I try my best to always put the word “liberal” within inverted commas while referring to a set of people who shout the most about being liberal and who can’t stop worrying how liberal values are under threat in a new India led by Narendra Modi. Such folks want to save India from Modi, and thus they are always in a saviour mode.
In order to be a saviour or a superhero, you need a villain from whom you’ll save the city or the humanity. If you notice, in most superhero movies, the villain is on the prowl all the time. Most of the scenes in such movies would show death and destruction caused by the villain, and then in the climax scenes, the superhero will defeat the villain.
But in our ‘liberal’ fantasy land, it is the superheroes who are on prowl all the time, churning out op-eds after op-eds round the clock causing massive destruction (in their own view) in the enemy camp, but in the climax scene (when votes are counted), the villain Narendra Modi comes and defeats them.
This has happened twice now on the national level, and earlier thrice in Gujarat.
Of late, it appears that the ‘liberals’ have realised that maybe they are wrong. As they say – “one is chance, twice is coincidence, and thrice is a pattern” – so have the self-declared liberals discovered the pattern? Have they accepted that maybe the only villains from which they need to save someone – and that someone is they themselves – is their own warped worldview?
After hearing and reading some recent statements from likes of Shekhar Gupta, Yogendra Yadav, or Karan Thapar, one might be tempted to believe that there is some semblance of introspection being indulged in, but when seen in wider context one realises that there is no introspection at all.
None of them are really saying that their beliefs were based on some wrong or outdated principles that need to be discarded. If you read or hear their full statements, you find that they are still supremely confident that their ideas about how people should live their lives are the ideal ones. The only thing they are lamenting is that they couldn’t convince the common voters that they were the saviours while Modi was the villain. They are indulging in some self-pity, and then immediately proceed to feel pity for the citizens who got a Prime Minister they think doesn’t deserve to be there.
Ingrained in this lament is a belief that they know better than the common voters. Ingrained in this pity is a contempt for the common voter who is seen incapable of having the same sagacious sense like them. They are busy psychoanalysing the voter, that how the hell the ‘idiot’ was not convinced by all their grand talk and instead chose to believe a scheming Modi.
Introspection is when you psychoanalyse yourself. When you psychoanalyse others, you are not introspecting, you are judging.
If you read between the lines, you will find that all such articles or talks that appear like introspection are essentially a lament by the respective folks that their ilk failed at propaganda. That they failed to understand an average voter’s point of view and thus failed to come up with rightly targeted messaging to make them see the ‘truth’. And of course, their ilk is the only one to know what is the ultimate truth.
None of them have really accepted that what they have been believing and professing could be untrue or invalid. That while they shout “lynchistan” and paint every Muslim living in fear, on ground the situation could be just the opposite with pockets of Hindus living in genuine fear as Muslims go on rampage in the neighbourhood. That when they believe that a ‘real’ Dalit can only be someone who is anti-Brahmin, they are being stuck at a JNU dhaba and are unwilling to see the Paswan and Pandey from Bihar, working as security guards at a housing society in Mumbai, striking a common chord. That when they link every ill of the society to some Hindu festival or Manusmriti while giving ‘context’ to Muslim practices and controversial verses of Quran, they appear hypocritical bunch of spineless schmucks.
Nope. Virtually no one has admitted that they were wrong in their beliefs. So where is the introspection and course correction really? None. There is just a conclusion that they need to preach more effectively. It’s more like a bunch of colonisers discussing why they failed at the “civilising mission”. That is neither introspective nor liberal.
You are not a liberal if you have a set of dogmas to stick with and are unwilling to change your stance or beliefs in wake of changing surroundings. The RSS, which they try to project as antithesis of everything liberal, is actually more liberal than these folks. Sangh has often shown willingness to change their views and beliefs; from giving up the hardened stand on swadeshi to changing their stand on homosexuality, the ‘fascists’ have been more liberal than the ‘liberals’.
And which is why the inverted comma on the word “liberal” still deserves a mandatory place.