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An open letter to Rajdeep “IAmAntiNational” Sardesai

Dear Rajdeep,

It seriously doesn’t matter to me what’s your self-image: Nationalist or anti-nationalist. I don’t even care what people think about you. I don’t even see a reason why an honest journalist needs to advocate his ideologies in a national newspaper’s op-ed page. I don’t even know how many honest journalists can get this opportunity of ‘self-promotion’ as most of them are vernacular, non-lutyens journalists, struggling to find news in scorching heat of India that exists outside of Delhi.

Since your article is based on an absolutely wrong premise, besides self-pity, I think, as a true nationalist, its my duty to correct it and put it in right perspective before your lie becomes the mainstream narrative.

You write:

“In the 1990s, the country’s polity was divided by secular versus pseudo secular faultlines; now, another divide, and frankly far more insidious, is sought to be created between ‘national’ and ‘anti-national’ forces.”

In the 1990s, the country was divided between haves and have-nots. That’s why the main theme was ‘Garibi Hatao’. As it still does. Then liberalization happened. With liberalization, India got divided on a new fault line. Ones who wanted to make a better livelihood by working hard and those who wanted to milk liberalization with corruption. Corruption requires middlemen, brokers, pimps and sycophants. Thus a group mushroomed, disguised in the garb of secularism and unfortunately you chose to become their voice. Indians have been secular for thousands of years. I hope you know, words like ‘religion’ and ‘secular’ did not even exist until the advent of Christianity. I am sure your grandfather must have told you that Hindu civilization existed even thousands of years before Jesus Christ.

‘Secularism’ was a tool that corrupt Congress and the beneficiaries of its corruption used to protect ‘the ecosystem’ from millions of hungry, unemployed, exploited, oppressed but honest, hard-working common citizens. Secularism was invented to consolidate minority votes without isolating Hindus and without appearing to be a minority appeaser. With liberalization, came new multi-national businesses who wanted to overcome red-tapism and needed licenses whereas the ruling parties needed funds. Coincidentally, at the same time English news channels were also in red so they also needed funds. So news channels with power to make or break images needed money and corrupt Congress with money needed image. Thus emerged a new group – The Secular group.

Anyone who disagreed with their ‘Idea of (corrupt) India’ was labelled non-intellectual and thus the middle class, vernacular Indian who did not have the privilege to study in St. Xaviers, Christchurch, Doon, Scindia, Oxford or Cambridge was made to feel inferior in his own country. They were typecast as illiberal, regressive Hindus. Supporting Pakistan was seen as intellectual. Rejecting Hindu customs and traditions became an intellectual exercise. People who take pride in Hindu philosophy were systematically labelled ‘illiberal’. You were seen protecting, promoting and nurturing such voices.

Rajdeep, your grandfather must have also told you that everything that is traditional isn’t illiberal. Similarly, everything that’s rebellious in nature isn’t liberal. But Secular India had silenced the grandfathers of India. On TV channels, for sure. That’s how India was divided between organized and funded club members of a ‘Secular India’ and unorganized, simple, honest and truly secular Indians. They were denied entry into mainstream narrative of India. Nobody was talking for them. Nobody was listening to them. It was by design. You were one of the designers.

Since you love old Hindi songs you must have heard ‘Jiska koi nahin uska to khuda hai yaaron…’ and khuda listened to this hapless mass. A technological innovation came as their rescue. Social media happened. Of course, the secular brigade tried to monopolize it but the entry was open to all. It wasn’t a club. It was a platform. When so-called ‘smart trolls’ started exposing your secular club members of their lies and sinister intents, your wife tried to humiliate them and create further divide by labelling them as ‘Internet Hindoos’.

They weren’t Hindoos. They were Indians. They wanted to take pride in India. And you wanted to crush that pride. For that pride would have been counter productive to thekedars of ‘idea of India’. Two ideas, two Indias came out in open. One who loved India. And another who loved ‘idea of India. That’s how ‘nationalist’ and ‘anti-nationalist’ debate started. Nobody called you anti-national. You decided to ridicule nationalists. You started calling Modi supporters as ‘sanghis’, bhakts, and pseudo patriots, without even realizing that these people love Modi for he is a India Bhakt. They will drop Modi the day they doubt his integrity.

You misunderstood that Modi bhakts are also BJP, RSS bhakt. Your fundamentals were wrong. That’s why it took one evening of prime time for one of your ex-colleagues to demolish your game. Today you have become a victim of your own game. You have sensed that being anti-Hindu, anti-India is not paying dividends and it’s too late for you to be called nationalist. You don’t have credibility, and now it’s a matter of survival for you. If your grandfather was alive, he would have warned you that the race you, Arvind Kejriwal, Rahul Gandhi and friends are running ends only in a dark well. Where even penance doesn’t help.

Nothing can be a more resounding proof than the fact that today you have to use an op-ed page to publicly justify your ideological defeat with a vicious hashtag #IAmAntiNationalist

 You write:

“Yes, I am anti-national because in a plural democracy I believe we must have a dialogue with Kashmiri separatists as we must with those in the North-East who seek autonomy. I will listen to student protestors in Srinagar or Imphal as I will to those in an FTII or a JNU.”

I would advise you have a dialogue with Arnab Goswami. With Subhash Chandra. Have a dialogue with Bhakts like me. With Internet Hindoos. Have a dialogue with the innocent Modi supporter who you had beaten up at MSG. But listening isn’t your agenda. If it were you, I would have listened to so-called trolls on twitter and understood why they are so angry with me. But you chose to whine all day about trolls and their abuse. If you can tolerate anti-India slogans I am sure you can also tolerate some abuse on your TL.

