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The myth of ‘apolitical’ or ‘politically neutral’ activists

When we talk about politics, we talk about political parties, and not as much about ideologies or policies. In principle, politics is about forming or influencing policies that control or affect a society’s functioning. Party politics or electoral politics is an organized way of achieving this objective by forming political organizations that will contest elections.

But there are politics by other means, and the most well known among these means is “activism”. Activism, advocacy, social work, and even journalism are means of indulging in this politics, which should not be confused with party politics. Although more often than not, such means of politics either end up aligning with or being subsumed within party politics, that’s a different issue.

In essence, activism and politics cannot be seen in isolation. Hence, when someone who is into some sort of activism and claims to be apolitical or politically neutral, take my word for it that either the person is lying or is too immature or maybe even delusional.

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When one’s activism (or journalism) is influenced by an ideology, one can be reasonably sure that with time, he or she will align himself/herself to a political party or politician who best aligns to either their ideology or their personal aspirations, financially or otherwise. Or in other cases, the person could start a new political party itself such as Arvind Kejriwal, or try to be in electoral politics as ‘independent’ such as Irom Sharmila.

With social media, activism has taken a new turn. Everyone armed with an internet connection believes themselves to be a revolutionist. The millennials are suddenly ‘woke’ (a term used by millennials to describe themselves when they wake up to their privileges and want to start a revolution to destroy the privileges) and are trending hashtags, creating YouTube videos all in false sense of importance and entitlement, while aligning themselves, subconsciously, towards political ideologies of their liking, mostly Left. Their attempts get support from the old left, which controls the media and narrative with an iron hand – the ‘ecosystem’ everyone talks about.

Some of these new age activists make their political alignment very clear. For example, a lady named Shehla Rashid, a freelance protestor who doubles up as a student at JNU, has made it clear that she is aligned to the Left. However, not everyone is as clear, or should I say, honest, in their alignment as Rashid.

In April 2016, few weeks after the ‘Bharat Ke Tukde’ slogans were raised at JNU (Jawaharlal Nehru University) in New Delhi, Indian liberal media woke up to the newest nationalist face. A daughter of a martyr was appealing for peace. “Pakistan didn’t kill my father, war did”, was what she said. Keeping aside the fact that she sort of lied about her father’s martyrdom, who was killed in Operation Rakshak in August 1999, trying to neutralise Pakistani terrorists, and not in Kargil War, as claimed by her, the fact that she was hailed as a paragon of peace between two nations, was misplaced, to put it mildly.

Recently, she posted a picture on Instagram where she seems to have ‘gifted’ a copy of her ‘book’ (sub 25 people publishing their memoirs and here I am, still trying to figure out which metro to take to go to Lajpat Nagar) to a woman she considers her ‘favourite human’:

Neutrality mask of Gulmohar falls off
The Instagram post of Gurmehar Kaur

At first glance I thought, wow, her mother looks very familiar, but then it struck me her favourite human is actually Priyanka Gandhi.

Gurmehar looks up to Gandhi, whose only achievement in her life is to be born in The Family and marry Robert Vadra, fashionista masquerading as a businessman. Gurmehar says Gandhi understands her the best because just as how her mother had to struggle to raise her as a single mother, Sonia Gandhi, too, struggled to raise her already grown up adult children.

Wonder what Arvind Kejriwal, who was once proud of Gurmehar, has to say to this development. Also surprising is to find Priyanka Gandhi being her favourite human, since Gurmehar, being such a vocal ‘activist’ has never talked about Priyanka Gandhi earlier. At least I hadn’t read or heard her speak of her. What changed suddenly?

I don’t have any problem with whoever Gurmehar wants to look up to in her life as a favourite human. It is her life, her choice. But she has got some millennials look up to her as a favourite human, thanks to the support of the ‘ecosystem’, and this is where she needs to be called out. That her activism is not something so pure that millennials may believe.

The same millennials were making jokes on Rahul Gandhi. The funny memes in the process were hurting the old aura of the Nehru-Gandhi family, so the ecosystem needed new heroes who could provide this love and respectability that Rahul Gandhi and internet singlehandedly took away. Dynasty’s old politics was not working, so politics by new means was needed.

Nothing wrong in that, it’s all fair and legitimate. However, it is also fair that people, especially the millennials, should know that politics is not necessarily electoral politics. While they can continue making jokes on Rahul Gandhi or Narendra Modi or whoever they want, they should realise that politics and politicians come in all shapes and sizes. Your heroes have another face, a real face. Know the Bruce Waynes.

Though one word of caution, when you make jokes or memes on these ‘politicians of other kinds’, they will either sue you or threaten to ruin your career. Here is the ‘journalist’ Rajdeep Sardesai doing so, and here is the ‘activist’ Gurmehar Kaur doing so.

Wake up millennials, time to be woke!

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