Ideas can’t be Occupied

  • Amit Sengupta
  • Publish Date: May 11 2016 10:23PM
  • |
  • Updated Date: May 11 2016 11:01PM
Ideas can’t be Occupied


It’s worthwhile to open new windows of enlightenment and engage with multiple movements across India

The cold-blooded murder by the security forces of a talented young under-19 cricketer, other youngsters, including a woman in Handwara and elsewhere in Kashmir, after the reported molestation of a school girl and consequent mass outrage, has struck a chord of angst and anger across the kaleidoscope of progressive, pluralist and secular sections in the rest of the country. Across Delhi and elsewhere there were protests and meeting in solidarity. The social media did a round-the-clock reportage of events in Kashmir. Opinions were openly written about how the security forces use bullets to kill as first-time standing operating procedure against protesters in Kashmir, while they will choose to use only tear gas and lathi-charge in the rest of the country.

Surely, covert and transparent fascism ignites its own vicious contradictions which are unique, inevitable and typically predictable. Contemporary India under the current dispensation has unleashed a new wave of contradictions, and a new language of protest, especially by the young, which is bound to change the political unconscious of this country in the days to come. And Kashmir is part of this thread of both unity, and continuity.

It is also true that the current spate of neo-Nazi repression, xenophobia and intolerance across the Indian landscape initiated by an outright partisan, muscle-flexing and myopic regime and its fanatic, saffron storm-troopers like the ABVP and Bajrang Dal, especially against the minorities, Dalits and the young, and inside autonomous campuses and centres of excellence in a bid to capture institutions and silence dissent, has sparked a universal wave of unrest, disgust and disquiet, which is also creating its own, indigenous and unique language and synthesis of resistance and liberation. The BJP government in Delhi and its Sangh Parivar outposts are constantly being seen as an anti-thesis of modernity, liberalism and secular, democratic principles, which, instead of following the tested state craft of tolerance, negotiations, engagement and diffusion, have actually become the catalysts of the constant cacophony of an undeclared ‘state of war and aggression’, sometimes bordering on the dark narratives of the Emergency.

The abject failure of ‘achche din’,  ad-driven event-management, hollow promises of aspirational, start-up, stand up, make-in-India etc and the multitude of false promises to turn the economy around, make India another China (with or without Chinese  totalitarianism? ), creating jobs, eliminating rural distress and farmer suicides, least of all the mythology of bullet trains, black money, swachch bharat and clean rivers, have fallen flat, so flat, that they are now resorting to the time-tested rhetoric of sectarian and shallow nationalism and the signs and symbols of bharat mata, to polarize and communalise society. Even the rock shows all over the world by the prime minister, with NRI Gujaratis often showcased as selfie showpieces, have turned out to be a damp squib. That they are not succeeding seems to have made them more desperate, whereby, even the corporate, right wing liberals, market fundamentalists, the upwardly mobile classes who voted for them, and some sections of media have seen through their diabolical game. It’s a game they played well with their xenophobic, one-dimensional Gujarat model, but, it seems, it is not succeeding in the rest of the country.

The drubbing the BJP got in Bihar and Delhi elections earlier, and the recent assembly poll results in five states, will further push it to its only and ultimate trump card: pseudo nationalism, communal polarization, morbid rhetoric of ‘raamzaade and haraamzade’, and brazen muscle-flexing. Surely, both, in the short and long run, this ploy will boomerang, as did their ‘ban beef’ campaign, with disastrous results in rural India, especially drought-hit Maharashtra, including among large sections of Hindu farmers in dire straits who can’t even do distress selling of their cattle.

At the first instance, the murders in Kashmir under the unethical and discredited PDP-BJP regime, belongs to an infinite narrative of relentless injustice, killings of more than 100 stone-throwing boys under Omar Abdullah’s regime, innumerable instances of murders, fake encounters, disappearances, rapes and assault on women, among other excesses under AFSPA, which, perhaps, a major chunk of the mainstream media either refuses to notice, or chooses to willfully ignore. This behavior too is predictable. However, in this era of a pluralist and diverse social media, which is like a digital and virtual oral and visual explosion through word of mouth, text, images, links, sound, mappings and documentary, and which breaks the dominant models of the biased, corporate-driven monopoly media, the openly un-objective media too have to struggle hard to maintain its propaganda tools. They have to repeatedly reorganize the ‘manufactured consent’ they use to legitimize their lies, doctored tapes, shouting matches on prime time TV, perverse jingoism and war-mongering, flag-waiving and pseudo nationalism, and unethical and crass sensationalism manufactured as ‘exclusive’ and ‘breaking news’.

