Let me begin by apologizing for the title. I could not resist it.
These are the days it feels like there is only one state in the country: Uttar Pradesh. (Still better than feeling as if there is only Delhi/NCT in the country.) The breathless coverage of Bharatiya Janata Party’s admittedly significant electoral victory in India’s most populous state and the party’s choice of Yogi Adityanath as Chief Minister meant that I’m exhausted just by reading headlines. (So I thought why not write a corny one myself.)
If media is supposed to ‘speak truth to power’, a large section of Indian media won’t come anywhere close to that definition. And worse still they are sliding further away even as we speak. The week-long fawning coverage of the winning party was less a reportage than something bordering on cheerleading. On the other hand, the entirely predictable liberal elite meltdown, with characteristic wailing and breast-beating about the alleged beginning of the end of the secular republic itself, was not even funny. It was hysterical. Foreign media react the way that suits their agenda of course. But it is interesting to note that the coverage of Dawn (of Pakistan), Al Jazeera, Washington Post, New York Times, the BBC etc. have all been so similar that they can almost be interchangeable. It amazes me no end that the narratives of these media outlets, which normally differ among themselves so sharply as if to inhabit different realities altogether, converge quite remarkably w/r/t India. They all say the same thing. It is something for us to think about.
And then there are eminent individuals like Fali S Nariman who are making curious statements recently. The distinguished constitutional jurist for instance has been expressing great fears—Hindu Rashtra is imminent—but is coy about what is bothering him exactly. He knows better than most that banning beef here and there and forcing some unwilling Muslims to sing Vande Mataram are not going to usher in the Hindu Rashtra. They are polarization techniques at best. But they are end goals for impatient Hindutva men who want to live in Hindu Rashtra even before they achieve it. Nariman is likely to think that these men are too stupid/arrogant to be a real threat to the constitution. When the wheel of fortune turns, and turn it will, these men will be left with nothing. So what is he worried about?
Even though he doesn’t say it, one gets the impression that Nariman fears not the ‘saffron party’ so much but the electorate that votes them to power. Why do they do it? What do they want? Is it a passing trend that will disappear with Modi or is there a small but real change in the way they see things now? This paranoia (or euphoria, from the other side) is at the center of the extreme reactions to BJP’s UP victory.
Away from all this, I went home for Ugadi last Wednesday only to see a cow missing in our farm. The drought situation in Tamil Nadu is such that if there were no rains in Chithirai, forget farming, many farmers will have little water to drink. When I asked my mother about the missing cow, she said she had no choice but to sell it. It probably went for slaughter, I said. She looked at me. How else would you save the calves and other cows in the farm, she asked.
It’s a question to which Yogi Adityanath himself may not have an answer.