For India’s liberals, party is over

Because in new India, you cannot have your communal canape and eat it too

Written by Srijana Mitra Das | Published:April 19, 2017 1:56 am

A month down the road, the dust — or, given the backdrop, should one say, the cow dust, the godhuli (that beautiful term, resonant with bells, red earth, fading sun, a setting we have now turned into a horrific lynching park) — settles over the announcement of Yogi Adityanath as Uttar Pradesh’s chief minister. But the outrage, by India’s “liberals”, has left a mark. For, with UP’s new CM, it seemed that — yet again — the idea of India had come crashing down. Yet again, Indian pluralism, freedom, even Hinduism, were under attack; majoritarianism (fascism too) waft like cloying hair-oil in the air. These awful times are so fatiguing, we must “conserve our strength”, a liberal guru advises, as we build resistance (a la those WW-II intellectuals); indeed, many of “us” are so overwrought by the “mounting assaults on secularism”, we even forget to tell cook to chill the sorbet.

Of course, given the Yogi’s pre-CM pronouncements, such lamenting is fine. But why didn’t such visceral, gut-wrenching despair dog, say, Rajiv Gandhi, despite his reluctance to battle brutal 1984? Many mouthed Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s “raj dharma” admonition in 2002; but how many asked him, or L.K. Advani, what price raj dharma — also, the strong shielding the weak — in 1992?

Perhaps raj dharma, like communalism, lies in the beholder’s eyes. This suppleness of ideals, this selective sanctimony, is liberal India’s saddest truth, for it reflects how lovingly we nourish the split infinitives of our history: Snobbery, nestled with an inferiority complex. Both show in how fast we overlook, forgive, forget, accept communalism by everyone we’d rather like to party with. “No one parties as much as the Indian upper classes,” Noam Chomsky reportedly said. He could well be thinking of India’s liberals.

Thus, in Indira Gandhi’s era, even as Kashmir and Punjab choked, an invitation to tea, a coterie, a committee, was much sought. A call from Rajiv delighted a liberal heart, although Black Thunder boomed outdoors. Lalu Prasad courting caste was cute. Bihar’s Muslims remained too wretched to even kidnap. But Lalu was such a sweet subaltern, desiring acceptance at Delhi’s clubs. Compared to the right’s charmless determination to bend society to its will, subalterns like Lalu, flaunting the skullcaps, the lungis of street theatre-secularism, were cool.

Such “earthy” leaders made great party stories — or party partners — for India’s Westernised snobs, whose communalism comes with a fake Brit accent. For liberals, when leaders with the right accent evoke communalism, it is, somehow, ok. It is awful when a “vern”, bereft even of Hindi kavita, does so. This explains the puzzle then; how, despite ten years of a non-BJP government, and six years of a non-Modi sarkar before, did communalism grow, unlamented? In 2013, the Ministry of Home Affairs recorded a 30 per cent rise in communal incidents, worst-hit being UP (under the SP) and Bihar (under Nitish Kumar). In 2012, Kokrajhar in Congress-run Assam saw riots displace 79,000 people. In 2011, Congress-run Rajasthan’s Bharatpur shook; in 2010, on Mamata Banerjee’s watch, the Deganga riots broke out.

Yet, as pressures — land, jobs, reservations, passions — began curdling into hate, not one incendiary communal law, not even the beef ban, was sought to be repealed. Not even, when in 2002, five Dalits were lynched in Haryana, on suspicions of cow slaughter. Why didn’t the liberals lament the “idea of India” then? Were we partying that hard with the charming in charge, enjoying high culture’s kebabs, kneaded with power’s grease? Now, when the kebab is literally in danger, we discover, so is the party itself. And we wail.

