The months that passed by have been quite adventurous for the country. The students of premiere colleges and universities have become “seditious and anti national”, the filmstars have turned “ungrateful”, NGOs have become “anti- Indian”, a few religious organisations have turned into the “breeding ground for terrorist outfits”, a section of the society is propagating the “intolerance debate”, and shouting “Bharat mata ki jai” has become the official slogan to receive the certificate of being a true Indian”.
Whatever is the reason behind all this, one thing that seems clear is that the political parties under the umbrella of right wing are flourishing. They are growing in all directions, with both holy and unholy alliances, and constitutional and unconstitutional methods (They have reached Jammu and Kashmir and are heading towards Tripura via Uttarakhand). The chances of them forming a government in 2019 are very high. The reason behind all this is very simple–they have worked very hard.
The government, its ministers, ideological partners, the student wings, media and digital entities–all are diligently working together as an umbrella on the task they have been assigned. They are all working in sync over bringing particular issues to light or suppressing them the same way a 360 degree campaign works in the world of marketing. Let’s first try to understand the factors that led to the prolific rise of right wing in the past few years, its work style and the authority it commands today on deciding the agenda for national debates – its content, rules and participants. And most importantly, who is, will and should always be the obvious winner.
Educating the politically ignorant youths pre-2011
Last decade, from 2000-2010, was that of political ignorance. Except India Shining, Shahrukh Khan winning more Filmfare awards, a pogrom, Orkut being taken over by Facebook and landline phones being replaced by mobile phones, not much happened in the country. Bollywood, western food joints and discounted foreign clothing brands, easy access to job market and the dot com world kept the youth busy. Politics did not interest them. And the teenagers back then, who are youths now, got everything very easily.
Only a handful of students studying political science, economics, history, sociology or journalism in politically vigilant universities like Jawaharlal Nehru University, Jadavpur University and Delhi University knew what politics means and how it works. The young men and women discussing politics in the peripheries of these campuses were considered “jholawalas”, “too serious people” and were often jokingly referred as “Aare Neta Ji” by their peers.
The Anna Hazare-led India anti-corruption movement that started in April, 2011 was a game changer. It not only mobilized the “politically ignorant” Indian youths to begin the fight against corruption but also made politics a cool thing. In that period, from CCDs to McDs, sutta points to shopping malls and from classrooms to canteens, political debates were taking place everywhere. Everybody was suddenly interested in politics and wanted to change the country. Candle marches, protests, rallies and TV news debates started to attract more participation than the PVRs for their first day first show of the Khans’ movies.
However, there was a problem — nobody actually knew what was happening. They were either just protesting or extending their support to the protest. But they didn’t know why they were protesting, who they were protesting for, what will be the end result. All they knew were three words – Anna, corruption and Lokpal.
Not much later, the Anna movement fizzled out and the politically uneducated and ignorant Indian youth was literally left standing in the middle of the road. It didn’t know where to go. Arvind Kejriwal’s new political outfit Aam Aadmi Party was not as exciting as the Anna-led movement. Kejriwal and his team sounded like the traditional political parties and politics was something this youth was still reluctant to join.
Also, AAP was asking for too much. It wanted them to come out on the streets, visit the slums, propagate a new ideology on the streets and do a lot more every day. Frankly speaking, this was not done. It was too much to ask from the youths busy in the rat race. Nobody was ready for this. Saturday and Sunday “protest outings” were fine but it couldn’t have happened every day. They wanted something which was convenient, effortless and most importantly “gives them a kick” which the Anna movement gave them.
And that’s when our news channels stepped in. They spotted trillions of dollars of untapped market in India’s “hopeless, politically ignorant and opinion-less” middle and upper middle class Indian youths. They knew that if they are able to give them the “Anna movement kick” every day, they can become rich. There were people who were ready to pay money for coming up with content appealing to the masses and they were not the film production houses or political parties but thousands of MNCs struggling to gain market share over their competitors. They were running behind these youths and wanted them to download their apps, eat their burgers, buy their jeans and order things from their websites. The news channels knew that they have got their new revenue model. All they needed was a perfect formula through which they could have recreated the “Anna kick” every day. And after many hits and trials, they finally found it.
Presenting the sponsored News Association Of India, where every day the ready to consume political narratives in tetra packs of 9 pm prime time shows, loaded with aggression, sensationalism and breaking news were fed by the likes of Goswami, Sharma, Chaudhary and Dutt to their ignorant, uninformed and opinion-less new target audience. Blogs, hashtags, tweets, comments, posts, social media groups and Whatsapp messages related to the narratives further worked like steroids.
