The secular-liberal brigade comprising of various political organisations and media-academia lobbies is proficient at running ideological campaigns. The latest episode of Gurmehar Kaur’s stardom just reinforces this. Although various ideological campaigns from their stables appear disparate, there is a broad pattern which showcases the relentless focus of their ideological war as well as methodical messaging.
Let us dissect the broad contours of secular-liberal ideological campaigns by going through their anatomical parts which make the whole, one by one.
Spin and distraction: Disgusting as the Dadri Lynching was, it was a case of suspected theft and killing of a calf, and subsequent murder – a law and order issue that should have been laid at the door of the Samajwadi Party run government in Uttar Pradesh. But the media-academia’s love for exploiting social faultlines for furthering their own interests took it directly to Modi’s doorstep.
They claimed that there was a complete breakdown of the syncretic culture and secular social fabric of the nation, and laid the blame for it directly at the election of Narendra Modi, which they said emboldened extremist elements. As if Uttar Pradesh had never seen criminal or communal incidents before May 2014.
Then they also brought their spinning abilities to somehow indict social media users – their pet topic of ‘trolls’ – as an indication of the degeneration of discourse. Wherever something starts, it has to eventually end at Modi and his social media supporters, especially the latter since the media-academia complex now feels stifled by the lack of monopoly on public discourse.
In this case, the ‘trolls’ had committed the grave crime of asking data to back their claim of increased communal incidents. ‘Trolls’ wanted objective data and reporting, secular-liberal brigade wanted emotional story telling about maahaul (state of affairs).
Spin and distraction: The ‘Church Attacks’ narrative was one of unabashed falsehoods. Events such as drunken vandalism, nuisance, burglary, theft and even an electrical short circuits, which at best were localized petty crimes, had national significance foisted upon them and presented as if some genocide was taking place in India.
Modi’s election as Prime Minister was supposed to have caused these genocide, which were burglaries and short circuits in what we now know as the post-truth world. They even tried to blame reconversion of Christians into Hinduism – Ghar Wapsi – and its subsequent social ramifications as a cause for this.
This took an especially sinister turn when the media pitch was deliberately raised so as to affect Modi’s international standing when the visit of the then U.S. President Barack Obama was right around the corner. It only got worse when a seemingly innocuous, motherhood-apple pie statement of Barack Obama on how India would progress if it does not splinter on religious lines was spun as a direct indictment of the Narendra Modi government.
Spin and distraction: The murders of Narendra Dabholkar, Govind Pansare and M M Kalburgi witnessed the semantic brilliance of the secular-liberal camp. These were often referred to as ‘assassinations’ and not murders. An assassination often has a socio-political angle to it while a murder may not.
Even before the police of the respective states where these events occurred had any clue, the media-academia complex along with their political fronts had already declared these ‘assassinations’ as connected despite Dabholkar’s murder having happened in 2013 and the other murders in 2015. ‘Right-wing extremist groups’ were behind them, they declared.
The ‘Rising Intolerance’ campaign took off in full gusto where awards were returned by numerous eminences connected to the secular-liberal complex. Any person of any public standing including international delegates were goaded towards ‘Rising Intolerance’ campaign. Needless to say, many celebrities and were happy to oblige, wittingly or unwittingly.
Spin and distraction: Rohith Vemula’s suicide is a poignant episode. A heady mix of student politics and campus one-upmanship that led to his disillusionment from life itself must have been a case to debate the place of politics on a campus, the pressures it bore on young and sensitive minds, and the lack of support systems. His suicide note was an indictment of leftist politics and in general of campus politics, but his death was reduced to his caste.
Instead, with even his Dalit status not yet sure, the media-academia complex spun it into it a case of anti-Dalit bias by the HRD Ministry and Modi’s government as a whole. It was quite appalling to see the Communists own the discourse on his death while he had been a fervent critic of their casteism that refused to let Dalits rise in their organisations.
