Tuesday, November 12, 2013

An Idiot for PM? (Non)Sense of History in NaMo

- Subhash Gatade

'Though this be madness yet there is method in it' 
                                                                     
                                                                       - 'Hamlet', Shakespeare

The 2014 elections aren’t merely about changing the government. The rhetoric ahead of the polls makes one believe that it’s an attempt at once to change historical narratives handed down to successive generation of Indians. And the man in the forefront of it all is the BJP’s prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi.

                                                                  -  11/11/2013 Blogs-Hindustan Times

I.

Wordsmiths of the world need to put in their heads or pull in their socks (you may say) to coin a new word which can rather resonate with what goes on in this part of South Asia in the name of political speeches. Should one call it 'polifiction' or 'politainment' or some similar word. 

Perhaps a word exists and this poor pen pusher is ignorant about it. 

Anyway, the matter has become bit urgent with the feverish preparations which are going on here for the battle royale which would take place in the year 2014 and the not so silent emergence of NaMo on the national scene and the daily dose of half truths, fiction and complete distortion which goes under the name of oratory.

His recent speech in Gujarat which he delivered while inaugurating a hospital could be considered the pinnacle of his 'polifiction'. In the said speech he claimed that Shyama Prasad Mukherjee, was a 'great son of Gujarat and had built India house in London' He also claimed that this 'great son of Gujarat was in regular dialogue with Vivekanand and Dayanand Saraswati' and in his usual penchant for taking credits 'it was his good fortune to be able to bring back the ashthi (ashes) of Mukherjee from Geneva in 2003.'

Any layperson who has brief acquaintance with history or has not spent her/his formative years in one of those Parivar run schools, would share that Mukherjee ' was born in 1902 in the then undivided Bengal, worked with Hindu Mahasabha for quite some time, was part of Nehru's first cabinet, helped found Jansangha - a mass politival platoform for RSS - and died in 50s.' Perhaps anyone can marvel at the ability of a one year old Mukherjee to be in dialogue with Swami Vivekanand - who died in 1903 and would also be keen to know the method adopted by him to have a dialogue with Dayanand Saraswati who had died more than 25 years before his birth.

The fact of the matter is that it was not Mukherjee but Shyamji Krishna Varma from Kutchh Mandvi, (born 4 th October 1857) Gujarat, Indian Revolutionary, lawyer, Journalist, who had gone to London, developed the India house (1902) which later became the living space for many Indian freedom fighters, started an English monthly, ‘The Indian Sociologist’ an organ of political, social and religious reform. History books tell us that Shyamji had died in Geneva in 1930.

Supporters of NaMo can claim that the said speech - which showed his complete ignorance about the important milestone in the trajectory of his own organization, the formation of Bhartiya Jansangh, the first mass political platform launched by RSS itself, - was just slip of tongue and not much should be read into it. If that is the case, then how should one interpret his utterly false claim that Nehru did not even attend Patel's funeral - despite proof to the contrary - or what is the explanation for his 'pearls of wisdom' at Patna rally wherein he is reported to have said that Alexander had come to Bihar and was defeated by Biharis - despite the obvious fact that Alexander never crossed the Ganges - or placing Taxila in Bihar although it is in Pakistan or saying that Chandragupta Maurya the legendary King belonged to the Gupta dynasty. 

What one is concerned here not just slip of tongue here and there - which can happen with anyone - in fact it is a new genre of speech which is on the one hand (according to observers) 'entertaining' and 'captivating' but if one digs further one finds it is built on sheer fiction, to say the least. And there is no spontaneity involved here leading to 'slip of tongue', everything is deliberate, presented before the masses in a packaged form for wider consumption to serve the larger agenda based on exclusion and hate. 

In fact, it would not be off the mark if one says that NaMo has slowly metamorphosed into 'P N Oak' of Indian politics. It need be mentioned here that P N Oak was a very popular 'historian' in Hindutva circles who claimed that 'that Christianity and Islam are both derivatives of Hinduism, or that the Catholic Vatican, Kaaba and the Taj Mahal were once Hindu temples to Shiva'. 

