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  Opinion   Oped  05 Jun 2019  India’s liberals must own the defeat and regroup... but do they have the will?

India’s liberals must own the defeat and regroup... but do they have the will?

The writer is Dawn’s correspondent in New Delhi
Published : Jun 5, 2019, 2:32 am IST
Updated : Jun 5, 2019, 2:32 am IST

Ten years of right-wing mischief is only a tiny eruption on the eloquent chart of Indian history.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi
 Prime Minister Narendra Modi

There’s good chance there was big corruption in the Rafale plane deal. Do you have the resources to pin down the guilty and put them in jail when state power is with the other side? No, you don’t. You needed to get into a position to be able to control the levers of justice. But you lacerated those who could have helped get you the requisite power, flaunting arrogance and selfishness in front of each other instead of taking aim at the common adversary.

You believe the electronic voting machines were rigged, that they had helped Prime Minister Modi snatch an ill-deserved victory from the jaws of defeat. Do you have the proof? Importantly, do you have the political wherewithal to win the fight over the issue? That kind of political battle requires relentless passion for street power, as displayed by Pakistanis when they brought down an invincible military dictator like Musharraf (not for the first time since Ayub).

Do you have the focus and determination of the Iranians who threw out the mighty Shah by taking bullets on the chest with sheer numbers and minimum violence from their side? No, you are not equipped.

Are you capable of producing a Jeremy Corbyn who can link the injustices of the world with the ones at home, pursue selfless (or even selfish) ideals of global peace like the one that saw university campuses in the United States shut down the Vietnam War? On the contrary, your beloved former prime minister was cuddling George W. Bush, who was the most disliked US president in Europe and all of Asia, Africa and Latin America, telling him how intensely the Indians loved him. The PEW opinion poll showed Indians pining to be lodged in America’s armpits, showing a clean pair of heels to a secular Iraq, which stood shoulder to shoulder with India over the Kashmir dispute.

You preen and prance about the JP movement, about how valiantly you fought Indira Gandhi. The fact is you were tamely jailed. And you would have remained there had Mrs Gandhi not acceded to pressure from abroad, coupled with poor intelligence that assured her of victory in the 1977 election. And she thus freed you by a clerical error.

Ten years of right-wing mischief is only a tiny eruption on the eloquent chart of Indian history. Brace for it. Human adversity is eminently reversible, including fascism. Remember how your former prime minister with an as yet unmatched complement of MPs was soon facing a revolt from his party despite the brute majority. And his party never won an absolute majority ever again.

India has had it easy in comparison to almost every neighbour in South Asia and beyond. Is there any parity at all between the self-induced threat you face today from a right-wing assault and the bloody travails that Sri Lanka has been through, and that too without losing sight of its deep-rooted democracy?

Or take Nepal, which kicked out a brutal king who claimed divine lineage, a self-proclaimed Hindu god of sorts. It’s another way to see Hinduism, how a determined campaign succeeded in establishing a robust egalitarian democracy in Nepal. Let’s bow to the valiant people of Nepal. There are Hindus and Hindus, as there are Muslims and Muslims. Nepal’s Hindus gave refuge to Begum Hazrat Mahal when she lost her brilliant war with the British. If nothing else, build a nice canopy over her barren grave on a footpath in Kathmandu.

Afghanistan, Pakistan and Bangladesh, have they experienced any small catastrophes? Indian liberals are being targeted for letting down the team. It’s a fact that some among them have shaped their worldview in the pathetic image of Tony Blair and Aung San Suu Kyi. But why should that not be so? That’s the nature of the beast. Tame it.

It is rumoured that liberals were defeated in May by a surge of Hindu conservatism. The opposite is truer. It was your liberal prime minister who had caved in to accept the most mediaeval demands of regressive Muslim husbands. He then sought to balance his foolishness by yielding to the regressive mobilisation of Hindus. Look at his son, a beautiful mix of genes between Kashmir, Gujarat and Rome. How he surrenders to Chanakya-like advisers who announce him falsely as a thread-wearing Brahmin. They promised the electorate refined cow urine. How many seats did that win you? Why blame the liberals? A religious Gandhi and an agnostic Nehru defined Indian liberalism, and people of India ate out of their hands. Hear Gandhi on cow protection, and Nehru on temple building. Stop blaming the boots for the faults of your feet.

You want to sympathise with the Muslims? It’s more useful to sympathise with yourselves. The old quarter of Delhi is bustling with raw energy in the evenings, scoffing at the white summer heat. The Muslims who dominate the topography are not about to let Narendra Modi’s bizarre win spoil their innate sense of fun, a mélange of joie de vivre and a spiritual mandate to be kind and sharing in the month of Ramzan.

See the delightful pictures and the smitten texts posted daily online by Jayshree Shukla, she of her untiring walks through the maze of Old Delhi, keeping the occasional fast in spontaneous solidarity with Muslims, breaking the roza with a swarm of young and old Muslim men and women. She is almost a character from Arundhati Roy’s parables of Old Delhi in The Ministry of Utmost Happiness.

Count the Muslim MPs among the winners in Uttar Pradesh. Don’t pity Indian Muslims. Give them a chance and they will defend the constitution with their lives. But do some honest soul-searching, and regroup. Muslims, Dalits, farmers, unemployed youngsters, women, the works, will support you unconditionally, with the ballots and at the barricades. But do you have the will?

By arrangement with Dawn

Tags: indian muslims, narendra modi