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True Indology, Devendra Fadnavis, the supporters of both and everything in between: Why the entire saga left me frustrated and disgusted

It would be a mistake to dismiss social media as an insignificant bubble. It has more impact than one realises and perhaps, just maybe, Dharmics could recognise the multiplicity of opinions and appreciate that every individual, regardless of where they fall on the ideological spectrum, is a fellow traveller.

On the 27th of July, a video clip went viral on social media, posted by the official Twitter handle of one of the Deputy Chief Ministers of Maharashtra – Devendra Fadnavis. The BJP leader posted a clip where he was speaking at the Assembly about a controversy that had erupted over certain alleged remarks made against Maharashtrian and Dalit icon, Savitribai Phule. One Twitter handle – True Indology (@BharadwajSpeaks) – was at the heart of it.

The thread by True Indology where he tweeted information about Phule was a year old. The MVA government sat on that thread, only to make it an issue a year later after BJP started ruling the state. Fadnavis responded to a statement by a Congress leader who demanded that True Indology should be tied up and ‘publicly paraded’. Fadnavis, loosely translated, said, “Forget parading, I say hang him publicly, but nothing will be achieved by just saying, we have to abide by laws of the land”.

As soon as this video was posted on Twitter, the battle between those who supported True Indology (or opposed the idea of state action against a citizen for talking about a historical figure) and those who supported Devendra Fadnavis (or opposed/disliked True Indology) began. As the battle raged on, with widespread condemnation of what Fadnavis had said and widespread condemnation of those condemning what Fadnavis had said, I was left disgusted.

I have a deep sense of realisation that this is a complex and nuanced issue – it is certainly not as black and white as who believes in the cause of Hindutva and who does not. Politics, history, tribalism, ethics, morality, political loyalty and so much more makes the issue one that can hardly be captured in a tweet. I have, for the most part, refrained from picking up metaphorical arms against either group. However, in this article, I am going to attempt to be brutally honest – however hard (and long-winded) that might be.

I joined OpIndia in 2017. I joined the portal, truly, not to be someone important in this ecosystem. I joined because I truly loved writing. As we progressed, there was a deep sense of realisation about the battle that I found myself in. It changed me as a person and how I view situations rather drastically. It suffices to say that while this job has jaded me to a point where I tell myself that we are documenting our end, it also made me realise that lofty ideals of liberalism, secularism, democratic discourse, brotherhood, morality, justice, and so on and so forth, are mere tropes that are used by the Left-Islamist nexus to ensure that Hindus as a group continue to put their head down and remain guilty forever. Let’s not talk about history, it hurts our brotherhood. Let’s not talk about crimes against Hindus – it harms harmony. Let’s not demand our rights – Muslims will feel othered. Let’s not stand up for our tribe – what of morality and ethics? Let’s not demand justice for Hindus – what about Muslims, Christians, Sikhs and every other faction that one can use to deny Hindus justice? The list is endless. The sad part is, these tropes have been so normalised and mainstreamed over decades, that Hindus themselves have started believing the charade used to silence them. Internalised it.

I have spent the better part of the last decade not only documenting crimes against Hindus but also observing very closely the higher burden of morality that has been foisted upon Hindus as a group and the higher burden of morality that a majority of Hindus believe they carry. I have seen and documented how the Delhi anti-Hindu riots become an ‘anti-Muslim pogrom’, how the Udupi case is called a ‘prank’, how BBC tried to call Hindus fake news peddlers without any proof only to retract later, how the global cabal dehumanises every Hindu victim of Love Jihad to claim that it is a conspiracy theory, how murders of Hindus have been given a political context and how the persecution of Hindus, or those who speak for the rights of Hindus, have almost become a victory to be celebrated. Somewhere, I lost the ability to harbour dreams of reconciliation. Somewhere, I started to believe that my function in this vast inkling of an ecosystem is only and solely, to speak up for Hindus and make sure I take a stand for ‘my tribe’ because nobody else would. Because if it were left upon the Leftists and the Islamists, they would rather see my tribe annihilated, destroyed, killed, raped, beheaded, wiped out, decimated and having done that, they would do a little victory dance around our corpses – I am not paranoid. This is the truth, whether one likes it or not.

It is that sense of tribalism that made me craft my initial tweet where I extended support to True Indology. I have had my serious disagreements with this handle (one that we need not get into), however, he was someone who spoke about the history of Hindus and despite my serious disagreements, it was my Dharma to stand up for him when the state was persecuting him – I know what that feels like.

