How to be “Godi media”? Learn from American liberals

They built back better. From the moment that President Joseph Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris arrived at the reflecting pool beside the Lincoln Memorial on Tuesday night to the final note of the virtual concert that capped the inaugural rites and celebrations, it was clear that they, and those around them, were going to use every tool at their disposal to underscore their message of fresh starts and racial justice, help and healing.

We Indians generally wish America well. It is good to know that America is building back better and so rapidly. So what exactly did President Biden build back? I can’t wait to find out what the author is talking about. Did he get a grip on Covid, put the American economy back on track, settle big issues of trade or diplomacy with China?

Would you believe they are talking about President Biden wearing a Ralph Lauren suit to his inauguration? Check it out, because this for real. It’s the New York freaking Times fawning over how Biden built back America (and better!) by wearing a designer suit. How is that an achievement? Don’t worry. Just be happy.

In fact, the top anchor on MSNBC said she cried so many tears of joy while watching the inauguration that she finished an entire box of tissues.

In recent years, Indian liberals have come to use the expression “Godi media,” a pejorative for what they see as Indian media promoting a personality cult around PM Modi. First of all, seriously? Second, do these liberals ever look in the mirror? How could they? For they are all but prostrated on the ground before five generations of a political dynasty. All their opinions lie somewhere on the spectrum between Rahul coming of age and Priyanka having her grandmother’s nose.

If you want to see “Godi media” done right, look at American liberals right now. I already told you about MSNBC and the New York Times. Here is something from a CNN vice-president:

I mean those lights that are just shooting out of the Lincoln Memorial along the Reflecting Pool, it’s like almost extensions of Joe Biden’s arms embracing America.”

Have you ever wondered why liberals take all those “dear leader” jibes at PM Modi? Have you wondered why they call BJP supporters as “bhakts”? I have seen trenchant criticism of PM Modi from BJP supporters. Would Congress supporters dare to criticize Rahul Gandhi?

Now you know. It’s a classic case of projection. Liberals see their opponents as they themselves are. Fawning over their leaders in a way that would rival North Korean state television.

What good news did President Biden have for real Americans? As it turns out, very little. Instead, the President had this to say to his country:

A lot of America is hurting. The virus is surging. We’re 400,000 dead expected to reach well over 600,000.

What? So 200,000 more people are going to die? Is there any hope? Don’t count on it, because the president went on to also say:

…there’s nothing we can do to change the trajectory of the pandemic in the next several months.”

Imagine the grim reality of being an ordinary American right now. Your government has given up on you. They say there is nothing they can do and 200,000 more people are set to die. You open the New York Times, the so called ‘newspaper of record.’ Or you turn on CNN, the biggest global name in news. The headlines are about the achievement of wearing a Ralph Lauren suit.

That’s liberalism. Common people don’t matter. Instead the New York Times questions the ‘morality’ of Melania Trump leaving the White House in Chanel suit, Dolce & Gabbana dress, Hermès bag!

You didn’t catch the problem there, did you? It turns out that Chanel, Dolce & Gabbana and Hermès are European brands. That makes Trump immoral while Biden is moral in his very American Ralph Lauren suit. If you are an American, you must be thrilled about this. The New York Times expects no less of you.

Okay, what about Biden’s brand new Rolex watch, which he bought specially for the inauguration? Isn’t Rolex a Swiss company? Never mind. Anyway, I know about this new Rolex watch because a number of equally reputable liberal outlets were fawning about it as well.

When Joe Biden put his hand on the Bible, he was wearing a Rolex …. Biden thus joins a bipartisan tradition of presidents wearing Rolex. Dwight Eisenhower, Lyndon Johnson, and Ronald Reagan all had one.

See? It’s a tradition for American presidents to wear American suits. And also a tradition to wear European watches. Anything Biden does is a glorious tradition.

When media and power come together in a tight embrace such as this, the common citizen becomes invisible. And nobody does this better than liberal elites. That’s why common citizens should be scared of rule by the liberal elite. Whether in India or in the United States.

In 2008, when Barack Obama was running for President, Chris Hayes, one of the biggest faces on MSNBC, had announced that he was so excited that he could feel a thrill going up his leg. Yes, he really said it on air. And nobody thought that was odd. That’s big media in embrace of big government. That’s when common people should feel a shiver down their spine.

Left wing fury at Vir Sanghvi shows just how much liberals hate Hindus

By most accounts, Vir Sanghvi would be among the Indian media elite. He has studied at all the right schools, colleges and universities. He has been seen with all the happening people in media.

Yesterday, Vir Sanghvi came out with a column about the ‘shameful persecution’ of Munawar Faruqui and the ‘bogus controversy’ around the web series Tandav. In his piece titled “Of harmless humor and manufactured anger,” he took the BJP governments heavily to task. He used words like “authoritarian,” “emergency” and “tyranny.”

If you are like me, you are probably not surprised by this. How can a day pass without an elite telling our elected government to its face that they have taken away the right to free speech? You know, sort of like the Communist USSR or Nazi Germany.

But, would you believe that liberals are furious with Vir Sanghvi over this article.?

Surprised? See if you can guess what their problem is:

Did you catch that? Liberals are furious. It’s okay if someone thinks that the BJP government is authoritarian or tyrannical. But how dare someone speak disrespectfully of the maulvis? Indeed, when have Muslim fundamentalists been to blame for anything at all? In fact, is there even such a thing?

