The conversation of Illiberalisation began on a high as Mr. Naresh Fernandes traced the few cases being discussed in media newsrooms only in the past one week, may it be on the 18th of October, where the concept of Love Jihad was ridiculed and termed as non existent, or the Sabrimala controversy, turning into a battle between tradition and constitutionalism. 26th October saw Human Rights activists in Pune, termed as urban naxals on the basis of flimsy evidences, or the violent twitterati that turned against Abhijit Aiyer Mitra, a defence analyst, for making Rasgulla jokes!
These examples earmarked in Mr. Chidanand Rajghatta’s novel, Illiberal India, the voice of unreason, also set the tone for the coming discussion. Mr. Chidanand, attributed this widespread intolerance to the advent of globalisation. He reminisced the gentile times of the sixties. When serendipitously, the Lalit Ashok grounds were nurturing mango groves, that let his childhood free. Or another 20 years down memory lane, to the beginning of the internet, a time when Netscape browser updates were something to look forward to. Over the next 25 years, the rapidity of change was so overwhelmingly fast that people remained unnerved. The inability to keep pace with incumbent changes, left many a people striving for familiar ground. Technology unfortunately couldn’t fulfil everyone’s aspirations.
What was left was utter chaos, or as Mr. Chidanand calls it “a sewage pond” . There is death of freedom of opinion and a constant fear of offending someone hangs on us. Everyone feels the need to be a social commentator, to an extent where national groupthink has become a reality. He cares to mention that it isn’t social media on its own, that is at the root of all evil. In fact, it was celebrated as it was supposed to give birth to constructive social engagement. Over the years, the inability of people to deal with the responsibilities coming along with their powers has added fuel to conspiracies.
As he traces India’s illiberal tendencies, he compares it with the socio political scenario in the United States. He cares to explain an interesting terminology called the Ideological Pendulum. Indian political races are still embedded in retail politics. Rallies have hordes of supporters, non-supporters, hustlers. But largely real people, are there for genuine reasons. Comparing it to American choreographed rallies with cheerleaders cheering you on televised rallies, fundraisers and emails courting you for funds and money, or the sheer pretence of it; the Indian political scenario may seem extremely radical but also genuine.
With the advent of social media, the American politics has also become prone to external tinkering. What started as a slightly off centre rightist or an off centre leftist perspective, in 1988, slowly moved more extreme with George Bush Jr.’s rightist politics, Obama’s further left prospectus followed by the advent of the Trump government, the most rightist the Republican government has ever been. The ideological pendulum seems to swing further away from the centre; more violently away.
In his book, he calls the Nation as the ‘Republic of Outragistan’, the outrage superpower, or as he states in his session, ‘we are out to get every man’. He flew down from the US to get away from ‘the guns and crazies’ of the Trump government but the same guns and crazies got the better of his dearest friend Gauri Lankesh.
When questioned about the future discourse of politics, he admits to not knowing it himself. As Indians, he points out that we have credited ourselves too often on being inclusive. Sayings like Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam, are what we air to portray inclusivity to the outside world but we are seldom able to keep our own society together. We are the most discriminatory, and with social media as a platform that allows us to be openly discriminating, we are down on a slippery slope. However, despite our current status, he believes in the long run, ‘we will reach a progressive state of moderation’. This is maybe a phase India needs to go through; with the right checks and measures an eventual state of equanimity is all we can hope for.
About the Author: 19, An avid reader, crazy kdrama fan and loves to explore the What ifs of the world in her spare time. She currently writes for Bookstalkist.