Pankaj Mishra, a novelist and essayist, and alleged to be internationally acclaimed, is back with his anti-India and anti-Modi rhetoric in New York Times, which misses no opportunity to paint India as a society still living in dark ages waiting for a white saviour.
Pankaj Mishra is known for bashing every Indian thing, as he has internalized the western viewpoints about India in such a manner that a person who is reading his articles for the first time will get an impression that he doesn’t have any connection with India. Colonialism has left such profound impact on his thought process that he can’t escape from it even if he wants.
In his latest exceedingly boring and rhetorical essay, which is epitome of verbosity, titled “The Incendiary Appeal of Demagoguery in Our Time” and published in New York Times, he tries to explain the rise of Narendra Modi and Donald Trump by his own sociopolitical understanding. But as expected, instead of explaining the rise in objective or even in biased manner, he indulges himself in bashing every Indian thing, which is only the expressions of a person who vehemently hates his roots and tries to get flattered by Western intelligentsia.
For example, he writes:
“The stink first became unmistakable in India in May 2014, when Narendra Modi, a member of an alt-right Hindu organization inspired by fascists and Nazis, was elected prime minister. Like Donald Trump, Mr. Modi rose to power demonizing ethnic-religious minorities, immigrants and the establishment media, and boasting about the size of a body part.”
This is the opening remark by Mishra in his essay. Mishra doesn’t even understand what alt-right means and what either RSS or BJP stands for.
Alt-right movement is a very recent phenomenon in USA who are against feminism, political correctness, Zionism and believe in free market economics. Compared to that movement, RSS is at least 90 years old now which seeks to promote Hindu nationalism, which is a movement of cultural revival where a nation will be founded on the bases of sociocultural reality instead of ethnic or linguistic reality, which happens to be the case with most of the nations of Europe. On economic front, RSS’s view coincides with centre of left economists.
Mishra makes time-travel a reality if we believe in his hypothesis of RSS being inspired from a movement which will emerge 70 years later from its foundation. His rhetoric of RSS being inspired from Fascists and Nazis are crude lies considering the fact that nobody from RSS has mentioned about these two ideologies for last 70 years. Integral Humanism of Deendayal Upadhyay and Nationalism of Shyama Prasad Mukherjee have been the guiding doctrines for RSS in recent years.
Coming to other parts of his sentence, which is comprised of jargons without any substantial proof, gives idea about his inherent hatred for Modi. The term ‘ethno-religious minorities’ is incorrect because religious minorities of India have same ethnicity as of majority of Indians.
Mishra couldn’t produce a single sentence in which Modi threatened minorities or demonized immigrants. Probably Mishra meant ‘Bangladeshi immigrants’ when he writes that Modi demonized immigrants. The truth is inconvenient which Mishra won’t be able to digest. Modi indeed talked about “illegal” Bangladeshi immigrants who are involved in every sort of crime in West Bengal and North Eastern States but Mishra can’t differentiate between ‘legal’ and ‘illegal’ immigrants in his profound hatred towards Modi.
His comment on Modi boasting about a particular body size demonstrates his alienation from India and its languages. 56 (chhappan) is a very common idiom in Hindi which means showing courage but Mishra fails to comprehend such common thing. It will be too much to expect from him to understand the India that lives in the hinterlands (chhappan chhuri to chhappan bhog), but least he could have done is to recall the Bollywood movie Ab Tak Chhappan.
In the coming paragraphs, Mishra goes on to quote Jean Paul, gives examples of various parts of the world to make his argument substantial and coherent but that’s nothing more than the hollow rhetoric to prove a hypothesis which can’t be proved. He denounces India’s economic progress since 1991, writes off the horrors and crimes of dynasty rule of India, claims Digital India is only a propaganda where tech billionaires and politicians meet, criticises Indian media because it tells the story of India’s rise sometimes (he calls Economic Times chauvinistic), quotes writers who are expert on India in the same manner as Karl Marx and Max Weber were experts on Indian economy etc.
He proposes his hypothesis, which explains the rise of leaders like Trump and Modi, blaming it to the rotten mainstream institutions, but in the same breath criticises the leaders who criticised the same mainstream institutions. Mishra reveals much about his cognitive dissonance in his hypothesis when tries to be an intellectual.
“Following authoritarian ruling parties in Hungary and Poland, and a brazenly despotic one in Turkey, India’s Hindu nationalists, a fringe outfit for much of the country’s existence, have swiftly occupied the state, staffing chief institutions with loyalists while intimidating nonstate actors like NGOs, journalists, writers and artists.”
This excerpt from his essay is the classical example of labelling everything from right spectrum as fascist and authoritarian without going in detail or backing his claims with any evidence.
What he terms as ‘a fringe outfit for much of the country’s existence’ is actually the group which gave a clear majority to BJP and Modi. Apparently, democracy doesn’t remain a democracy anymore when his favourite liberal candidate doesn’t win.
A clear mandate delivered by people to BJP has been termed as ‘occupation of state’ as if BJP seized the power through a coup. In practice, Mishra’s own clan beginning from political class of Lenin to intellectual class having parasitical hold on institutions like academia and arts, is expert in occupying the state. When it comes to staffing the chief institutions with loyalists, as Mishra alleges, perhaps he’s referring to the growth his own clan.
In last 60 years, every institution has been filled with so-called liberals, pseudo-seculars, and communists by the dynasty, but that doesn’t get qualified as ‘lobbyists’ for some unknown reasons. When crackdown happens on NGOs for not following the rule of the law of country where they operate, people like Mishra are quick to call it ‘intimidation’ as if non-state actors are beyond the law. When the lies of agenda driven fifth column writers and journalists are exposed by people, it’s intimidation, while banning the book of Rushdie and threatening Taslima Nasreen are acts of promoting writing, considering these happened in dynasty regime.
Last but not the least significant, Mishra categorizes leaders like Modi, Putin, Trump etc in the category of ‘demagouge’. A demagouge is the leader who gains popularity by exploiting prejudice and ignorance among the common people rather than using rational argument.
Considering that Modi rose in power by promising a better and more efficient government which will stimulate economic growth, how he qualifies to be a demagouge can only be explained in Mishra’s own imaginary world. For him, the desire for prosperity and better lifestyle must be prejudice, for Modi promised these things only.
If voting for someone who promises an efficient system with better governance is ignorance, voting for an infinitely corrupt regime must be a rational and well informed choice for Mishra.
The true demagouges in the world were Lenin, Mao, Fidel Castro, Adolf Hitler, Benito Mussolini, Hugo Chavez, etc. who exploited the prejudices of the people, and a majority of these are figures who inspire people like Mishra.
Mishra’s hate for Modi and India has continued unabated for a long time which is propagated by publications such as New York Times, Bloomberg, The Guardian, etc. The myth propagated by authors like Mishra must be debunked to save the discourse from further distortion.