Sirf dikhne mein ‘vikas’...?
‘Sirf dikhne mein mehanga …. ’ Is the unfortunate tag-line for a chain of Trends stores owned by (the senior) Reliance. It rankles...
When Pakistani incursions abate, some groups obligingly manufacture the events like the Bodh Gaya bombing; Kishtwar riots in J&K, which is a constant effort to polarise on communal lines. The only political entities to benefit from these activities are the right-wing forces, for whom each such event provides a chance to champion the majority cause
‘Sirf dikhne mein mehanga …. ’ Is the unfortunate tag-line for a chain of Trends stores owned by (the senior) Reliance. It rankles one to see the “deception” as motto stated so barely in a campaign. It also appeals to a certain mindset. For some reason one kept thinking of this while watching the speeches delivered by Narendra Modi, first at a rally in Hyderabad and second at a “rally” in Gujarat on August 15, 2013.
The run-up to the 2014 elections has already set the agenda for the issues over which it will be fought. While some would like us to believe that it is development and governance, the rhetoric and events around which emotions are sought to be raised is nothing but communal in nature.
When Pakistani incursions abate, some groups obligingly manufacture the events like the Bodh Gaya bombing; Kishtwar riots in J&K, which is a constant effort to polarise on communal lines. The only political entities to benefit from these activities are the right-wing forces, for whom each such event provides a chance to champion the majority cause.
The population of Hindus in India is over 85% and Muslims is over 13%, Christians are a miniscule 2.3% or so. In Gujarat, it is 91% Hindus and 7% Muslims. But thanks to the demonization of minorities that occurs constantly through the media, a large number of Hindus have begun to believe that the minorities pose a genuine threat. When the threat of the ‘other’ is made out to be big enough, the hope is that the majority community will fall at the feet of their only saviours who have the guts and daring to take on the “enemy”. One suspects that this is more a middle-class and urban phenomenon. Despite the hopeful estimates of some international agencies, some scholars are placing India’s middle class (those who spend $10 to $50 a day according to a technical paper at http://www.cgdev.org/doc/2013_MiddleClassIndia_Technical Note _CGDNote.pdf) around 6% of the population. If one wishes to go by the estimates of NCAER, it was around 12.8% of the population in 2010. This class is educated, articulate and aspirational, setting its sights outward and higher). It is also vocal and visible.
Right-wing politics, like elsewhere in the world, try to keep this group focused on the fear of minorities walking away with privileges that rightfully belong to ‘us’. This argument also is used against the other marginalised sections of the population. All ills of governance, for instance, are blamed on the miniscule number of candidates that has come in through reservations, even as the implementation of reservation policy has been such a joke in practice.
The ‘others’ are portrayed as a social, cultural, political and economic threat. If jobs are scarce, despite evidence that the minorities are under-represented, it will be said they are being pampered to hurt the majority interests. Similar arguments are used against the marginalised sections as well.
By focusing on invented enemies, this kind of political culture distracts us from the real issue of a handful of entities cornering national resources and accumulating wealth on an unprecedented scale. In all the rhetoric that has been flying around prospective prime ministerial candidates, one does not see wall-to-wall coverage of people who are raising the issue of gas price hike to encourage investments from a company like Reliance, when it is sitting on 1.25 lakh crores of uninvested cash reserves, according to newspaper reports.
When corporations accumulate wealth in India and are keener to acquire companies overseas, we are expected to be proud that Indian companies are investing elsewhere and creating employment elsewhere while we lament that the country is seeing jobless growth. As true patriots we are supposed to be proud that the Indian entrepreneurs are now colonising other parts of the world! Never mind where we draw the poverty line, at one rupee or at 25. Poverty and joblessness have secularly impacted all communities.
Jingoistic patriotism and cultural nationalism both are weapons of distraction, behind which the real culprits hide. When jobs are in short supply despite the growing number of billionaires in India, when reasonably priced education or health are not within the reach of large sections of population even as private empires are expanding in both the sectors, we will be told that it is the Western education that is ruining the country. We must go back to our Vedic past and revive our values.
When reservations are demanded for jobs or education, no one is asking why we do not have enough institutions to fulfill basic needs like health and education for our people and why we have to hate each other because of a zero-sum game thrust upon us by the corporate-political nexus.
The corporations and their crony politicians alike use the accumulated wealth in India primarily to install favourable candidates in power. But debates on the corporate media merely focus on individualised blame-game about specific misdemeanours without exposing the systemic malaise that has overtaken the country.
The middle class individual today has come to the conclusion that in a country like India, dictatorship is the best form of government. If everybody is equal and begins to demand rights, then what will be left for ‘us’? The underlying confidence of this belief in dictatorship is that somehow when that day arrives, he/she will not be in the firing line, but the others will be disciplined and put in their place. However, history is full of evidence to the contrary. Those who encourage dictatorial tendencies are often the first victims of the inevitable purge of all dissent that takes place in the early stages of consolidation.
The dissatisfaction of the middle class is a strange phenomenon. It is a deep sense of relative deprivation that grips them. When they get access to the scarce resources of education and employment, their aspirations begin to soar and they long for wealth and power. They resent others aspiring to similar privileges. Our culture already has an iron frame of privilege and dominance in place and the right-wing political agenda stokes the million reasons why inequalities are inevitable for being born into a religion/ a caste. It provides a perfect ideological base for the navel-gazing middle class. The systematic revival of centuries-old religious tenets to guide the 21st century life is a part of fine-tuning this agenda.
If we are to pull ourselves out of the abyss created by global capital, we have to refocus on the real issues and resist attempts to distract us by all such forms of jingoism. It is ‘sirf dikhne me patriotism’. We cannot survive as a nation without caring about those around us.