No, they don’t read Ghalib

If they truly love anything, it is hate politics

Amit Sengupta Delhi 

The prime minister recites Mirza Ghalib in Iran. Soon after, his xenophobic supporters from the hydra-headed fronts of the extended Sangh Parivar stop young artists sponsored by the Delhi government from writing in Urdu on a Delhi Jal Board wall.  No Urdu couplets on the walls of Delhi, the Modi bhakts tell the artists. They care two hoots that Urdu is a third language in Delhi, along with Hindi and Punjabi, and that the artists were writing poetry and graffiti in all these languages.

They obviously are thoroughly ignorant that Urdu was born in India, in the military barracks of the Deccan, is truly a ‘Hindustani’ language, and is a synthesis of multiple languages, including Khari Boli, Braj, Persian and Arabic. Surely, they have never heard or read great Urdu poetry, literature, lyrics, music. Indeed, what have they read, apart from crude hate literature?

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The Ayodhya issue will be settled in court or by mutual compromise, they say officially. The unofficial buzz is that they want a RSS hardliner with a history of bigotry to be positioned as the next UP chief minister. Muzaffarnagar was hit by ‘socially engineered’ riots on pseudo claims of ‘love jihad’. Every journalist worth his salt knows who masterminded the riots in which 60,000 Muslims were displaced, many women raped, and vicious ruptures made in western UP, which, for years, had seen no communal violence. Many of the accused are BJP leaders; one of them is a minister in the central government. The BJP reaped a happy harvest of polarised votes in the Lok Sabha elections of 2014, courtesy of the riots and social/religious divide, their final and ultimate trump card. Plus, the fake promise of ‘Achche Din’.

Surely, they have never heard or read great Urdu poetry, literature, lyrics, music. Indeed, what have they read, apart from crude hate literature? 

Thereby, witness the spot where the prime minister chose to address a mass rally on the completion of two years of the BJP-led NDA regime. Saharanpur – yet another nerve centre of volatile tension in western UP, close to Muzaffarnagar, where the ripple effects would sound the communal bugle in preparation for the UP polls. With a discredited Samajwadi Party always ready to play tacit footsie with the BJP, this is a win-win card for Hindutva in terms of communal polarisation in UP – ‘Umeedo ka Pradesh’. 

The entire nation was outraged by the murder of Mohammad Akhlaq and the ‘near-murder’ of his son by a lynch mob in Dadri led by BJP loyalists driven by the calls of a local temple. And, yet, his ministers, MPs and MLAs, repeatedly speak in support of the murderers, in a language which can turn the intestines of the dead upside down, without an iota of respect for social ethics, or the principles of justice, or law and order.

The metamorphosis of mutton into beef has become a social media joke: Desh badal raha hain, mutton beef ban raha hain. One initial forensic report says the stuff in the fridge is mutton, another reappears suddenly and claims that it belongs to a ‘cow’s progeny’, notwithstanding the fact that the cops are sure that the second report is based on meat found outside the house at a trijunction near a transformer, and, is therefore, unreliable, perhaps a ploy to rake up the issue yet again.  Every sane person would thereby argue that, first, you can’t enter a home, or the private space of any citizen, and raid his/her kitchen or fridge. And, second, no Indian citizen can be lynched for his food habits, and that a murder is a murder, this time as a gory public spectacle which outraged the nation. And, yet, top leaders of the BJP, led by Yogi Adityanath, are demanding openly that the dead man’s family should be arrested, and all the murderers should be immediately released.

In a civilised political party, these crass motor-mouths would have been sacked a long time ago. Not in the BJP. They are proud of them. They represent their inner voice. They restore their spiritual sanity; their ‘bunch of thoughts’. Clearly, neither the party, nor its president, and certainly not the prime minister, none of them would assume that the language is foul, the discourse is perverse, and the public conduct is stunningly uncouth. It’s like a morbid cacophony of a jarring orchestra: the PM talks of inclusive democracy, his party leaders and supporters talk and act just the opposite.

While the Union home minister claims that all is well in the country and everyone is equal in the eyes of the law, gangs of ‘Gau Raksha Samitis’, operating as vigilante mobs backed by the police, openly brutalise cattle traders, from across Maharashtra to Jharkhand and Rajasthan. There are pictures on social media of a naked Muslim man being ‘jackbooted’ by these goons, his face crushed by boots, photographed in full glory like fascists displaying trophies of gas-chambered Jews. In Latehar in Jharkhand, they hanged two young men from a tree, after torture and physical violence. Why? Because they were transporting cattle from one place to another.  This terror is becoming a ritualistic narrative across the dots of the nation’s map.

It’s like Ku Klux Klan gangs running across the ravaged, drought-stricken landscape of India, with mass hunger, malnourishment and farmer suicides, and yet the prime minister showcases himself at India Gate in Delhi, preceded by full-page ads in newspapers (reportedly worth `1,000 crore), in a simulated event management show called Ek Nayi Subah. A new dawn!

It’s a bad record, and it’s jarring, and it’s transparent. Not a day starts without a bad taste in the mouth. How more fake can it get? 

Fake degrees apart, the ‘entire political science’ of Arun Jaitley and Smriti Irani and their mentors seems to be to go dirty the waters of India’s academic institutions, the moment the tide settles down. As we go to press, back to back general body meetings are being held in FTII, ‘autonomously’ controlled by the Information and Broadcasting Ministry, where the BJP-sponsored academic council is pushing sudden and unprecedented ‘extraordinary reforms’ which will effectively destroy the original character of this offbeat centre of excellence, including abolition of residential hostels. There has been no debate or discussion on the changes. It’s a dictatorial move. The students are yet again on a war path.

Earlier, all they wanted was a meritorious chairman from the world of cinema. So what about merit? After the 139-day peaceful students’ struggle in FTII, against the appointment of RSS man Gajendra Chauhan, a third rate, C-grade actor, as chairman, bitter students went back to work on their projects. And, yet, soon after, FIRs were lodged against many of them, sharpening the contradictions yet again. Under this government, there is no respite.

In the Hyderabad Central University, the moment a brief spell of lull arrived, Appa Rao, accused of directly harassing Rohith Vemula, was brought back. Recently, for no rhyme or reason, the VC destroyed the tents and memorial erected in memory of Vemula on the campus. The bitterness gets entrenched, and so does the students’ resistance. This government rejoices at wallowing in vicious conflict.

In JNU, after the students were released from jail, after the tapes were proved to be doctored, and after they peacefully went back to their classrooms and library, the vice-chancellor, again a clueless RSS man with no idea about JNU’s intellectual or political legacy, expelled and fined students, raking up a storm, and yet another protracted hunger strike and struggle. In Jadavpur University, they dispatched Anupam Kher and Ashok Pandit as agent provocateurs to muddy the waters; earlier they had dispatched them to NIT Srinagar to polarise the campus. In BHU, students have been attacked for seeking 24/7 library facilities; elsewhere they are planting unworthy RSS loyalists to capture institutions. 

Clearly, academic autonomy is under siege under this partisan, mediocre and vicious regime. The illustrious higher education degrees of the Union HRD minister have only added to the shallow substance of the soap opera.

Two years after, indeed, to use a cliché, it is a naked dance of abject disregard for intellectual freedom, basic decency and the right to dissent. It is not only an all-out war against students and the young, it is a relentless war against the very idea of pluralist, secular democracy. The right to live. It is an insurrection against the Indian Constitution. And this is not going to stop in the days to come. No way. Surely, if they truly love anything, it is hate politics.

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This story is from the print issue of Hardnews: JUNE 2016