If you really, truly read my tweet, however, neither did I extend unconditional support to True Indology, nor did I extend unbridled abuses to Devendra Fadnavis – both were expected of me – depending on which side you belonged to within the Hindu hold. I did neither. And there was a damn good reason for it.

There are 6 main groups and protagonists in this saga. Devendra Fadnavis (BJP by extension), True Indology, the political supporters of Fadnavis, the ideological supporters of True Indology and the two portals which were also booked by the State in the FIR which was filed. I will evaluate the role of each separately. I must give a disclaimer, however – these are strictly my personal opinions and if there is anything I have learned in the past few years, is to not sit in judgment when it comes to an intra-tribe battle.

Devendra Fadnavis and BJP

As I mentioned earlier, I was expected to extend the full force of my personal angst against Devendra Fadnavis by several Hindus, because what he said was perceived as a grave injustice to True Indology. I don’t really disagree. While Rahul Roushan has written an article outlining how being reformist has been the very core of RSS, it is true that Hindus largely expect BJP and the Sangh Parivar to stand in defense of Hindus. Hind – Hindu – Hindutva. Nobody can truly say that the BJP or the RSS haven’t made strides on that front. Much has been done. Much remains to be done. However, the decades have not been without a fair share of disappointments – something one must read Sita Ram Goel for and make their own evaluations. The main criticism of the RSS has been that they have failed to be completely honest about the problem of Islamism and have often toed a centrist line, compromising on the truth, for the sake of a mythical brotherhood that would never be achieved. In the process, they have failed to create an ecosystem that can successfully battle the issues of communism, leftism, Islamism, and other existential threats.

For any organisation, the criticism can be many. However, an organisation that is not explicitly anti-Hindu is one that is today, a force for good. When they further the cause of Hindus, it is a bonus. Yes. That is my minimum expectation today because in my years, I have realised that while many of us might want these organisations and political parties to be purists, essentially, their job is to win elections. Electoral politics – in turn – sucks the idealism and purism out of you. If after being in electoral politics for decades, a semblance of ideological mooring survives in a politician, that is a bonus. Is this cynical? Perhaps. Is it the absolute truth? Yes. A harsh one that Hindus must accept.

NCP was a part of the government when True Indology penned his tweet thread a year ago. There is a reason why they chose to make an issue out of it today – protest – and force Fadnavis to react. Devendra Fadnavis was only the second Brahmin to become the Chief Minister of Maharashtra. With the dominance of Marathas and extremely complex caste equations in the state, anti-Brahmin rhetoric and vitriol have been common political discourse. The BJP fielding Fadnavis as a CM face while the Maratha demands reservations were at their peak can be seen, in itself, as a brave move to neutralise caste politics and anti-Brahmin, genocidal rhetoric.

Devendra Fadnavis’ political intents were repeatedly questioned by Sharad Pawar either by clearly mentioning or by indicating his caste in public. Despite this, Fadnavis became the first CM of the state to complete the term of five years after Vasantrao Naik who completed the term in 1967-1972. Taking multiple caste groups and leaders from various factions and political parties together, Fadnavis made BJP the most successful political party in Maharashtra and today stands as the most popular leader in the state disproving the equations and arithmetics of caste-based politics.

It is equally true that in Maharashtra, a politician or a political party can’t possibly escape the narrative of the ‘progressive Maharashtra’ led by the ideals of ‘Shahu-Phule-Ambedkar’ as has been propagated by leaders from Congress, NCP and the likes, despite several historical facts about all of these leaders. The fact that NCP chose to bring this issue up now indicates how they wanted to corner a “Brahmin” Deputy Chief Minister and how political compulsions and local sensibilities of the state drove Fadnavis to take the stand that he did. It is a simpleton view to assume that the state and the realpolitik on the ground would not be affected by this issue. Had Devendra Fadnavis not expressed intent, it is entirely possible that these “progressive” parties would have either tried to create a situation like Bhima Koregaon again or at the very least, use it as a political tool to corner the “Brahmin” party (something they like to brand BJP).

What is the message that Fadnavis is trying to send? Was it really necessary?

While the realpolitik concerns of Devendra Fadnavis are obvious and one can’t possibly alienate his actions from it, one has to be honest in wondering were the polemics that he indulged in were necessary. For the sake of political expediency, Devendra Fadnavis could have simply said that the law will take its own course and that he condemns the “campaign against an icon like Savitribai Phule” (yes, I can speak in a political tongue too, once in a while). Was there a need to indulge in the theatrics and paint a target on the back of an average citizen who was merely trying to document some facts about a historical figure even after he apologised and said that his comments were taken out of context? Were the polemics a necessity for realpolitik?