II
Three months before his death Sardar Patel said " Our leader is Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru. Bapu appointed him his heir and successor during his lifetime and even declared it. It is the duty of the soldiers of Bapu that they abide by his orders. One who does not accept this order by heart would prove a sinner before god. I am not a disloyal soldier. For me it is unimportant what my place is. I only know that I am that very place where Bapu asked me to stand'' - 2nd October 1950, Indore. (Translated from original hindi, Purnahuti, Chaturth Khand, Page 465, Pyarelal, Navjeevan Prakashan, Ahmedabad)
An important characteristics of these Modispeaks is that in its hurry to belittle the Congress or stigmatise his adversaries, Modi has done a grave injustice to Patel's persona and abused history to no end. In fact it would be better to put it this way that NaMo has carved out a Patel which suits his politics but is unrecognisable to anyone outside the Parivar
"Sardar Patel is no more a symbol of pride for the Gujaratis. Today, Modi has reduced him to a symbol of victimhood of Nehru dynasty and an unfulfilled desire" (Truth of Gujarat).
On the one hand he euologises Patel, claims that India's future would have been different if he would have become the first PM of India, tries to create a false adversarial relation between him and Nehru and simultaneously in the same breath 'abuses' him. Perhaps if wiser sense would have prevailed he would not have held Congress responsible for partition or for being instrumental in changing the history and geography of the subcontinent knowing fully well that Patel was part of the triumvirate apart from Gandhi and Nehru, which played a key role before and after Partition. 

Perhaps it would be opportune to read Sardar Patel himself in a book titled "Nehru Abhinandan Granth - A birthday book' released in 1949, to mark diamond jubilee birth celebrations of Pt Nehru, recognising Pt Nehru's credentials as idol of the nation, hero of the masses and leader of the people and also addressing Nehru as a person who is willing to seek and ready to take any advice, contrary to the impressions created by some interested persons.
Jawaharlal and I have been fellow members of the Congress, soldiers in the struggle for freedom, ..This familiarity, nearness, intimacy and brotherly affection make it difficult for me to sum up for public appreciation, but then, the idol of the masses, the leader of the people, the Prime minister of the country and the hero of the masses, whose noble record and great achievements are an open book, hardly needs any commendation from me."
.."As one older in years it has been my privilege to tender advice to him on the manifold problems with which we have been faced in both administrative and organisational fields. I have found him willing to seek and ready to take it. Contrary to the impressions created by some interested persons and eagerly accepted in credulous circles, we have worked together as lifelong friends and colleagues, adjusting ourselves to each other's point of view as the occasion demanded and valuing each other's advice as only those who have confidence in each other can".
He further writes "in the fitness of things that in the twilight preceding the dawn of independence, he should have been our leading light and that when India was faced with crisis after crisis, following the achievement of our freedom, he should have been the upholder of our faith and the leader of our legions. No one knows better than myself how much he has laboured for his country in the last two years of our difficult existence. I have seen him age quickly during that period on account of the worries of the high office that he holds and the tremendous reponsibilities that he wields."
Of course, Modi cannot be held solely responsible for denigrating 'own' heroes. For someone who has been a Swayamsevak since his teens, where you are fed with all sorts of P N Oakisms as part of Baudhik can you expect something better. In fact, anyone conversant with Sangh history can vouch that there is nothing new as far as 'abusing' own heroes is concerned if it helps present a sanitised image of RSS. As an aside one can look at how RSS had no qualms in denigrating Savarkar himself to 'prove' its innocence in the assassination of Mahatma Gandhi.

