In a democracy, politics is like an act, political parties and their ideologies are narratives, politicians are actors and people are the audience. If the audience likes the narrative and actors, they clap and give them another chance to perform. Else, new narratives and new actors are brought in and the show goes on.
The beauty of democracy is that political parties, their ideologies, political decision, and their leaders are judged every day. Any comment, decision or stand taken by it is discussed extensively, both at individual level and at collective level through media. Therefore, political parties and their leaders are very careful about the kind of narrative being put forward by them in support or against of a particular issues, incident or decision. ‘No comments’ and silence are also judged.
The present ruling government is very careful about the kind of narrative it is putting forward. Or to be specific, it is vigilant and using every possible trick of the trade to prove two things – one, that the present-day government is the best government that independent India ever had, and two, that Modi is the most honest, patriotic, courageous and powerful leader in the world and, he is, if not god then not anything less than him, and his will is supreme like that of god.
In order to prove these two things, his party and supporters have thrashed every logical and sensible critical narrative with illogical, foolish and non-democratic counter narratives.
The numerical majority, noise and power of these counter narratives are so high that the subtle critical narratives are lost, and they end up proving their point.
There are too many counter narratives used by the present ruling government. Let’s try to analyse them one by one.
1. “They also did it”
This is the most common counter narrative used by the present-day government. The party leaders say, ‘Why didn’t you shout when Congress was in power. They were the one who did it. We are doing nothing. We are just carrying it forward.’
When beef ban was imposed in Maharashtra, they said, “See before we did it here in Maharashtra, Congress did it in the states where it ruled. And the four day Guddi –Partava ban was first imposed when Congress-NCP duo were in power. So why are you shouting now?’
Aare bhai, people voted you in thinking that you were a party with a difference and if are just following what they did then what was the point of bringing you to power.
2. “Ye Bharat ke sanskriti ke kilaf hai / This is against culture of India”
The present government, its alliance partners and their affiliated non-political organizations are the official moral, cultural and traditional guardians of the 121 crore people, living in the 29 states and 5 union territories. They are the ones who decide what women should wear, whether they can drink and smoke, what people should eat and watch.
Whenever there are attacks in pubs, police raids in private hotel rooms, vandalism during Valentine’s Day, violence against inter-religious marriages – branding them to be love jihad – the government’s alliance partners and leaders have a flat one line answer, “Ye Bharat ke sanskriti aur sabhyata ke khilaf hai. (This is against the culture values of India ).”
Though the party’s official line by Jaitley Ji and Rajnath Ji will remain, “We are against such acts” but its alliance partners say, “Yes, we have done it and we will do it again.”
Sunia ji, we voted you to manage our country not to manage our personal lives.
What we eat, drink, watch, read and how our women dress, who they marry and at what time of the night they should return home is purely our personal affair. Please do not enter our private lives and make choices for us. We are all from different caste, creed, community; region, race, religion, sex and ethnicity, and we know them better than you.
3. “You have to change your habits, dude”
This is the most original one. Whenever the prices of essential commodities and services go beyond the reach of the common man and protesting starts, this counter narrative comes in.
When the price of railway tickets was increased, it was said “Every weekend you can go to cinema hall and shell out 250 rupees on a movie ticket, 150 rupees on popcorn and 100 rupees on Coke but you can’t spend 10 percent extra on your railways ticket.” And the better one is this. On the sky rocketing prices of pulses, one famous “non-political” person – associated with the ruling government and a great admirer of Modi Ji – said, “Dal patli banao. Zayada gadhi nahi. Aur khane mein sabzioon ka zayada prayog karo. Wo zada paushtilk hoti hain” (“Do not make the gravy of dal very thick and use more of vegetables. They are much healthier than pulses. )
Kya ji, did we vote for you so that when you come to power you would instruct us on how we should spend our hard-earned money? And if we protest again, you make us feel guilty about how we spend so much on entertainment while refusing to pay the increased price of a service managed by you?
Now you are telling us that we should change our eating habits just because you cannot manage the price of essential commodities. Kamal ki bate karte ho ji.
