Just after the Bihar Assembly results were declared, an old friend, a hard core Bhakt put up a post saying now that the Bihar results are out, can we be friends again?
It wasn’t a strange request. Since the past two years there is a definitive social division that is splitting the country. You don’t need Kanhaiya’s speeches to blame. On one hand you have the Rightists, who believe that anything that is not supporting BJP’s agenda is an act of sedition, treachery and that all opponents of BJP are anti-national. On the other hand, the “liberals” feel that they can say anything because the Constitution gives us the freedom of speech.
During our formative years we would hold near violent debates at the rock or on days we felt a little richer, continue our debate at Sarkar da’s Moghlai Paratha joint in front of the Taxi Association Office at Esplanade. In the late sixtees and early seventees we were not sure if the “M-L” line was the right thing to support or whether George Fernandes was the rockstar with the Railway strike—but despite different viewpoints, Sarkar da was paid for in full. We shared the cost. I remember, once I lost an argument supporting my left liberal views but the friend, who was a hardcore Congresswallah took me out for a chai session and told me where all I had faulted and where all I could have put him on the mat!
Today, a close friend who I have known for over 30 years, a dear colleague now turned bhakt, curtly told me to sponsor a bust of Ajmal Kasab at VT Station and also that I should migrate to Pakistan!! I took him off my list. He did not like my views on the JNU fiasco either.
The good old rock has been replaced by the social media. For those of you who may not know what the rock was (in the past tense since the culture is gone), the rock was a centre of addas in Kolkata where you freely discussed politics to football. It was an impromptu club in every street corner, in front of old buildings where people assembled after work hours and spent some good time discussing sex to saxophone. Film stars, theatre artists, judges of High Court to the babus working in what were called “Mercantile firms” and banks would converge and discuss the world. Many of us were labelled Rockefellers for being a part of the culture. It was a bit like what happened in Greece or in Italian “squares”.
Sadly, the flip side of social media is showing up. It has become a forum for debates just that many of the participants do not know the art of debating. It has become a platform for abuses and allegations. Taking on people who have been marked as non-conformists. Rajdeep Sardesai and Sagarika Ghose, for example, are abused day in and day out. The other day someone charged Dilip Sardesai with doing deals with Dawood Ibrahim for fixing matches!! Anyone who is not toeing the prescribed line must be a Pakistani and better, a terrorist. Only the bhakts know what is good for the country and what they know, they know best. Muslim bashing seems like a pastime, not realising that the Constitution does not allow you to do that. Who cares? Only when a video tape which now seems to be doctored is played out by a select few channels that the charges of sedition is trumped up.
What is happening in essence is that the “traditional” values which the bhakts claim to uphold is running contrary to the values of freedom in which we grew up. Now, now, don’t point out at the Emergency of 1975 as a case in hand. You better know what happened to the Congress Party after 1977. Unless BJP wants to go the same way, they are welcome. What amazes me is that the bhakts don’t have any original ideas to spurn. Most of them seem to state a common “party line”, a cut-paste job. Which means a large number of educated elite have already surrendered their freedom to Mephistopheles and should soon get a copy of Dr Faustus by Christopher Marlowe, though I am not sure if they will be able to comprehend the narrative.
Sadly, there are well-known “right” economists but very few “right” intellectuals in India, unless you include Giriraj and Sadhvi Prachi. I am not sure if they consider Swapan Dasgupta as a right right. Chandan Mitra not only confuses me, I think he also confuses his party. I am, however, very proud of them. We share the same school tie. M J Akbar certainly lacks credibility, so does Shazia Ilmi. Opportunists, both.
Today it is not just a debate between Tolerance and Intolerance. Not pointing fingers at Modi who may be wanting to do great things for the nation, it is the neo-rightists who are doing their best to divide a wedge between “Us” and “Them”. It is like George Bush’s infamous “Either you are with us or you are against us.” Here “them” is equal to being an anti-national, a Pakistani, a secessionist and anything outside the Jumla. In their urge to keep the nation together, the country is being divided. Take it or leave it. You can’t go Muslim bashing and then add whoever is not in agreement with you to be a terrorist. When a Bhakt friend had asked me why I am not with “them” I had replied that I was a Hindu and hence could not agree with RSS and BJP’s ways of dictating terms for their political gains. I told him that I have done some reading of Swami Vivekananda, who had a socialistic thinking and was definitely against the caste system. He was aghast. When I added that I wanted to spend some time doing some more reading on Sister Nivedita, I found he had never even heard of her. Finally when I told him that my maternal grand-father and a maternal great grand-father were probably signatories to the original draft of the formation of the Hindu Mahasabha, he was speechless. I was sad that he wasn’t a Rockefeller like me.
This policy of dividing the people is not getting the BJP anywhere. Post-2014 they have lost Delhi and Bihar. On May 19, they may at best win Assam, that too with a narrow margin and share power at best with Amma in Tamil Nadu. People are getting tired of the bakwas otherwise termed “Humkars” in BJP parlance. What happened in UP in 2014 may not happen in 2017, so the Rajya Sabha majority will still be a distant dream. Same with Punjab, with old enemy AAP playing the spoil sport. It does not bother me as to what happens in the forthcoming state elections. What bothers me is that it is time to take stock of the situation by everyone, no matter to which side of the divide we belong to. Social media, paid media, any media, this is not doing any good to the country. Instead of providing an atmosphere of unity, we are splitting. Harsh reality, but that is the truth. We need to stop ourselves from taking sweeps at whatever we don’t like and accuse whoever we think are “wrong doers”. Left, right and centre. The nation has to stand up together outside the cricket stadium, which is the only time we seem to bury our differences. Say what you have to, but be sensible. Stop sending people to Pakistan and running anti-communists/religious gaalis.
Tomorrow there will be more Kanhaiyas. Till then come, let me give you a big hug.