Saturday, May 28, 2022

There is no such thing as Right Wing in India: But Wokes won’t listen!

( Bhavesh Kansara and Aravindan Neelakandan are the kind of persons Indians should know a lot more about though the two prefer to be in the background. In this wonderful discussion between them on the Atharva Forum, it comes out that there actually is no right-wing in India! Bhumika Arora transcribes the dialogue for readers’ benefit). 

Bhavesh Kansara: Let me start with a brief origin of the Left and the Right, not the idea or the ideology, but the labels. The split of the political spectrum came from the French Revolution way back in the year 1789 with Louis XVI, being the king of France. The main event associated with the French Revolution is the storming of the Bastille when commoners stormed the Fortress, which along with other events culminated in the establishment of a constitutional monarchy. While that may sound odd for us more used to constitutional democracy, the constitutional monarchy allows the monarch king to be the head of the State, subject to a constitution. 

In the assembly that convened after the French Revolution, there was a raging debate about whether the king should have curtailed powers or absolute powers. The revolutionaries were seated to the left of the president of the assembly and the aristocrats seated to the right of the president and that is how we got the Left and the Right in their original context. 

However, you know, the context has changed over the years and the one event that really mattered was the one in 1848, when the Communist Manifesto was published by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels and the rise of Communism solidified the Leftist ideology into something more concrete. The Right got associated with a host of ideologies, but one aspect that hardly changed over time was that Left wanted to change, whereas the Right resisted it. 

Aravindan Neelakandan: Bhavesh, essentially the difference between the Right and the Left can even be traced back. In the Christian Gospel. During the final days, the bad people are set to the left-hand side of God, and the good people are sent to the right-hand side. Over the time Enlightenment happened, the secularization. That’s when Left started having power. They began dictating the civilizational progress of West. 

So, in essence, the Right as a conservative force wanted a certain order in society; the radical forces would always infuse it with socialist ideas. Till Marxism came. It chalked a very clear ideological pathway for the Left. It took the Left to an absolute path and the divide became irreversible between the old-style socialist and the Marxists. Both are Leftists. 

Now we have to see what is relevant to us as Indians. During the formative stages of the Indian nationalist freedom movement, particularly when you look at the time of Bhikaji Cama and Veer Savarkar, around 1910, you would find that the world socialist forum were kind of positive towards Indian freedom. They didn’t dictate. This is a very important difference. 

So Veer Savarkar actually asks Vladimir Lenin: What’s the blueprint you can have for a socialist government? Lenin smiles and says blueprint? Let’s have the power and after that we would think about the blueprint. 

But actually, the Marxists Left has an ideology. So after Lenin gathers power in 1917, you would find there is a shift. That’s when you find that the Indian radicals, particularly Islamist radicals, reached out to Lenin. He talks to them and they become instrumental in creating the Communist Party of India. 

It is the Islamists who became instrumental in creating the Communist Party of India. The other Marxist MN Roy became very much a fanboy of monotheists in terms of social evolution. 

Do you see the difference? The Left that was not dictating cultural terms before began dictating so under the Marxist influence. 

Bhavesh Kansara: Yes, the Right has always been more fluid, more diverse. Left, over the years, has been for breaking social hierarchies and the Right considers social hierarchies as inherent and inevitable. Thus a jumble of ideologies sort of get grouped as Right in the United States. The Right would be associated with the church and its influence on the policies of the government. 

I would say there is an aggressive rise of the Right in the global arena. I would like to ask what you think is the reason for this. also, I have a related question: How much role do you think social media has played in the rise of the Right? So your views on the rise of the Right and the role of social media. 

Aravindan Neelakandan: The rise of the right is essentially an illusion. If you take the US politics, you will find the right is associated with the Republicans, and the left is associated with the Democrats. Just go over to the time of the Civil War and you will find some different kinds of relations. There were interesting developments, it was Republican Lyndon B. Johnson who was actually instrumental in implementing a lot of laws that ended segregation in the United States. Compared to Lyndon Johnson, I would say that Kennedy (John F. Kennedy) was considered very radical but the inside dynamics show that Kennedy was okay with the fashionable statements while it was Lyndon Johnson who was creating the actual difference. 

