The Left-liberal commentariat makes full use of short public memory to gloss over facts and shift goalposts while the unwashed masses are badgered into subservient acceptance of bunk as wisdom, fiction as fact
Popular memory is remarkably short in this blessed land of ours. Ours is a nation that has a poor sense of history. In this age of TRP-driven, news telly-determined 24-hour news cycle, public memory has been rendered shorter, our sense of history has become near non-existent. What is peddled as truth today could be proved untrue tomorrow and made to disappear from public discourse the day after, but none would recall the defacement a week later. A month is a long time, a year longer, a decade is an era and a couple of decades is like predating the arrival of humankind.
Our Left-liberal eminent intellectuals, our agenda-burdened journalists, our vote-seeking politicians, make full use of this reality of India. They gloss over facts that do not fit into their predetermined narratives, they take recourse to glib talk and charming phrases that hide more than they reveal, they shift goalposts and sneer at those who point out that every text has a context. ‘Whataboutery’ is the new cussword that has been bred in the Commentariat’s laboratory of deceit. Our easily excitable chattering classes and our unwashed masses are thus badgered into subservient acceptance of bunk as wisdom, fiction as fact.
This past week has witnessed notables holding forth on the virtues of tolerance, alternative readings and free speech on campuses. We have heard highfalutin lectures on the many meanings of nationalism, of the true meaning of patriotism, and a vigorous defence of subversion of all that is sacred to this nation and define its identity by teachers and students kept in clover by toiling taxpayers. Academic mumbo-jumbo, political subterfuge and more have been marshalled by those who believe that the “mere echo of slogans” cannot shake, leave alone hurt, India. Who is to tell them the terrible price India has paid on account of slogans? Sure, “Azadi” is merely a slogan. But even the most casual, passing glance at the terrifying statistics of death and loss in Kashmir Valley will reveal the hideous consequences of this slogan.
We heard Prof Sugata Bose’s lofty enunciation of what tolerance is all about, what academic freedom means, what campuses should be like with no external interference, least of all by the ruling dispensation of the day. We saw MPs congratulating him, of desks being thumped in approval. The Harvard don was no doubt mighty pleased with himself. He had reason to be. None bothered to point out to him, and his gaggle of admirers among MPs and mediapersons, that he had just demonstrated his limitless hypocrisy.
There was not even a whimper of protest, not a single voice calling him out. Here was a Trinamool MP lecturing others in Parliament while his party thugs brutally thrashed students at Burdwan University in West Bengal. Male and female students were dragged out from their rooms and pulped. Nobody pointed out to him how TMC goons had trashed the historic Baker Laboratory in Presidency College and his party leadership had stoutly defended the vandals. No voice was heard reminding him of the violence unleashed by TMC student leaders across campuses, how a policeman was shot dead. The list is many times longer than the speech he gave, painting himself and his party as a class above others, placing himself and his party on a high pedestal.
We heard CPI(M) MP and General Secretary Sitaram Yechury, the chief commissar, wax eloquent on why the Union Government must have no say, nor interfere, in the affairs of the Central universities it funds. We heard him mouth pious cliches, we saw him fake moral outrage. But none called him out. Nobody among the MPs dared mention the ruination brought about in schools, colleges and universities under the CPI(M)’s tutelage when the Left Front was in power in West Bengal from 1977 to 2011. Only those who were card-carrying members of the Party could find jobs as teachers. Only those who were members of the SFI and DYFI could speak freely. The Harmat ruled campuses.
Mr Yechury could have been pushed on the backfoot and even brought tumbling down from the high horse on which he rode roughshod over the Government by citing three specific instances of Marxist thuggery. The crude manner in which the Party tried to bludgeon Santosh Bhattacharya, Vice Chancellor of Calcutta University, into submission after he resisted the Reds was not even mentioned by the Treasury Benches. Bhattacharya’s travails at the hands of his Marxist tormentors was in 1984-87. That was not too far ago. No whisper was heard of how the Ramakrishna Mission went to court seeking minority status to save its schools and colleges from Marxist marauders. No mention was heard of the bloody, brutal crackdown on protesting students at Jadavpur University in 2005.
Such then is the hypocrisy and deceit of those who have closed ranks to defend JNU’s malcontent. Such then too is the counterstrike capability of those in power and who would like us to believe that they want to clean up campuses. It was Human Resource Development Minister Smriti Irani’s job to give a point-by-point rebuttal on the Hyderabad Central University and Jawaharlal Nehru University events. She made a spectacular speech and tore the narrative of calumny to bits. But nothing prevented her colleagues from launching an all out attack, nothing stopped them from carpet bombing the hypocrites and the deceitful. Yet they failed to do so. Random sniper fire is all we saw and heard.
Modi Sarkar has two choices. It can either be willing to wound but afraid to strike, or be willing to strike and unafraid to wound. There is no halfway house when ideologies clash in the guise of student politics and campus shenanigans. Sadly, few if any on the BJP’s side of the fence realise this point. A pity, indeed…
(The writer is a current affairs analyst based in NCR)