By Prem Singh
It is a well-known truth about civilization that a person deeply immersed in philosophy, spirituality, religion, science, art, literature, other diverse disciplines of study, or even in independent study etc. is prone to less verbal articulations i.e. he talks less. Taking the concept of Gandhi, it can also be considered true about politics. (India’s Independence Movement was also brilliant in the sense that its active leadership in various streams always expressed themselves with utter discretion and weighed their words before uttering them so as to preserve and maintain a level and dignity of debate.) In addition to this a person who has experienced life in depth and detail, even if he/she lacks a scholarly foundation, happened to be least interested in mere talking. Whatever be the subject or context, it is considered important to have essence and honesty in the talk(Baat). It can be said that essence and honesty are the soul of the talk. Therefore,there is hardly any other word more expressive than the talk in the language.
However, the truth of civilization is also that there has been no shortage of people in every phase of history who indulge in superficial talks only. Many expressions such as baaten banana, baaten chhonkna, baaten chatkana, baaton ki khana, baation kebatashe phodna, baation se pet bharna, baaton ke pul banana confirm this fact. Such people are called verbose (vachaal), lair (labar) etc. in civil language and bakku, bakwadi, batolebaaz, baatfarosh, gappi, gadanki, gapodi, laffaz, hanknewala, fenknewala etc. in the pastoral language. There are also some vulgar expressions about them in both civil and pastoral societies. Despite the habit of putting a foot in every case, such people are not taken seriously in discussions. Civilization has made this forestalling/interdiction arrangement in its defense.
There is no natural defect in such people. Their weakness is only human. Due to multiple socio-psychological reasons, such people consider hollowness as virtue. Acharya Narendra Dev has called culture the cultivation of the mind (Chitt). If there is proper and continuous weeding of the mind, it remains green. That is, culture thrives. The people who always engage in superficial talks consume the essence of life in quenching the thirst of the tongue, and, therefore, the cultivation of the mind remains dry. A tongue unrelated to the mind is always eager to speak anything knowing no boundaries. They keep engaged in verbosity with complete ‘loyalty’. Such people become expert in making every occasion an event. Because eventism becomes a means of filling the hollow. They start competing with themselves that the more events they perform, the more their ‘greatness’ will emerge. In this way, they create their own world of ‘great civilization’ and ‘great culture’. The psychologists could conduct a research whether it is a kind of revenge by such people who have been excluded from the discourse of civilization?
Until before the modern era, it was impossible for those who indulge in empty talks to reach the center of civilization-discourse. Sayings like ‘Thotha Chana Baje Ghana‘, ‘Adhajal Gagri Chhalkat Jaay‘ show that the wisdom of identifying even the bearers of half-knowledge in society also worked equally. Scholarship could not be met with succession or publicity. Even if a ‘king of talks’ (Baaton Ka Badshah) came to the top of power due to the succession, the public did not approve of him despite being a victim of his whims. If this was the situation about kings, then the strict criterion for scholars can be understood.
In the modern era, due to democracy, with the claim on political power, the claim on the power of knowledge also became public. The importance of the art of speech increased in the struggle for political power in democratic systems. Some exaggeration is associated with speech. But mere rhetoric does not last long. The hallmark of true statesmanship is considered to be restrained and meaningful speech. If the matter is restrained and meaningful, true statesmanship is recognized even when the art of speech is weak. Despite this criterion, speakers serving untruths, superstitions and hatred have become popular. If at any stage of public life, the untruth, superstition and hatred spread by a leader and his organization gets acceptance in the society, then it is not the responsibility of that leader and organization alone. Even if the leader and organization have their own patents of untruth, superstition and hatred, the society in which untruth, superstition and hatred are accepted, is shared by all. In other words, untruth, superstition and hatred are accepted in the society at large only when the leadership (both political and intellectual) that claim to be torch-bearer of truth, logic and love, has made adulteration or deceit in their talks/words for a long time on a large scale.
There may be a role of immediate vested interests behind the popularity of a leader/organization that spreads untruth, superstition and hatred, but it is a secondary role. For example, behind the sudden ‘rise’ of Narendra Modi and the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), the role of vested interests, i.e. Ambani-Adani, is secondary; the leading role is that of the progressive and secular leadership, who in direct violation of the Indian Constitution, put the empire of Ambani-Adani on the chest of the toiling but poor/helpless people. It may be noted that the RSS and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) have not played much of a role in annihilating the nationwide agitation against the New Economic Policies; the real role is that of the progressive and secular leadership.