But not many are impressed. For even as the liberal speaks endlessly about the end of free speech, India has changed. It remains deeply concerned with justice and peace, but it is wise enough to see whose peace is of a piece with a biased view. In this India, citizenship isn’t just ahimsa over foie gras, drinks at the club bar, an exclusive seminar. It is a circus — a website, a theatre, a metro, a mall. Here, as symbols and cymbals clash, even the best faux accents aren’t revered. Here, just because you can say it with elan, you can’t have your communal canape and eat it too. No wonder some of “us” are feeling faint.

srijana.das@expressindia.com

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  1. B
    Biru
    Apr 21, 2017 at 3:26 am
    Very poor writing. I presume, the readers who have applauded this english either havent understood it or have just read the last paragraph. Its a common tendency to applaud a writer when content goes above your grey matter. Couple of sentences have unnecesseraly been punctuated with excessive commas either to make it a showy business so that people cant understand or writer herself doesnt know when to stop or start sentences while writing english. I pity how editor can saction these english. Though i liked the essence of it but alas writer could have been more understandable for common people. Dont forget english is not a primary language in India. I live in UK and feel that greatness comes out in simple english and not this showy english. Learn before u preach...
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    1. D
      Deepak Ranade
      Apr 20, 2017 at 12:01 pm
      Quite right. We vernacular proletariat have seen an opportunity to express ourselves. If the anglophiles and Hindu haters come to understand the ground reality they may survive. Onthe other hand, these people are adept at changing their tunes to suit their masters. May God help them.
      Reply
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        Arun Kumar
        Apr 20, 2017 at 12:58 am
        This author has his prose composition a bit too mixed up. He would be better off using simple language in short sentences to be better understood.
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        1. B
          Bharat Pandit
          Apr 19, 2017 at 11:27 pm
          This cl you are rightly berating never uttered a word of regret when a w community of Kashmiri Pandits were hounded out of their only homeland of a millennia because they were Hindus and Indians. Was there a seminar held to discuss their plight ? None. Did anyone return an award ? No. Did any celebrity visit their miserable camps. No. Was any commission of enquiry set up to unmask forces and personages that conspired to exfilterate Kashmiri speaking Hindus ? Was any one brought to justice for the murder and rape of many Hindu women and men ? None whatsoever. As if nothing happened. On the country the guilty are feted and showered undeserved attention in Delhi and other major cities of the country. If idea of India died it died that winter in 1989.If secularism lost its moral moorings it lost it then. From then onwards all talk of liberalism, secularism and justice appeared to be hollow.
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            Bhola
            Apr 19, 2017 at 11:27 pm
            Every thing Hindu and Indian is communal,the liberal thought should be put to dustbin.So Hindu awakening is giving sleepless nights to these seculars and liberals. Please throw away your tinted gl es and see a new India coming up devoid of any bias and skewed thoughts.
            Reply
            1. R
              rishi
              Apr 19, 2017 at 10:58 pm
              Liberals : At best , a bunch of crooks, hollow sub-standard humans as part of the brigade which got power on a platter in 1947......being greed-driven, they all wilfully turned incompetent non-performers be it in society or governance.......they were suicidal....there newer generations will face the heat for such a pretentious culture they all got used to......and are therefore finding difficult to survive in an era of NATURAL HONESTY !
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                Gurvinder
                Apr 19, 2017 at 9:50 pm
                Very well said. Sanjay hi under eyes of Indira caused rift among communities, living cordially in Punjab since centuries. Who can forget the Big Tree remark of her second son when she paid for her sins !! J&K was relatively peaceful till Indira (& later Rajiv) hijacked po r mandate.
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                  john
                  Apr 19, 2017 at 9:23 pm
                  Horrible writing.. stopped after a tiresome 2 paragraph reading this BS .. the author needs schooling on writing.
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                  1. A
                    Ashoka
                    Apr 19, 2017 at 9:02 pm
                    It is good to read, the party is over. The liberals are actually always in small numbers. But there influence in the media was very big. Now they are loosing the plot.
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                      pankaj
                      Apr 19, 2017 at 8:37 pm
                      Ye chhmiyan kahan se nikal ke aayeee? Bohot badhiya boli.... Good job... Pseudos must get to know how and how much pseudo they are...
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                        Ruch
                        Apr 19, 2017 at 8:26 pm
                        Couldn't have been said better. Applause!
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                          nagarajabillur
                          Apr 19, 2017 at 8:12 pm
