Leftists and liberals are aghast that Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis disgraced himself and his office by succumbing to MNS chief Raj Thackeray’s bullying over the release of Ae Dil Hai Mushkil. But, to a large extent, the bleeding-hearts themselves are responsible for the mess. For the Right is using the weapons that were used with impunity by intellectuals over the decades—argumentum ad hominem, guilt by association, plain calumniation, sentimentalism. And using them with a devastating effect.
Argumentum ad hominem is the form of argumentation in which the arguer rather than the argument is attacked. An illustration: a minister is accused of corruption; instead of refuting the charges with facts and reasonable analysis, the minister just brushes aside the allegations as a result of animus on the part of the accuser; he even casts aspersions on the character, conduct, and motives of the opponent. Bharatiya Janata Party leader and Rajya Sabha member Subramanian Swamy, the indefatigable anti-graft crusader, has been the regular target of ad hominem attacks.
But the most dangerous attacks have been on the country’s very public discourse. Progressives have used, among other techniques, argumentum ad hominem over a long period, ultimately resulting in the banishment of reason.
They accuse the Sangh Parivar of imposing the tests of patriotism and nationalism on filmmakers, artists, writers, journalists, and others. But who, pray, did start the game of tests? Who drew the first blood? And, in the process, perverted public discourse?
Who created the binaries of progressive-bourgeois, secular-communal, etc.? Who portrayed the objectors of reservation policy as ‘elitist’ and ‘Brahmanical’? Who began to label creative authors as ‘progressive’ and ‘bourgeois’? Who created the secular-communal gulf, which was responsible for over half-a-century rule of the Congress despite its gross incompetence and shameless corruption? For anybody allying with the Hindutva parties was dubbed as communal, despite the well-acknowledged fact that without the BJP (and earlier the Bharatiya Jana Sangh) it is was impossible to dethrone the grand old party. Even socialists like Ram Manohar Lohia and Jayaprakash Narain were not spared.
Those who are worried about intolerance today were the most intolerant bullies in their heyday. Intolerant, and self-righteous, and supercilious, and tyrannical. Any writer, historian, journalist, or artist not in sync with the progressive canon was marginalized, maligned, and demonized. The mindset is still the same despite the Left’s decline. As they say in Hindi, rassi jal gayi par bal naheen gaya.
When the Indira Gandhi National Centre for Arts (IGNCA) decided to celebrate the noted Hindi literary critic Namvar Singh’s 89th birthday on August 28 this year by launching a series of programmes in his honor, the All India Progressive Writers’ Association felt bad. The association even issued a statement, saying that it distanced itself from him, though Singh is the tallest Left-leaning Hindi literary critic. Professional radicals were unhappy that Home Minister Rajnath Singh and Culture Minister Mahesh Sharma would attend the function. How could the chief curator of good taste stoop to the level of the philistines of the Sangh Parivar? How could he rub shoulders with the ministers of the communal government?
To be sure, the IGNCA is not a government department but an autonomous body, headed by not some RSS apparatchik by the senior journalist and a JP associate, Ram Bahadur Rai. But for Kuldeep Kumar, a noted journalist, Rai is “the veteran RSS activist and senior journalist” (http://thewire.in/54544/namwar-singh-and-the-perils-of-inconsistency/). Veteran RSS activist first, and only then a senior journalist. Hopefully, he didn’t allude to any causality: a senior journalist by virtue of being an RSS activist.
Kumar hurls a million accusations at Namvar Singh for his unpardonable sin of hobnobbing with the abominable saffronites. “Even in his heyday, Namvar Singh was never known for his intellectual consistency although he has always been admired for his razor sharp mind, formidable intellect, vast erudition and argumentative skills.”
Further, “And yet, for the past few decades, he has been admired but not loved or respected. Invited to speak at events all over the country, Namvar Singh has become notorious for playing to the gallery—saying one thing one day only to contradict it the very next day.”
Namvar Singh is also hauled over the coals for sounding a discordant note in the ‘growing intolerance’ symphony played last year. According to Kuldip Kumar, “When writers, intellectuals and artistes such as Krishna Sobti, M. K. Raina, Uday Prakash and others were protesting the growing intolerance in the country by returning awards given by the government and its institutions, Namvar Singh criticised them as headline hunters’.”
Still further, “long ago, Namvar Singh gave up his search for ‘satya’ (truth) and started chasing ‘satta’ (power).” “His fascination for proximity with powerful politicians was evident when he attended a book release function of V. P. Singh’s collection of poems at the former prime minister’s residence and sang paeans in praise of his poetry. And, much to the shock of his audience, he described him as a modern-day Bhartrihari.”
Kuldip Kumar even accused Namvar Singh of “saluting” Pappu Yadav.
Reading this article, one would be tempted to think that Namvar Singh is the bane of Hindi literature, if not of mankind itself. Just because he attended a function in which a clutch of Rightwing leaders were also present! If Leftists can savage one of their own for what they regard as an ideological deviation, what would they not do to those whom they hate their guts anyway?
In a curious irony, the Right has learnt the tactics of Leftists intellectuals and is using against them in different ways. Argumentum ad hominem, guilt by association, plain calumniation, sentimentalism, etc., are the staple the saffron narrative is made of. Anybody with a divergent opinion is simply a traitor or an anti-nationalist. A movie in which a Pakistani actor plays a small role has to be banned. And everything is said and done with a large dose of sentimentalism.
Leftists and liberals may lament that saffronites are ill-treating them. That’s right because Rightists are returning intellectuals back in the same coin. The real casualties in this quarrel between ideologies are freedom of expression, the rule of law, and public discourse.