To pursue the discussion a little more, we can see that not only the RSS/Jana Sangh have consistently opposed the Indian Constitution since the time of Independence, but the communists have done the same. For the communist leadership even today, the participation in the Indian constitution and its multi-party parliamentary democracy is not a natural situation. The character, medium, infrastructure of system of education, which makes the society educated and aware, has not done by the RSS/BJP. The system of unequal and multi-layered education is not the responsibility of the RSS/BJP. It is not the work of the RSS/ BJP to impose English in place of Indian languages as a medium of education and governance. At present, the presence of private schools/institutes/colleges/ universities in the country at large scale have also not been established due to RSS/BJP alone. The RSS/BJP saffronize education. Misdeeds of saffronization can be undone if a secular government comes. Privatization-commercialization of education is the real problem. This list of theoretical and policy topics can be quite long. Apart from theoretical and policy matters, the progressive and secular leadership has not played an impartial role in matters related to the function of various government institutions.
The voice of anti-fascism of this camp proves to be hollow, because the Hindu-nation of RSS/BJP gets molded in the thief-market (Chor Bazar) of secularism. Taking the recent example, one can see that the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) won the recent Delhi Assembly elections by setting the ‘right’ ratio of neo-liberalism and communalism against BJP. The progressive and secular camp put all their strength in getting the votes of Muslims outright in favor of AAP discarding the share of Congress and other secular parties. The Muslims got riots and the court cases along with jail terms. Kapil Sharma, who is repeatedly said to be the main accused of instigating riots in north-east Delhi, was an AAP MLA in the last assembly and joined the BJP just before the election. But not a single secular journalist or activist mentions this truth. If not for the outbreak of the corona epidemic, the atmosphere of Delhi would have been made ‘holy’ by the incense discourse of ‘Sundar Kand‘ with Hawan, courtesy Delhi Government.
The RSS had been pursuing the lie of Hindu-nation since 1925, but the people of India neither supported it during the freedom movement nor after independence. There was no question of holding a Shakha in the countryside. The political arm of the RSS, the Jan Sangh/BJP, had to follow constitutional values and provisions/processes while taking part in political affairs. This situation remained at least till the Vajpayee-era of BJP. Nowadays it is feared that Modi will change the Constitution. It may be that by the end of his innings or at the beginning of the next innings, Modi may remove the word secularism from the Constitution saying that Hindu is by nature secular and that that word was later added by the Indira Gandhi government in the Preamble of the Constitution. But even with this word, Modi’s BJP can continue to run the country on the lines of Hindu-nation. Like the word Socialism mentioned in the Constitution’s Preamble and despite the socialist ideology rooted in its basic spirit, the country was put on the path of capitalism in 1991. Under this decision, when the right of equality was permanently taken away from the majority of the citizens of the country, they were left as mere Hindus and Muslims. This is to say that constitutional ‘socialism, secularism and democracy’ is a complete package. By sacrificing one, the other cannot be saved. Narendra Modi’s fierce communalism is a by-product of the radical and shabby capitalism that runs in the country.
However, one reason for the sudden reputation of untruth, superstition and hatred in the society also leads to mediocre or below mediocre leadership in combat. The present situation of India is crystal clear in this aspect. The competition here is between the supporters of neo-liberalism, including the hidden (Prachhann) neo-liberalists. The leadership that opposes neo-liberalism is excluded from the competition, because it does not meet the basic condition of competition (playing within the realm of neo-liberalism). In the neo-liberalist realm, the mediocrity of active political and intellectual competitors is not hidden from anyone. This situation shows that India’s political and intellectual leadership has become progressively mediocre in the face of the current challenge. For a detailed discussion on this predicament, Kishan Patnaik’s book ‘Vikalpheen Nahin Hai Duniya’ (The world is not without alternatives) can be seen. Some examples of this phenomena can also be seen at the world level. One of the secondary reasons behind the popularity of Donald Trump (America), Putin (Russia), Erdogan (Turkey), etc. is also the presence of mediocre leadership in their competition. In America, Bernie Sanders was defeated by Hillary Clinton in his own party during the last presidential elections, and this time by Joe Biden. One of the complex reasons for the rise of Hitler and Mussolini was that Churchill, Stalin, and Roosevelt were not leaders of big stature. Gandhi’s stature in colonial India was much higher than them. Rather, Gandhi, the Statesman of humanity, had changed the concept of Statesmanship in politics.
