Our seculars and intellectuals have a basic problem. We try to diagnose the disease.
A recent article by Prof. Shiv Visvanathan, described as ‘public intellectual’ in his Wikipedia profile in Hindu (Is there such a thing as private intellectual?) attracted a lot of attention.
You can find it here
Prof Visvanathan’s main point was that ‘secularism’ as practiced in India by left liberals alienated the majority which in turn was exploited by Narendra Modi successfully. He also, correctly in my opinion, highlighted the anti-Hindu bias of the secular class who were not objective or fair. He is also right in pointing out the debates and dialogue were always part of Hinduism and Indian religions (a term he used, perhaps, to avoid acknowledging the obvious) have not been anti-science as Christianity has been.
Yet he himself falls victim to the same secular disease, citing the ‘Ganesha and milk’ example, confusing (or cleverly equating) superstition with Hindu religion. Similar stories abound in other religions, particularly Christianity, and not just in India.
Be that as it may, he comes pretty close to repeating as well as endorsing the ‘pseudo secular’ arguments of the right. That must bring smiles to a lot of faces. A lot has been said about this particular article in the mainstream media as well as social media. ##What should ‘liberals’ do?
Coming back to the main objective of this article, the key question is, what can they do to get it right? To come straight to the point, here is our list of things liberals can do
- Purge hardcore Marxist/Maoist activists in liberal camouflage
- Purge anti-Hindu hate mongers, evangelist bigots and Jihadis
- Be loyal to the core principles and not to corrupt dynasties
- Use Indian culture, not imported ideologies to sell liberalism
- Be fair to moderates in the right wing to isolate the fringe
Lets elaborate on each point further.
Purge hardcore Marxist activists in liberal camouflage
In the West or elsewhere liberals have always been left of center, but they have rarely, almost never been hardcore communists and Maoists. Violence, especially on the scale often resorted to by the Marxists is as repugnant to them as right wing extremism. And they do not hesitate to say so. Hillary Clinton, Nancy Pelosi, Tony Blair or Gordon Brown, Malcolm Fraser – you can think of many other examples. We just don’t have politicians, ‘intellectuals’ and media personalities of such calibre that are genuinely liberal.
However, in India, you practically need to be a card carrying member of one of the Marxist Maoist gangs to be accepted as ‘liberal’. Words like ‘liberal’ and ‘progressive’ have become useful camouflage for mass murderers, rapists and their ideological mates and fanboys who romanticise them. Such ‘liberals’ ignore or play down horrible crimes of their ‘comrades with arms’, to paraphrase Chidambaram. They actively play a role in providing ideological cover fire to the violent leftist fringe. Arundhati Roy’s ‘Gandhians with guns’ example comes to mind. They hardly raise their voice when Marxists brag about target killings and mafia style behavior in Kerala or rape and butcher dozens to clear land for Chinese businessmen in Bengal. Nor do the deaths of dozens of innocent policemen and civilians in bomb blasts by leftist extremists disturb their sleep. Instead these politicians are allowed masquerade as ‘progressive’, attend seminars and talk shops where the creme de-la creme of Indian liberals hobnob with them.
The bias that Prof Visvanathan pointed out is seen here too. While criminal acts by right wing fringe is attributed to their ‘ideology’ tarring anyone remotely associated, we are asked to believe that left ideology itself is pure and their heinous crimes against humanity simply ‘deviations’.
What is even more ironic is that many of these ‘liberals’ are drawn from the ranks of the same upper caste/class elite, a class they routinely disparage. Sitting secure in their air conditioned bungalows in big metros, often funded by the same imperialist capitalist satans who they love to hate in public, they support various loony causes, including the ‘right’ of tribals to live in poverty, undisturbed by development which is termed ‘violence’. Green cause, environmentalism, liberalism have all become tickets to frequent flier miles, conferences in comfy European cities and well funded awards, scholarships and endowments to these elites.
By purging these charlatans from their ranks, genuine liberals can ensure their message is more moderate, free of negative agendas and hence more likely to be heard.
Anti-Hindu bigots and jihadis are NOT liberals
You often find evangelist fanatics and bigots that wish Hindus ‘come out of darkness’ in their Diwali “greeting”, jihadi sympathisers and fanatics like Syed Ali Geelani that spew venom against Hindus and India show up in ‘liberal’ talk shops, freely furthering their cause even as their ‘freedom of speech’ is defended by the left liberal crowd. Of course, the same champions of free speech promptly crawl back under rocks when someone draws an inappropriate cartoon. Hardly any liberal came to the defense of Ms. Tasleema when she was being hounded by vote-bank chasing Marxists. Freedom of speech, to our liberals, is reserved only for anti-Hindu hate propaganda and vitriol.
A hardcore Marxist posing as liberal obviously has reasons to please evangelists and mouth pro-jihadi arguments disguised as ‘human rights’. After all the former keeps you in limelight and the cash flowing and the later an ideological compulsion, a reflection of the ‘all weather’ friendship forged between the terrorist Pakistan and its northern communist neighbour.
