Recalibrating the Right Wing Narrative — A Talk by Abhinav Prakash Singh
Thank you for inviting me to speak on something with which we all relate to, that is the, what is the right wing narrative in this country? Now I assume that lots of us, almost all of us identify themselves as either conservative or the right wing people. And why do we do so? What exactly it is? Is it that, when we call ourselves conservative what do we actually mean? We mean four things in my understanding.
First that we base to our opinions on the basis of facts and figures. We are not liberals to live in the fantasy world, we are not the left wing to believe in propaganda. As a conservative, as the right wing, we believe, we based our opinion on the facts and figures.
Number two, is that we see the world as it is, we do not see the world as we want it to be and this is what which differentiate ourselves from the liberals or from the other side, be the left side or any other side. We see the world exactly, we try to see the world exactly how it is. Now that is a very difficult thing to do. Because all of us come with our own pre notions of thing our own understanding, our own social conditioning. So this is just next to impossible to see the world as it is, but, we try our best to do so.
Third thing is that we believe that while liberty and freedom is important, is absolutely necessity. But that’s not the only game in the town. Now a days we see a lots of glamour among the people when they say freedom of expression, they say liberty, this is my right, I will do as in want to do, I want azadi, our infamous azadi, and we get from JNU. Their argument is that the civilizations have grown only because of absolute liberty or absolute freedom of expression. Well, as the conservatives, we disagree with that. We say that while it is important, that is not the only game in town. There are other factors as well. There has to be an order in the society as well. Without order, there is no liberty. Without a state, without a strong state which can guarantee your freedom and guarantee you liberty and can guarantee your freedom of expression, all these things will not exist, you can talk about them, you can talk about various rights that ‘this is my right, that is my right’. But right is a right only when it is written down and guaranteed by a state. Otherwise there is no one to enforce your rights. So we also believe in a state, in an effective state, in a strong state.
Number four, in India, we believe that Indian civilization and culture is something worth defending and it has the right to defend itself and it has the right to flourish and it has the right to propagate itself as well. This is quite unlike many of the people on the liberal side or even on the left side believe in. For them India is just an oppressive outdated entity which has no business to be there in the modern world.
Now what I am going to do in this talk is to basically talk about the origin, a kind of, say, when did the right wing thought originated in this country and I’m talking about the right wing talk in the modern political sense. I am not talking about, you know, ancient days or whatever it is. And second thing I’m going to say is that how it got distorted and it is distorted in India, it is very difficult to pick up who speaks for the right wing, or what exactly is the right wing taught in this country. Is it some goraksha dal people who speaks for it or is some Tau living Khap panchayat village, he speaks for right wing? Or is it the urban class which speaks for the right wing? is it Narendra Modi or BJP or it is the VHP, Pravin Togadia. It is very difficult it has become very difficult to define what right wing is.
Now see, the origin of right wing thought I take to be starting from the Savarkar. There were people before that. There were lots of people, Aurobindo was there, Bankim Chandra Chatterji was there, and many people were there. But it is the Savarkar who is a definite figure. And why Savarkar is a definite figure, is because, when he was jailed for his ending fearless activities against the British Empire and he was jailed, we all know, at, the Andaman and Nicobar, Kalapani. He was not jailed like Gandhi or Nehru, in some palace or as some VIP prisoner. He was a really jailed, he was really given a harsh jail term.
So he had this time to reflect upon why is India ruled by foreigners again and again? Why is it so that India is being invaded again and again and despite these stories of resistance, despite how much you celebrate these stories like Chittod and Padmavati, the end result is that we are defeated and we are ruled by the foreign power. May be it were the Turks or Mongols, now it is the British. So, he was, he actually reflected upon this problem and he also reflected upon one more problem, it is that, why in India, there is no coherent response to foreign in business. Why in India there is no systematic response to Imperialism. Everyone says one thing or the another. So Maha Rana Prathap would be fighting his battle. Marathas might be doing something. But there is no systematic thought, there is no coherent coordinated response to the Imperialism. This is very unlike the Chinese or other places. And he trace this thing back to something which is a reality of India, is that we are a disunited people. We are disunited on the basis of language, culture and most importantly, caste. You go to any village, any county side, in any village, or even in the cities, you will see different castes competing with each other, fighting with each otherand they give a damn about National interest. Look at the Gujarat elections recently. Look at the Gujarat elections recently. The whole narrative was of the caste and nationalism was undone by something as simple as caste narrative.
