Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Daily Damage by BJP/RSS to Indian Culture

by Ratnakar Tripathy

Ever since the BJP came to power in 2014, there has never been a dull day. This is the big change from the Manmohan era when the media had to take the full responsibility for keeping up a decent political decibel level through constant carping. But the daily dose of political excitement for above a year is now crossing the limits of tolerance for a democratic society in many senses of the term. While the concrete achievements of the Modi government in the realm of economy, infrastructure and foreign relations [apart from the territorial swap with Bangladesh]  are yet to unfold, the BJP-RSS duo have been hyperactive on the cultural front. It is almost as if the darkest dregs of the Indian subconscious have been unveiled on the public stage for everyone to face and examine. Is this what India really is?

Well, this also is India, face it!

Unfortunately this eye-opener comes after six decades of weak-kneed ‘political correctness’ of the Congress and the Left and other parties who never squarely faced the illiberal aspects of the Hindu and other religious traditions. It is doubtful if the Indian democracy can survive without coming face to face with these demons and battling with them with full gusto.

The cultural bulldozers of the BJP-RSS duo may be seen to be moving on five fronts apart from the periodically alleged engineering of communal tensions:
1. Daily political rhetoric,
2. By trying to appropriate national heroes like Sardar Patel, Subhash Bose and even Ambedkar, which may be taken to be a fair game,
3. Transformations at symbolic levels,
4. Institutional overhauls through proxies like Bajrang Dal, Sriram Sene and Sanatan Sanstha and 
5. Control of media and snooping through internet

Let me illustrate at least the very quotidian aspect through which the duo are questioning the way Indians live their daily lives. Here are some gems, just passing observation made in public that come from one person alone, Dr Mahesh Sharma, currently the Minister of State for Culture at the centre: "I don’t think Aurangzeb was an ideal person. Only a source of inspiration can be inspirational. Aurangzeb Road has been named after such a great man who, despite [emphasis added] being a Muslim, was a nationalist and a humanist, A P J Abdul Kalam.

"Gita and Ramayana reflect India's soul. But we also respect Quran and would include best thoughts from it. I respect Bible and Quran but they are not central to soul of India in the way as Gita and Ramayana are. As India's cultural minister, I recommend that Ramayana and Gita should be part of our school curriculum and I am working extensively with HRD Minister Smriti Irani towards this."

As for the symbolic aspects – the range is immense. Right from the rather paltry matter of changing a road name in Delhi from Aurangzeb Road to APJ Abdul Kalam Road to the deadly serious matter of changing the very colour of the national flag to saffron. The argument here is India does not need secularism as India never had to suffer from theocracy – it is plain as daylight that RSS is a very good attempt at theocracy in today’s context and yesterday’s closest semblance to theocracy was run by the Brahmins and the upper castes. 

But my question today is – is this madness here to last? Well, maybe not but may be too as the daily tampering also involves institutions such as the Indian Council of Social Sciences Research [ICSSR], Indian Council of Historical Research [ICHR], and Teen Murti Museum and Library and this is just a small list of inroads made by the present government. Clearly, the assumption by BJP-RSS is that these interventions will have a lasting impact. This is where the duo may just prove na├»ve. It is true that several regimes, most notably the Congress installed their own men in key positions but they stooped only so far. At any rate at the end of five years in 2019 another reversal may happen depending on who wins the elections. The fact remains the intellectual capital generated by the Indian Right, with the exception of economic policies has been so dubious and offbeat that ironically some intellectuals from the left-liberal stream have had to bemoan the absence of intellect on the Right. They consider it perhaps so crass it seems infra dig to even argue against the florid stupidities of the Right, understandably a frustrating plight for the argumentative Indian. 

Lastly, dear reader let me leave you with the rhetoric generated by our PM in his radio broadcasts called ‘Man Ki Baat’ [Straight out of the heart]’. The following are the highlights of the 12th session of the PM’s radio talk, a mega handshake between the meek citizenry and the visionary colossus. You can decide if the banality of such rhetoric will continue to impress the Indian citizen despite the tone of presumed intimacy and rapport. 
1. 30 Lakh people have given up their gas subsidy. Isn't this a silent revolution? 
2. Mann Ki Baat has become a source of information, it has created an opportunity for expression of social strength. 
3. Earlier it was "Khaadi for Nation", now the need of the hour is "Khaadi for fashion". In last one year sale of Khaadi has almost doubled [but the actual figures indicate a 6 per cent rise only].
4. On Diwali use mitti diyas [clay lamps]. This will help the environment and will help the poor as well. 
5. Mahatma Gandhi had said that if I have to choose between cleanliness and independence as a priority, I would choose cleanliness. We too should follow him. 
6. Over 50 members of Netaji's family will meet me in Oct 2015; it will be a moment of happiness for me to host such esteemed guests. 
7. In a democracy, every voter decides the future of the country. Our Election Commission has become a facilitator, voter-friendly, all policies, schemes are voter-centric, this is a very good change. 
8. Children should be curious. They should ask questions and learn more about science. 

Remember the cruel boredom of early morning school assemblies? I never recovered from the banalities of those speeches and have no idea how I escaped permanent brain damage.

1 comment:

ColdSteel said...

Ratnakar,
I would love to read a lot more such columns from you. Meanwhile a few quick points on the present one. I think that the Right is not really saying anything new - they are only saying it from under the 'umbrella' of a BJP government and from official platforms. I therefore seriously doubt that this fact alone makes what they have to say (or not say) any more acceptable to Indians in general.
Secondly, hardly anyone speaks of the TINA factor which favoured Modi and led to his elevation as PM. But this by implication also means that he can loose support equally quickly as the fine-print on various matters becomes a couple of font sizes bigger. Take the case of OROP where he has really lost almost complete support thanks to a host of factors. TINA can quickly become TINA - This Is No Alternative.
Consider also the fact that a number of people who voted for him are not happy with the 'package' deal - efficiency and governance bundled along with shrill Right wing rhetoric and daily shenanigans. And as you very rightly mention while the impact of the economic policies and efficiency in administration have yet to be felt, the rhetoric and the shenanigans are getting louder by the day.
Finally, a curious paradox; one on which one might fruitfully reflect. A lot of what Modi wishes to do and on which his own reputation as an efficient administrator rests, has to do with wholesale changes in the bureaucracy. But changes there would need to be implemented by the bureaucracy itself and this is easier said than done. Its not for nothing that they are know as the 'steel frame'! Already, of the 51 senior bureaucrats empanelled as Additional Secretaries and above in Delhi, full 42 are from the Gujarat Cadre. Makes one wonder how we managed all these years. But just as Manmohan Singh found out at his cost, there are easier tasks under the sun than changing the Indian bureaucracy.