Sample the anger.

Vir Sanghvi’s tweet has been quoted nearly 200 times and most people seem to be bashing him for this reason. How dare he disrespect the maulvis? On his timeline, Vir seems to have retweeted two people who came out in his support. It doesn’t appear that there are too many more.

In other words, anti-Hindu hatred among India’s liberal-secular class is simply out of hand. Now this class does not allow even the slightest criticism of any member of the Muslim community for any reason. You cannot even criticize the BJP by calling them Hindu fundamentalists and then equating them with Muslim fundamentalists. That would be an acknowledgement of the existence of Islamic fundamentalism! You can’t have that any more.

In the prescribed new format of Indian liberalism, you must accuse the BJP of Hindu fundamentalism. And you must also say that they are the most evil and the only evil people in the world. So evil that they cannot be compared to anything in the past, present or future.

In his column, Vir Sanghvi described the BJP’s strategy thus:

It is a strategy that has been successfully mastered by many Muslim fundamentalists. Take the most famous example: The controversy over Salman Rushdie’s The Satanic Verses. None of the people who called for the banning of that book had even read it. They had no idea whether it really ridiculed Islam. But they ordered the protests anyway and got the novel banned, a crazy spiral that reached its apotheosis when Ayatollah Khomeini, who had never heard of Salman Rushdie or the book before, was told that it made fun of the Prophet. Khomeini promptly issued a fatwa urging the faithful to kill Rushdie.

Get it? Even if you compare the BJP to Ayatollah Khomeini, that’s not condemnation enough. What did the poor Ayatollah Khomeini ever do to deserve comparisons with ‘fascist’ BJP?

This is how extreme the Indian liberal has become in their hatred against Hindus. If you seriously believe that India has voted in a government that is worse than Ayatollah Khomeini, you can’t be a reasonable person.

A final note. Yesterday, Badruddin Ajmal, the head of AIUDF, now a member of Congress’ grand alliance in Assam, spoke thus at a rally.

” “The BJP has a list of 3,500 mosques in the country. If it comes to power again at Centre again, they will demolish all those mosques,” he claimed at an election meeting on Wednesday in Dhubri district’s Gauripur.

Ajmal targeted the ruling BJP in the state as well and claimed that if the BJP wins the Assam elections again, “they will not let women go out wearing ‘burqa’, grow a beard, wear a skullcap or even offer ‘azaan’ at mosques”. Will you be able to live in such a way?” he questioned those gathered at the rally.”

Incidentally, Badruddin Ajmal has studied theology from the Darul-Uloom Deoband is listed among the 500 most influential Muslims in the world. A true liberal, you see.

Those who blamed Modi for market crashes must congratulate him for Sensex at 50,000

The Bombay Stock Exchange just hit the huge psychological mark of 50,000. Woo hoo!

But fortunes swing wildly on the stock market. Most serious people know that. They know not to get too exuberant when the market is rising. They know how to take it on the chin when there is a crash. On the market, patience and grit usually pay off.

There are mature investors and analysts on one side. And then there are the crazies in the anti-Modi ecosystem. Always rushing to judgement, forever itching to blame anything and everything on Modi. Here is the Indian National Congress, speaking on March 9 last year.

In March 2020, the world was facing a truly unprecedented, possibly once in a century situation. Half the world under lockdown already and the rest scrambling to shut everything down. Literally thousands of people dying in America and Europe each day. The world’s richest countries on their knees. What would happen once the pandemic begins to spread across the developing world? What kind of nightmare could India be facing? Nobody knew. No wonder markets in India and around the world were crumbling.

But the Congress party has a bot like response to anything going wrong. Blame Modi.

So what happens now? Will Randeep Surjewala put up another tweet thanking PM Modi for shepherding the stock market out of this panic? Or will it suddenly be all about global factors?

In other words, take your pick and stick to it. If Modi is to blame for market crashes, then he gets all the credit when there is a bull run. It is the only intellectually honest position.

It wasn’t just 2020. Even in 2015, the Congress connected a fall in markets to PM Modi.

So when is Congress going to thank PM Modi for bringing Achche Din?

But it wasn’t just Congress. A number of elites had been taking potshots at the Prime Minister whenever markets went south.

Ah! So now that the stock market has decisively changed direction, can we expect to see an article in Scroll thanking PM Modi’s ‘structural reforms’ and praising their impact? Or will it be back to the usual refrain of how the real economy and the stock market are different?

But that was just Scroll.in. I pity them. Here is Bloomberg, which should really have known better.

Don’t draw profound conclusions from stock market swings. Old lesson. But completely forgotten because of the itch to go after PM Modi. Will Bloomberg take back its sweeping conclusions now? I doubt it.

Then, there was the outright absurd stuff like this.

How about a headline like this: PM Modi’s tweet congratulating President Biden lifts Sensex to 50,000?

That would be an absurd thing to say. But I’m not the one who started this game.

Like the stock market, Modi’s critics also go through cycles. When the going is bad, everything is Modi’s fault. When things are looking good, it is global factors, black magic and almost anything else. If they had any sense, they would realize that Congress party stock is in free fall, with an incompetent CEO and a board of directors that is perpetually out of touch. The only thing that still works over there is the ecosystem of tale bearers rushing back and forth.

