Cutting Chai over Earl Grey: Triumph of common man’s wisdom over elitist hypocrisy
Triumph of common man’s wisdom over elitist hypocrisy
Iam reminded of a famous fable that the Prime Minister Narendra Modi narrated in one of his “Mann ki Baat” radio programme on AIR. A sheep found a very young lion and it grew up with the sheep. It learned to eat grass just like the sheep did. One day, an old lion saw the ‘sheep lion’ and tried to wean him away from the sheep, but ‘sheep lion’ ran away as he was approached by the old lion. The big lion waited untill he caught up with him alone. He seized him and carried him over to a pool of clean water and said, ‘Look, you are not a sheep. You’re a lion. Look at your reflection in the water.’ The sheep lion, seeing its face reflected from the water, said, ‘I am a lion and not a sheep.’ I am a lion!” and with that he roared such a roar that shook the hills to their core.
Modi supporters at a rally
The election results are out and Prime Minister Modi has got a roaring mandate in his favour. An article in The Sunday Guardian needs perusal. It says, “Today, 18 May 2014, may go down in history as the day the British finally left India. Narendra Modi's victory in the elections marks the end of a long era in which the structures of power did not differ greatly from those through which Britain ruled the sub-continent. India under the Congress party was in many ways a continuation of the British Raj by other means.”
This country’s thought process was long dominated by a clique of intellectual bourgeoisie. Their intellectual thinking that revolved around the premise that Indian ‘subjects’ were begging for imperial supervision and were blessed to be ruled by the colonial masters. The intellectual oligarchs are the upshots of Macaulayian legacy. The members of this cabal carry the view that Indians should be indebted to Vasco Da Gama for discovering India, colonial masters for making them read and write, Mughals for blessing them with biryani.
Wearing a janehu, performing a yajgna or karwachaut was considered offensive to these English-speaking haut monde. Afraid of being called bigots and regressive, they felt embarrassed to express their faith To be a part of this echo chamber meant to hold an opinion which degenerated anything that was culturally rooted in India and was indigenous to its people. The drawing room discourse of these elites often concerned with the need to civilise the Indians on almost everything from scientific temper to mannerism, semantics, morals, belief and even faith.
Putting a tilak on forehead, wearing a janehu, performing yajgna or keeping karwachaut was against the secular code of conduct and thus offended these English-speaking haut monde for whom this is was nothing but a faux pas. Afraid of being labeled as bigoted, regressive and archaic by these elites, the middle class consequently felt embarrassed to overtly express their faith.
The common man’s message to the snobbish closed-knit group of elites was clear from their mandate, that their Yale and Stanford degree doesn’t qualify them to dictate to the average Indians
The paternalistic secularism of Nehruvian Socialists was meant to be preached by one religious denomination and practised by the other. This passive intellectual subjugation finally vented off in the form of massive mandate given to the person who understood these inferiority complexes and the anxieties present amongst the middle class.
When the Prime Minister Modi publicly performed puja at Kashi Vishwanath or abhishek at Mahakaleshwar or arti at the ghats or took dip in the holy water without the penchant for moderation, the message sent to the middle class was loud and clear: “There’s no need to be ashamed of your faith”. The message was emphatically received by the masses, the subaltern voices that were hegemonised by the heirs of colonial masters. The middle class who were made to feel lesser order beings for having a faith, perspective and belief different than these elites felt no need to be apologetic about their values and beliefs with which they’ve been socialised. Theygot the gumption to be unapologetic about themselves.
Decolonising the Concept of Secularism
Secularism gained political character after the 42nd Amendment Act to the Indian Constitution. Can one imagine that the fathers of our Constitution missing out on inserting the word 'secular' to the Preamble? They didn’t insert it in the Preamble as religious harmony has always been a part of basic structure of Indic civilisation; it was genetically engrained in the Bhartiya culture. This land has been the birthplace of various different schools of religious thought. Religious harmony has been the way of life of people on this land. While secularism was an upshot of reactionary movement against the church's domination on all social institutions and even on individual thought. In India this has never been the case. None of the Ved, Smriti, Upanishads were under the authority of a king, court or any other social institution. The religion in the West was dichotomous with Science but in India there weren't any dialectics present between the two, in fact both were syncretic in nature. Where secularism focuses on religious tolerance, Indic school of thought sees tolerance as the weakest form of secularism. The philosophy of Dharma (not to be confused with religion) talks about harmony and stability of the entire universe. It encompasses the idea of Shastrarth, dialogue, respecting the difference wherein the idea of mere tolerance which believes in just bearing with the other individual, thought seems just like a grain of salt. Thus being religious can’t be equated with communal or unscientific as usually done by the Khan Market gangs. Secularism as a concept is. in fact. finite and limited in its scope when compared with Indic thought on religious harmony.