So he traced this problem back to the disunity among the people and he also traced something. He says that India is not a nation. You might be saying that hamara rashtr ki paribhaasha alag hei, we are an ancient nation of culture or whatever it is. But he says, India is not a nation in any true modern political sense. Now remember he was talking 100 years back or something. So he says India has to become a nation, because nation as we understand you know, is a modern political construct. There were no nations in the world about 200 years back. Neither Italy was a nation nor Britain was a nation or Germany was a nation. There is a process, there is a modern process, in the modern history, in which you have the rise of the nations and the nation states. Any student of social science would know that would agree to that.
Now Savarkar, and problem in India was that that India entered the modern world under the colonial rule. You did not enter the modern world like European countries and there are self-governance or self-rule. You enter the modern world when you are being ruled by the foreign power. A western or foreign power. So it was a difficult task you know, India was not a nation and British were also, the entire charge against India was that you are not a nation and that is why here we are to rule you. When you say that, earlier, nationalists said that India is a nation so they used to ask which nations are you? Are you a Punjabi, are you a Tamil or you are a Bengali, what exactly are you and we could not really provide a meaningful answer.
Now here savarkar becomes important. Because Savarkar said, he conceptualize something which is very radical break form the Indian thought. He said India has to become a nation and he said India has to become a modern Industrial power. Is this something people often forget? The Savaker argued for a modern industrial power and he understood which lots of people even today do not understand is that becoming a modern industrial power and a modern nation are two sides of the same coin. This process have always gone together in the history. You cannot have a village based agrarian order and you can become a modern nation- that’s just impossible. That has never happened anywhere and that has not happened in India even today and that will not happen if it remain continue like this. So we understand that for India to be able to resist the foreign powers, the imperialism, India has to become a modern industrial nation with the powerful means of raising war and for that to happen he understood he that India has to become a nation. A community of the people which relate to each other. And in his understanding, the basis of the nation was Hindutva.
He wrote this book hindutva in which he says, in which he tries to define a modern nation, which he calls a Hindu rashtra or Hindu nation. Now interestingly Savarkar defined Hindu Rashtra, in more or less in a geographical term, we all know that. He said ok, this is a predominantly a hindu country. But Savarkar, we know he was atheist in personal life and his concept of Hindutva or hindu nation was more of a geographical term rooted in Indian culture and civilization and defending the people and their practices.
But there was something other happening there as well. You know when the British came, they also did something. They started the systematic study of India. They started a systematic study of India, which we all understand as Indology and other things. And the British also started characterizing India from their own perspective, from their own, you know, prisms and other things and they said that India is a backward country. India is a spiritual country, India is a caste ridden country. Basically India is some kind of an orientalist, you know, a place and some kind of exotic place where people are not into real work and other things, they are more in to thinking about atma and paramatma and India struck in times of a stagnant society which has continued. It was kind of romanticism as well on the part of British. It was not all ill-intentioned.This is how they saw India coming from an industrial state. What happened that when they started defining it and because they were the ruling power, so when the ruling power defines something that becomes the template. This is the power of the state and the power of the ruling class.
So two responses arouse in retaliation or in reaction. First response was that, yes India is a backward country, India is a caste ridden country, there is nothing good in India. There is only child marriages and sati and Britisher’s are right and we have to undo this India and create a new India. We have to completely restructure India and create a kind of a modern India. These thought has also continued in India and I would say that lots of people who identify themselves as left and liberals, their inheritance of this response. You responded to British when British characterized you by saying that you were a backward stagnant society , you are a caste ridden society, there is nothing good about you, you are some kind of other worldly people, you only think about atma, paramatma and religion, you were not interested in the real world. So these people says yes, Britishers are right to undo this thing and we have to create a modern mode, just society. A lot of liberals have left actually flowed from this strand of thought. Now, speaking in a much generalised manner, because it is not possible to go into nuances of everything.
There was another response and that response says that ‘Yes, Britishers are right, India is an agrarian society, India is as a society which is spiritual unlike the west which is materialistic. Yes, the caste is a reality, this is our structure, but what’s wrong about it’. So this side went and said that yes, we are like that, we are exactly like how you are describing us. But this is how we are and this is better, this is good and we are superior to the west.