Now, coming to 2014 and talking about Narendra Modi, See in social media, somehow this, Right-Left distinctions at the global level tends to disintegrate. You will find that the global aggressive Right-wing uses the terminology of the Left to determine Bharatiya Janata Party and Narendra Modi, not because they are right-wing, but because they are Hindu. 

The ecosystem of BJP, what we call Sangh Parivar, you will find it consists of lot of Left as well as Right streams inside it. And even if we look at Modi and Trump, if you look at it carefully, Trump was for creating walls while Modi was for creating bridges. 

Modi was a person who was going and talking to the neighbouring countries, and he was talking about creating a collaborative satellite technology for all the people from Bangladesh, from Bhutan, Sri Lanka, he was bringing them all together. He was creating bridges. He never talked about building walls. With Pakistan also before the Strategic Strikes, he did it all. Well in the case of Trump you will find that he was forthright as typical right-wing, a throwback into the time. That is one. 

Another crucial aspect. Take climate change and environmental problems. Where do we stand where Narendra Modi and BJP stand? There is no climate change denial. There is no denial of global warming. We are for renewable energy resources. We have been increasing the renewable energy resources, everything associated with the so-called Left, radical politics in the United States. In US it is actually the so-called Left-Liberals, who actually want renewable energies, who talked a lot about what you call climate change. There is what Modi does. So if you look at all these aspects, we will find that this Left-Right distinction breaks down in India in reality. But in terms of propaganda it’s different.

Why don’t you eat cake if you don’t have bread? That kind of attitude. So I call them crypto- Right? But the global media has created a narrative that it is a right-wing government, you demonize the government. That’s wrong. 

The real Left in the very real quintessential sense of the term was before Marxists take over the Left. The real Left in India is with Modi or Sangh Parivar. Think about the schemes that Modi has been launching, like for example the toilet building spree all this, you will find that these are all policies everywhere in the world associated with Left. Yet the wokeism triumph is that the BJP can be projected globally as a Right-wing government. 

Bhavesh Kansara:  There is no Right-wing government in this country. But anyone who questions the eco-system is termed as Right-wing. The irony is Left was all about toppling established structures. But today Left is hanging on to these power structures, be it publishing houses, mainstream media, the academia, entertainment industry and even social media. It was pretty neutral when Social Media started out. But today the impact of the Leftist policies is pretty much in all the social media companies. So the Left, in fact, seems to have taken over the role of the aristocracy of the French Revolution, clinging on to the power and the Right has been struggling to topple these power structures. 

The Left behaves exactly what they were fighting against at the start. 

The monopoly of power is no longer the same. They are not the monarchy. They are not the nobility nor the clergy, but they are closed, influential and, rather vindictive, network of people who control access to information today. And in India it’s all about Hinduism. So their usual phrases such as brahminical patriarchy, Hindu nationalism, the caste structure, minority persecution etc. If the Left troop could induce, place some guilt on some fence-sitters then why not. And the Right sort gets entangled itself into the web of labels that are perpetuated by the Left. It creates a convenient target. 

I also believe what happens is that labels come with their own baggage of European politics and the Christian religion and they tend to be used in a very nefarious way. And which is why even derivative labels like the Indian right-wing or the Hindu right-wing doesn’t make much sense. If the Left considers the Right in the US as propagating religious extremism, then it would apply the same equivalence to the Hindus in India. So if you are rebuilding temples it tends to be associated with right-wing extremism. 

I would just like to ask two questions: Do you believe the Left-Right labels muddying the political discourse in our country? Second, you think there has to be some sort of concrete definition of what constitutes the Right in India. Because it’s a very loosely defined term. The line of the Right traditionally being reactive rather than a proactive wing. Would you view this sort of reactive-wing as a political, intellectual and cultural movement? Is it important that Right first defines itself clearly before really getting on to other aspects?

