Abuse and Social Realities
In a recent article, the supposed informed commentator on affairs of India, Gurcharan Das, asked the present education minister, Smriti Irani to hang her head and have a good cry. Her crime? The present mess in the education system at the primary level in India. I was puzzled why he held her responsible for the mess, since she has been the minister for the last sixteen months or so. In effect what Das seemed to be saying that an excellent education system that Irani inherited was comprehensively destroyed during her watch, and India now ranks “73 out of 74 in 2011 in a simple test of reading, science and arithmetic called PISA (Program for International Student Assessment)”.
A little into the article, I found that the problem started in 2009, with the Right to Education Act, when Irani was not the minister. I was relieved because I am a fan of hers for the gusty way she has been taking on the mainstream media which has made her a favourite target of calumny, next to our prime minister, Narendra Modi.
The full article is available at:
Now, I wonder why Das did not ask the chief promoter of the RTE act, Aruna Roy, and the then education minister, Kapil Sibal, during whose tenure the act was put in place, to hang their head and cry. Perhaps a clue was provided to me in an email conversation I had with him earlier.
He had named Swadeshi Jagran Manch, a unit promoted by the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, as being the chief organisation that was causing obstacles in the way of having a sane economic policy. I asked Das if this was the only organisation that is being obstructive. He said that there are others, but that he cannot remember the names because he is busy writing a book. Similarly, maybe he forgot the role played by Roy and Sibal in creating the situation that exists today. Or perhaps Das thought he could get away with his chicanery because he thinks that the readers are of low intellectual level, and that they would get over-awed by this alleged status as an informed analyst of the Indian scene.
Additional to having the conviction that the reader is of low intelligence, such cases of selective memory is to make an attempt to be nice to people who are part of their social reality, while getting some sort of perverse pleasure of demonising those are not a part of their circle. The ones who had created the mess earlier, are the ones that Das would be meeting often at social events (which have nearly none intellectual content) that are a feature of Lutyen’s Delhi. Thus, to take them to task would entail a situation of deep embarrassment when he bumps into them.
Also, the mess-creators would be friendly with those who constitute Das’ circle of friends. This social circle would chide (to use a mild word) Das for not being nice to the likes of Roy and Sibal. It may even lead to a situation where Das could find himself being socially ostracised by those who belong to groups that are grandly called the Delhi Durbar and the Nehurvian Elite.
Simultaneously, Das would get compliments from his friends for being ‘brave’ to take on Irani. The reason is that Irani is not part of the social reality of Das and his friends. The Delhi Durbar and the Nehruvian Elite had announced a long time back that she, along with Narendra Modi, are intruders in Lutyen’s Delhi, a sort of their fiefdom into which only a certain type of people should be admitted.
I am sure Das knows that his words would be read by a small group of people for whom the source of information would be primarily the English media of a general type. That is they would not have the wherewithal to access detailed analysis on subjects outside their core competencies. By writing the way he has done, that is blaming people selectively and that too on the basis of social prejudices, he is doing a great disservice to those who think that he is a genuine provider of informed analysis.
Of course, Das has every right to misinform with an objective of pushing his own ideology. What he has to realise is that there is a much larger group of people today have access to many different opinions and different perspectives. No longer is it the case of the Delhi Darbaris and the Nehruvian Elite controlling the flow of information. Thus, when the 100-odd academics in the USA questioned the heads of the large organisation in Silicon Valley about the ‘danger’ of meeting Narendra Modi, they simply ignored them.
The Delhi Darbaris and the Nehruvian Elite know that their game is over. But they have been so used to living a lazy life, where the English language has been used as a substitute for logic, that they realise that they will now have to work really hard to justify their existence. They are upset that the proletariats are going to displace them, figuratively, from their present perch from where they thought they were ruling. But the perch was so high, that they could not see what was happening below, and they were too far, physically, to hear the voices of the people.
Moreover, these voices were speaking in languages other than English, languages in which they had no familiarity. And when the voices were speaking in English, the idiom was very different from what they were used to. The just could not relate to the discussion at the level of the proletariat.
They have to fight back for another reason to the purely monetary one mentioned above. They do not have to answer an awkward question – if the paradigm that exists in India is diametrically different from what they have been projecting, how did they not know it? How could they be so terribly wrong? And having lived a parasitic life, they have lost the moral and intellectual integrity of admitting their mistakes. Perhaps they think that the people at large will ask for the return of the money that the society had spent on therm.
But the Hindu society does not function in this way. The Hindu society knows that people can make mistakes. All that they ask for is a clear admission of the mistakes, and a resolution that they will not make them in the future. And prove the resolution by what they write.
The Hindu society believes in intellectual manthan (churning) because it knows that enduring solutions can only be discovered by a process of sincere discussions. They believe in the type of debates that Adi Shankaracharya had with Mandan Mishra. The former, a young person of less than 20 years from what is now Kerala, debated with the latter, an elderly person and a renowned scholar from what is now Madhya Pradesh, to explain to each other the merits of their own philosophy.
I wish that the Delhi Darbaris and the Nehruvian Elites imbibe this tradition, instead of indulging in intellectual abuse.
(Ashok Chowgule is Working President (External) of Vishwa Hindu Parishad, India.)