Why don’t you acknowledge the fact that you have failed to give what’s due to the farmers and because of which this agrarian crisis has occurred. It has happened because you have failed to guarantee a decent Minimum Support Price (MSP) and waive off farmer loans in drought-hit areas. You prefer to make highways which will help the Ambanis and Adanises transport their raw material from one state to another but choose to ignore rural connectivity and irrigation systems. Why don’t you accept the fact that the price of essential commodities are rising because you have failed to keep check on hoarders and black marketers.
4. “Wo Pakistani hai / He is a Pakistani”
This counter narrative is often used by the alliance partners of the ruling government to blacken faces at book releases, issuing threats to cancel musical shows, and interrupting theatrical performances. They say that since the concerned artists are from Pakistan (and since Pakistan is our enemy state) we can’t allow them to perform here.
See artists, irrespective of the nationality and art form they practice, spend their whole life to give this world, perspectives of the things which we have not seen, read and heard before. They are the discoverers, historians, and torch bearers of our cultures, traditions and beliefs. They need to be loved, respected and appreciated. We certainly need a class of people and a body of work to tell our coming generations who we were.
Why don’t you understand that your attack on an artist, irrespective of his nationality, is an attack on the whole artistic fraternity. Why don’t you understand that when you disrespect an artist or his art you disrespect the whole discipline of art.
If you have problems and issues with Pakistan, or for the matter of fact, any country, resolve it through a democratic and mutually agreeable way. Why bring artists in between? If you cannot resolve the issues, and felt that the presence of the artist from a particular country will be an issue here, then don’t invite them.
A non-invitation is much better than inviting an artist into your country and then humiliating him and his art form.
5. “Not just ‘Sickularist’ but a ‘Fake Secularist'”
In fact, last month our PM Modi Ji himself was using this word again and again in an interview to explain his and his party’s position against the concerns raised by the Opposition and public intellectuals on the rise of communal incidents since the BJP government had come to power.
Labeling individuals, organizations, parties and even countries as “Fake Secularists” is this government’s sure-shot counter narrative to suppress any voice which talks about the rights and welfare of religious minorities, riots, lynchings or hate mongers.
Kya sir, now the government and Prime Minister decide what Secularism means? Are the constitutional definitions of Secularism so narrow that you will define it on your own and practice it the way you want? Are you also planning to insert the word “Fake Secularisms” into our Preamble through a constitutional amendment?
Why is it difficult to understand that the world is not full of “Fake Secularists” but that your party, alliance partners and affiliate organizations, are full of hardliners who have no respect for pluralism, religious and cultural diversity. They see only one religion and they believe that their own survival, welfare and interests can only be safe-guarded by suppressing and inflicting atrocities on others.
We tell you that this is not the case. For more than a thousand years, people, of at least different five religions, have been living here peacefully without attempting to wipe out each other’s communities.
6. “It’s too early to judge us. Judge us after ten years”
And the last counter narrative is the baap of them all. This is like Ram Baan. It can’t fail. From rising costs of essential commodities to decreasing value of rupee, from cut in social spending to folds increase in defense budget, from rising cases of religious intolerance to issuing controversial remarks, and for that matter anything this counter narrative is simple “It’s too early to judge us. Judge us after ten years.”
They want us to believe that they need five years to fix what previous governments has screwed and then five more years to do what they want to do.
So in short, this government doesn’t want us to question it for at least ten years. They want to do things the way they have planned and they simply expect us to be in compliance with it. They want us to be silent and not be critical of policy, decision and action. And if you do not agree with this, they have their own way and it’s like Dekh lein ge tumhe.
State and non-state actors, democratic and non-democratic means, law and lawlessness, power and politics is used these days to make the people say, “Yes I agree”
There is only one way. The Modi way. You either like it or you don’t.
Political narratives are very powerful things. They have the power to rule a nation for decades and this government knows it very well. They are using these narratives to weaken the secular and democratic structure of this country. But then they must remember one thing: No narrative lives forever and democracy ki picture bohot lambi hoti hai, mere dost.