While those who support Fadnavis have repeatedly said that his polemics actually saved True Indology from further retributive action by the NCP gang, and they might be right (I don’t particularly agree with that), what is the message that the statement of Devendra Fadnavis truly sends? We must briefly talk about the Nupur Sharma case for me to explain what I mean here. After Mohammad Zubair painted a target on Nupur Sharma’s back and the Islamic world started baying for her blood, BJP suspended her. For many supporters, that was perhaps the straw that broke the camel’s back. It was seen as a move where the party threw a woman to the wolves because they wanted to safeguard their political interests. The justification was that privately, the BJP will protect Nupur Sharma, however, publicly, they would have to make sure that sentiments were assuaged. Even if that is true, what is truly the message that eventually gets sent out? That repeating what several Islamic scholars have said makes one liable to be beheaded? In the aftermath of her suspension, the act by BJP was used by several Islamists to claim victory, saying that even the party agreed what Nupur Sharma had said was wrong. And that is the real danger, in my opinion. First, the perception that the party does not stand by its own people, and second, more importantly, the perception that the criticism of Islam and the defense of one’s own Dharma in response to an insult by a Muslim cleric is a crime one deserves to be investigated for.

I fully understand realpolitik. I understand it far more than I ever have, much to my chagrin – because the moment you understand realpolitik, your idealism takes a massive beating. You become jaded, almost black-pilled because you realise that compromises will be made by any political party because their sole aim, rightly so, is to remain in power. However, the larger ramifications of public posturing are serious and have to be addressed at some point.

It has to be said here that for BJP to remain in power is something that is the need of the hour. While Devendra Fadnavis made a statement in the Assembly, Congress would have certainly crucified him by now. As someone who had to flee her home state because of a fascist govt, I understand the need to have BJP in power, for Hindus to survive and speak freely. And here is where my dilemma always kicks in. I acknowledge political power is necessary. I also acknowledge that political parties are not NGOs and therefore, they will have to make moves that ideological purists may not agree with. But there simply has to be a way where average Hindus are not made scapegoats and the larger message, that ideologically, Hindus need to bend to the narrative set by the Left-Islamist nexus to retain political power and not be completely persecuted is a cynical message that will break Hindus eventually. Where do we go from here? I am not very sure. That is something that politicians need to decide. But this despondency has to be dealt with – sooner or later.

As an individual, I find no merit in abusing Fadnavis, not because I support his decision, but because I know enough to understand it was realpolitik, one average citizen and ideological supporters would never be happy about. I also find myself in a precarious dilemma because I do see the need for the BJP to retain political power and at the same time, my Dharma dictates that I stand with fellow Hindus. It is for this reason, that from a broader perspective, I feel the need for Dharmik Hindus, to build an ecosystem that sustains itself regardless of political players and power – one that the Left has developed over the years. Politicians will politik. Their interests might align with Hindus on some occasions and on others, stand diametrically opposed to them. That is a harsh reality that Hindus need to make their peace with.

True Indology

True Indology is a Twitter handle that used to write extensively demystifying Bharat’s history. Did I always agree with him? Not even close. Were we friends? Far from it. In fact, those who know the tiffs I have had with True Indology reached out to me privately wondering why I was extending support to this handle. It was pretty simple. For the principle of it. And what is that principle?

Let me say this unequivocally – it is certainly not about ‘Freedom of speech’. I have given this substantial thought over the past few years. When I started off, I truly cared about it. I genuinely thought that people must be free to exercise their freedom of speech and expression without running the risk of persecution by the state. But let us be real. Real freedom of expression does not exist, not just in India, but anywhere in the world. 295A was enacted by the British not because they cared about harmony but because a bunch of barbarians exercised their street veto after murdering Mahashay Rajpal. Freedom of speech today is merely a cloak used to abuse Hindus, deny their genocide, peddle lies to whitewash crimes against them and desecrate their Gods and Goddesses with impunity. When you respond in the same coin, the Muslims used their street veto and demand your head on a pike. Abusing Brahmins becomes reformist while even discussing the history of Bahujans attracts the SC/ST act. While reporting atrocities against Hindus in Bengal attracts a CID case, calling the Udupi case a prank gets you a govt contract in Karnataka. Freedom of speech is a myth. A delusional bubble. A bubble created to convince you, Hindus, to accept your own mockery. It does not exist truly in letter and spirit. In essence, I believe that absolute freedom of expression must not be upheld in principle because, in reality, it does not exist. Hindus need to look out for themselves and ensure that malicious speech against THEM is prosecutable. That is that. I make no qualms about it.

