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A Shoddy Defence of the Regime

Mathew John Mathew John
24 Jan 2022

When I wrote a review of former CJI Ranjan Gogoi’s autobiography, a few well-wishers felt that I was sweating over insignificance. Even at the risk of copping similar criticism for this piece, I have my reasons for critiquing the recent public Statement of thirty-two retired Indian Foreign Service (IFS) officers in defence of this regime. Their apologia has been considered newsworthy and was reported in the major national dailies and duly amplified through social media. It is evident that their reasoning, even if not commandeered, is just what the regime wants out there for public ingestion. There is also the personal shock of friends among the signatories coming out of the closet, as it were.

Diplomats, it is said, think twice before saying nothing, but it would appear that post-superannuation, all inhibitions disappear and they are even willing to risk committing themselves in print, as in this instance, though I suspect that some of them, on second thoughts, must sorely be regretting being associated with such a flawed, poorly reasoned document.  The bumptious defence of this Government is a textbook example of the accusers committing the transgressions that they impute to the accused; namely selectivity and double standards, politically contrived prejudices, completely one-sided and skewed views which raise questions “about motives and morality.”

The invidious selectivity in choosing their target for denunciation, in itself, straightaway exposes the disingenuousness and shallowness of their entire argument. The frontal attack is on “a motley group of activists, many of them leftists with sympathies for Maoists, joined by some former civil servants and military figures, as well as some sections of the media” who have been charged with conducting a sustained smear campaign against the present Government “on its presumed violations of the secular ethos of the country.”

Significantly, there are critics of the Government that these worthies have deliberately omitted from their purview because that would make a mess of their ill-conceived polemic, the leitmotif of which is that the government critics are “anti-Hindu”.  

One recalls the rap on the knuckles delivered by none other than President Barack Obama in 2015, when he came to India as the Chief Guest for our Republic Day. That was at a time when the PM and his cohorts were only warming up to the task of dividing the country on religious lines, but the danger signals were so palpable that the leader of the most powerful nation in the world thought it incumbent to sound a warning.

Addressing an audience of students and other invitees at Siri Fort auditorium, he cautioned that India would succeed only if it was not splintered on religious lines: “In all countries, upholding this freedom is the responsibility of the government and each person. Religion has been used to tap into the dark side of man.” His warning has gone unheeded, and matters have now come to such a pass that recently highly reputed international rating agencies have variously described India as an “electoral autocracy”, a “flawed democracy”, and as a “partially free democracy”. But the apologists for this government have ignored these broadsides aimed at our secular pretensions, and instead disingenuously focused solely on the indigenous “motley group”. Even here, the hollowness of their analysis is reflected in their flawed reasoning and what they conveniently leave out.

Our country today is floundering in a welter of hate and divisiveness but they trivialize, if not elide, the cultural mutation toward a full-blown Hindu Rashtra that is unravelling before our eyes. As vindication of the Sabka Saath, Sabka Vikas, Sabka Vishwas slogan, they expatiate on the various welfare schemes for minorities as evidence of the concern for all communities. And studiously ignore the life and death issues that minorities face - the lynching in the name of cow protection; the ghar wapsi; the anti – love, corona and narcotic jihad – campaigns; the punitive legislation such as the CAA and Anti-Religious Conversion laws that have been passed with the intent of reducing minorities to second-class citizens; as also the draconian UAPA and NSA laws that have almost exclusively targeted Muslims and dissident activists.

These unaccredited government propagandists would have you believe that the call for the genocide of Muslims made at a religious gathering in Haridwar has been “exaggerated out of all proportion and the rantings by fringe elements seen as representative of the sentiments prevailing in ruling circles.” Their blinkered vision refuses to acknowledge the blatantly divisive rhetoric of key members of the ruling party through the years, choreographed by the PM. In fact, the Haridwar hate conclave was preceded days earlier by a speech of the PM in Varanasi where he invoked the malignly suggestive Aurangzeb versus Shivaji metaphor to kickstart the hate-infested electoral rhetoric in UP. Yogi Adityanath who is decidedly more upfront, underlined the communal divide that was his party’s mission when he stated that in the UP elections “80 percent supporters will be on one side and 20 percent will be on the other side.” These are not fringe elements!

One is not sure whether it was intended, but what comes through as clear as day in the Statement is the majoritarian sensibility of the signatories. Basing their criticism on a patently false equivalence, they accuse the detractors of “anti-Hindu tirades” for standing up against Hindutva and opposing the questionable actions of this regime. There is a barefaced projection of the present Government as the custodian of Hinduism and Hindu interests. Historical wrongs against the Hindu community are evoked.  They see Mohan Bhagwat, the archbishop of Hindutva, as the paragon of communal togetherness. Can it get more surreal than this?   Lost in their unabashedly partisan devotion to the majoritarian dispensation is the foundational truth that this great country was forged on multiculturalism, which is our only hope for salvation as a democratic nation.

They further expose their majoritarian fixation when they argue that “the attacks on majoritarianism are a way to question the mandate that the democratic process gives to the political party that wins elections legitimately and considers itself obliged to the electorate to implement its declared agenda lawfully.” By their reckoning, laws like the plainly discriminatory Citizen Amendment Act (CAA) are right and just as they have been passed by a duly elected government, but if you were to extend that bizarre logic further, the iniquitous Nuremberg and Jim Crow Laws could also be justified as they were the doings of elected legislatures.

Agatha Christie had sagely observed that sweeping generalizations are seldom if ever true and are usually utterly inaccurate. The Statement is grounded in generalizations such as “All calls for violence must be unequivocally condemned,” and “communal divide and religious violence have existed in the country since Independence”. The common perception of law enforcement inaction against perpetrators of hate is rationalized as “the redressal machinery is at work.” Yes, except that it is selective in performance of its duty: Munawar Faruqui, the stand-up comedian, is arrested even before he told his joke that would hurt religious sentiments, whereas the hate-spewing participants at the recent Dharma Sansad in Haridwar roam free. 

Diplomats are renowned for maintaining civility even under the most trying circumstances, but this group of superannuated bureaucrats is guilty not only of sanctimonious posturing but, worse, taking cheap shots at their erstwhile colleagues through nauseating innuendo. They insinuate that their former colleagues are cynical opportunists, sneering that their opposition to this government stems either from frustration at not receiving recognition or reward post-retirement or is an investment in a “potential political change at the Centre.” 

Even more absurd and outrageous is the allegation of political and moral cowardice against the critics who, they allege, are afraid of decrying the excesses of Khalistani elements and Muslim extremists but avail of the “soft option” of attacking Hindu elements “as there is no fear of blowback or reprisals”. Good Lord! In fact, today the only safe survival strategy is to toe the government and Hindutva line. Are these guys totally oblivious to what’s been happening in the last few years – the killing, jailing and hounding of dissidents and minorities?

One cannot help but conclude that this priceless group of superannuated diplomats are very small, mean and intellectually dishonest people!

(The writer is a former civil servant. Views are personal)

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