Truth's Lament in Times of Lies Unlimited & Fakery Inc!
'History to dictation is a natural ally of authoritarianism'
As Truth’s aspect it’s time I wrote my recent experiences and my lament.
My days since 2014 have been excruciatingly fraught. It wasn’t ever like this before. True, there were Lies – as Truth I carried the burden of unmasking them – but I managed to fight my battle solo.
Things changed circa 2014. A few months before electioneering I sensed muck being flung at me, for no particular reason. Disturbed, I ruminated: how History was twisted to win brownie points. But I solaced myself thinking it was just a one-off – born of ignorance, nothing more. I didn’t worry much.
But things changed dramatically. Came the election and a fusillade of Lies whooshed about the air – distorted facts, figures, interpolations. Lies suffused the loud utterances rolling off of alpha males, delivered with the chutzpah of an ace actor. The speeches alternated between aspirate and sibilant whispers, the timbre and pitch varying dizzily in cahoots with points emphasised in a spectator-sport. They’re the Teflon-coated adrenaline shots injected on fawning crowds to get the Lies going, and shroud lives lost in none-too-distant riots.
Such uber-steroidal speeches quickly morphed and went berserk on Twitter handles, Facebook pages, and in the course curriculum of WhatsApp University. First: bringing back the black money from abroad. The innocents bought into the hyperbole and enthusiastically looked forward to receiving the Rs 15 lakh promised in bank accounts. Nothing happened, the hope had dissipated. Instead, Jumla had struck root and gained currency. The chimera had evanesced.
Na Khaunga, Na Khane Dunga! Chowkidar, alias Pradhan Sevak, shall protect the nation’s treasury 24/7 it touted, while citizens merrily go about their Achhe Din. Notwithstanding the Chowkidar’s vigil, the country was vacuumed of its resources – burgeoning NPAs and loan writeoffs totting up to lakhs of crores, and 28 economic offenders – despite red flags raised – decamping to safe havens. Yet the narrative of the chowkidari role-model continued with aplomb, kept going by crony capitalists, hordes of paid and unpaid bhakts, disseminated by the freshly-hewn godi-media, aka the ruler’s lap-and-running dog.
The two-crore jobs-a-year too had vanished, as Lies colonised and billowed big time to take trans-galactic flights. Isaac Newton didn’t discover the Law of Gravity, it was discovered in Ancient India, perhaps by the Indian scientist Brahmagupta II – a thousand years before Newton! To the litany of achievements practiced thousand-years ago, the PM added two other stellar notes: cosmetic surgery; and reproductive genetics. Lord Ganesha’s elephant-head was an embodiment of plastic surgery in hoary India, if empirical evidence was needed!
“I believe that Karna’s birth was due to stem cell technology” said the PM. “We can feel proud of what our country achieved in medical science at one point of time… we realise that the Mahabharata says Karna was not born from his mother’s womb. This means that genetic science was present at that time.” This was October 2014 in Mumbai, in front of medical professionals.
“If we talk about space science, our ancestors had, at some point, displayed great strengths in space science. What people like Aryabhata had said centuries ago is being recognised by science today… we are a country which had these capabilities. We need to regain these.”
We regained – to embrace these Lies. A lot of such fake news rolled off the assembly line. Yes, former PM Vajpayee was a passenger on India’s first ever metro! The BJP started the Direct Benefit Transfer (DBT) scheme! No Congress leader visited Bhagat Singh in jail.
Each Lie was spiked. Indira Gandhi laid the foundation-stone of India’s first metro – Kolkata – in 1972; the DBT claim was launched in 2013. The Tribune’s reportage, Nehru’s Autobiography and Bhagat Singh Defence Committee nailed the last Lie. Even in the hallucinatory high of post-electoral euphoria it was counterintuitive to believe that the entire Indian media would turn into godi-media.
I was nonplussed. The bluff of Lies and bluster of Fakery showed no signs of abating. Instead, drugged, its new high-falutin horns – fake news, love jihad, gau rakshaks’ lynching, and on and on – raised ugly heads to morph into a New Normal. The critics were chastised, dubbed anti-nationals and urban naxals. Post-truth was the new trope of discourse.