A genuine liberal should not just stay away from such crowd, but also make clear their opposition.
It is true that most liberals are not religious, in fact many are atheists or agnostic. However, a genuine liberal keeps his own religious faith or lack of it to himself. Propagating such ideas is obviously not wrong. Promoting atheism or campaigns against ‘superstition’ can be done in an unbiased way. Worse, it cannot be selective and designed to favor ‘competing’ faiths. That is like ranting against Coke for promoting obesity but declaring that Pepsi is fine. It is little wonder such ‘progressive/liberal’ frauds have failed to cool inter faith tensions or influence the populace.
Be loyal to the core principles and not to corrupt dynasties
Five decades of Nehru/Gandhi dynasty rule has created a not-so-small-scale industry that keeps many left liberal ‘intellectuals’ gainfully employed at tax payers cost in exchange for crass sycophancy and propaganda dressed up as pearls of liberal wisdom. This industry is recession proof and remarkable resilient. Like water eroding concrete over time, power and money corrupts and erodes intellectual honesty and values.
While it could be argued that Congress is more secular or liberal as compared to, say, BJP, despite tons evidence to the contrary, it does not justify extreme bias or crass partisanship. Nor does it justify blind hatred towards the political right. It is not just the Gandhi clan, many other dynasties of dubious reputation, some outright plunderers and most corrupt as well as casteist or in other ways regressive, have enjoyed the left liberal endorsement in exchange for the usual tax payer funded gigs and rewards or in the fond hope that these politicians would by some miracle, make India liberal and secular notwithstanding their primary focus on looting the public.
Liberals should instead promote their values across the entire political spectrum and not become songbirds and mouthpieces of corrupt dynasties. In most democratic countries, there is room for a conservative or right wing alternative. It is to India’s benefit if such alternative exists and represents the genuine and legitimate aspirations of a huge percentage of its population, whether or not it constitutes a majority, wins a particular election or not. Liberals should also encourage a gradual drift to moderation everywhere, instead of showing visceral hatred for dissent. Show by example what it means to be tolerant, liberal and caring.
What have instead been subjected to in the name of liberalism is rabid intolerance, extreme bias, hypocrisy and hate propaganda with scant regard to truth.
Use Indian culture not imported ideologies to sell liberalism
We often hear from our liberal elite that Hinduism is ‘syncretic’. Sadly this true statement is only used in the context of taking on what is perceived as majority community intolerance or to justify vitriolic attacks on Hindu religion or its Gods. It is rarely, almost never used in a positive sense – to convince Indians of the need to be tolerant, liberal and accommodating. Because that is not inconsistent with, in fact perfectly in sync with the uniquely Indian concept of ‘global family’ or “vasudeva kudumbakam” a concept that has been with us for centuries, long before liberalism became a convenient disguise for Marxists.
There is really no need to package tolerance as a imported Western magic potion with the unstated addendum that Hinduism is intolerant unlike Christianity. Genuine respect shown to the majority religion will only improve credibility of those wishing to isolate the so-called ‘fringe’ not tarring every Hindu Indian with the same black brush.
Be fair to moderates in the right wing to isolate the fringe
If BJP or any of its leaders take even a small step away from their ‘Hindutva’ agenda, more than its hardcore followers, it is the liberals that get worried. It is almost as if they feel their careers and wallets are threatened by the right’s adoption of moderate position. Modi’s ‘toilets before temples’ comment, sincere or otherwise, was greeted with derision by the liberal elite, who even tried to turn the Hindu sentiment against him for the remark. Similar moves were made when he sought to show a friendly face to Muslims. L. K. Advani who was branded right wing fanatic suddenly became a favorite of liberals when he go into leadership tussle with Modi. Whenever a BJP government takes any step to help Muslims, it is criticised for ‘going back’ on its non-appeasement policy. Vague unsubstantiated allegations were made in left wing media about temples being destroyed in Gujarat to make way for roads during the last elections, simply to promote rivals agendas and pander to the same ‘Hindutva’ sentiments.
Such hypocritical moves clearly show liberals are far more interested in preserving their ideological foes. Like Pakistan army nourishing jihadis to milk aid dollars from Uncle Sam, our liberals, who have turned their cause into a valuable business franchise, are loath to see it suffer.
Even if some of BJPs pro-minority actions are symbolic or just propaganda, something every political party indulges in, it is very much in the real interest of liberals to support it, instead of trying to score brownie points with Hindutva brigade by criticising it. But that as we mentioned earlier, that requires genuine interest in the cause.
As a nation we have too much religion in public space and most of it is ‘show business’. A gradual adoption of more secular, liberal ideas, without having to give up or destroy faith, can make a huge difference to many things, large and small. For instance, it can make it that much easier to move or demolish a place of worship that is standing in the way of a crucial highway. It can also let small incidents remain small, localised and not blown out of proportion and trigger violence and anarchy.
A lot of that depends on how genuine liberals think, talk and inspire.