                          A slow change to obvious. Necessary. It is Rajiv who opened the gates of Babri Masjid Ram Mandir. Anulled SC decision to please Mullas. All these Mullas who want to respect SC judgement on Babri showed complete contempt for Sc and Indian cons ution. Before that 1984 Indira was at her communal worst when she went against Sikhs for Hindu votes in Jammu for a few MP seats. It is during her glorious secular days that the worst Hindu Muslim riots shook Gujarat, yes Gujarat I repeat, that Frontier hi, who? for somebody who think his can be only from one non Hindu family, had to get back to his country when attempts were made to prevent from visiting Gujarat. Wake up liberals. Time to forget partying.
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                            murty
                            Apr 19, 2017 at 7:44 pm
                            What is meaning of Liberal????appea t of minority???encouragement of corrupt???allowing foreign funds for conversion???for blocking development through bhands,agitations etc with foreign funds by calling social activists???These writers has free will for writing nonsense articles.That it self so the country is Liberal.Unfortunately for India in lat 60 years english writers have become anti Hindu mentality????
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                              RG
                              Apr 19, 2017 at 7:15 pm
                              who is she writing for - the same intellectuals she de es? at least keep the language simple
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                              1. S
                                Sagar
                                Apr 19, 2017 at 6:51 pm
                                This is surely a 'former' liberal attacking her ex-colleagues in the hope no one will notice what she was upto in the past. Never mind, this is the quality of the Indian elite across the spectrum from left to right, liberal to conservative. This forest is full of jackals which want to dress up as tigers and roar - yet when real tigers come by they howl with all their might. Despite this I must say I really love my India - these are all our jackals after all, they have nowhere else to go...
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                                  Madhukar Nikam
                                  Apr 19, 2017 at 6:47 pm
                                  Well written...the party is over for pseudo liberals ...times have changed so much that it may take more than 2 generations before we hear old bakwas from so called liberals
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                                    Ravi
                                    Apr 19, 2017 at 6:14 pm
                                    Liveralism died when its baton was p ed on to third cl idi-ots like barkha and sardesais. It died a thousand deaths when they started justifying even the Mumbai train bombings by claiming only gujarati diamond merchants travel in first cl . You cannot fool all the people all the time.
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                                      a_D
                                      Apr 19, 2017 at 5:26 pm
                                      the premise of this article is based on BUT WHATABOUTISM...whihc along with ADHOMINEM argument deemed the intellectually lowest form of argument / counter argument defense. But Rajiv hi 1984 and Indira hi 1977.....and Nehru in 1950s do not have to be condiemed first to condemn a wrong-doing of today..... A human or democratioc or secualar right violation(s) of past are not a justifications for a single human right violation of today in civilized societies.... any society that subscribes to that form of justification is heading towards barbaric stone ages
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                                        Pankaj Kumar
                                        Apr 19, 2017 at 5:07 pm
                                        Many shades of "fake" can be seen around us everyday. But, it's still very difficult to paint these liberals because of their "teflon" coated bodies. "Real" liberals behave and argue differently. But, it's indeed very difficult to engage a "fake" liberal. Contrived sanctimony has ruined India's liberals and not the new "Sarkar"!
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                                          akbar khan
                                          Apr 19, 2017 at 4:46 pm
                                          Why feign poses? Call a spade a spade. India's Left-pseudo-Liberal gang-up has had it's busted and its face tarred. No amount mincing talk and chee-chee lingo can help that lot. And they know it. Bloody hypocrite s.o.bs.
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                                            Murthy
                                            Apr 19, 2017 at 4:39 pm
                                            With about twenty articles like this published every MONTH, I am thinking the "law of diminishing returns" must apply at some stage. Particularly, when in the experience of the vast majority of Indians, there is really no problem of freedom in their daily lives. Azaan and other religious loud speakers are still there, people in Islamic dress are to be seen everywhere in India. They move around freely. Delhi liberals and JNU anarchists are to be seen only in these pages of our esteemed Media ....!!! At least in South India, you do not see many women with cropped hair and round gl es or young men with Jola bags and beards, as you would in New Delhi's s y suburbs and in TV studios.
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