Some immediate event would provide the basis for the sudden jump of untruth, superstition and hatred in public life. Let’s think about it a little. During the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) era, the work of establishing the roots of neo-imperialism under Manmohan Singh was going on silently, without much talking. Some outspoken civil society activists were successful in seeking some concessions for the poor India which was badly affected due to neo-liberal policies. It was in order to provide a human face to the reforms. That period can be called as the Silent-Era (Chuppa-Yug) of the descendance of neo-imperialism in India. Before it, the phase of Atal Bihari Vajpayee was also almost silent. During his reign, the sovereignty of the country was being sacrificed through various ordinances one after another without debate in the Parliament. By that time, a committed movement was active against mortgaging the sovereignty of the country. The nature of that movement, which was held in different parts of the country and on different issues, was scattered/retail in nature. It was expected that this retail movement would soon be politically integrated and would restore the independence, sovereignty and self reliance of the country by breaking the growing neo-imperialist clutches. Strong questions were raised on undemocratic decisions of the Vajpayee government. On raising the question, Vajpayee used to chuckle and say, ‘No Mai Ka Lal can buy India!’ The RSS who used to utter parrot-like utterances about patriotism and swadeshi used to keep silence on the neo-imperialist slavery being imposed through ordinances.
Actually, Vajpayee had said that in 1991 when the New Economic Policies were implemented, the Congress has taken up their (RSS-BJP’s) work (implementing capitalist economy). One can note that the interest of,otherwise speech-loving, Vajpayee suddenly increased those days in contemplation (Chintan). Most of the intellectuals of the country had already remained silent since 1991. As Kishan Patnaik has said, English-speaking/writing people in India are intellectuals. These intellectuals are still not ready to believe that the country has come under the grip of neo-imperialism by violating the values of the struggle for independence and the Constitution; the primary reason for which is the New Economic Policies implemented in 1991. Three decades later, it is needless to say that in 1991 the India which was described as being grappling with the economic crisis was actually the rich India strengthened under the model of mixed economy. Otherwise, what difference would the decrease or increase of foreign exchange reserves have made for most of the Indian people who dug wells every day? The motives and direction of the reforms were clear: to transform the rich India of that time into the Corporate India (Nigam Bharat). During the corona period, the whole world has seen what the plight of poor in India have been in the making and running of this Corporation India.
From the womb of long Chuppa-Yug dedicated to the reception of neo-imperialism, there was a sudden explosion of a Noisy-Era (Shor Machao Yug) in the form of anti-corruption movement. Famous personalities of the country got desperate to give a speech on the stage at Jantar-Mantar and Ramlila Maidan. Overnight, Jantar Mantar and Ramlila Maidanswere erected throughout the country in large numbers in order to accommodate such people. Citizens of Corporate India in Delhi held ‘Prabhat Pheri’ from India Gate to Connaught Place with the children. The RSS supported the movement with the corporate houses. The media took up the movement hands-on in united manner. There was a flood of talks all around the country. Even such talks that can neither be picked up nor be placed (uthai jaayen na dhari jaayen)! Kiran Bedi, one of the pillars of the movement, declared Anna Hazare as the big (Bada) and Arvind Kejriwal as the small (Chhota) Gandhi, announced that Baba Ramdev and Shri Shri Ravi Shankar are two fakirs who have come out to do good (Kalyan) for the country. The excitement and rapture soared so much that it was not limited to anti-corruption, and reached the second and third revolution. The formation of the new party of the common man was announced overnight for ‘revolution’.The progressive and secular intellectual camp of the country united with the party and its leader, and in the name of the common man, began to talk garrulously for the sake of tongue movement. A senior and eminent journalist said, ‘Aam Aadmi Party has been born from the ashes of the anti-corruption movement,and now we do not have to look back.’ It was such an unforeseen festival of talks that the ‘last man’ of Gandhi disappeared and that the professionals/officers/businessmen spread across the country and abroad were established as common people. In this whole process, the self-claimed epitomes of honesty and simplicity left no stone unturned in defaming the Prime Minister Manmohan Singh as dishonest. Whereas none other than the second Prime Minister Lal Bahadur Shastri led an honest and simplistic life like him. Manmohan Singh was also honest about New Economic Policies. He never campaigned that he was going to bring good days (Achchhe Din) for the farmers/labourers/unemployed etc. He kept the challenge open – to save the country from economic crisis, if anyone has any other option than the New Economic Policies, should come forth.