Indeed, the recent democratic and peaceful resistance and outrage across the Indian kaleidoscope, inside campuses and outside, with a certain degree of brilliance, bravery, stoicism, and alternative narratives as ‘live and streaming’ news, has blown the bubble of jingoist journalism. That the jingoists are mediocre and totally sold-out, and that they are operating as mouth-pieces of the ruling regime and its octopus-like Nazi fronts and outposts, too, have been exposed. Every journalist worth his salt knows that one English channel of a major newspaper chain, one channel owned by an RSS bigwig, and two other channels, part of a ‘bouquet’ of a former Congress politician trying desperately to enter the hallowed portals of the BJP establishment, have been operating openly as ‘agent provocateurs’ of the BJP. Their news, views, if not doctored tapes, just can’t be trusted. Even the BJP leadership might take them with a pinch of salt. While they brazenly censor and doctor news, as in the case of JNU, Panama Papers, Kashmir killings, drought and farmer suicides, the recent ‘exclusives’ on the Ishrat Jahan fake encounter has been widely perceived in media circles as official ‘plants’. Surely, the TRP of their journalistic credibility is at an all-time low, and this is something the nation really wants to know.

In the stream of contradictions which has hit the political scene in recent times, despite the lack of uniformity, one uniform principle has been proved. That is, despite their best wishes and best attempts, and howsoever diabolical the method in their madness, whatever power, propaganda and muscle-flexing they might use, they don’t have the monopoly on ‘truth’ or ‘informaton’. The JNU episode, the FTII struggle, the suicide of Rohith Vemulla, the Handwara killings and the consequent outrage has proved that, and it will be worthwhile for sensitive people in Kashmir to know, that a multiple synthesis of solidarity narratives have arrived in India which does not look at Kashmir only as an island of isolated injustice, but as an ‘occupied moment’ of daily revelations, struggles and solidarity. Ideas can’t be occupied.

There is an unfolding of new ‘Ways of Seeing’ as John Berger would write, outside all forms of jingoism, including Jihadi jingoism, or religious fundamentalism of all varieties. There is a refreshing new understanding of a ‘different’ language of suffering and silence, as Edward Said would observe about Palestine, a synthesis of a new pluralist logic of resistance and liberation in support of human rights, dignity, democracy, freedom and gender justice. Surely, women’s emancipation, equality and liberty, people’s movements against corporate globalization, and the struggle of the oppressed classes, including Dalits, and against all forms of communalism, casteism and fundamentalism, is integral to this big picture discourse. And it is the students who are showing the way. They are the future of hope.

Instead of being distrustful, it will be worthwhile to walk the extra mile and open new windows of enlightenment and engagement with multiple movements and progressive streams of consciousness in India, and all over the world, so as to enter a new zigzag of a shared political and cultural consciousness. That is where the killings in Handwara, Rohith Vemula’s suicide, the fascist attack on JNU and university campuses, the struggle in Jadavpur University, Hyderabad Central University, FTII and other places, and the outrage in the civil society and in the political class should be located. The open-air nationalism debate in JNU, for instance, with the finest of minds in an open, non-dogmatic discourse, was an eye-opener.

In this new political and intellectual discourse, still unraveling in its dialectical layers, the contours might still be in a twilight zone, but the promise of sharp and united political enlightenment against the ruthless crushing of dissent, democracy, freedom and pluralism, is as clear as a full moon tide. In the darkness, indeed, it is crucial to relook at the other side of midnight. The full moon is not an illusion. Neither is the dawn. It is time to both interpret and redefine the world, as philosophers must tell us. The point, however, is to change it. 


(The writer is Executive Editor, Hardnews Magazine)