Now Gandhi exemplifies this approach. Now lot of people will say, is Gandhi a right wing? But left considers Gandhi to be a very right wing person and Gandhi was seen as a right or on the side of the conservative thought in his time. So Gandhi wrote this book called “Hindswaraj”, in which he glorifies the village order and the agrarian order and say machines are bad, industrialization is bad and he was a great defender of the caste system. We all know that his only thing was that there should not be any discrimination, but people should remain where they are. This was the Gandhi’s position. And this was in the route of the Gandhi-Ambedkar debate which continued for throughout that century.
So this approach basically said ‘Yes we are like that the Britishers’ saying and we will continue to be like this and there is nothing wrong in that’. Lots of people who identify themselves as right wing today, is a strong section, which is inheritor of this thought. They are not inheritors of the Savarkar right thought, they are not inheritors of right wing thought per say as you say Hindutva and other thought. They are inheritors of the orthodoxy. That we are like this, we are a spiritual person, we are agrarian people, our Bharath gaav mein rehta hei, this is our culture, this is our sanskriti and we will continue like this.
The problem is that, in no one, neither both the side did not question the British characterization of India as a backward stagnant society. None of them had the, I’ll say the, initiative to ask the Britishers, is India a stagnant society for thousands of years?. Well, India as we know was one of the richest place we all know that. Even until 1750, it accounted for around 25% of world GDP if I’m not wrong, India as a geographical entity. Now you cannot have an economy , you cannot have a place which is economically so dynamic, which is one of the richest place in the country and which also has a very good track record of technological innovations in some time and society will be stagnant. That is just impossible, that is just contradiction. Once you have the economic dynamism, you have technological growth, you have the rise of cities and urban centers, the society can anything be, but stagnant.
No one questions the Britishers’ this thing that how are you characterizing India as frozen in time and eternal India and all those things. And if you see Indian history, India has largely been an urban based society. Be the Harappan period, be the modern period, be the Gupta period, be when the Mughal period, India was highly urbanized from these by the standards of those times. You cannot compare it to today but by the standards of those time India was a highly urbanized, sophisticated society. A lots of thing you take pride in Indian civilization actually comes from these cities and urban centers. It does not come from the villages. Lots of this discoveries and economic dynamism, this thinkers you talk about, barring the religious thinkers but most of them anyways live in cities or nearby cities actually comes from the urban center. So this characterization of India as a village economy was patently wrong. It was a highly urban society by time.
We started, we forget that the British came to India, when they started ruling India, the plunder and destruction of British was such an, you can refer to any research on that. India went through a phase of de-urbanization in the initial period British rule. So lots of people who moved because the handicrafts were destroyed, the manufacturing was destroyed, the economy was destroyed. We forget how violent the British rule was, we forget how violently they captured India. Somehow we don’t talk about it, I don’t know why. We only talk about Turks and the Mughals and other people. But European powers were equally violent in their conquest of India. And economy was destroyed, country side were devastated, lots of people actually fled from the cities to the countryside. So India went through a phase of de-urbanization. And this is the phase which we are looking at in the mid-19th century, in which these responses are originated. So this was a great flaw done by the Indians. And lots of people who identified themselves as right wing as I said, they are inherited of this strand of thought. So if you go today, if you take a canvas of the right wing, there is always glorification talk to any person who identifies himself as a right wing barring few. They glorify village life and agrarian utopia, asli Bharat gaav mein rehta hein. It is spoken as a matter of pride. I have seen ministers handling heavy industry speaking, dismissing industrialization and urbanization and saying, asli Bharath tho gaanv mein rahtha hei. But sirf asli Bharath gaanv mein rahtha hei, there is a proof of the failure of independent India to urbanize. That is not something to be proud of.