The ‘first man’ of the movement particularly praised the Gujarat model’s mentor Narendra Modi. Humble Modi wrote a letter of gratitude, and instructed to be careful of enemies. Narendra Modi happened to be a king of talks (Baaton Ka Badshah) even before, but was restricted to Gujarat itself. Since the chess-board of empty talks was laid at the national level there was no stopping him. The atmosphere and field were ready before he started throwing hollow talks. (If the base created by the anti-corruption movement was not there, Narendra Modi would eventually have lived out his life Gujarat itself, and the next Prime Minister of the country would have been LK Advani or a leader of the third force.) Modi by handing himself over to the corporate houses, defeated Advani in the arena of the party’s candidature for the post of Prime Minister, and took a firm position in the field. The Congress, talking about the human face of reforms, was no longer of use for the task of corporate houses. On the other hand, corporate gave a pat to Kejriwal as well. At this cricial juncture look at the condition of the progressive and secular camp, the leader of an immediately formed party was introduced as Modi’s rebuttal. They started telling the public that Kejriwal’s ratings are going higher than Modi even abroad! Kejriwal embraced the title of little Modi (Chhota Modi) by offering a double victory gift to Modi in Benaras with the help of progressive and secular camp.
This little detail has been given to remind how ‘truthful’ and ‘logical’ talks the progressive and secular camp were engaging in before Modi came to the national stage. Till date, not a single one has expressed a word of regret. There could only be two reasons for this: either these people think that the public cannot catch their deception; or, being supremely knowledgeable, it is their birth right to deceive the public. Since then, no one knows how much water has flowed into the Ganges as Modi decorates the market of talks. His opposing camp sometimes ridicules, sometimes inflicts sarcasm, sometimes makes jokes, sometimes makes slogans, sometimes makes cartoons, sometimes shouts and writes articles on Modi’s anti-democracy fascist tactics. In this duet (Jugalbandi), the pace of the making of Corporate India increases rapidly.
During the review of the anti-corruption movement, I had written that if the writings of the leaders of the freedom struggle were not forthcoming, then the coming generations would have understood the selling the resources and labour of the country to the corporate houses and multinational companies as the only great work to be done by leaders with a fanfare of verbosity. The corona epidemic could have been an opportunity to come out of the disease of talks. But very soon it became known that untruth, superstition and hatred were going ahead and epidemic was lagging behind. Even after the passing of 6 months, there are as many talks as mouths about all aspects related to the corona epidemic in the country. Amid the epidemic, there was a border dispute with China in the Ladakh region. TwentyIndian soldiers were killed in the clash. Under the Modi-style of politics, border disputes and martyrdom of soldiers once again became an unmistakable opportunity for speech.
The current power-establishment would very much like to continue this trend, so that its power and this unjust system can be perpetuated. According to the testimony of history, the system based on untruth, superstition and hatred is dashed sooner or later. This can happen soon, provided less talks are made at least by the anti-Modi camp. This is no easy task. If there are less talks, the progressive and secular leadership will be able to understand that constitutional values are not its primary concern. Its primary concern is with itself. It has created its own world of anti-fascism, and keeps busy in the enterprise of saving this world. In this world it remains convinced that it can never be wrong. On one side is Modi’s world, on the other side is the world of progressives and seculars. Corporate India gets strengthened in the collision of these two worlds. Today Modi’s pan is heavy, so the pan of untruth, superstition and hatred in Corporate India is heavy. Tomorrow, the pan of the Constitution could be heavy, then the pan of truth, logic and love will become heavy in India. The RSS/BJP may also have a role. If there are some people who do not consider this situation right for the society and the country, they should start talking.
(The writer teaches Hindi at Delhi University)