Shivraj Singh Chouhan never called for tracking women : how liberals made a story out of nothing

You must have heard. Madhya Pradesh CM Shivraj Singh Chouhan is planning to register and track every movement of working women. What more can you expect from the patriarchal, sexist old men of the BJP who run that cow belt state? Headlines in liberal media have already delivered their verdict. Feminists have already made bold declarations of intent: they will never register! A song or poem, on the lines of “kaagaz nahin dikhayenge” may also be in the works.

The Madhya Pradesh government clarified that this was only a proposal to help with security. It had no intention of tracking anyone and would apply equally to both men and women. But this did not stop India’s feminists from fighting the most important women’s rights battle in a generation. A number of left wing opinion sites chimed in, uncovering all sorts of ulterior motives that you may not have noticed at first.

But first let us check out what the Chief Minister actually said. Here is the video. Luckily, it is from Barkha’s Mojo Story, which should give me some protection from criticism by liberals. Anyway, ignore the title of the video and just listen to what the Chief Minister said (starting 0:20)

Koi mazdoori karne, kaam karne ke liye bhi koi beti-beta baahar jayega, to pehle uska registration zile mein kiya jayega…. Pradesh se baahar jaana hai to zile mein registration hoga ki beta kahaan ja raha hai, beti kahaan ja rahi hai…

Here I have put in boldface the part where he talks about sons and daughters, as well as the masculine forms of the verbs he used in his sentences. He was always talking about both sons and daughters.

After this, he launched into a minute of explanation of how the policy would serve and protect women. Why would he do that? Perhaps because he was speaking at an event called “Samman,” a fortnight long awareness program about crimes against women.

That was all there was to this story. But who will tell the feminists who are determined to make this the biggest women’s rights battle of this generation?

Incidentally, the Indian state has a number of policies that may be seen as paternalistic towards women. For instance, rebates on stamp duty, property tax, slightly cheaper loans and so on. Even Direct Benefit Transfers (DBT) from the government are generally made into the accounts of women in the household. We will not even get into laws on domestic violence or sexual harassment which are not gender neutral. Till now, these have mostly been regarded as positive measures, necessary for empowerment of women. But if you wanted, you could turn it around on its head, and argue that they are paternalistic towards women. A woman can earn her money as much as a man. Does she really need a cheaper loan to buy a house?

But that’s a much bigger, more nuanced argument. And it had nothing to do with what Shivraj Singh Chouhan had proposed. His plan was gender neutral.

Are there legitimate privacy concerns here about the Madhya Pradesh government proposal? Probably, for both men and women. But again, that’s a completely separate debate, having nothing to do with sexism or patriarchy.

But feminists and liberals did not seem to care. They just wanted to scratch their itch against the BJP.

At the risk of being accused of being paternalistic (or worse), I have a humble suggestion for all the feminists out there. The laws in this country allow a Muslim woman to inherit only half of what sons are entitled to. The laws in this country allow for child marriage of Muslim girls. Even female genital mutilation of babies in certain Indian Muslim communities is still protected by law. Perhaps we can all come together and raise our voices against that. It is 2021. You have no excuse.

Censorship: the case for it and the case against

Free speech is like free trade. It doesn’t work unless everyone is allowed to freely engage in it. One sided free speech, which we currently have in India, is not a kind of free speech at all. It is like the British saying that we must open our market to their goods but have no right to trade with anyone else. Just like colonialism is not a form of free trade, one sided free speech is not a form of free speech.

The debate has erupted again today. In the last few days, a number of people have expressed their anger over apparently Hinduphobic content in a certain web series. Now, the government has summoned top executives of the concerned web platform. All reactions are going to be on expected lines. Liberals will scream murder of free speech and rising intolerance. Those on the other side will say it is about time the government did something against a continuing assault on Hindu sentiments.

And then there is of course the nagging irony. The uproar against one web series often ends up giving it more publicity than it would have otherwise got. This in turn creates an incentive for making even more of such content. Both sides know about this. Liberals, while screaming murder of free speech, are secretly thrilled about this prospect. The Hindu right, though encouraged by this show of government intent, must be worried on the inside.

So let me lay out either case. One for the government getting involved and enforcing all our laws against hurting religious and community sentiments. Perhaps creating new ones or extending the reach of existing laws to new forms of media, such as OTT platforms. The other, a case for getting rid of all these pesky laws and letting people say whatever they want.

As much as I would have liked it to be, neither of these arguments is about free speech. Like I said, we have one sided free speech in this country, which is more like colonialism. The question is what are we going to do about this. A principled stand on free speech in India is pointless. It would be like Indian subjects, with no right to vote, debating India’s foreign policy while still under British rule. Therefore, instead of principle, I will make my case around two practicalities of this country.

Practicality #1 : Popular culture already mocks and belittles Hindus in every possible way. So what do we have to gain by keeping censorship laws anyway?

I have often wondered. What would happen tomorrow if India got rid of every single law that inhibits freedom of expression? More specifically, why should Hindus care? I am not saying Hindus should stop caring about insults to Hindu sentiments. I am asking Hindus which new insult you are worried about if these laws go away tomorrow. Have they spared us any insult as yet?

