Ever since Narendra Modi came to power, some of the most bitter struggles have happened (at least in the media) over the control of institutions. The Nehruvians and Communists who have enjoyed political patronage for 70 years have been throwing tantrums ever since, suddenly discovering the importance of “dissent”.
You control the narrative, you set the rules of the game. And then you control institutions that organize these games and decide the winners. Imagine, you set the rules and you decide the winners. Why would anyone let such a position of power go?
Governments come and go. It doesn’t hurt to be out of office for five years, because real power lies in these institutions – educational, professional, vocational, and other such institutions. The current “dissent” is basically a war cry to retain control over the institutions.
The latest flashpoint of this war concerns the Indian Institute of Mass Communication (IIMC) in Delhi. Apparently, the leftists are ticked off because someone is holding a seminar on “Nationalistic Journalism”, which as we all know is totally morally inferior to the “Secularistic Journalism” that we all love and respect so much.
Not only will the seminar begin with a yagya (oh the horror of seeing anything Hindu), but it will also feature S R P Kalluri, the ex-IG of Bastar, who has been one of the biggest enemies of the Naxal network.
This was nothing less than showing saffron to the red bull. And so it happened that on Saturday evening, a motley group of fire breathing leftists gathered outside the IIMC to show just how angry they were.
The holier than thou left wing website Newslaundry was also there to cover the show of “dissent”:
Some of India’s most privileged kids gathered at IIMC to show how much they care for tribals of Bastar. The celebrity dissenters were out there in full force : JNU student Anirban Bhattacharya, JNUSU President Mohit Pandey and many others that the Delhi centric media has made famous.
But amid the sympathetic reporting, what also slipped out was what was left after the dissenters were done with their little Saturday party.
Pamphlets and signboards strewn on the roadside after the protesters were long gone? The photo above as well as some of the videos posted of the event appear to show the protesters tearing up pieces of paper to spread all over the place.
Of course it is now up to the sweepers who work for the municipality to clean up after the privileged kids have finished their party. They came to speak for the downtrodden tribals of Bastar, remember? A lesson in class privilege that is rich in irony!
Why can’t JNUSU President Comrade Mohit Pandey pick up the trash left behind by their protest? Of course he can’t. A “Pandey” who has to hold a broom and sweep? Sacrilege! Does no one read the Manu Smriti any more?
One has to understand why the left is fighting so hard for control of institutions. Because institutions matter. Because institutions set the parameters for our day to day discourse.
Take, for instance, the following (absolutely absolutely shocking) quote on rape.
“I have always held that it is physically impossible to violate a woman against her will. The outrage takes place only when she gives way to fear or does not realize her moral strength. If she cannot meet the assailant’s physical might, her purity will give her the strength to die before he succeeds in violating her.”
Would you believe that this is actually a quote from the Mahatma himself? Are you in shock? So was I when I came across this.
My intent is not in any way to insult the Father of the Nation. In case you didn’t know, that would actually be illegal as per the Honorable Supreme Court of India.
My intent is to show that history was written with a certain slant, deifying certain individuals and demonizing others as per the convenience of the ruling establishment in Delhi. This power of writing history comes if you control institutions.
How many times have you seen pundits in media and academia go on and on about what Guru Golwalkar may or may not have said about Nazis almost a hundred years ago? No introduction to the RSS in a foreign newspaper article is complete without a mention of their so called Nazi sympathies. Why? Because academic liberals have pushed certain quotes from Guru Golwalkar into the standard narrative on the RSS.
Now imagine if the Mahatma’s quotes on rape were in wider circulation while talking about his life and the roots of the Congress party. Can you imagine how different the popular discourse would have been?
Instead of talking about what RSS may have said about Nazis, what if popular discourse remembered the fact that Communists were actually military allies of the Nazis from 1939-1941? What if we remembered that WW-2 began with Communists and Nazis jointly invading Poland, one from the east and the other from the West as per the pact between Hitler and Stalin? The two brother armies even met up for a joint celebration and military parade after the occupation of Poland.
Can you imagine how differently the debates today about RSS affiliated ABVP vs Communist AISA would have been formulated if we remembered facts like these?
The same goes with Dr. Ambedkar. While the left is happy to promote his withering criticism of caste injustices, it conveniently leaves out Baba Saheb’s views on Islam. Because the aim of the left is to make the Hindus squirm in their own skin.
But, the great man was no appeaser. Here, for instance, is what he said about Islam.
“Islam speaks of brotherhood. Everybody infers that Islam must be free from slavery and caste. Regarding slavery nothing needs to be said. It stands abolished now by law. But while it existed much of its support was derived from Islam and Islamic countries… The existence of these evils among the Muslims is distressing enough. But far more distressing is the fact that there is no organized movement of social reform among the Musalmans of India on a scale sufficient to bring about their eradication. The Hindus have their social evils. But there is this relieving feature about them—namely, that some of them are conscious of their existence and a few of them are actively agitating for their removal. The Muslims, on the other hand, do not realize that they are evils and consequently do not agitate for their removal. Indeed, they oppose any change in their existing practices.”
But the left made sure that no one talks about this. In doing so, they reduced one of India’s most brilliant minds to the level of a common caste based politician.
These days, with the increasing influence of the internet, it has become harder to suppress such inconvenient quotes. Indeed, the left made some laughable attempts (see here for instance) to “explain away” these direct quotes from Dr. Ambedkar himself by quoting other random people who had written books on Ambedkar.
The left has been on the backfoot, even if momentarily, on Ambedkar. And it happened because it doesn’t control an institution called the internet (though they are trying their best to control – by talking about imagined trolls and such). To their credit, they know that the real power lies in controlling the institutions, the ‘right’, on the other hand, is mostly busy with electoral battles.
As George Orwell wrote in Nineteen Eighty Four,
“Who controls the past controls the future. Who controls the present controls the past.”
It is now for those who control India’s present to make their power felt in institutions and take charge of the past.
Abhishek Banerjee is a math lover who may or not be an Assistant Professor at IISc Bangalore.