Aravindan Neelakandan: Okay, the perfect truth is that there is no such thing as right-wing. what right wing we are talking about?  cultural right-wing or economic right-wing. Okay. Social right? A person can be in India today, and call himself. a cultural left-wing and economic right-wing.

The thing is we have to have Dharma as the basis. Dharma is not a theology or dogma and hence it is flexible, dynamic. It’s pluralist in its own way. 

Now if you look at India’s freedom, you would find that this labelling began there itself. Nehru was characterising Hindu Mahasabha again and again as feudal because it was supported by the Maharaja. Now educated Indians had a view of maharaja as an idle person, enjoying dances and hanging on to hookas, never caring about the people. Look at actual data. You will find that the Maharaja were actually better in the Human Resource Index when compared to the British directly administered provinces. Even when famines were raging in nearby Tamil Nadu, Trivandrum was ok. People used to come from the British administered Tamil Nadu to king-administered Trivandrum. Baroda king, for example, created the Bank of Baroda. 

Yet this Nehruvian way of history has always been accusing these people of feudal and Hindu Mahasabha as feudal. Hindu Mahasabha was more progressive than Congress. It was more democratic than Congress. In Congress, you would terms such as high command which is a military term. From where on earth this particular term entered the vocabulary of Congress? It was during the time of Mahatma Gandhi. It means when the party high command says, you have to obey. 

In Hindu Mahasabha, people would debate with Savarkar. Even common members didn’t listen to him. He would allow them. Yet the overall impression is Hindu Mahasabha was feudal, backward, biased. And Congress was branded as progressive, democratic. It continued into free India. And if you look, you would find that the Left in India was shamelessly pro-Soviet. What the Soviet Union would ask, the Left would do. 

This Left-Right divide is created during the Cold War. You have third grade weapons, export it to developing countries. You are getting rid of the weapons, you are also getting money. You got a lot of outdated terminologies. You just exported them to country like India. Our social science institutions again are dominated by the Left. The Left is doing the collective brainwashing of India. The Indian journalist system was penetrated by the KGB. Today you have journalists who come from that lineage, the daughters and sons of the previous media Marxists. Only in India you have this Marxist media bourgeoise who are parroting the line of China. So they sold to Soviet Union, then to China and now they are selling to United States academia and also to its media. These are the people who decide the narrative. 

Bhavesh Kansara: What is Wokeism? When you search for its meaning it comes across this: A woke is someone who is aware and well-informed about issues of racial discrimination and social inequality. This word was added to the Oxford English Dictionary in 2017. 

Interestingly, the history of the word itself is quite old, dating back to 1930s. After that it appeared sporadically here and there and in 2014, the phrase was popularised by Black Lives Matter activists. Later it found its way into internet memes, mostly to support the BLM movement from racial discrimination. It’s broadly associated with Left-Liberal ideas. 

It went, in less than a decade, from a positive word denoting anyone who was aware of social issues to a prejorative word denoting anyone who’s just doing moral grandstanding on such issues. And the evolution of the word is also a good example of how fast social media acts as a catalyst in redefining and even re-contextualizing. 

Aravindan Neelakandan: About BLM, they never talk about things that actually matter.  I am waiting to see some Black organization to talk about the Tuskegee experiment which the US’ top medical agencies conducted on Black population from 1932 to 1972. They wanted to test on Black males how syphilis affected them. But they didn’t give them medicine, they were giving them distilled water and some Vitamin C tablets. These people were thinking they were getting cured. But this was destroying families. Think about it. How many people talk about it?

Later Clinton came and said I am sorry, I apologize. He gives money to the people who were affected and all that. But who bore the moral responsibility? How many people went to jail? Who planned it? Why BLM is not asking about it? Why there is no demonstration outside the White House? 