Did they show Lord Shiva as a thief and charlatan, being chased down by an actor who also happens to be a devout member of another faith? You bet! Do they show every single saffron clad Hindu spiritual leader as a criminal and rapist? Of course they do. Have they labeled every single Hindu custom as patriarchal, sexist, racist and xenophobic? Yes, they have. They already declared that the Bhagavad Gita rationalizes mass slaughter. They already said that Gandhi is a super villain who invented Hinduism in order to perpetuate oppression. They already blamed Swami Vivekananda’s masculine posture for the infamous Dec 2012 gangrape in Delhi. Have you forgotten?

They have blamed Hindus for having rasam, lighting diyas and wearing sarees. They already blamed “Hindu supremacists” for the riot on Capitol Hill in Washington DC. They even included that in the official syllabus at Rutgers University. They already said that Hindus are lesser citizens of India because we have no choice. Unlike citizens of the peaceful religion, who chose to stay here, thus doing us a favor. They are already asking: many Hindus get cremated after death, rather than get buried. So what right do we have to this land?

They are rubbing it in our faces every single day. On every channel, in every newspaper. On every internet platform. They are raising an entire generation of woke youth to hate Hindus.

So which new humiliation do you fear? Clearly, our existing laws are not protecting Hindu sentiments. We might as well legislate them out of existence.

The only communities in India who should like censorship laws are those who already enjoy immunity from criticism. The laws are working for them, not us. When some woke comedian makes a joke on them by mistake, they rush to apologize the next day. The film censor board falls over backwards to accommodate their concerns. Most media and content creators already pre-censor themselves, almost to absurd lengths. If a person from a ‘secular’ religion commits a crime, it is reported as “Delhi man” did so and so. If anything bad happens in say Varanasi, no matter how unrelated to religion, it is reported as something that happened in “temple town.”

But then, there is practicality #2.

Practicality #2 : Groups that enjoy immunity from criticism do not need censorship laws. They enforce censorship by raw street power.

The typical Hindu right wing argument goes something like this. Why would they show a Hindu deity doing this or that? Would they dare to do this to a god from a ‘secular’ religion?

The operative word in that sentence is “dare.” Why do they pick on Hindus and not others. They may well hate Hindus and that plays a role. But the biggest reason is fear. They wouldn’t dare to pick on another religion because that would be too dangerous.

Content creators don’t stay away from picking on other communities because they fear lawsuits or court cases. They stay away because they are scared of raw street power.

And let me be the first to say I am very happy that Hindus don’t have raw street power. I hope they never get any. Violence is out of question and always should be.

So what options do we have? They will always keep picking on us because it is safe and easy. Well, believe it or not, our only option is to vigorously apply those same censorship laws, however ineffective they may be. You never know. It might irritate them just a little. It might give them a bit of pause before unnecessarily picking on Hindus.

The equation is like this. Maybe 50% of them are rabid Hindu haters. They will continue insulting us no matter what. But the other 50% who are picking on us simply because it is easy? They might be irritated enough that they move on to something else. So we get a 50% reduction. Which is better than no reduction at all.

Feeling helpless? Think of the censorship laws like Gabbar Singh. Only one person can save us from the clutches of Gabbar Singh. That’s Gabbar himself.

Want to break out of this helplessness? There is only one way. Learn the language of wokeness. Learn to present one thousand years of Hindu suffering in the only language that the world understands. It’s not weakness to complain these days. It’s called being practical. The world today is run by crybabies, so be the best crybaby you possibly can.

From pandemic to vaccine: a year in the life of India

The last one year has been hard on the whole world. Correction. It has been hard on the free world. The one country from where the virus came has been partying very hard. And quite literally so. In fact, they held a massive celebration in Wuhan on New Year’s Day just to show how much fun they were having at the expense of the whole world.

Meanwhile, everyone else has been struggling. People in America and Europe are still dying by the thousands on a daily basis. India has managed to put the worst behind, but our economy is still reeling from the hit that we have taken. There have been few occasions to celebrate.

Yesterday’s vaccine launch was one such rare occasion. Everybody deserves congratulations here. First of all, the scientists at SII and Bharat Biotech who prepared the vaccine in record time. Then, the Central and State governments. The Central government has made sure it all happened without a hitch. The state governments deserve massive credit for cooperating and keeping away unnecessary and irrational pessimism. A state government such as in Bengal or Kerala or Maharashtra could easily have turned this into a divisive issue. But everyone came together when it mattered. The opposition has been able to rise above political differences. The Center deserves credit for managing to keep everyone on board. Even the media did not let any kind of panic take hold. And of course, ultimately, all credit goes to the people.

Well done India. We all came through when it mattered the most.

Of course, everyone knows that if anything goes wrong, it will all be blamed on PM Modi. Time and again, it is amazing how much power he has over the minds of people. When he said “Janata Curfew” last year, a teeming nation of 1.3 billion came to an instant halt. I remember some liberals complaining that evening. They could not believe their eyes. Modi’s word is law.

As much as critics want to label him a dictator, they know he is not. If he was a dictator, he would not have so many critics. And all these critics are thriving economically and professionally, whether or not they can become associate professors at Harvard. No, this is a democratically elected leader whose word is law. To borrow the line from Baahubali, mera wachan hi shaasan hai. It is a dazzling democratic feat, accomplished by unflinching public faith in the leadership of one person. And again, people have welcomed the vaccine in every part of the country. They trust the government. Simply amazing.

