Arundhati Roy’s recent interview to BBC News is a classic example of how the anti-India gang has used hateful rhetoric and blatant lies packaged in “pseudo-intellectual” slick English to incite divisive sentiments when the ground reality is completely different. She has a long history of peddling hatred, but someone needs to really call out two facts :
1. Slick English is no benchmark for intellectualism.
2. The Anti-India gang create a problem and then the surrounding ruckus for it. Divisive rhetoric creates negative sentiments and then the Anti-India gang create a ruckus around the negative sentiments.
The first foundation (and the most tenuous) that she uses are blatant lies. A little background research can reveal these. Take for example her talk of pushing people out of economic activities. This is a complete lie. Meat exports from India are stable 4 years into the NDA govt. There’s no drop. If there was a “homogenization” as Roy claims, exports would have dropped significantly.
The other example she gave was the leather industry. Another blatant lie. The Indian Council of Leather Exports pegged the size of the industry at USD 12 billion as of 2017 and has estimated that it will double in size by 2022. Mukhtarul Amin, Chairman, Council for Leather Exports, said the industry expected exports to grow 3-4 percent in the next few months and reach 10 percent growth by the end of this year.
In fact, Indian leather exports to the US have grown from 8 percent to 15 percent in the last couple years as per data released by CLE. The govt of India supports this through their “Make in India” initiative.
Their annual achievement report lists out the initiatives taken by the government of India to support Amin’s goals for the industry. These include fiscal incentives as well as skill development initiatives like primary skill development training under the Indian Leather Development Programme (ILDP). If there was systematic marginalization, there would not be approvals for a mega leather cluster like the one at Kota Mandal in Andhra Pradesh or at IMT Sohna.
However, these lies are just the tip of the iceberg. What is so insidious about Roy’s modus operandi is the slick packaging she gives it. Using sly messaging and vague generalizations, she builds a very different picture than the reality. One example is her vague statement that the Muslim community has been “ghettoised”. What on god’s green earth does she mean? There has been no significant change in how the Muslim community lived till 2014 and thereafter. She makes this statement with impunity because, in a vast, populous and diverse country like India, it is impossible to say for a certainty that she is wrong. It is also impossible for her to assume she is right, especially, since there has been no study, news, research etc to prove her point.
The travails afflicting the Muslim community (and all communities in India) are endemic in nature – lack of education leading to lack of employment opportunities and therefore poverty. Politicians since independence have used this lack of education to incite communal hatred and keep said communities downtrodden and backward. It’s been a slick game and what’s worse is that people like Roy are blaming the current dispensation for it whereas they are trying to resolve the problem. Endemic issues like lack of education take time to solve. There is no overnight fix. It is a cultural change that is needed. But by making such simplistic and generalized statements, Roy tries to create the impression that the situation is somehow different from before 2014. This is very intentional. And we should realize it as such.
Another example is her vague statement that there was an attempt to change the way the investigation of the Asifa incident was carried out. The only change sought was that the BJP kept asking for a CBI enquiry. And that was not granted. The Supreme Court instead has transferred the case to Pathankot Court in a Congress-ruled state. If there was systematic suppression of truth, this would never have happened.
Or her statement about a book with Hitler on the cover. I agree it is nonsense that Hitler be clubbed together with Gandhi, Obama and Mandela. But the book had nothing to do with the government. The government did not sanction it and had nothing to do with its publication. The book in question is titled “Great Leaders” and is a private publication. ‘The Wire’ gleefully ran a story about it. The journalism that covered this news was equally yellow. Media just slid in a disclaimer that the author was unknown and that the publisher had nothing to do with the government. In clear sleight of hand, they then put in another vague paragraph about the Gujarat State Board doing the same thing by quoting a selective paragraph from a textbook. But they don’t go on to mention that the next paragraph also talks about the Holocaust and its consequences. There is a lot of scope of improvement in our education system and nobody is denying that. But to actually lie that a textbook promotes Nazi ideology is below the belt. Dr Koenraad Elst has analysed the whole incident in a much more rational and detached fashion and is worth reading.
The BBC interviewer then goes on to ask her such an obviously loaded question on how her work is being taken back home. That’s like bowling a slow, low full-toss to a batsman in form. You know he’s going to whack it out of the park. And Roy doesn’t disappoint. With a gleeful expression of martyrdom, she launches into more of her inane nonsense about how people like her should be worried. People like her are spouting divisive and hateful rhetoric day in and day out on mainstream media, in print and on social media. If there was suppression of the truth, they would not have been able to do so. The ones who claim to be afraid of shouting are the ones shouting loudest. It is classic fear-mongering and it needs to be called out.
Today, it is fashionable to mindlessly criticize the government without understanding policy initiatives. Today, it is fashionable to blame the government without understanding our history and our problems. Without understanding where we have been, we can never truly understand any given problem and therefore never fruitfully determine where we are going. Today, it is fashionable to be seen as anti-establishment. And that’s the real rub of the matter. People like Roy use these sentiments to create panic and fear. This panic and fear are then used to fuel hatred.
As a society, we should call out this nonsense. The way forward should be for all stakeholders who actually want to solve a problem to ignore these insidious fear-mongers, sit together and figure out a way to resolve issues. We should make problem-solving and fruitful consensus fashionable. Let’s stop being unruly teenagers and work towards a better country. India 2.0.
Virag Padalkar is a project management consultant by profession. He spends his spare time trekking in the Sahyadri mountains.