Now this is a big flaw in the right wing thought, which I am coming to, is that we have forgotten the ‘where did you originated’. The Savarkar, I thought, which I see as a systematic political thought in the right wing, aimed not at a village utopia. It was not arguing for an agrarian Utopia; it was arguing for a modern industrial nation. Because he understood that only in a modern industrial sector, can you have the emergence of a nation? Why? These are two process of the same side. See, once you have an agrarian order and in India that order is driven by caste differences and other socialist stratifications. You can never become a nation and this is what Ambedkar also said, that what exactly is a nation and there are many definitions but the best definition is that nation is a community in which people relate to each other, they can feel each other’s pain and happiness. This as simple as you get it. Now once you have a society divided on the basis of caste and other social distinctions, you cannot have a nation. Its only when you have the rise of the civilization and the rise of urbanization that people started moving away from the agricultural sector to the modern sector, because modern sector need what you say a free labor. They do not operate a modernization or urbanization cannot happen in a society which is bounded by caste. The labor has to be free, the people have to be free to choose their professions. There should be labor mobility in the economy. And only then you will have the urbanization and industrialization. It’s only when they come to the urban center and the industrial center and they start living together, irrespective of their caste and background and reason or language. It’s that you have the emergence of the new class of people which shares the similar experience and similar concerns. And it is on that basis a nation grows.
It happened everywhere, wherever you talk about the modern nation, the modern nations, there is some element of homogenization. There is some element of homogenization that, see when the France became a, it’s a very complex thing because the question will be that did the nation came first or the state come first. It’s a very tricky question to answer because in France, the state created the nation, French nation. Less than half of the people spoke the French language when the French revolution happened. It was the French State which forcibly destroyed all other languages and said you know, ‘you have to speak French language and you have to become French. Same thing happened in Italy. When the Italian unification took place, I think less than one third of people spoke Italian. It’s after the state was created that they create the Italian nation.
So, it’s not a one side formula, there are many ways to become nation. But under a colonial modernity, the path opened to India was very simple. You have to industrialize, you have to urbanize and once you start doing that there will emerge a new class of people which will share similar concerns and similar experiences, and that would give rise to a nation and exactly that happened. Indian nationalism emerged in the urban center within the educated class. It did not emerge in the country side. If you read India’s political history of freedom struggle, nowadays it is very fashionable to denounce the English speaking people, calling them kaaliputhra, the English speaking people are somehow impure, they don’t relate to the country. But they forget that all the people who laid the foundation of Indian nationalism, and even the right wing thought, they were all English educated people. And they were all urban class people. They were not coming from the village side. Right? We often forget that.
So, one thing, when we are talking about the right wing, and I said, it’s a recalibrating the right wing, first thing we have to be very clear about, what we want to do. We cannot go on glorifying a village set up a village Utopia which is not really a good thing in India. If you go, no one will go and live in the villages among us. We all know, it is not a very good place to live in or we want to argue for a modern Industrial nation. Now you see what is the difference between Bihar and Gujarat recently concluded elections. Gujarat is highly urbanized as compared to Bihar. It’s only in Gujarat that despite all the problems, despite all things going against you, the BJP which is the right wing party was still able to hold this ground. And it was able to hold this ground mainly in the urban centers. BJP lost very badly in the village seats, we have seen that. That should be the reasons enough for you to re-orient your discourse and say we are for urbanization and industrialization. Because only that can overcome this problems of caste distinctions and other kinds of social problems and it is only in the urban center that we can create a new India which Prime Minister Modi talks about.
The second point is that there is a problem again in the right wing discourse. I’m completing this point, and you know how the nation was created. There is a problem again in the right wing discourse if you see that you just don’t discuss something which is extremely important, i.e., caste. The discussion of the caste only revolves in the right wing circle about what does caste meant in the Vedic period? Or what was the true caste system? I’m sorry to say there is no such thing as a true caste system. Caste system is just a social system which grew, we even don’t know when. There is some studies which says it is a pre Vedic system. It was present even among the Harappans and it continued in the Vedic period and it got changed and transformed, but that’s natural, you know, any social system will change and get transformed. So caste was transformed when the rise of feudalism happened in India, the caste underwent a change when there were Mughals and the Turks came to India, the caste underwent change when the Britishers came to India because the underlying reality of the society underwent a change and the caste is undergoing a change in the modern independent India.