As with many other things, India stands out in the free world. We are not as rich as America or Europe. But our democratic systems work. We did not have a healthcare system as strong as theirs. But it performed under the worst kind of stress. It was stretched, but it never broke. They thought we would not be able to test enough. They thought bodies would pile up in our streets. They thought our hospitals would be overwhelmed. They were wrong on all counts.

But we are not mere survivors. We are also doers. It’s not just America who can make a vaccine. We can make our own vaccine. We will vaccinate 1.3 billion people. And our manufacturing base is so vast that we will sell our vaccine as well. Brazil is just a beginning. India’s vaccines will ultimately be the cheapest and most widely used in the world, even if you count out India’s entire population. You will see.

This was my point about Indian exceptionalism. We have a strong democracy. We have a solid science and technology establishment that can turn out vaccines, satellites and Mars landers. We have a huge industrial base that puts us in the top 3-4 in every sector, from steel to cement to cars and now smartphones. We have functioning governance systems that would be the envy of many “developed” countries. A single biometric id for every person in the country, linked to financial details that enable instant transactions! I challenge the Americans to get this done. We’ve had it for years now… And remember, we don’t have anything like the resources that America or Western Europe has.

Who makes this possible? Our incredible human potential. Superpower we shall be.

We love to complain about things in India. We sometimes forget to talk about the numerous things that go right. This is one such occasion.

What the Nidhi-Harvard story reveals about our world

So a prominent liberal journalist thought she had received an offer from Harvard University to become an Associate Professor of journalism. She announced this publicly, her colleagues and friends wished her well. Among those who were ideologically opposed to her, some people made snarky comments. I bet a great many people across the spectrum were quite simply jealous.

And now, as it turns out, there was no job, no offer, nothing. She fell for an internet scam, or at least she says so. This time, people on the other side had a great time on social media, mocking her with all manner of jokes, memes and taunts. A number of her ex-colleagues and friends showed sympathy. Again, I bet most people across the spectrum were simply thrilled. Some openly, others secretly.

It is easier to laugh at one person than confront what the story has revealed about us all. She was not the only one who fell for this. Almost everyone else believed her too. What does it say about us? So, let us ask some real questions.

How did we come to believe in ‘magic’?

Suppose I were to tell you that I have won three gold medals in men’s racing events at the 2019 Olympic games in Kolkata. Would you believe me? Of course not. You would look at my general fitness, my age, etc and conclude that such a thing is impossible. You would also look at the fact that there is nobody else to confirm this. Let alone the fact there were never any Olympic games in Kolkata and certainly not in 2019.

How did we believe the Nidhi-Harvard story then? How could we possibly believe that someone with no PhD, no peer reviewed publications and no research record could be appointed directly to Harvard faculty, that too with tenure? Some people did point this out. Others noticed that Harvard does not even have a journalism department, much like there were never Olympic games in Kolkata. We know how the internet (and human jealousy) works. These doubts should have gone viral in no time, but they didn’t. People should have torn apart her claims with glee, but they did not. It was as if somewhere, deep in our hearts, we believed such a thing was genuinely possible. It is as if Nidhi’s liberal privilege got us all to believe in ‘magic.’

This famous Sidney Harris cartoon is a great way to identify superstition. Start with someone who has no PhD and no research record. Then, a miracle occurs. In step three, the person is directly appointed as tenured faculty at Harvard.

A miracle is not an explanation for anything. You have to be more explicit in step two!

But we all forgot step two. In other words, liberal privilege got the better of our common sense. We know that liberals get so much for no reason that we believe anything is possible. And her liberal friends and colleagues, who all congratulated her, knew that too. Deep within our hearts, whether left or right, we all know who runs the world. We all know liberals have privilege. We all know that the usual rules of hard work, achievement and disappointment don’t apply to them. The key word here is “all.”

Unconsciously, we all ended up participating in a massive social experiment. And the conclusion is clear. We all chose not to see what was in front of our eyes. We believed her baffling claim instead. Could a spectacularly unqualified person be appointed as faculty in a non-existent department at the world’s most famous university? Sure, why not! Certainly wouldn’t be less plausible than all the other awards and honors that are showered on liberals every day.

This is what our life experiences have done to us. Liberal privilege is so obvious in our daily experiences that we have all internalized and accepted it.

What does this say about journalism as an academic discipline?

Sometime ago, Opindia had done a detailed expose, pointing out the shoddy research by the BBC in their report on fake news in India. The response from the liberal ecosystem, including Nidhi herself, was cutting.

In other words, respect the hierarchy. The BBC has a bigger reputation than Opindia. How dare Opindia talk back to the BBC?

In itself, that is not a terrible thumb rule. Some institutions are indeed more credible than others. It is a deserved reward for having built up a reputation through decades, even centuries of hard work and achievement. But two important caveats apply. First of all, if your only defense against critics is throwing your ‘reputation’ in their faces, that’s never a good sign.

Second, for reputations and their hierarchies to make any sense, you must establish that the field in question is a real academic discipline. With barriers to entry. And rigorous standards for advancement at every step.

The current episode has proved that we don’t really believe that such barriers and/or standards apply to journalism. Undergraduate, PhD student, postdoc, tenure track professor, tenured professor, full professor, research record or no research record, they’re all the same. We have been pretending like these qualifications matter in journalism. But in our hearts, all of us (including liberal ecosystem) knows that it doesn’t matter.

