Viewpoint: Does the Right Really Have Its Thinkers?

MOHAN J.DUTTA
Friday, May 19,2017

NEW DELHI: The conversations at the India Habitat Center, the book launches and photo opportunities promoting revivalist stories of a Hindu India, and the literary festivals organized around the idea of re-imagining India give one a sense that the Indian Right has finally developed a robust base of its own thinkers.

However, underneath this chatter and fanfare, when the photo opportunities and buzz have ended, you realize that the narrative offered by the Indian Right is an empty one, dazzling in its colorful packaging but without warrant and backing in its argumentative formation.

The truth is the Indian Right does not have its intellectuals. At least, not yet.

The drivel dished out as the thought of the Right is as pedestrian as the cheap Chetan Bhagat novels, speaking to the lowest common denominator of an English-conversant aspiring class that likes the world painted in black and white, is seduced by the promises of the market and growth, and is looking for a Hindutva story that makes him/her feel good about his/her caste and class privileges.

The thought of the Right is as hollow as the aggrieved performance of its icon on Republic TV.

Aggrieved is the keyword here. The false sense of being wronged sets the Right on its trolling flurry.

The story crafted by the Right is the perfect recipe for the revival of the glory of the nation cast in the mold of Hindutva. Dismissing the systematic and rigorous work of serious scholars who have published their scholarship in peer-reviewed journals, these mouthpieces of the Right fashioning themselves as intellectuals are all too eager to offer a simple story of the glorious pasts of a Hindu India.

The revival story is a Hindu story. India is Hindu India.

The revivalist narrative redoes the history of India, manufacturing its own set of make-believe evidence to offer the reader a civilizational story that fills him/her with a sense of pride. Now the Indian reader, armed with a new history, is all too equipped to answer back to all those Western orientalists that can’t seem to see anything good about India.

The archetype of the revivalist story unfolds somewhat like this: the story begins with some grievance about a received historical narrative, it apparently offers some evidence that had apparently been overlooked, and then offers a revised story of a great Hindu civilization.

These so-called thinkers of the Right feel aggrieved about what they feel is the Leftist rendition of Indian history that in their make-believe world has stigmatized Hinduism. This self-inflicted sense of attack on Hinduism pushes the Right in its hysterical attack on anyone raising critical questions about the seamless narrative.

And herein lies the anti-intellectualism of these so-called thinkers of the Right.

The scholars that are attacked by the Right are maligned on the basis of some heuristics and/or cooked up allegations without engaging the arguments offered by the scholars. The Right in this sense knows well the techniques of trolling. But it has very little training in the art of debating.

In predictable ways, the adulations of Indian pasts are peppered in with genuflections to the gifts of the free market.

You have a coterie of Ayn Randesque free-market worshippers on the Right that are sad copies of the pseudo expert Thomas Freidman, spewing out one unsupported claim after another about the power of the market, the miracles offered by the market, and the aspirations fulfilled by the magic wand of the market.

Even as globally the empirical evidence points toward increasing inequalities, disappearance of the middle class, and growing unemployment rates, the mouthpieces of the Right exude in their optimism at the beauty of the invisible hand of the free market.

Extolling India’s glorious past and the miraculous story of the free market, the so-called thinkers of the Right feed the image of a new India, replete with its ancient culture and all set to profit from the global free market.

(Mohan J.Dutta is Professor at the National Singapore University. This is an opinion column)



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