The assassination of Mahatma Gandhi by Nathuram Godse, a Hindu fanatic and the alleged role played by RSS in it is still debated. Few years back when some fresh facts emerged to buttress the case, RSS had issued press statement denying any culpability in this killing and in the process itself maligned Savarkar - a key ideologue of the project of Hindutva

The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh today denied that it had anything to do with the assassination of Mahatma Gandhi and as "proof" of its innocence circulated a copy of a letter written by Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel to Jawaharlal Nehru just 28 days after the murder. However, it seems that the RSS overlooked the fact that the same letter blamed V.D. Savarkar for hatching the conspiracy and "seeing it through" while emphasising that "the assassination was welcomed by those of the RSS and the [Hindu] Mahasabha." (RSS releases 'proof' of its innocence, By Neena Vyas, 17th August 2004 )

III
That day Delhi caught Punjab’s infection. “I will not tolerate Delhi becoming another Lahore,” Vallabhbhai declared in Nehru’s and Mountbatten’s presence. He publicly threatened partisan officials with punishment, and at his instructions orders to shoot rioters at sight were issued on September 7.Four Hindu rioters were shot dead at the railway station in Old Delhi. (P.428, Patel : A Life, Rajmohan Gandhi, Navjeevan Publishing House, Ahmedabad)
Whatever might be the claims of his cheerleaders - who felt happy when NaMo talked of ‘Hindus and Muslims uniting together to fight poverty' or ‘Pahle Shauchalay aur Phir Devalay' (Toilets first, Temples later) - the core of his 'divisive, prejudice deepening politics' is not going to go away easily. It would be too much to expect that one fine morning NaMo would be able to undertake a Kafkasquean metamorphosis and do away with what his biographer Nilanjan Mukhopadhyay calls 'myopic view of history, an exaggerated notion in his abilities and disdain for viewpoint of the 'other'.'

For someone who is in a hurry to reach the topmost post in the country - any sort of 'unlearning' seems impossible.

A beginning can only be made if he tenders an unconditional apology for the carnage in 2002 and opens himself for a legal scrutiny of his alleged acts of omission and commission during that tumultuous period. 

**********
Subhash Gatade is a New Socialist Initiative (NSI) activist. He is also the author of Godse's Children: Hindutva Terror in India, and The Saffron Condition: The Politics of Repression and Exclusion in Neoliberal India.

13 comments:

Jatin Sharma said...

Dear Mr. Gatade, I have never seen you writing on any leader other than BJP. I would like to ask what you want to prove.

Subhash Gatade said...

Dear Mr Jatin, It seems that you have not come across my other writings interrogating/questioning the other political formations.

Ractim Goswami said...

What according to you is the best option for us at this point in time as Mr Singh doesn't speak at all and NaMo speaks more than required. :)

Anonymous said...

At least you should have had come courtesy to write that he did apologies for name mix up... he immediately corrected himself.. i fail to understand why people like you not write the complete truth,.,, by writing have truth you are making mortal human beings like me to lose faith on online contributors... articles like this makes me start questioning authenticity and truthfulness of even legitimate articles...
go listen to his speech and listen carefully and find it where he said Alexander came to Bihar.... or Taxila is in Bihar... Sir i am not a big fan of Mr Modi.. but i do not like people who have hidden agenda like you and miss-quote an individual... at least be truthful... thank you

Subhash Gatade said...

Dear Ractim

Looking at the fact that movements / forces / formations who really are concerned/active for the marginalised and the exploited and who have an inclusive agenda are on the margins, as of now I do not see any immediate 'best option' before us. "Silence of Mr Singh' and 'Roar of the Lion' are symptomatic of the larger crisis which awaits us. I may be exaggerating but I sincerely feel that if we do not strive hard the year 2014 would be later remembered as year '1933' of Indian polity.

Subhash Gatade said...

Dear Anonymous

Facts are facts and by labeling someone that s/he has hidden agendas one cannot refute them. I am yet to hear apologies from Mr Modi about his remarks about 'Nehru not attending Patel's funeral' or his 'pearls of wisdom' at Patna rally or his claim that China spends 20 % of its GDP on education. In fact what I find strange that his people are engaged in justifying what he said. It was only yesterday that Ms Meena Lekhi, spokesperson of BJP, tried to explain what Modi meant at Patna rally.