There is no entry barrier and no standards for advancement. The only thing that matters is privilege. In other words, BBC and NYT and CNN are sitting atop a feudal system, not a meritocracy.

Moral: Be humble

If you know anything about social media, you know that liberals love to sneer. Liberals think that only they have an education. Apparently, when put to test, they can’t tell the difference between Harvard University and the so called Whatsapp University. So get off your high horse. Try to treat every human being with respect. You are not special anyway.

Mamata Banerjee begs for help from CPM/Cong and Bhadralok bowling noes and wides to BJP

I must say I am disappointed in how Mamata Banerjee is playing here. No matter what, I used to think that she is a fighter to the core. That belief is shaken now. Otherwise, how do you explain this?

My eyes! Mamata Banerjee begging with the Left for an alliance. What a moment for the young firebrand Congress leader who fearlessly took on the Jyoti Basu regime in Bengal. It appears that age has taken its toll. And more than that, comfort.

All politicians pursue power, but Mamata was somewhat different. All her life, she chased a very specific target. She had been Cabinet minister under both Vajpayee and Manmohan Singh. Being Railway minister is huge. But you could tell that the position meant very little to her. She was ready to quit, all the time. For Mamata Banerjee, nothing mattered. Except the chair of Bengal CM.

And when she finally achieved her dream in 2011, she set about creating a new Bengal. Like an empress, she ordered all of Kolkata painted in her favorite blue and white colors. She designed a flag for “Biswa Bangla” (universal Bengal) that all officials were required to fly. She wasn’t just going to rule Bengal, her taste in culture, art and music would run through the state. Her poems, her paintings, even a theme song she composed for Durga Puja were supposed to be central to the celebration of Bengali culture. She didn’t just want to the CM of Bengal, she wanted to embody Bengal itself.

Check it out here, it’s actually quite good. And if anybody in India still cared for Manmohan Desai style secularism, it would have worked.

In short, Mamata Banerjee wanted to be seen in Bengal like the history books tell you to imagine Akbar. And of course, like Akbar and Jyoti Basu, she would rule for life.

Now those dreams are all but shattered. It’s not just the chair she could lose, but her entire legacy. She risks being written off as a mere two term CM. That’s hardly enough to distinguish her in Bengal’s political history, let alone on the national scene. So many people have served as two term CMs and been all but forgotten.

Weak and desperate, she has reached out to lifelong enemies in the CPM. And her old sidekicks in the Congress. After the 2019 election, I had compared her situation to the last days of UPA 2. If anything, her capitulation is worse.

Not that the Cong nor CPM have responded positively to her appeal. The Congress has made her an insulting offer: to merge the TMC into the Congress. Not that it would have happened anyway, but Mamata’s disdain for Rahul Gandhi is all too obvious. This disdain stands in sharp contrast to her equation with Sonia Gandhi. The latter is someone that Didi fears and respects. The CPM is too flat footed, dogmatic and tied in knots to even come up with a coherent response. And the best part? It wouldn’t matter if all three parties came together. If they try, they will lose bigger. In fact, by even floating this suggestion, Mamata has finished off the last few hopes of winning the election.

With the election done and dusted, it is now amusing to watch the reactions of a certain class that had grown up hating the BJP with elitist passion. Hindiwallahs! Paan, gutkha eaters! These are supposed to be insults. Don’t get angry folks, just laugh. Remember; the election is already over.

And nothing is more funny than watching members of this class squirming and moaning as they realize that the sun don’t shine no more. One Bhadralok babu from Harvard is unable to sleep these days. I heard he is clutching a painting or something by Abanindranath Tagore that has been in his family for generations. He probably thinks it’s some kind of good luck charm that will save Bengal from BJP. Unfortunately, like most of his theories, things like good luck charms and amulets don’t work. Anyway, hard work over Harvard, shall we say?

Then there are the artists, actors and filmmakers. Some have suddenly gone public with various forms of “mental pain” about the way Mamata Banerjee is running the state. It has barely been five years since some of these people went on public platforms asking for a little space at Didi’s feet (one of them literally said this). Now all the “mental pain” and anguish against Didi is surfacing. Basically, they are looking to change camps while the BJP’s recruitment mela in the state is still open.

And finally, there are those bhadralok who seem resolved to go down with the ship. It is a very Bengali way of taking pride in reducing oneself to a pathetic figure. These are the people who did not listen when the Berlin wall fell. They believed that ‘revolution’ would come any day, up until the moment CPM lost power in 2011. The TMC defeated them ideologically, but let the jokers hang around, talking about Bengali exceptionalism. The BJP is not likely to allow any such nostalgia and they know it. As BJP advances, these people are pulling out the same old desperate smears. BJP will ban Hindi in Bengal. BJP will insult Tagore. BJP is against non-vegetarians. BJP will celebrate Diwali which is supposed to be different from Kali Pujo!

ROFL.

As we all know, Bengali intellectuals are much sought after on liberal portals. Nowadays, it is a joy to read their pathetic ramblings. I positively look forward to them. It’s kind of fun, you know. Getting a rise out of the grumpy old uncle who sits with a sour face at family events, complaining that youngsters these days just don’t listen!

Innings defeat for them is now completely certain. Bowling no balls and wide balls is of no avail.