So, I think it’s a very futile thing to argue that what was the pure, real caste system, I think there is no such thing. You have to deal with it as a system as a dynamic social system like any other social system. Now, but there is a problem that right wing start saying there was pure caste system which was a very good thing and it got distorted and, you know, the British created a problem, or the Mughals created a problem. First of all as a conservative we should not say that because you have to base your opinions on the reality. The caste system was not good system even before the Mughals came to power. You have to read simple history, you have to see when Chandragupta Maurya was about to be coronated the emperor. There was a heavy resistance by the Magadh Brahmins saying ‘you cannot make this guy the emperor, you cannot crown him as an emperor because he is a lowborn person. And it was Chanakya who basically, you know, who pushed him then, you know, he will become the emperor. So it was always a problematic system. It all depends up on from whose perspective you are looking at it. Some people will say well, it was ok, there was some restrictions on, even on the, what you call the upper caste, there was some restrictions on the sudras, there was some restrictions on the avarnas and it is all ok. But this is not how it operates you know, it depends upon while perspective you are looking at. For the people at the lower bottom it was never ever a good system. It was never ever a good system and that is why throughout the history you will find resistance to this system.
I don’t want to name anyone but there was one person who was appointed as the chair of some research body in this country recently and he came on TV and said, well if caste system was so problematic, why we don’t hear any protest against it in the history. Well if you look at the history there has been always protest against the system and there has always been argument for the equality of the people. Recently I was in Goa where I spoke on this topic exactly how in the Indian thought, there is a very strong strong strand for argue against the caste distinction and most of this thought, strand of thoughts comes from the Hindu thought, you know, Hindu religious thought. So, you can’t say the Britisher created the caste problem and, you know, Ramanuja Acharya was arguing against this distinction thousand years back. This is not done.
Second thing which has come in the right wing is that, any discussion, any discussion on this kind of problems and caste distinctions is, discrimination is a reality, forget caste discrimination, caste violence is atrocities is a reality. Look at the statistics and you will come to know that. But there is another problem which has come in that any discussion on the caste is not been branded as breaking India. And the loss of right wing people has basically grasped upon this people. Now, I know it very clearly that there are lots of people, there are people like Kancha ilaiah, there are people of their many missionaries, there are many Marxists, radicals who actually use any fort line to create any problem. But, you cannot brand any discussion on the caste as breaking India forces. By doing so, you are giving away all the control over the discourse with the other side. Why it is so, that whenever there is a problem, whenever there is an issue to be discussed about the caste, is only the Maoists and the missionaries are there. Why is there no one from the right wing who identifies the right wing standing there? Why are these NGOs types of fighting those battles, where are you? Right?
You have the Khairlanji case, you have the Lakshmanpur Bathe case where dozens of people were massacred, and no one was punished because court said no one did it. And who was fighting those case? They are basically people from the radical left who was standing with those people. So when you are not discussing these questions, you are not standing there with the people. Obviously the people with the sinister agenda will capture that space. But this is the problem which again come in and we have to get out of it, we have to start engaging with the caste question and this is a very very important question. You’ve just seen that in Gujarat. Forget about the Dalits and the other weaker sections, even the powerful caste Patels, they can also create lots of damage to your country. And they have done, they have almost done using the patels, a damage.
In the coming days you will see in Rajasthan, the Rajputs will be instigated, Lingayats are anyways being instigated, the Jhats are already on the street, the Marathas are already on the street. But this thing will become a very big challenge for the right wing in this country in the coming one or two year. You will see it happening. So it is time to start engaging with the ratio in the realistic manner. See, no one is interested in you, telling them what the caste system was in the Vedic period, what was the caste system that time, no one is interested, like look at the reality, what is happening today. So it’s a better idea, it’s a good idea to discuss, to engage with what caste actually is today. And you cannot go to the people and start saying, well, this is a Marxist and a missionary distortion of history, and you think our system is bad. The people, the Dalits and the other lower castes are against, they are out on the streets, protesting against this thing not because they have Marx or some missionary, and not because they even read Kancha ilaiah. They are against it because they face it every day. And they find it, it is totally unfair to them and this is something which is oppressive towards them. There is no point in getting into academic discourse here. A political intervention is needed.