These things not only educated them but also helped them in forming opinions. Every passing day their arguments sharpened with facts, figures, historical events, new viewpoints and they were getting prepared for 24×7 two-minute cosmetic debates anywhere.
The results of the December, 2013 assembly election in Delhi came as a shocker. The newbie AAP, with 28 seats and outside support from Congress, formed the government. The poll experts were left wondering how even with such strong anti-incumbency and pro-Modi wave, BJP fell short of the majority. Soon, the news channels told them that AAP’s magic was nothing but a by- product of the collective energy of India’s first genetically-modified politically educated youth.
BJP did some deep thinking and reasoned that if a months old political party with tactical manipulation of political narratives surrounding corruption on news channels and social media can emerge in power in the state of Delhi, why it can’t replicate the same model at the national level. The model looked promising. It was affordable (monetarily), effective and result-oriented. Only a handful of tech-savvy youths, sponsored prime time news slots and space on the editorial page of leading newspaper were required for that. BJP did it and what happened after that is a classical case study of India’s first media managed election marketing campaign.
BJP won the elections with a thumping majority and Narendra Modi became the prime minister of the country. Indian youths thought that that this victory signifies that India has won over its dynastic policies, corruption, misgovernance and inefficient governance (which was true to an extent), but they were not aware that they have already lost the most important thing they possessed, their intellect.
The pro-Modi young generation was made to learn everything about democracy, its principle and core national issues in a very short span of time, without any information on the fundamentals and the constitutional history. These youths were educated very selectively with an aim to fulfill specific objective for a specific period of time. When these objectives were fulfilled, the youths were again reeducated selectively on a newer issue for a newer objective for a newer period of time. These selective education and reeducation programmes were meticulously crafted to fulfill the short and long term strategies of letting the right wing philosophy seep into the minds of young India. This selective education model produced batches of half educated, highly opinionated, argumentative and closed-minded youngsters who do not have the ability to question and think beyond what they were told by their opinion leaders. From the very beginning, they were taught not to question the might as the might is always right (Modi to be specific). They were asked to defend the might until their last breath with the facts, figures, arguments and viewpoints provided to them by the right wing opinion leaders, even if deep down in their hearts they knew that their knowledge is indefensible. They will because they have to.
Their education and understanding of freedom of speech and expression came with all those ifs and buts which the right wing believes and practices. They were educated that “there is always a line that should never be crossed” and were trained to shout loudly, argue over an issue without complete knowledge of it, use third grade arguments and gang up and resort to intellectual and physical violence when they stood the risk of losing an argument. And if nothing works out, say, “Freedom of speech and expression humein bhi hai bhai/Aap ko jo maanna hai maniye, hum to yahi kahenge.”
They were taught that secularism only means minority appeasement and if someone talks about minority rights or suppression, “he/she needs to be taught a lesson”. They were trained to do “randi-fi-cation” of any female or “Muslimi-ify” men who talked about minority rights, especially on social media. One-way ticket to Pakistan and ISIS supporters were the “accolades” they were entitled to honour anyone who did not concur their definition of secularism.
They were made to believe that Dalits and OBCs do not exist and even if they do they are those “undeserving” people who are eating off their seats in premier colleges and jobs in government offices. Any protest by them for their rights must be seen as “opposition hand” or a “baseless demand”. They were made to believe that reservation is a social evil and it will eat off the whole of Indian society.
Tribal rights to them mean “Maoist extremism” and the community of tribals as that of “uncultured and uncivilized people” who do not want to become a part of the mainstream society. They are the “barriers of the national growth rate” and must be “wiped out” because they are “waging a war against the country”. “They are the largest threat to the country’s internal security” and are “against development”. Their existence is “causing a loss of 1-2 per cent to the annual GDP” and organisations like Greenpeace are “helping them destabilize the country”
Like this, for every principle of governance and issue of national importance, they have only one very selective information and understanding.
The larger problem is that now it is too late to reeducate them. They have already found their textbooks, schools, teachers, guides and mentors in those official and unofficial social media pages, media outlets and shakhas.
Every night at 9 pm prime time shows, they informed, educated and made them believe that whatever has happened to this country post independence was wrong. The ideals and principals of democracy–justice, liberty, equality, freedom, republic and secularism on which this country has stood and faced the test of times are hollow. Parliamentary democracy should not have been the mode of governance, instead “a strong leader with iron fist” should rule this country. The people of a significant religion in this country are outsiders and “if they have to live here, they have to agree with the majority’s view”. A majority of population which was being suppressed for centuries, is now availing the benefits of reservation and pushing “India backward”.
This is the crux of the matter. This is how it is. And this is how it will be, not because India wants it but because this is how the right wing has to be. These ideologues have to make India believe that they have really worked it out.