The big danger with fake activism is that it buries real activism by people with genuinely good intentions. In India, where people often express cynicism about political parties and the so called system, there is a genuine role for people’s movements. Especially when it comes to issues such as climate change and protecting the environment; where private incentives may often be at odds with the common good.
Late last year, there was a very large mobilization of “activists” who wanted to save a handful of trees in Mumbai’s Aarey colony.
People putting their bodies on the line. Sobbing protesters being dragged away by police.
What for? Because a few trees have to be cut to make space for Mumbai Metro? Seriously?
We know that building good public transport infrastructure is one of the best ways to reduce carbon footprints and save the environment. That is why the world over, climate activists advocate for more of this.
But our activists continued to militate against Mumbai Metro. All attempts to reason with them failed. Like a man who is pretending to sleep, they could not be woken up. Here are some examples of the kind of rhetoric that accompanied the protests.
The trees were humanized, the whole exercise described with expressions like “massacre” and often mixed with vicious rumor mongering over the Citizenship Amendment Bill. All sense of reality was lost.
And then came the change of government in Maharashtra. And now this.
According to the Hindustan Times, the permission for cutting these trees was given on Dec 11, 2019. By then, I suppose those who cared so much about saving Aarey forest had achieved their real dream.
Now, it is for competent authorities to weigh the environmental impact of any proposed project and give permissions accordingly. It is not for me to comment on that. What stands out however, is the hypocrisy of so called activists.
Were the trees in Navi Mumbai less equal or perhaps less liberal than the trees of Aarey colony?
For what it’s worth, the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) has found that golf courses consume a lot of resources and pose serious risks to the environment.
Now, here is what it all looks like to a common person such as myself.
I see that the Devendra Fadnavis government wanted to cut trees so that there would be a metro for common people. And liberals said NO.
I see that Maharashtra now has a ‘secular’ government, supported by Congress. Now someone wants to cut down hundreds of trees for a golf course. But liberals are saying YES.
The government changed and the priorities of activists changed as well. Just like we suspected, it seems that activists will oppose anything as long as it is done by a BJP government. And they will turn a blind eye to almost anything as long as it is done under one of their favorite ‘secular’ governments.
There is a class war aspect to this which is equally important. Yes, there is a class war, but only the liberal elite is fighting it. Against the common people of the country.
A metro would cater to the daily needs of the common Indian, making their life just a bit easier. A golf course? That’s the leisure of the rich.
This is the most regressive mentality possible. You deprive those at the bottom of the ladder, those with the smallest carbon footprints, of a slight increase in their standard of living. You take those gains and cater to the hobbies of those who consume the most.
Such an attitude of the liberal elite is not new. Read this old India Today article in which filmmaker and environmentalist Pradeep Kishen, who also happens to be Arundhati Roy’s husband, passionately argues against the building of a new hotel somewhere in the Panchmarhi Hills in Madhya Pradesh. The only twist? Pradeep Kishen himself owned a bungalow in the area!
A hotel would probably have brought in middle class people trying to have fun on a budget. Then what would happen to the elite on a vacation retreat?
So here’s what the liberal elite is telling us: The finer things in life are exclusively reserved for their private enjoyment. You can’t have it because you are not elite.
Their private enjoyment is important. Your standard of living is not!
This effort to preserve class privilege is now at the core of liberal politics in India and perhaps all around the world. Have you noticed how Indian liberals have a great eye for the “privilege” of others, including the freshly minted concept of “Hindu privilege?” Even though Hindus have been victims in India for around 800 years.
The only privilege that liberals cannot see is that of one single forward caste family that has run the country for six decades!
One big thing to remember here is that the clock is ticking when it comes to the environment. Unless we are able to identify fake activism, we risk losing valuable time. This time the stakes are really high.