Is collapse of Congress making the left ecosystem more blatantly Hinduphobic?

In his latest book titled “Our Hindu Rashtra,” Aakar Patel argues that India’s descent into “majoritarianism” begins when “Vande Mataram, the Hindu nationalism trope, became popular as the anthem of Indian nationalism”. This is around 1905, at the time of the partition of Bengal. He points out that the Muslims then began formally demanding representation as a political community and the Muslim League was formed in 1906.

Obviously, that narrative is absurd. Sir Syed Ahmed Khan had championed the infamous two nation theory at least three decades before that. But this is not about some specific author. There is wider question here. What is driving this change of worldview in the ranks of the Indian left?

Let me explain. The secular, sarkari consensus around Indian history has roughly been something like this. With a handful of exceptions, Muslim emperors generally treated their Hindu subjects well. As such, Hindus and Muslims used to live in mutual harmony and something called composite culture emerged. Then, the British came along and used the policy of divide and rule to cement their position in India. This ultimately led to a breakdown of society along religious lines and partition followed. From history textbooks to movies, this was the standard script.

That vision of the past, however contrived, is changing now. And among the intelligentsia at least, a far more sinister consensus is emerging. In this view, the British are no longer the villains and certainly not the Muslim emperors of the past. In this new vision, the Hindu is the enemy and has always been. The Hindu nationalists forced the hand of the Muslims to break from India. They bear the entire guilt for partition of India. The British are benign overseers who couldn’t have cared either way.

Remember how Harsh Mander said that only Indian Muslims are citizens by choice and those of all other religions are citizens by chance? This argument, that Muslims have a higher moral standing than Hindus as citizens of modern India, was one of the core talking points of the anti-CAA protests.

How did this happen? Wasn’t the rise of the BJP supposed to demolish contrived myths about India’s past? The myth of composite culture is breaking, yes. But not in the way one would have anticipated. At least among the self appointed intelligentsia who, for better and for worse, still hold commanding positions in deciding how the world sees India. And how Indians are taught to see themselves.

To understand, we have to look at what holds the left ecosystem together. As long as the Congress was on top, the discourse was mostly shaped by the Congress worldview. The Congress fights all its elections in India. For the Congress, blatant Hinduphobia was not an option. Would the Congress be able to win an election in Rajasthan or Maharashtra in the name of Aurangzeb? Would the Congress be able to survive in say Madhya Pradesh by blaming Indian Hindus for partition?

But now, as the Nehru-Gandhis lose their grip on power, the approach of the Indian left is beginning to change. The Amar-Akbar-Anthony narrative on history now has few takers in India. The leftist elite can only look abroad for inspiration. They are under pressure to construct a narrative on Indian history that the west, especially American liberals, can easily pick up and understand.

This pressure is visible nowadays in odd, rather hilarious ways. Every time a political slogan takes off in America, have you noticed how Indian liberals coin a slogan for us that rhymes with theirs? The easiest and most intellectually lazy way is to take “white” and replace it with “Hindu.” That’s how “Hindu supremacists” came to be blamed for the recent attack on Capitol Hill.

This kind of intellectual output is perhaps best described as “Ctrl+R liberalism.” Americans are used to referring to people of color as “minorities.” In India, Hindus are the majority community and Muslims are the largest minority community. And everyone on the American left already believes that “Islamophobia” is a real thing. So, in theory, you could take any commentary from the New York Times, replace “white” with “Hindu” and you would have something that passes off as “liberalism” in India.

At one point, they used to replace “white” with “Brahmin” instead of attacking Hindus as a whole. Some still do, but their number is gradually diminishing. The power of any narrative lives in its simplicity. Explaining the caste system to an American would take too long. It would require Indian liberals to teach the Americans at least four or five new words, the names of the various castes, which the latter would find difficult to pronounce. Also, there is no way for an American to decide quickly which caste a particular Hindu belongs to.

Americans already know about Muslims and Hindus. The binary is simple to explain. That’s what Indian liberals are doing. Indian Hindus are the privileged majority. Indian Muslims are the underprivileged minority who have faced discrimination and injustice for over one thousand years. So, if you want to be a good person, you must abhor “Hindu supremacists.”

And there you go. In just three sentences, you have taught an American everything you want them to know about Indian history. And how to think about modern Indian politics, which is the part you are really interested in!

That is why all the mental gymnastics to make a hero out of even Aurangzeb. The historian who specializes in this also wrote recently that the Bhagavad Gita rationalizes mass slaughter. Of course, to maintain some facade of academic integrity, you qualify the claim with some context. But everyone knows the power of one liners. You declare one thing a religion of peace and the other as rationalizing mass slaughter. Which side are well meaning people going to take?

And once you have prepared their minds well, they will take just about anything. That’s why the same historian saw the riot at Capitol Hill, saw an Indian flag and jumped to conclusions. She promptly announced that her conclusion would now be part of the official syllabus at Rutgers University. All this based on a social media rumor, which turned out to be false. The narrative is appealing precisely because it requires so little intellectual input.