Number three, point is that when we are discussing the Indian civilization in Indic thought, we have to come out of fixation on just the Vedic period. And I’ve seen this thing again and again every time, whenever your talk about Indian civilization, whenever there is a talk on Hinduism, is always, it begins and ends with the Vedic period. With all due respect, Vedic society was a very simple society. What they did, what they did not did, how they organized their society cannot be applicable even to the republican Mahajanpatha period, forget the modern period. So while it’s a good academic discussion, it’s a very good thing to discuss and find out what was it and what is the meaning of those thoughts and how they have been distorted and they have been distorted by the Marxists and other people. But you cannot begin and end with the Vedic period. There is a five thousand years of history. You cannot forget it.
You cannot forget what happened in those five thousand years. You cannot seek control over various Hindu tradition. I find it very very, you say, interesting when the Yogi Adityanath became the chief minister of U.P. All my liberal friends and the leftist friends were writing articles on Nath Samprathaya. As seen, Nath Samprathaya was not Hindu Samprathaya, it was a different one and it was very radical in its time it was anti caste and it was different kind of a system. Bizarre you know. But they could do so because we on the right we don’t write about these things. We look at medieval history as some kind of a black spot in India’s history because we are obsessed with the people ruling at Delhi and we have forgotten the lots of things happening the society. Medieval period is also the period of Hindu resurgence in this country. Politically you were defeated but Hinduism got changed in a very big manner. Your entire Bhakti movement, Tantra movement, you have different sampradayas coming up.
So, even if you argue from a Hindu side, you cannot but discuss these time periods. But not doing so, we have given total control. Total control to the left side than the liberal side. So liberals will one day, they will say Indian civilisation is oppressive, and next day they will pick up nath samprathaya and start arguing that look it was very good. And we will say Vedic period, Vedic period, Vedic period… we are stuck there. We have to come out of this thing if you want to proceed further.
And the other point is that you know while we are not liberals, but we are not anti-freedom. We believe that freedom liberty and freedom of expressions are absolutely important. What we do say, however, is that absolute freedom; absolute liberty is nothing but anarchy. If everyone is allowed to do as they please that is just chaos and anarchy. As conservatives we believe that periods of stability like we have today are exceptions. The history is anything but stability. The history is anything but peaceful. Look at the history these period, the period we are enjoying today with the presence of Indian state, trust me this is an exceptional period. Otherwise your history has always been violent and chaotic. With different inventions with different kinds forces, with different kinds of, you know, inventions that are going on and that is true for the world over. The nature is not peaceful. The world is not peaceful. The stability is not natural. The stability is something which is created artificially. So why we do agree with freedom and liberty, we also believe that order and stability are equally important. And that is why we have a State. Now people say that Indian State is oppressive. Lots of people in the liberals say that Indian state is very oppressive. The left says Indian state should be over thrown completely because it is the evil construct. But any state is oppressive by its very presence. Why do the States come into existence? The States came into existence because of two things. Number one to defend the people. Their own people what they classified their own people and the second thing is not very charitable to say, but to wage war on the others. This is the origin of the state if you back into the history. You can give many other theories, the Marxist told and this that but the purpose of the State is very simple in my opinion if you go back as back as possible. Now state is very oppressive very simply by its very existence. But we do tolerate state, we do need the state. Why? Because we bargain some of our freedom and liberty in return of some kind of safety and stability. So, but what has happened is that, in the right wing we started over emphasizing this part of stability and security. So anyone which who comes up in social media or anywhere who makes a point which is different or maybe idiotic, even maybe completely left wing point, we completely bash upon him being saying that ‘you are anti-national, you are breaking India, you are destroying India, you don’t know what talking about’ and by doing so we have started appearing anti freedom. It’s true you know. Lots of people say, well I’m alright with what the right wing, says, I support Narendra Modi, but you people are very anti freedom. So we have to do some course correction there. We have to put these points in an intelligent manner that why we say that that absolute freedom of expression is not a good thing.
I was in a discussion with some of my liberal friends at some center and they started saying, you know, look at what has happened to Padmavati, there is no freedom of expression in this country, we are going down hail everything is getting, you know, from bad to worse in this country. I say ya ok I agree there should be freedom of expression and after 5 minutes the same person was saying look at Padmavati how they have depicted the Allauddeen Khilji in such a bad manner. This process of creating other is bad. We should stop it. Then I said are you against freedom of expression? You can’t argue for both.