With time, theatrics reduced the Dear Leader to glib profanity, to mocking opponents not endowed with fantabulous chest or machismo. Global warming was explained away as advancing neuro-biological age; the 2 crore-a-year employment mitigated with phantasmal pakoda employment; the MSP remained a mirage for farmers. The Indo-French Secrecy Agreement, 2006 and Official Secrets Act, 1923 invoked to overlay Rafale wrongs; and despite copious documented media exposés, the government clung to its Lies.
The RTI Act was paralysed by the non-appointment of Information Commissioners; any recrudescence of independence by CIC/IC sought to be smothered by Committees of handpicked babus swearing undying loyalty to the master. The promise of whittling down petrol/diesel prices remained a pipedream, even as crude oil prices struck 30-odd US$, as did the promise on exchange rates.
Most searing was impugning constitutional/statutory institutions. The Executive contorted to a rubberstamp of the omniscient, omnipresent PMO. The Parliament was drowned with Lies – the Aadhaar Bill piloted as a money bill! Even the Judiciary dared not refuse accepting sealed covered unsigned government information, also committed typo-grammatical errors in its Rafale judgment. In one singular Report – Rafale Audit – of infamy, the CAG succeeded in decimating its impeccable reputation; the media barring microscopic exceptions transmogrified to loud purveyors of Lies, and to blank out Truth.
The invidious appointment of the CVC – an officer of allegedly doubtful integrity – to oversee its function sapped whatever residual credibility the CBI had. The wrongs rippled out when another officer of doubtful vintage was foisted on it. The midnight heist on CBI was Lie’s tour de force.
Lately, the sudden descent of the EC’s “flying squad” to seize the Rafale Book, hours before its release, was its way to entomb Lie. But the outrage was too big – it backfired, the book sold in thousands and went into reprints – a shaming self-goal! With Lies quickly somersaulting, it unmistakably showed the symptoms of high offices filled with obsequious and craven foot-soldiers, forever at the ready to smother Truth.
Today we witness the undoing and redoing of history – to grant legitimacy to an Order to rule with all its whims and idiosyncrasies, its crushing ideology, its troll army, its coward theatrics, and its blinkered view of history.
This isn’t the first time Truth’s been savaged in historiography and in history-writing. An attempt was also made in 1977-78. As Sarvepalli Gopal, the distinguished historian, wrote in an illuminating piece titled ‘The Fear of History’ (Seminar Jan 1978):
“Of all the social sciences, it is history which rouses the greatest interest in the minds of the politicians… The line between history and mythology is thought to be thin; the past can be used to lend legitimacy to any aspect of the present...
“… all totalitarian regimes seek to harness history in their support and have it rewritten according to their needs. Hitler secured the elimination of the Jewish element… Gustav Kossinna argued for the primacy of German prehistory… where the German people were described as the most superior and the cradle of world civilization. The 1941 edition quotes Hitler at length and Kossinna’s chauvinism was a deliberate support of racism. Himmler used these arguments to back Nazi policy and stated that, ‘Prehistory is the doctrine of the eminence of the Germans at the dawn of civilization.’ Mussolini ordered the revision of Italian history to serve as a precedent for his own foreign policy... History to dictation is a natural ally of authoritarianism.”
We’re experiencing similar surgical strikes. But History isn’t the handmaiden of propagandists, ideologues, and rulers. Tinkering with history has inherent hazards. When such misadventure has apparent designs to veil weaknesses, the objective is sinister. We need no Gustav Kossinna!
The apotheosis of Lieism and Fekuism is recent: Chowkidar as honorific prefix: to conceal wrongs that’re resonating roundly with the masses. Its irrational usage debases the dignity of Chowkidar’s profile. Far from shrouding Truth, it does the opposite – fortifying wrongs and unmasking Lies. The moniker of Chowkidar is in dire need of tweaking!
Spare a thought for poor me – Truth – in times of Lies Unlimited & Fakery Inc! Can I call myself Chowkidar Truth? That’ll be an anachronism, an oxymoron!
Sudhanshu Mohanty is a former Controller General of Defence Accounts and also a former Financial Adviser (Defence Services) in the Ministry of Defence who retired on May 31, 2016.He is the author of several books including Babudom: Catacombs of Indian Bureaucracy and Anatomy of a Tumour: A Patient's Intimate Dialogue with the Scourge (Hay House).