All you do is to make some fashionable statements to Blacks. You feel happy. You’ve done your job. This is woke. This is a problem. 

You could have beautiful wonderful seminars. You could play across continents and have signals on racial equality. You could make all kind of woke statements in Scientific American and other wonderful magazines. But you do it so you are never held accountable for the Tuskegee experiment. 

Just think about it. I want to emphasize this because nobody talks about it. If you are talking about Woke and silent about the Tuskegee, you are a traitor to the cause. 

Bhavesh Kansara: If you go online and the phrase that I would say is most associated with the impact of Woke Culture today is Cancel Culture. It is depriving someone of their livelihood, position, stature or influence. Because they do not conform to a Woke standard of society. An employee could be cancelled, or fired, because he shares his views about a minority religion that Wokes don’t endorse. An actress could be kicked out of a movie because she commented something that Wokes think or see against the idea of social justice. Anyone who is dead could be cancelled also because she wrote something that couldn’t be accepted by today’s more liberal standards. So anyone from Newton to Lincoln gets cancelled because they did something based on the Zeitgeist of the day. 

Whenever I hear the word Cancel Culture. I am reminded of character called Popatlal from the popular series. Taarak Mehta Ka ooltah chashmah who insists on cancelling events and programs. 

If I have to put it bluntly, it’s all about where money is in the name of social justice. Therefore corporate houses, publisher’s educational institutions, social media giants and even Left-Liberal governments tend to get into this. And the worse part is that the impact of woke culture just seems to be starting. 

Aravindan Neelakandan: See after the Second World War, we all saw what sustained hatred could do. Hatred of Christian anti-semitism, what it did to the Jews. It shook Western civilization. If you are a holocaust denial person you are not going to get a platform. If you’re going to pedal Protocols of the Elders of Zion, then you not be allowed to talk in an educational institution. So this is because these contain some of the worst haters. And so the rest was feeling sorry about it. But the anti-Semitism was always there. 

When the Palestinian issue came up, the West could channelize it anti-semitism into this Palestinian rights movement and they created a boycott Israel movement. You won’t go and attend meetings in Israel. You won’t go and attend seminars in Israel. They were created in almost every campus. Left played a very big role in it. There, on one hand, it’s been wanting to do Holocaust and creating stories about the Jewish conspiracy and stuff. On the other hand, you have this Left which wants to boycott history and bring back anti-Semitism through the back door of Palestinian rights. So here is the converging point for the looney Right into the radical Left, which is anti-Semitism. Left started using it and radical Islamic elements also started using it in the context of the Blacks. The Woke Culture, the Cancel Culture and see how easy it is to fool Blacks. Not only Blacks but those who believe in genuine principle of justice. 

This is the sinister aspect of Woke Culture. You don’t lose anything. You could cancel some seminars. Let me put it this way: The Woke and Cancel culture is the opium that the Liberals are giving to those who are really concerned with justice. 

Bhavesh Kansara: Today we see increased social messaging on web series movies, advertisements, podcasts, opinion pieces and even school syllabus.  Inevitably, such messaging in India means targeting the Hindu culture. 

The message doesn’t change: The onus of religious harmony lies with the Hindus, the onus of caring for the environment lies with the Hindu, the onus of tolerance lies with the Hindus. This is Woke Culture. What do you see as the impact of Woke Culture in India is that we are the aliens?

Aravindan Neelakandan: For Woke Culture we can say that we are pioneers and they came later. The Woke Culture was actually created in India with inputs from the British and the Evangelical systems.  They created this atmosphere where you see you own culture as suppressive and then you would become Woke. So actually here you have a perfect example of Woke Culture, the real damage your exploiters could do. You have a British government that ruthlessly exploited the natural resources;  making Indians indentured labourers throughout the world, but the Woke Culture would make the educated elite Indians hate their own culture. In India, Woke Culture is nothing but the racial colonial policy. 

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