So what is it if not freedom of expression that made me support True Indology, despite the several disagreements that we have had in the past – in public and private? For me, the limits of free speech are dependent on who makes that speech and to what end. Here is a micro example – I would not mind my best friend calling me names in jest, but I would punch the living daylights out of someone who calls me names on the road. I cite this example to simplify how the limits and contours of free speech are always dependent on who makes that speech and to what extent you consider that individual a part of your tribe. The Leftists and Islamists understand this principle beautifully. They will defend the calls for genocide of Hindus and Brahmins if made by one of their own. They will defend the insult to faith if the faith is Hinduism (not their own) and the speech is made by someone who is their own. They will brand you a fascist for refusing to buy goods from a Muslim but intellectualise even murders committed by Islamists in the name of context, nuance, and universal victimhood for the Ummah. They don’t care WHAT is being said. They care WHO is saying it.

Over the years, I have learned that to survive, Dharmic Hindus, in statecraft and public discourse, will simply have to learn from the Left-Islamist nexus. Learn their sleight of hand. Their twist of phrase. Their usage of selective nuance. Most of all, learn their commitment to their tribe.

I support True Indology because he, for talking about those aspects of history which are often ignored and whitewashed by anti-Hindu forces, belongs to be tribe far more than politicians do because politicians are friends prone to changing their tunes depending on their compulsions (no judgement, it is what it is). However, I see merit in the argument that what is perceived as slander of historic figures can inflame passions, especially in a sensitive state like Maharashtra.

At this point, we understand that those supporting Devendra Fadnavis repeatedly claimed that one specific assertion made by True Indology was incorrect, slanderous, and could hurt harmony because Phule is a popular icon in Maharashtra. In True Indology’s statement, he too extended his unconditional apology and said that he actually never made the contentious allegation and that he was misquoted by one of the portals that carried his thread.

Once True Indology apologised and claimed he had never meant to insinuate what he was being accused of, it becomes clear that Fadnavis supporters were not really wrong in saying that the specific assertion was dangerous and incorrect. And, therefore, this argument shifts completely from the right to criticise historical figures because both seem to agree that the assertion in question is slanderous and incorrect (which TI said he never made).

I believe history must be debated, discussed, and fought over, as vehemently as we possibly can. No historical figure should ideally be beyond criticism, question and deconstruction. It is because of our limited historical memory do Hindus still get sacrificed at the altar of political correctness. It is because we forgot what our ancestors fought for, do we so easily squander our heritage and religiosity over liberal guilt-tripping. If Bharat is to continue to exist, we need to view our roots from a lens that shows us the true colour of the blood our land is soaked with and why. That principle is a hill I am willing to die on. However, the contentious statement falls beyond the realm of debating history because inaccurate statements are not and cannot be a part of that debate. It only hurts our cause. Irreparably so.

To that effect, one can say that True Indology should have worded his thread better and those platforms which published the thread by True Indology should have also been circumspect, perhaps, just maybe, this fiasco would not have happened at all.

Beyond Devendra Fadnavis and True Indology, the battle between the supporters

True Indology finds an army that supports him and an army that opposes him, not from the Left, but his own tribe, so to speak. Why is that? No matter how hard one tries, one can’t possibly keep everyone happy on the Dharmic side. It is a diverse spectrum with such a multiplicity of opinions, that keeping everyone balanced is almost impossible (believe me, I have tried). However, once one becomes a ‘thought leader’ of some intensity and/or popularity, one has to take into consideration that when you expect others to consider you their tribe, you have to consider them your own too. Expecting those people to stand up for you whom one has snubbed, disregarded, and treated as ideological opponents is a tall ask and an unfair one. True Indology can certainly decide how he wishes to conduct himself, however, there is a lesson to be drawn here for those who choose to lead a public life. There is a lot of criticism of True Indology being arrogant, brazen, rude, holier than thou, and so on and so forth. However, while one can accept silence, one is pressed to understand how these reasons can be justification enough to demand his head on a pike.

On the other hand, his criticism cannot be merely brushed aside by branding critics as “BJP shills”. Burning bridges has consequences and I would know since I have burnt many of them. It is how public life works. Expecting unequivocal support, even from your own tribe, is proof that one does not understand how the Dharmic side works at all. The Dharmics are not a monolith and there are always going to be disagreements – forget disagreements – there are going to be people who would vehemently detest an individual, even if that individual works for the cause of Dharma in their own way. The reasons could be many – language, tone, tenor, the extent of political support, the lack of it, views on political agendas, causes they choose to espouse, and so on and so forth. Therefore, for anyone who supports True Indology, it is, I believe, naive and arrogant to believe that a) everyone on the Dharmic side has to support True Indology b) If they don’t support True Indology in this case, they are party sell-outs c) That they are morally superior because they support True Indology.