To enforce this binary, all Hindus, any Hindus, are to be demonized now. Where Gandhi was once universally accepted as Mahatma, people like Divya Dwivedi have come to dominate. In this new vision, Gandhi is a super villain who invents “Hinduism” in the late 19th century as a vehicle for perpetuating systems of social oppression in India. In any case, Audrey Truschke has referred to Gandhi’s love for the Bhagavad Gita. You know, the book that rationalizes mass slaughter. In Truschke’s world, Gandhi comes across as a simpleton at best and propagandist at worst, who puts a happy spin on the Gita. So Gandhi is somewhere between a simpleton and a villain. Meanwhile, Aurangzeb becomes a hero.

Why? Because Gandhi is one of the handful of Hindus that every American has heard about. They’ve always heard that Gandhi was a good person. The new binary of Hindu = bad and Muslim = good requires that Gandhi’s image should be sullied too!

In this new narrative, Gandhi, Ambedkar and even Nehru are increasingly pushed to the margins. While Dr. Ambedkar was severe on Hindus and the caste system, he didn’t mince his words about problems within Muslim society. That means the new binary has no use for him. Even Nehru. A recent article in a liberal outlet accused Nehru of presiding over a massacre of Muslims when Hyderabad was brought into the Indian union. Now that the Nehru-Gandhi family no longer wins elections, why would they spare him?

Indians have stopped listening to their liberals. For Indian liberals, it is now all about what America thinks. So Nehru is just another Hindu now. He is on the wrong side of the binary.

Have you noticed that one of India’s most well known historians, known for his loyalty to Nehru’s ghost, has recently begun ranting against his dynasty on every possible forum? How do you think that happened?

History is constantly changing, based on who gets to write it and what they are trying to say. As with trade, India’s domestic politics and its history are also becoming part of the global supply chain. Our history is rather unique, which will lead to some unique challenges here. As Hindus look to assert themselves after one thousand years, the challenge becomes acute. On the one hand, Indian Hindus want to tell the world about their real story. On the other, Hindus don’t want to be perceived as “weak,” craving sympathy from others.

But the lingua franca of history itself has changed. It’s not English nor French, but wokeness. What is wokeness? It is the language in which the strong pretend to be the weak. They have been using it to demonize us. We Hindus better learn how to express ourselves in it or our narrative, stories and historical suffering shall forever remain buried.

Why don’t we take the initiative in applying gender equality to the Church?

I know this is not one of the topics that a lot of people are talking about right now. But, you know what? Sometimes, the things that we never talk about bother me more than the things that we do talk about. In fact, sometimes the things that we do talk about feel like engineered distractions. To make sure we don’t have the conversations that matter.

For instance, we spend way too much time in this country discussing threadbare this or that activist, journalist or their NGO. If the left is obsessed with this, so is the right. We are just as much to blame for scratching our itch. The left didn’t force us to obsess about XYZ D*tt or ABC S*rd*sai. We indulged them voluntarily. Keeping the conversation on such topics works out in favor of the left. Why don’t we change the topic? How about we discuss left wing violence sweeping this country? It is taking the lives of actual citizens on a daily basis. Why not talk about this? Somehow, we don’t.

The same applies to cultural issues. We spend forever all this time talking about how this or that leftist is going after some aspect of Hindu culture or some festival. We chafe at all the outlets they have at their disposal; movies, web series, comedians, commercials and the like. They love this. For them, the opportunities are endless. They pick up anything random: kanyadan, sindoor, even saree or rasam or Hanuman shirt and kick up a fuss. They barge in, raise the flag of “progressivism” and put us all on the defensive. We explain, we complain. Let’s face it. We love to scratch their itch for them. I guess I am as guilty as anyone else. In any culture war, they always always have the initiative. We are always explaining, complaining and catching up.

Why not turn this around?

The other day, the Pope has stated very categorically that he will not allow women to become priests in the Catholic Church. This is the year 2021. How can such a large international organization make such a public commitment to gender inequality and get away with it?

For once, let us not ask where are the feminists. Do the feminists ask for our permission before making saree or kanyadan a global issue of gender equality? No, never!

So why don’t we take the initiative on this one? This is an issue of the human dignity of millions of Catholics in India. And the dignity of any Indian, or any human being anywhere for that matter, is something that affects us all.

For too long, an old white man has been reigning over the Catholic church. The Pope is an official head of state and in many ways, he is a transnational head of state, as spiritual guide of over 1 billion Catholics. The Church has always been set up that way. As a parallel government of sorts. It’s time that we stand up to the Catholic Church and demand that the institution move into the 21st century.

For one, where’s the diversity? They’ve been around for 1000 years and only white males have ever headed it!! How is that acceptable? And now the white man running the church steps up and says he won’t allow women to assume even minor offices within their system?

Imagine if the CEO of a large corporation or some Prime Minister or President had said they wouldn’t allow women to serve within their organization. We would all demand that they step down immediately. Let’s do the same for the church. The Pope should step down immediately. This kind of overt sexism simply has no place in the 21st century.

I’m not Catholic, so what? If the CEO of Apple had said that they wouldn’t hire women into executive positions, would we have said that only Apple shareholders and employees can protest? No, we would all demand that the CEO of Apple should go immediately. So why be squeamish about the Catholic Church? Is the New York Times ever squeamish about telling us brown folks what to do?

How about the Hindu right in India take up the issue? We want to reform the Catholic Church and bring it in line with modern standards on diversity, equity and gender justice. Not just in India, but all around the world. The Vatican needs reform. And we have as much a right to tell them how to do it as anyone else. If we truly have no inferiority complex, we should band together and do just that.