Yes as far as the name mix up is concerned, Modi did express regrets and in the write-up I have granted him this 'slip of tongue'.

Anonymous said...

Very well written. Point by point analysis of events of the present with the past. Would help me in a verbal fight with blind-men of a new God.

abhishek said...

Well the current establishment has graduates from Cambridge, Oxford, Harvard etc. and look where that has got us - massive corruption, double digit inlation, broken roads, and a foreign policy which is more dependent on what happens in Tamil Nadu than our strategic interests. I will vote for Modi not because I dream of a Hindu Nation but because he seems like a practical person who can get things done and fix things that affect me most. His knowledge of history does not affect my life in anyway whatsoever.
May be I have unreasonable expectations and he will prove to be a total failure, but I will take my risks because the only other option is to bring the present government back which is a frightening reality to me. The hubris that this government harbors makes me feel nauseous.

As far as issues of secularism are concerned, I am not worried, our institutions are strong enough to rein in a man who is bent on subverting the constitution. Moreover, the reality of coalition politics will keep him in check anyway. I have read some of your article in Kafila, please consider writing about the way to get out of the mess we find ourselves in rather than pursuing a single point agenda against Narendra Modi. Those who are going to vote for him will vote for him anyway because the issues you write about for the most part do not affect them. Jai Hind.

sashi said...

What is a mistake here and there when people are starving and pundits are homeless ?

i will suffer much more historical inaccuracies and gaffes that modi or rahul may care to scatter around for the sake of good governance.

the mainstream history has always been a handmaiden to the ruling class and was also selective in its disclosure.

Columbus day is a celebration and curse depending on your point of view – see
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/.../columbus-day-a-bad-idea...

The sipoy mutiny became 1st struggle for independence though it was based on parochial considerations and not on any larger vision of unified india or a national identity.

Who learns from history in times of coalition politics which constitution never envisaged and

what is the legitimacy of our parliament when parties who have conflicting manifestos and often opposing each other, after getting elected, join hands – is it not a breach of contract with the voters ?

people partnering muslim league are secular !

Governments selling off public assets and not depositing the proceeds in specific funds for future developments are prudent !

designer histories !

Moods & Moments said...

Dear Mr. Gatade,

What is the point you are making? The article is typical leftist hatred against RSS and Hindutva. Time and again the failed thought process which is discarded by world long time ago, still lives in morons like you, which is neither useful to you or society but just creates confusion in young minds.

Anonymous said...

Mr. Gatade

Lost your tongue ?

Avinash Upadhyay said...

You call him and idiot. Even if one chooses to oppose a person - and it is not a crime to oppose - one must use a better language. Calling a person idiot when that person has done well on governance front in his state is reprehensible. You can counter by talking about 2002 riots but the facts of the matter - twisted terribly by our media - say something else. And those facts are available and come out glaringly from the back files of "The Hindu" a patently socialist newspapers. Lest you protest this is not so, I am pasting a link here which you can verify. I hope that you at least give some thought to modifying your language in future. If you do want to criticize the discourse of others, your own discourse must at least be better.

http://guruprasad.net/posts/modi-phenomenon-propaganda-or-reality/

Anonymous said...

My simple point to everyone is that it does not matter to you people that whatever his knowledge about history is he is not an idiot.... he being Mr Modi.... I just want to suggest that a man who talks about something he doesn't know about is very easy for him.... the elections are closing in and he still doesn't know how he is gonna make the country better..... what about his foreign policies.... see it is easier to run a state..... for instance a government has to allocate land to any industry that wants to function in the state.... but it is the central government that decides the different taxes to be put on the industry during the budget session.... is Mr Modi capable of that!!!! Then again what about education???? Just check the statistics about education in gujrat....

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