While one Dharmic can see merit in supporting True Indology, another might believe that supporting BJP and its leaders is necessary, especially before the 2024 elections because without political power, not only True Indology but every Dharmic would be persecuted, hounded, and silenced. Both sides of the ideological spectrum are important. While we need those who support Hindus unequivocally, we need those who focus on political power – for without it – Hindus are sitting ducks too. It is really a Catch-22 situation where I find myself sympathising with both sides because I realise that both have their reasons – and thanks to my vocation, I, long ago, decided that I will support every shade of the non-Left.

While those who supported True Indology passed judgements on those who did not support him, some of those who supported Devendra Fadnavis displayed shocking arrogance and abuse. Those who took it upon themselves to defend Devendra Fadnavis (not like he needs it, he has the entire state machinery at his disposal) went on a tirade claiming that there was a concerted effort to malign Fadnavis and that those critiquing him were politically motivated. I received one tweet where one political supporter mocked me for having to flee West Bengal because of the threats and cases as if being marginally better than fascists is an achievement that deserves celebration.

I got terribly put off by both sides of supporters, if I may be honest. Some of those who supported True Indology showed staggering ignorance of not just politics, but also of the need to retain political power. Some displayed nauseating moral superiority by deriding those who were not vehemently abusing Fadnavis and others were actively campaigning for BJP to lose elections.

On the other hand, those who supported Devendra Fadnavis branded everyone a Congress agent, an Islamist, a sell-out and challenged them to fight elections and win, if they thought they understood statecraft better. This ad hominem is so old and boring, that it almost redefines what a cliche is. Just because someone is not actively involved in politics, does not mean they are barred from holding an opinion – even if the opinion is unpalatable and crude. Just because someone is not winning an election, does not mean they don’t have the right to hold elected leaders to account – you may disagree, but they do have that right. Just because you believe that your Dharma is to help a party retain political power, does not mean that the other person’s Dharma is any less moral or that, they have sold their soul to the devil.

Some of those supporting Devendra Fadnavis lost the plot almost completely. In the quest to support Devendra Fadnavis, they supported Phule instead and started calling those who supported True Indology “Brahmanical”, defeating their own purpose, since they parroted the Liberal trope to insult Hindus (one also used to discredit Fadnavis himself). I saw some use phrases like “Nazi extremist right wing” to tarnish those criticising Fadnavis – again – regurtitating a trope that is used by Leftists and Islamists to dehumanise Hindus – all Hindus. It was rather infuriating to watch these individuals extend support to a politician (which the politician did not ask for, by the way) and in the process, do exactly what the Leftists and Islamists do to demonise Hindus, claiming that Hindus will be saved only if BJP retains power. This, perhaps, was one of the most self defeating tropes that I experienced in the entire saga, leaving me truly disgusted.

In the end, both sets of supporters ended up pushing each other to harden their stand further – frustrating each other, insulting each other, and pushing the other side’s back to the wall. Those who were angry with True Indology became angrier, vowing to never vote for BJP (Congratulations to those who support BJP), and those who were supporting Devendra Fadnavis alienated and burnt bridges on behalf of those leaders whom they claim to support.

While True Indology apologised, some of his supporters ended up insulting Phule even more, with some factually inaccurate assertions as well, and while BJP leaders understood the backlash and maintained silence, their supporters, in a bid to silence the criticism, ended up alienating people from the very leaders they wish to see retain political power.

Now, I know the obvious argument here is that social media hardly matters and is insignificant to electoral politics. I believe this is another naive notion that even Congress harboured before it lost power. Social media is a medium – but the people on it are real people (most of them, at least). They are people with an identity (even if you don’t know them), a family, a circle of influence and at the very least – 1 vote. It is a platform that often has a trickle-down effect.

Let us take the Udupi case, for example. It was because of social media outrage that the case made headlines and was followed up. Let us take Delhi anti-Hindu riots for example – it is because of the work of a few digital journalists that the Left could not succeed in turning it maliciously into an ‘anti-Muslim pogrom’. Let us talk about Love Jihad – Hindu organisations were screaming for years – but it is because of social media and the journalism on it that it has now become a mainstream issue. I could go on and on and the list is endless. It would be a mistake to dismiss social media as an insignificant bubble. It has more impact than one realises and perhaps, just maybe, Dharmics could recognise the multiplicity of opinions and appreciate that every individual, regardless of where they fall on the ideological spectrum, is a fellow traveller.

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