Rohith lamented in his suicide note that people had been reduced to their immediate identity, and cruelly enough that is exactly what the media did to him even after his death. Paradoxical to Vemula’s own supposed spirit of questioning everything, any valid questions on the situation surrounding Vemula’s death or the facts of his life and times including his political affiliations were all dubbed anti-Dalit.
JNU Fracas 2016 and the recent Gurmehar Kaur episode
Spin and distraction: When the JNU’s pro-Afzal Guru protests of early 2016 generated much outrage, the first fig leaf used was that dissent should not be stifled. There’s a fairly clear line between dissent and sedition which outright illegal. They made it an issue of freedom of speech. Ironically enough these media-academia themselves have a blood-stained record on free speech where they’ve often initiated or cheered restrictions and legal action against those whose opinions they do not like. As for academic freedom in India’s elite institutions, the lesser said the better.
In the Gurmehar Kaur episode, first the media-academia lobby provided a completely one-sided view of the matter. Shamefully enough one newspaper even showed the picture of an SFI member hitting someone else as an ABVP member assaulting someone. Then they mainstreamed Gurmehar Kaur’s rather naïve opinions on war and ABVP with almost nobody questioning the strength of her opinion but providing her an astro-turfed ground to play.
Further the focus shifted to alleged rape threats that the girl received. Even genuine criticism or mocking of Gurmehar’s naivete was painted as endorsement of rape threats and they tried to browbeat even celebrities.
The Grand Narrative
The intention in most of these instances was to precipitate social unrest in the nation, which could also then be pinned on Modi’s government. Often these campaigns were orchestrated when elections were looming large so that the atmosphere could be vitiated.
For instance, there was widespread consensus that Modi received a good amount of electoral backing from Dalits in his 2014 election. This unsettled the secular-liberal complex. Some journalist even tweeted enthusiastically that the Vemula issue ended the electoral support Modi received from Dalits:
The ‘Church Attacks’ campaign was clearly designed to scare Indian Christians and dent Modi’s image internationally since he had just begun his tenure as PM and many international trips were in the offing. Some sections of the media went to the shameless level of even asking international delegates embarrassing questions around the matter.
These campaigns also seemed like signals from the secular-liberal stables in India to their international pressure groups that freedom of speech was under renewed threat under Modi’s government and dissenters were being ‘assassinated’ or muzzled.
There are also consistent attempts to bring down morale of the Armed Forces which they earlier tried to whip up with OROP by infiltrating political activists into the OROP movement.
Another target is Modi’s social media supporters. They’re being consistently targeted and branded as ‘trolls’ and pressure is being brought on Modi to disown them so that he loses their support.
Who are the beneficiaries?
In all these cases, it is amply clear the secular-liberal media-academia lobby was providing intellectual and ideological firepower to the assorted opposition parties that couldn’t tackle Narendra Modi electorally in 2014 elections.
AAP, Congress and other parties inevitably jumped onto the bandwagon instantaneously. Akhilesh Yadav showered largesse on the Akhlaq family in the name of compensation and milked the issue politically, apart from Modi’s political opponents like Rahul Gandhi and Arvind Kejriwal lining up at the Akhlaq family’s doorstep. Same happened in Rohith Vemula case.
The Church Attacks campaign was clearly milked by the AAP during Delhi Assembly polls, so much so that Christian leaders were openly declaring support for AAP. Even in Gurmehar’s case, it is clear that she was an AAP supporter since long. She had also been highlighted by NDTV in a show in May-2016. Arvind Kejriwal, Rahul Gandhi and assorted opposition politicians have once again jumped on her bandwagon.
These were clearly orchestrated such that the discourse can be moved away from developmental issues to divisive ones because the Opposition thinks it cannot match Modi on developmental issues, anti-corruption plank or economic progress. The Modi Wave was largely built on a developmental and aspirational pitch and the only way to break it is to keep making Modi spend political capital on social flame-baits rather than issues of economic progress.