Secularism has its epicentre outside India, thusapingit in India while completely neglecting the native anecdotes, mores and narratives has made it redundant. While there should be no room for narrow thinking as culture and ideas know no geographical limits, the incautious cultural appropriation or rather misappropriation instead of making secularism a meeting point of pluralistic encounters, has sadly made it an empty domain and woefully a cuss word within the masses. Gurudev Rabindranath Thakur in his ‘Swadeshi Samaj’ mentions,
“Bharat has never fought over kingdom, squabbled over trade. The Tibet, China or Japan who are willing to close all doors and windows in fear of the great Europe, that same Tibet, China, Japan have beckoned Bharat inside their home in an unworried fashion as Guru or religious leader. Bharat has not traumatised the whole world’s flesh and blood with her own army and goods, but has acquired the esteem of mankind by establishing peace, consolation and religious systems everywhere. Thus the glory she has acquired has been done through penance and it is greater than the glory of sovereignty over other kingdoms.”
The discriminate practice of secularism in India as some higher order postmodern value created perturbation and uneasiness among the common masses. More so this secularism was to be preached by one religious denomination and practised by the other. While the majority was blamed as secular deviant for scaring the minority by openly expressing their faith, the ‘vulnerable’ minority community got special dispensation or secular immunity from such type of stigmatisation.
The Prime Minister unapologetic about his faith and unfazed about the elitist validation rejected the age long vote bank appeasement. This was substantiated by the inclusive policies and decisions of his government whether it was reservation for economically weaker section, JAM Trinity, Mudra Yojna, ban on Triple Talaq or his slogan of Sabka Saath, Sabka Vikaas and Sabka Vishvaas. The Prime Minister’s brand of secularism could appeal to majority and minority alike and challenged the liberal’s brand of top down knowledge arrangement. Minority who were also fed up of being stuck in the shackles of political servitude and being treated as a monolithic bloc having the same set of aspirations went out in huge number to vote for the Modi government further leading to the waning clout of the elites.
The left liberals miserably failed to sense this alienation of the masses. The Chief Minister, Mamta Banerjee’s furious outburst over chanting ‘Jai Sri Ram’ and subsequently ‘Jai Sri Ram’ becoming the slogan of masses in West Bengal was again wrongly jargonised by this clique as ‘Saffron Consolidation’ but it was ipso facto the slogan for defiance by the common man against the ‘Saffron Subjugation’ by the liberals. The two subsequent defeats should’ve been an apt opportunity for liberals to introspect and mull over their severe disconnect with the common man but unfortunately it seems like their intellectual arrogance has once again led them to pass the buck onto the public, which for them is uneducated, in darkness, yet at the preliminary stage of intellectual evolution and hence don't know what kind of leadership is best for them.
Prime Minister Modi could sense this disquietude among the ordinary citizen. Hence the mandate of 2019 election was the defeat of oligarchs who didactically framed narratives for the entire nation for decades. These intellectual imperialist pretended to have monopoly over the truth and thus fretted over by a leader who changed the discourse to provide aplatform to the subaltern voice. The victory was a message to the Yale and Stanford degree holders that the common man refuses to be told how to behave any more.
The common man’s message to the snobbish closed-knit group of elites was clear from their mandate, that their Yale and Stanford degree doesn’t qualify them to dictate to the average India on how to speak, what to think and whom to believe in. They rejected the intellectual sermons of the Nehruvian socialists and jettisoned the postmodern slavery of thought to repose their faith in a leader who restored their dignity and self-respect.
(The writer is a an Assistant Professor at St. Xavier’s College. She is pursuing her Ph.D. from IIT, Jodhpur)