The irony of conflict is that martyrs are made by their enemies. The Indian Left-liberal is reaping martyrs as if a harvest of righteousness is in full bloom. The scissors-wielding performance of Censor Board’s chief embarrassment Pahlaj Nihalani has just brought the limelight on celebrity economist Amartya Sen. Faced with wide outcry, Nihalani’s hapless colleagues resorted to the bureaucratic plea of being fettered by guidelines. Will these worthies explain which guidelines prohibit the use of words such as cow, Gujarat and RSS in a documentary?
Sen is too big a bull in the manger of the Right to care. Nihalani has once again made a mockery of the government which appointed him, since the achievements of Sen—Nobel laureate and darling of the Congress and the global liberal establishment—far exceed any second-rate Hindi film the Censor Board chief may have directed or produced.
The tragedy of the Indian Right’s thought force is it seems out of depth to confront its historical opponent. There is no doubt that a re-examination of history written by the Mughals, British and the post-Independence Left-Nehruvian academic class is absolutely necessary to remove the distortions. However, this cleansing has to be done using a combination of global intellectual energy and nationalist perspective. If Prime Minister Narendra Modi can fashion yoga into an international cult phenomenon, it’s time the Sangh’s cerebral activists acknowledged the Boeing factor in the pushpak vimaan.
Being insulated from the Western ethos is not a good idea in today’s connected world. In spite of the scholarship and conviction of Sangh intellectuals, the Right has not been able to take the discourse out of the vernacular and use the global idiom to spread its message to all. The intellectual and technological might of the West cannot be dismissed since its many thought streams, philosophical movements and scientific progress are not matched by any other society or culture.
Both Jawaharlal Nehru and Indira Gandhi knew this. They imbued the government, institutions and their personal circle with suave, articulate intellectuals who are at ease both in Patna and Paris. Unfortunately, the Right, which is rich in regional talent, doesn’t have its own Amartya Sen, Ramachandra Guha, Romesh Thapar, Romila Thapar, Kapila Vatsyayan or Pupul Jayakar who can argue in the same language of its sworn enemies.
The Right needs more thought-warriors, both Oxbridge and Santiniketan, with the skill to articulate its ideology in the salons of the West and the pseudo-West at home. The need of the hour to protect and promote Indian culture is a new Vivekananda, not an obsolete Nihalani.
The Sangh finds it difficult to even find such people to head government institutions of thought and culture. Suspicious of the West it is comfortable only with tried and tested vernacular personalities. Moreover, the Indian bureaucracy’s academic training and ideological predilections resist the inclusion of the nationalist in the government’s intellectual establishments. The Right’s only answer seems to be the legion of trolls which leaps into the fray with invective instead of intellect.