On your timeline thousands of ‘trolls’ keep screaming why you don’t show India’s growth story? Did you listen to them?

I want to have a dialogue with you. Listen to you. Understand you. But are you ready to invite me? To listen to my point of view?

Prosecute all those who break the law, incite violence, resort to terror but don’t lose the capacity to engage with those who dissent. The right to dissent is as fundamental as the right to free speech: shouting down alternative views, be they on prime time TV or on the street, is not my idea of India.

Forget Idea of India, first tell us what is India. Is Malda India? Are the states other than Delhi India? Are other CMs not Indian CMs? Is Ramchandra Guha the only Indian intellectual? Or the death of a journalist who was burnt for exposing corruption less secular than the lynching of Akhlaq? Or the turmoil, conflict, negativity, opposition, communalism, intolerance, awards wapsi… only themes of India?

Is Nemo the only dog in India?

If your channel is the only source of information, one would die believing India is Delhi. Modi its villain. Ramchandra Guha its Buddha. Kejriwal  its Christ plus Prophet. Those 5-6 panelists as Supreme Court. Regressive Hindus are killing innocent Christians, Muslims, Dalits, writers and now poor students. Rest of the population is starving without beef. And Sonia Gandhi never existed.

My grandfather told me a journalist’s only requirement is integrity. Integrity isn’t honesty. Integrity is the ability to tell the truth even when no one is listening. When was the last time you raised real issues of India? When was the last time you made your viewers hear a common man’s concerns. Hate Modi. Hate RSS. Hate Bhakts. Hate Hindus. But why this complete blackout of ‘Rest of India’. Do you work for ‘India Today’ or ‘Delhi Today’?

Yes, I am anti-national because I don’t believe in doublespeak on issues of nationalism. If support for Afzal Guru is to be seen as ‘sedition’, then at least half the erstwhile Cabinet in Jammu and Kashmir, where the BJP is in coalition with the PDP, would be held guilty.

I absolutely agree with your logic. And by that logic, and no doublespeak, you must also hold Arvind Kejriwal guilty for having partnered with Congress and Congress for partnering with Owaisi and Nitish for partnering with Lalu. Even you must be held guilty for partnering with corrupt and crony capitalist Ambani and your wife for partnering with your unethical enemy group: Times of India

What you have failed to understand is that ‘is hamam mein sab nange nahin hai, yeh nangon ka hamam hai’. You are one of them.

 If the Kashmiri youth today see Afzal as someone who was framed, they should be challenged to a legal and political debate but can they be branded as ‘jihadists’ simply because their views are repugnant to the rest of the country?

 You are again confusing issues. It’s not about Afzal. It’s about India. It’s about ‘India go back’. India ki barbadi’ ‘ India tere tukde honge’. It’s about that. Afzal, sedition law, FoE, Lawyers’ hooliganism etc are games journalists like you play to shift focus, confuse issues and keep the ‘ecosystem’ protected.

It’s about terrorism. It’s about alleged terror links of some students. It’s about supporting terror groups. It’s about terror funding. It’s about threat to India’s sovereignty. That’s why people are concerned. Leave sedition laws for the court. You tell us where do you stand? Without any buts. If you are seen protecting the rights of these allegedly terror-linked students, or seen spinning this news and covering them up, you won’t have to put any hashtag, because soon you will become a hashtag yourself – of all anti-nationals.

 Yes, I am anti-national because while I am a proud Hindu who wakes up to the Gayatri mantra, I also like a well done beef steak, which, according to BJP minister Mukhtar Naqvi, is a treasonous act, enough to pack me off to Pakistan. I celebrate the rich diversity of my country through food: Korma on Eid, pork sorpotel with my Catholic neighbours in Goa during Christmas and shrikhand during Diwali is my preferred diet. The right to food of my choice is again a freedom which I cherish and am unwilling to cede.

Unfortunately, your understanding and definition of Hinduism is limited to Gayatri Mantra, beef steak and shrikhand.  The day you will understand Hinduism you will regret that you had to waste all your productive life to learn secularism, tolerance, inclusiveness, nationalism etc. when all this wisdom was available in your grandfather’s diaries.

 Post-script: Last week, at the Delhi Gymkhana litfest, I suggested that the right to free speech must include the right to offend so long as it doesn’t incite violence. A former army officer angrily got up and shouted, “You are an anti-national who should be lynched right here!” When even the genteel environs of the Gymkhana club echo to such strains, we should all be very worried.

I don’t know much about club culture but I know one thing for sure: when journalists stop travelling beyond their studios to reporting facts, fighting over TRPs instead of truth, and using media to further their agenda or to defend and justify themselves, we should all be not just very worried but take time out to introspect.

The other day I was invited to a Times Now panel for an Arnab Goswami show where he was exposing the hypocrisy of Indian seculars and liberals. My views about Indian Secular gang are well-known and I expressed them frankly. Next morning, while walking in my park without a dog, a gentleman called me ‘bhakt’. Exactly like you do. Do you know, in Hindu philosophy, Bhakti is a human quality, attained only by honest people. He accused me of being critical of award wapsi gang who hate intolerant Hindus who support Modi and that too on a Arnab Goswami show who is exposing those who hate India and Modi who loves India and who has the support of Hindus who love India which is also loved by Modi…

If supporting India means supporting Modi and vice versa then I’d rather be called a ‘bhakt’ than being seen exchanging notes with terror support groups.

Yes, #IAmABhakt, of India

Vivek Agnihotri is a filmmaker, writer and columnist. His next film ‘Buddha In A Traffic Jam’ deals with Naxalism at India’s premier institutes.

Vivek tweets at @vivekagnihotri

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