Smoke and mirrors

Monday Musing

[ Asok Pillai ]

‘I must search for wisdom every hour,
Deep in my wrathful bosom sore and raw,
And find in it the superhuman power
To hold me to the letter of your law!’
– Claude McKay

All things considered, the atmosphere of fear and loathing prevailing across India these days does not lend itself to any occasion for levity. So this is serious business right here. In a way.
Mr Modi, what have you done? The gambit of drawing up the citizenship amendment bill was so flagrantly audacious that it verged on ignorance. I wanted to say this to you on Facebook, but it is not often that I write to prime ministers. This, in truth, is the first time I’m writing to one. Alas, too late.
I am what you might call a global citizen; I consider myself a native of planet Earth. For all practical purposes, however, I am an Indian, as my Aadhaar information would have already reassured your government. I have no political or religious affiliation, and I do not vote.
I look at you, Mr Modi, and I never fail to be in awe, thinking how awesome it must feel to be the prime minister of the world’s largest sovereign socialist secular democratic republic. But these days I’m beginning to suspect that there’s a flaw in your wisdom.
Can you not see what’s happening in the Northeast? All the details are available on Facebook and Twitter – both tools you have used with such technical finesse that it blew the Congress party clear out of sight – twice. That, combined with your other radically popularist tactics, has served you well.
However, ever since the day you entered the parliament, first symbolically falling at its ‘feet’ – the stairs – you have been leading the people of the country in a direction that I, quite frankly, cannot say I understand. You once united the nation’s electorate; you are now attempting to divide the people, in so many ways, and what’s happening, undeniably, is that they are all uniting… against you. This is not good for you, and this is not good for the country. This time the calculations seem to have gone awry.
You are a strong prime minister, I have no doubt. It’s your judgments I’m worried about. Even though I don’t necessarily subscribe to it, I get the idea of a Hindu nation. Given the kind of indoctrination you have received since your half-pant days, I wouldn’t blame you if you wanted it so badly; but at what cost, sir?
It’s hard not to be in a constant state of dejection these days. There’s bitter indignation everywhere, particularly on social media – Facebook, specifically, because, unlike you, I’m not on Twitter – and I cannot avoid reading the posts and comments because I’m tempted by the need to gauge the mood of the people. I can tell you, Hon’ble Prime Minister, that here in the Northeast, they don’t like you anymore – except of course your supporters, who are described, rather unkindly, as ‘bhakts’ by the majority, who have a wholly different view of the Citizenship (Amendment) Act and it ramifications.
You must bear in mind that the largest slice of this majority had voted for the BJP in the last two elections. Now the very same people are calling yours a fascist regime. Even those who had called the Kashmiris antinational for demanding ‘aazaadi’ are themselves now crying out for freedom from a slew of impositions.
I write this because I, for one, still believe that India is a democracy. We have a noble constitution. We must swear by its sanctity, not manipulate it to serve questionable ends. I’m not an expert on political science or anything; that’s just how I feel as a layman.
The next election season is when the people of India will decide whether your party is fit to continue serving the nation – and a lot of those voters will be young: college and university students. Here’s a nugget of information I’ve gleaned from the internet: By 2024, young voters – those who were born in the 1990s and the 2000s – will constitute about 60 percent of the electorate. I need not explain to you what they are thinking of you right now. I can only hope that you know that adage about the true nature of karma. It bites.
I say I still believe in our democracy because I’m sure it confers upon me the right to say all these things I’ve said. And I say these things because

‘You may print anything;
You may put anything to print;
You may choose not to put it to print;
It may not be in print;
But it will be in print one day.
The truth will be printed,
Because it must be in print;
The truth must be imprinted
Into our nation’s memory;
And those who print
Must print
The unprintable truth!’
– Arnab Goswami