So the liberals don’t have a position. Their positions are very contradictory. They cannot argue after a point. If you believe in absolute freedom of expression the end result is anarchy. While you have a far better point, you say, yes we believe but we have to balance it, we have to be more practical about it, we can’t allow everyone to do as they wish. But we have to do so while not appearing to be anti-freedom and anti-liberty and this is happening in the right wing discourse and that is very problematic and I think we are really creating a backlash among the youth. Imagine the youth which is living in metropolitan city which has grown up watching AIB videos and people like Vir Das, no matter what crap they talk, but they watch those videos and you can’t really get them on your side, while appearing to be anti-freedom and equatorial and that is where we have to be more nuanced when we are arguing about these things.
Other thing is again that right wing also has a problem that we are also against the state. There are 2 kinds of right wings which is against the state. One is the economic right wing, the libertarian one who will says the state is bad and we should go with the anarcho capitalism we should have absolute free market, we should have no state interference in anything. And the second right wing is identity the Hindu right which say that ‘Indian state is so anti Hindu, we should destroy it, there is no purpose of having this kind of state which imposed the right of education and all kinds of discriminatory law, which can’t save the people in Kashmir, which can’t save the people in Assam, which can’t do anything about it’.
Well I agree, that are inefficiency, there is an inefficiency in the state and the state is not perfect for what we have today. But the Hindu right should understand that after centuries you at least have a state. After how many centuries I am talking specifically to the Hindu right which is ultra-radical Hindu right? After centuries you have a state for godsake. Learn to appreciate it. If it is not working properly then whose mistake is that? You have a powerful state, you have a powerful army, you have a good enough economy. If you don’t know what to do about it, then that’s a very deep problem.
This is not just about the Indian state or the person who has written the constitution or the person who is ruling the county. So this anti state attitude has to go. You should learn as the right wing to deal with the state to use the state for your purpose like the other side does. When Modi comes to power in 2014, he did nothing about changing the people who were ruling and riding the institutions. When the congress comes into power within 2 months everything is done. So look at the UGC chairman, the same UGC chairman Ved Prakash continued for 3 long years and created trouble for the government again and again, again and again and he retired in April and from April to December after so many months you have a new chairman. So if you don’t know how to appoint people if you don’t know how to run the state apprentice, if you have no interest in that please stop complaining about it. Same apprentice is there for you to use as well. So this anti-state attitude has to go.
Now coming to the other side which is also anti-state is the economic right. I don’t believe that libertarian economics is, you know their view point it against sustainable. I thinks that’s entering kind of a thing is absolute nonsense in my opinion. But right wing has started appearing to be anti-poor. We have started to be appearing to be anti-poor, anti-farmer and even anti-youth and this is, here we have to step back for a moment and start rethink about positions that you can’t argue against the subsidized health and education to the people. You might disagree with that even I disagree with lots of things in that. But if you are a right wing person, and if you really want to stop as you say that, you want to stop these missionary schools working in the countryside, for goodness sake, give the people free education. If that all it needs to stop it. But I was talking to a person and he had to go to a hospital for something for some emergency purpose and he had to pay 700 rupees fees and 100 -200 rupees again for the medicines. It may be not a big deal for us. We can pay it. But for majority of the people in this country they just can’t afford it and by the end, once the government starts a policy or they starts a program where subsidized the health care, the right wing is there on the social media, the newspapers and everywhere calling it free loaded economy, and these people is the free loaders, for goodness sake stop doing it. If you believe in a nation, a nationalism please stop calling your own people freeloaders. Of course, they are people who are corrupt who are burden on the system, they take undue advantage but don’t call people free loaders when they are being given subsidized food, when their education is being subsidized, when their health care is being subsidized. Live in the reality as I say, as a conservative look at the reality and these things are absolutely needed. These things are absolutely needed not only for the poor, poorest of the poor but even the urban neo middle class. They just can’t afford to survive with such high cost.
So coming back to the what we need to recalibrate is something very simple, that we have to be very clear that we need a modern industrial nation, we are not arguing here for an agrarian village utopia. Number two we should stop repairing anti poor, its ok to be argue for free markets even I argue for free markets. I’m not a leftist by any count, but I will not argue against the welfare measures of the government. I can argue that you should implement those welfare measures in an efficient manner, design them properly. But we should stop appearing to be anti-poor and anti-people. Number three is that we should start engaging with the social fault lines in this country. Most importantly the caste. If you do not do so, other forces are going to fill in the space. In fact, they already have that space, you have to fight an uphill battle to capture the center space.
