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What wasn’t written

State of Play: Cut. Paste. Concoct. Manufacture
A poster of achchhe din on the streets.

Sankarshan Thakur   |     |   Published 06.06.20, 09:04 PM

A letter has recently been written to the people of India. It is from the prime minister, and it speaks of what he has done these past six years that he has been at the helm. The letter runs into several pages and is more than 1,500 words long, but there remain a few things it hasn’t been able to accommodate or speak of.

It makes no mention, for instance, of achchhe din, the portmanteau feel-good promise that became his pivot to power in 2014. It does not tell you in what garden the pledged golden bird — soney ki chidia — continues to elude our grasp.

It does not tell you that in the years since, India has been turned into an architecture of fractures wantonly and consciously wreaked; and that in the pursuit of fashioning these fractures, Indians have been encouraged to go after other Indians, liberally fed on lies and prejudice, exhorted by dog-whistling from the top and brazenly led to murder and mayhem by gas-lighter commanders possessed of run over the law. Indians have been killed for what they wear, what they eat, what they are called, what books they read, who they pray to. The killers have come to be treated like heroes of spectator sport; they’ve been garlanded and celebrated.

The letter does not tell you of this civilizational mission of excluding and Othering, at once merciless and joyous. It does not tell you a law has formally been passed as boost to its purposes.

It does not tell you that Kashmir, already woefully pellet-gunned, was jackbooted into prison, manacled, muffled, disabled, stripped of all rights and dignity. Just before that happened, elaborate, but covert, machinations had brought down a bolt that sundered India’s crown and reduced, for the first time, a province to two Union territories. It does not tell you that hundreds, including three former chief ministers, were incarcerated sans charge. It does not tell you that the pain of a populace became cause for lavish pleasure elsewhere.

It does not tell you of the disastrous consequences of demonetization, imposed with monarchic whimsy, a whole nation robbed overnight of access to rightful cash and forced to queue up for drip-feeds of financial sustenance. It does not tell you of favoured carpet-baggers who, around the same time, were plotting to decamp with purloined millions. It does not tell you of the woes of millions of farmers who marched long distances to be seen and heard until the soles of their feet gave and they fell and not a hand came to help.

It does not tell you of an economy in a shambles, its ratings downgraded, its minders clueless. It does not tell you the rupee is at its worst ever against the dollar. It does not tell you of projects that have profited a handpicked few and impoverished the many.

It does not tell you of the mindful plunder of institutional integrity and the evaporation of public faith in them — the autonomy of the Election Commission and the banking system, the conduct of investigative and policing agencies, the independence of the courts where appointments have been routinely fiddled and benches fixed to serve the ends of the establishment.

It does not tell you of the power-greedy, vandal politics that has prowled about, toppling and gobbling governments, making and unmaking the most cynical alliances; it is a dagger-driven politics whose tongue quivers with hatred. Its language is purposefully venomous and its actions treacherous. One day they could be sitting conferring with you across the table, the next they could throw you in jail.

It does not tell you that the lines between government and party, loyalty to nation and loyalty to person, have been sought to be cynically obliterated during this time, and a new ultra-aggressive, right-wing monotheism spurred. Democratic dissent has come to be renamed treason. Campuses and students have been violently targeted, labelled and persecuted on manufactured lies. It does not tell you that Dalits have been publicly and proudly whipped, often lynched, often driven to humiliation and suicide.

It does not tell you of the arrival of a dispensation that proactively, though quasi-covertly, promotes the apparatchik and aspiration of the Hindu rashtra, the very antithesis of what we, the people of India that is Bharat, had set out to be. It does not tell you that we now wish to be not a glowing contrast to Mohammed Ali Jinnah’s Pakistan but a humungous, and more menacing, doppelgänger of his idea. It does not tell you that the antithesis of the constitutional idea of India is proceeding apace.

It does not tell you that many of those convicted of sectarian murder have been afforded bail. It does not tell you that many others have been shoved into jail on preposterously antediluvian allegations because the regime deems their honest work and ideas antithetical. It does not tell you that a terror-accused has been eased out of prison and handed a ticket to Parliament. It does not tell you that the deifiers of Nathuram Godse, the murderer of Mahatma Gandhi, roam high and secure places.

It does not tell you that Jawaharlal Nehru, the architect of modern India, the most complex but most stable of post-colonial democracies, has been reviewed by rogues, his legacy lavished with unsavoury and mostly untrue puffery. Nehru, in the lexicon of the ‘Rediscovery of New India’, was born in a brothel and died of syphilis, having spent most of the intervening period playing playboy.

It does not tell you that these last few years have seen the inspired, and paid, eruption of a toxic propaganda machine that specializes in inventing lies and farming out disinformation that is of both Nazi and Soviet grade. This machine is helmed by the likes of Amit Malviya, the chief of the Bharatiya Janata Party’s IT cell, whose daily dabbling in fakery is legion. Such that he often snares senior ministers into endorsing his false claims and embarrasses them into having to publicly revise and recant. But Malviya and his troll cohort have proceeded regardless; unashamed and persuaded, in goblian fashion, that their diabolical litany of lies and falsification will eventually rule public perception. Cut. Paste. Concoct. Manufacture. Repeat the lie. Ridicule the truth. That’s been the credo of the ruling dispensation, fired by innumerable social media engines. For many of which the anthem is ‘Go to Pakistan!’

It does not tell you how small all of that has rendered India’s perception abroad. It does not tell you the poor notice the ruling confederacy routinely earns for its bully mien. It does not tell you how pitifully friendless India has become in its own neighbourhood, and how ineffectual. It does not tell you that hyper-chested ultra-nationalism has not secured the nation’s borders any more than they were; the fabled stare was of dubious effect, it scared nobody off their bellicose intentions along our frontiers. Not the Pakistanis. Not the Chinese. Not the Nepalese.

There are far too many things that letter does not tell you than there is space to accommodate here. It does not, for instance, tell you of the inept and heartless handling of the health and humanitarian crisis which has now risen to our gills. But that story is on the front pages.

sankarshan.thakur@abp.in

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