Sunday, December 7, 2008

11/26 AND THE IMPOTENCE OF INDIA'S "MUDDLED CLASS"

Mumbai 11/26 has triggered a long overdue avalanche of anger in English speaking urban Indians. It is as if the dam of lies that India's English media had built deviously to con them into believing that India faces little danger from Pakistan sponsored terrorism has collapsed. Anyone with any intelligence should have known that it had to, but some of India's leading TV personalities and columnists thought that their construct of falsehoods would hold. To them, pursuit of a motivated and disconnected socio-political agenda was more important than the security of the nation and the lives of ordinary, faceless Indians who were getting killed with sickening regularity in places that they visited imperiously only when there was a story to report.

Vir Sanghvi is a mediocre journalist who regularly spews out politically motivated columns and disconnected-from-real-India gibberish in the Hindustan Times. I had stopped commenting on his clever columns because some people thought that there was a personal axe to grind. But, his column in the Hindustan Times of December 7, 2008, has compelled me to write about certain basic misconceptions that are being promoted even after 11/26, and some issues which are again being hijacked by those who live in ivory towers that don't seem to be located in real India.

The 11/26 attacks on institutions which mean the world to the South Mumbai elite have finally got them angry. Before these attacks, many ordinary Indians had been angry for a long time. But, to the elite of Delhi and Mumbai - the ones who assault the whole nation ad nauseum through the media, their private turf - that anger was either invisible or was dismissed as a reaction of the lunatic fringe of the Hindu right. This growing anger was condemned and dismissed as the propaganda of the Sangh Parivar that was out to destroy the social fabric of this country by blaming Muslims for all terror attacks.

The arrest of a few Hindu radicals for one blast on a motorcycle in Malegaon was all that this lot needed to scream endlessly about 'Hindu Terror', with some going to extent of calling Sadhvi Pragya India's Osama bin Laden and the Sangh Parivar its Al Qaida. Pakistan sponsored terrorism was completely forgotten and the media went berserk in its efforts to mislead the nation that the only danger it faced was from the BJP. It takes no intelligence to deduce that all this was done to influence ordinary Indians into forgetting the reality that they had been facing for decades so that they would vote for the Congress, the preferred party of the media.

It has taken an attack on the icons of Mumbai's elite for Sanghvi to wake up and admit that terrorists have the audacity "to walk into our greatest city and shoot people at will - and we are unable to do anything about it".

Vir Sanghvi identifies with the anger that his 'middle class' has felt after the Mumbai terror attack but is unhappy that it has become 'misdirected'. And, according to him, that has happened due to the 'impotence' of this class. The middle class, he says, is politically irrelevant because illiterate Indians who have the same voting rights as those belonging to this class are the only ones who have the numbers to bring down a government.

"The middle class...can write articles (like this one) or clog TV channels but we can never bring down a government", says Sanghvi, expressing his own impotent rage now that the Mumbai bombers have destroyed the whole structure that he and his friends had carefully constructed over the years through the media.

I have never understood how the likes of Prannoy Roy, Barkha Dutt, Rajdeep Sardesai, Vir Sanghvi and the like can say that they are from the middle class. Are they deliberately playing a cruel joke on India's huge real middle class that does not travel business class or stay in five star hotels, and that generally does not identify with their value system? Or are they carelessly using the term to pretend that they are in touch with, and are the voice of, the teeming millions who travel by trains and buses and stay in budget hotels, even when they know fully well that they are not?

These few people are not India's middle class, not even close. They are India's "muddled class".

Many individuals from this very small lot are farther away from real India and real Indians than even the British were when they ruled India. They have foggy ideas about the societal dynamics that energise various sections of Indian society, and they don't really care. Happy they are in their own isolated world that they have successfully insulated from the real India that the rest of us inhabit.

Despite this serious, almost fatal disconnect, they are the ones who control the powerful media. They are the ones who influence public opinion from this platform. They think it is their birthright to dictate the national agenda. And they do all they can to protect and further their own interests and ideologies, before anything else. As far as they are concerned, as Vir Sanghvi admits, remaining Indians are all illiterate.

India's real middle class is not impotent, nor is it politically irrelevant. This large section of India's population has the voice and the power to bring down a government, particularly in the present environment when the margins of victory are mostly narrow. This educated, not illiterate, class has been angry for a long time. Its anger had for long been successfully suppressed by the "muddled class". Thanks to the Terrible Ten who came in from the sea, and the internet which has sidelined mainstream media like never before, that anger is now overflowing. And it is going to show its power in the coming elections.

It is this anger of the real middle class that in now making Vir Sanghvi's "muddled class" realise that it actually is quite impotent. It can no longer confuse "illiterate" Indians into denying reality and voting on the basis of misinformation and falsehoods fed to them 24/7. It can no longer control India's political destiny by manipulating the media and projecting false heroes.

No matter how hard Barkha Dutt tries now to push through her political agenda and promote her friends, no one is going to believe South Mumbai MP Milind Deora, son of Union Minister Murli Deora, when he says for the cameras that he is ashamed of India's politicians. Why did it take an attack on Taj hotel to make him 'see' what he has been blind to for decades?

Similarly, when Vir Sanghvi, after relentlessly promoting the Congress party and the Nehru-Gandhi family for decades, suddenly says that "Indian politics is a squalid, corrupt family business", without pointing his pen where he should, he only exposes his intellectual dishonesty and lack of integrity. Had this luminescence glowed with honesty much earlier in India's "muddled class", 11/26 may well have been avoided. And India may not have been almost asphyxiated by dynastic politics and a completely unaccountable colonial bureaucracy.

11/26 may well prove to be a blessing in disguise for India. 11/26 may well turn out to be that defining moment that empowered India's real middle class and its "illiterate" millions to take the destiny of the country into their own hands. 11/26 may well be remembered as the provocation that compelled India to finally react by potent action rather than impotent words to defeat the proxy war that Pakistan launched decades back in pursuance of its national objective of bleeding India to death through a thousand cuts.

The "muddled class" will oppose any response that may expose them to any danger and harm. That cowardly and selfish stance has already cost India heavy. "Covert operations and better intelligence" is what Vir Sanghvi is suggesting even now, knowing only too well that ISI sponsored and rogue jehadis will never be defeated and crushed by these airy-fairy methods. If this suggestion is due to ignorance of the dimensions of the threat that India is facing, the lack of knowledge is shocking. If it is to keep his class out of the harm's way that it was till 11/26, it is unpardonable.

Perhaps Sanghvi can see the writing on the wall; perhaps that is why he laments the impotence that India's "muddled class" is experiencing for the first time ever.
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2. Candles and blame-games won't stop AK47s
3. Police fighting terrorists with cars and canes: dismantle colonial IPS
4. Making India safe: cosmetic changes will not stem rot
5. Mumbai 11/26: wake up to Islamic terror, this is just the beginning