'Truth spoken without moderation reverses itself'
This blog is a source for intellectual exploration. It includes a list of alternative resources and a source of free books. The placement of an article does not imply that I agree with it, merely that I found it thought-provoking. There are also poems and book reviews. Texts written by me are labelled. Readers are free to re-post anything they like.
Monday, June 6, 2016
Apoorvanand - This false dawn: Modi regime’s obsession with the ‘new’ and ‘historic’
“Pradhan mantri ke
vision se suryast suryoday mein badal gaya hai, raat ho rahi hai lekin hum dekh
rahe hain ek nayi subah (The prime minister’s vision has turned sunset into
sunrise, night is falling but we are watching a new dawn)” This is how
Doordarshan chose to describe the advent of a new era under the leadership of a
prime minister who continues to remain new even after two years in office.
Pradhan mantri chairman and the sentence assumes a familiarity, at least for those
who are steeped in the Stalinist or Maoist political culture. Everything in
Maoist China had to be informed by the vision of the chairman or was worthless.
Similarly, in the Soviet Union, for any idea to be valued it needed to bear the
The sheer obsession
with the adjective “new” or “historic” also takes one back to the days of these
two “greats” of history, who were red and not saffron. Stalin wanted to
engineer the souls of his dear people to carve a “new man” and a new society
out of them. For a new to be
created, the old has to be destroyed. The appeal for the new thus becomes the
legitimiser of the death of the old. The only problem is that the old lingers
on in many forms and threatens to sabotage the project of building the new. So,
its residuals need to identified through a campaign and destroyed completely.
The old is also made synonymous with the elite.
When Chairman Mao gave
a call to the Chinese people, it was the youth he mainly addressed. The
Cultural Revolution in China started on May 16 fifty years ago which, again in
one of the ironies of history, is the date when a new “revolution” started in
India two years back. Chairman Mao divided his people into two categories: One
belonged the revolutionary masses and the other a part of the old privileged
elite, remnants of the past, who needed to be weeded out. Mao called for a
protracted revolution. It was called cultural as it sought to change the way
people lived, their notion of relationships and transform them from individuals
to soldiers of a great mission.
Such regimes confer
the title of the real or true people on one set of the masses, who are then unleashed
on the other who are termed enemies of the people or non-people. Mao’s cultural
revolution or Stalin’s purge witnessed people voluntarily participating in not
only eliminating the enemies but also creating them. Such non-people ranged
from school teachers to entrepreneurs, doctors to cultural workers, scientists
and researchers, homosexuals and Jews or simply “non-productive” people.
Children reported on their parents and teachers and participated in their
public humiliation and, in most cases, organised their killing.
The list of non-people
officially sanctioned and promoted by the new regime of India is growing:
“Terrorists”, “love jihadis”, “beefeaters”, “religious converters”,
“infiltrators” and, finally, “anti-nationals” or “saboteurs”. A more neat
division was suggested by the prime minister on May 26. “I can say there is
development on one side and obstructionism on the other. The people will choose
which side to choose, that I firmly believe,” he said. The trust in the
intelligence of the people is touching.
interesting part of the Cultural Revolution was it gave a sense of agency to
people who were, in fact, conforming to the orders of the leader. Power was
handed over to the ordinary masses who craved for it and which they exercised
on the obstructionists or anti-nationals. People did not have the luxury of not
choosing their side. Else, they became suspects.
The rush to join the
officially sanctioned category of the people does not have anything to do with
a particular ideology. Germans, Russians, Chinese, Americans, Israeli, have
been complicit in the crimes their leaders unleashed on fellow beings. Even the
persecuted offer themselves. They self-denounce and seek purification. The joy
of dis-empowering your neighbour always pushes human goodness to a dark corner.
It is revived only after the departure of the bully from the scene. The
narratives of the red guards of the Cultural Revolution, or the veterans of the
Vietnam war or Israeli combatants reveal the scale of moral devastation all of
them have gone through.
There are people, however, who are in the job of
intellection, who can see through the game. They alert the people to the danger
of loss of humanity. Maxim Gorky did it in the heyday of the Bolshevik
Revolution when he condemned Lenin for turning the working masses into
murderers and immoral morons. Lenin nudged off Gorky to Italy. Others were not
so lucky. Ironically, Gorky later returned to the Soviet Union to work with
Stalin. Denunciation of intellectualism and disinterested scholarship is thus
one of the main features of such drives. Masses are pitted against
intellectuals, who are portrayed as parasites who must be made to do real work.
The May 16 circular of
Mao, which became the manifesto of the Cultural Revolution, said, “This concept
which makes no class distinction on academic matters is also very wrong. The
truth on academic questions, the truth of Marxism-Leninism, of Mao Zedong’s
thought — which the proletariat has grasped — has already far surpassed and beaten
the bourgeoisie. The formulation in the outline shows that its authors laud the
so-called academic authorities of the bourgeoisie and try to boost their
prestige, and that they hate and repress the militant newborn forces
representative of the proletariat in academic circles.” There is nothing then
that remains as scholarship or professionalism.
China is now the envy
of the developed world. But it is a deeply wounded society. A witness of the
Cultural Revolution says it turned the country into a moral wasteland. The
memory of the sense of powerlessness of their victims gnaws at the hearts of
the former red guards of the Chinese revolution. Will their lost humanity be
ever restored? This question came to me when I read Professor Bandukwala in
this newspaper and felt his sense of helplessness, when he says he forgives to
hope. He knows it well that there is no one seeking forgiveness and, therefore,
his offer has no value. But by doing so, he is desperately trying to claim the
power of humanity for himself. It is a pathetic sight. How much time would
Bandukwala’s tormentors need to realise that by making people like him
powerless they were in fact robbing themselves of their humanity?
Such realisation on
part of the tormentors is not easy, as journalist John Pilger tells us. He
writes: “The breathtaking record of perfidy is so mutated in the public mind,
wrote the late Harold Pinter, that it “never happened. Nothing ever happened.
Even while it was happening it wasn’t happening. It didn’t matter. It was of no
interest. It didn’t matter…”. Pinter expressed a mock admiration for what he
called “a quite clinical manipulation of power worldwide while masquerading as
a force for universal good. It’s a brilliant, even witty, highly successful act
Let us examine
ourselves: Are we in the spell of hypnosis?