Other point is that you should stop over the fixation with the Vedic period. For social sciences, start dealing with the modern world. If you are talking about sociology, if you are talking about political science, you are talking about economics, please start engaging with the modern theories in these fields. You can’t, when you are discussing sociology please don’t go Vedic period, mein aisa hota tha. No one is interested for goodness sake. Deal with the critical theory, deal with the modern theories in sociology, deal with the modern theories in political science. You can’t go back to Chanakya again and again right? Political theory which is the political theory which has come out of India in the last 200 years. I don’t see any. I remember I was strolling one of my senior professor at DU who happens to head Swadeshi Jagran, not head… Swadeshi Jagran Munch but he was a part prominent member of it. So he was talking something about railways. And I said, ‘sir what is you solution to the railway problem’, then and he said, ‘ya we should implement this this things‘.
I’ll tell you what the overall narrative that we are talking about is. So he said something we should follow the principle of integral humanism and I said can you please explain it? Can you please explain the integral humanism apart from saying that we have to look the things in a holistic manner and all those things? So he could not. He could not. So we have to accept it as a right wing person. As a right wing group, broadly speaking, we really do not have any modern theory with us. The westerners do it. You have Samuel Huntington, you have lots of people who work in political science and other fields. From India, name any political scientist any sociologist who is a conservative. I was discussing with her that the sociology department is full of the liberals, not even liberal, I think they are post-modernist. I don’t know what they are actually. So why you do not have conservative presence in those departments, because you don’t have the professors who can teach that sociology from a conservative perspective, you don’t have them because no one has paid attention to that.
Social sciences cannot be a time pass that you did during engineering, then you work at an MNC and then you come back when you have turn 40 or 50, that ‘oh ok I’m going to contribute something to the social sciences’. I’m going to fight a battle with Romila Thapar on history. You just can’t do that right? That’s just a time pass that’s not serious work. To reconstruct these thing you have to have presence in the social science from the beginning itself. And you can only do so once you stop being fixated on some golden past and deal with the history and present as it is. When you say about the golden age of India, have you ever noticed that golden ages are always in past but never in the present. Because the present or the reality is so ugly to be called the golden age. But look at today, I’m not, I will not be surprised that 200 years down the line, some people will say that this was one of the golden periods of India. You have unprecedented economic growth, you have the urbanization of India, and India is one of the top leading industrial power today. The living conditions have improved dramatically, life expectancy have improved dramatically. There is an outburst of cultural and creativity and all those things you may agree to that or not but there is when you compare that to the previous past centuries there is a rise in culture and other things your interest is spreading across the world. The technology is growing very fast. The medicines have grown, have improved you have automation coming in, you have new technologies coming in.
What stops us from saying that this is the golden age? But we don’t say that because on the other side there is lots of poverty and there is lots of violence, there is lots of thing which are not going well. That is why the golden ages always exist in the past but never in the present. But what you call golden age they also had the same problem. Everything was not good even during those times. So we should stop being fixated and idolizing or creating a utopia about a golden age and deal with the things as they are or as they were.
And the last point is that there is problem in the right wing is that you know this is very rude to say – we don’t read. We don’t read much. We don’t read much. So I’ve seen people who have just turned one or two book in their life and they become radical champions of the right wing and once you talk to them after a point they are empty. Most of this people have read something called ‘Breaking India’ and they are fanatic about this thing arguing with everyone putting down other people that you are traitor, you are not pure enough you are with the breaking India forces.
So we should get over it and start reading and I will say, I will suggest that start reading the literature of your opponents. Start reading what the left writes. Start reading what the other people are writing. You think that by writing an article ditching Romila Thapar you have done a great service? The history writing on the other side has moved far ahead of the Romila Thapar. So you are fighting old battle, shadow battles. Romila Thapar is not taken seriously even by her own school now. So what are you gaining by deconstructing Romila Thapar? You have to be there on the front line of the history writing. But you can only do so once you read the other people.
I think that should be enough for today and thank you Rahul. Thank you for calling me for giving this talk. Thanks everyone for coming.