Over the last four years, the tenure of the present government led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, a significant section of the intelligentsia has created a narrative where India—a land of milk and honey and all-round peace until 26 May 2014, the day the Modi government was sworn in, overnight turned into an intolerant and undemocratic country which persecutes and physically harms its minorities and marginalised sections, a country where freedom of speech is muzzled, where fascism is the order of the day. For four years, “democracy died today” has been the sermon of a large section of “civil” society. Unable to accept the electoral verdict, they have used their reach in the country and abroad to do an energetic job of foul-mouthing the government from every public platform, and have cast the most outrageous aspersions not only on the Prime Minister but even on the people who voted for him. They have seen in every victory of the Bharatiya Janata Party an assertion of majoritarianism by right-wing “fascist” Hindus and without qualms have drawn parallels with Germans who supported Adolf Hitler in the heydays of Nazi Germany, a country that caused the Holocaust and killed over five million Jewish people. Every stray incident—these are extremely unfortunate but stray incidents—of cow-related lynching or attacks on Dalits has been publicised the world over to add heft to this narrative. Even troll attacks—of course many of them abusive and unacceptable—on social media, one of the hazards of being on a public platform like Twitter in particular, have been turned into international news, and it has been said in as many words that the Prime Minister no less is personally encouraging these trolls to issue “death and rape threats” on some of the critics of his government. It is a strange situation where the flogging of a Dalit boy in BJP-ruled Gujarat is selectively—but rightly—outraged over, but not a word is mentioned about the caste of another Dalit youth in Mamata Banerjee-ruled West Bengal’s Purulia district when he is murdered and strung up from a tree with a placard on his body that he was killed for the “crime of working for the BJP at the age of 18”. It is a bizarre situation where unethical government formation in Goa by BJP is rightly seen as compromising the people’s mandate, but a case in Karnataka—where a party that won just 30-odd seats in a 224-member Assembly forms government with the help of another party that lost the election—is praised as a victory of democracy
It is natural that political parties will cry “murder of democracy” at every opportunity handed to them by their rivals. It’s politics after all. It’s politics where parties complaining of rigging and hacked EVMs on polling day, will sing paeans to the people’s mandate when the same allegedly “rigged” EVMs deliver a verdict in their favour on counting day, as it happened in the recent Kairana Lok Sabha byelection in Uttar Pradesh. And anything goes in politics, especially in India. But doubts arise about the agenda when the so-called intelligentsia, the opinion-makers, the influencers—many of them in the media—start outraging just as political parties do. Criticism is different. Criticism is needed to keep a government in check and on the right track, to remind it time and again of the promises it had made to the people, to remind it that it is in office to serve the people. But what we have seen in the last four years is the “influencers” following an extremely partisan agenda, possibly on behalf of forces that did not get an election result of their choice. In fact, it would not be far-fetched to say that the influencers and the opinion makers have fallen prey to a kind of intolerance that does not allow any worldview or way of life to thrive if it does not conform to theirs. If the right is accused of not allowing debate and discussion to flourish, the left and “liberal” ranks are guilty of the same—in fact the latter’s weapons are much more potent. They are part of an ecosystem that got bodily hit in May 2014, but even then have the access, the means and sometimes the much-needed subtlety to spread calumny and hatred, to mould narratives and to destroy reputations. When Arundhati Roy goes to BBC and with a perfectly calm visage and lilting voice accuses PM Modi of the worst possible crimes including terrible violence, and even promoting Hitler through text-books, she is not asked even once for statistical evidence, such is the weight of her Booker Prize. She is also not questioned why, if the PM was such a fascist, she has not been stopped even once in these four years from carrying on with her hate-Modi campaign. She is not asked why if things were so bad in India, scholars and artists were not seeking asylum in the West, the way many from China do; or how many thinkers have been incarcerated; how many massacres of the minorities had taken place; what all provisions of the Constitution have been violated. The list of such questions that are not asked is endless. It is time to ask the liberal intelligentsia such questions, as else great disservice will be done to democracy.