 58,332 shakhas, and covers 95% of India. Addressing a 3-lakh gathering at Lucknow recently, Bhagwat invited all Indians to join the RSS. He concluded his speech with the words, “There is no other option.” It sounded ominous. Will the two armies combine? We cannot rule out anything when we notice that General Rawat is keeping a keener eye on the growth of political parties like the AIUDF than on airspace violations.

Or is it possible that Modiji is planning to precipitate an international crisis to assume special powers before the 2019 elections. Impossible! But in today’s India nothing is impossible if the BJP with 2 seats in the Meghalaya assembly can rule the State, while the Congress with 21 representatives sits in the opposition. It sets a pattern for the other two, Narendra Modi and Amit Shah, for taking the destinies of 1.3 billion people into their hands!!

Learning a Few Lessons

Yes, nothing is impossible. Even the BJP can learn a few lessons like the rest of us. Possibly they are learning, though they are very slow at it.  They have still to learn that ‘Hubris’ does no good to the dominant party. Nevertheless they are changing tones in many places. For example, they have learnt that insulting the Taj Mahal is counter-productive. It is the Indian society that rebels. They have learnt that giving gross negative epithets to Muslim rulers damages their own image. Intelligent Indians look out for intellectual honesty.

Rudrakshu Mukherjee, the chancellor of Asoka University, speaking in Guwahati cautioned the nation against “growing irrationality in the intellectual space.”  He said, Modi is creating a Hindurashtra; he does not represent all Indians, he is against India’s pluralist spirit. The Hindutva brigade is gradually coming to see that the great land called India is rich and various.

While the driving forces behind Hindutva still hold on to their basic belief in a homogeneous nation, during the election season they have come to recognise India’s diversity. They were forced to adopt different strategies to suit India’s cultural differences since they earnestly wanted to win. They saw clearly that the cowbelt vocabulary and concerns are counter-values beyond the Aryavarta. Giants in the Hindi belt appear diminutive figures when they move out of their home territory. Yogiji may have been a great asset on the Gujarat election front, but not in Kerala; he was asked to go to Tripura, not to Meghalaya and Nagaland.

The BJP’s childish approach to diversifying election strategies like the offer of help for Church-construction and Jerusalem trip (even though they failed) evidently admits that India is different.  Building churches and paying for pilgrimages to Christian holy places don’t fit in with Hindutva radical ideology. But in spite of that, if they could recognise for the sake of votes that Indian cultures and convictions are diverse, they could admit the same truth for the sake of India’s wellbeing and shared future. If they could respect the beef-eating habits of the Northeasterners, they can also grant the same privilege to people of similar habits in the heartland of India in order to prosper together.

If they can admit truth for the sake of winning elections, they can do the same for constructing a future together. And truth alone can set all of us free from evident self-deceptions, veiled self-interests, puffed up pretensions. Sayam Eva Jayate!

(Published on 09th April 2018, Volume XXX, Issue 14 & 15)