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A lighthouse for those studying thoughts and philosophies of Modi era

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By Sidharth Mishra

Noted journalist Javed Anand, on the morning of January 22, writing in a prominent newspaper said, "For the Muslims it was only a property dispute. It (the mosque) had no religious or historical significance. It was so obscure that locating it in the then narrow and dusty lanes of Ayodhya was bit of a task." He holds forth that the Muslim leadership should have volunteered to handover the structure to the Hindus, whose sentiments were so deeply ingrained in the structure.

While Anand blames the Muslim leadership of failing to see the sentiments, he has not placed on record the role of Left-leaning historians like Irfan Habib, RS Sharma and DN Jha, who derided the Hindu belief in the location being the place of birth of their cultural and not just religious icon - Ram, the Prince, and later the King of Ayodhya.

The role of the Left-liberal influence on the succeeding governments of post-Independence was not just limited to position on the Ram Mandir issue but in different sectors of policy making. In the midst of the high energy celebrations over the consecration of Ram temple, Utapl Kumar’s recently launched tome ‘Bharat Rising: Dharma, Democracy, Diplomacy’ may not get a viral-type reception in the market but its set for a long innings in the world of books.

Speaking the launch of the book, Bibek Debroy, the Chairman to the Economic Advisory Committee to the Prime Minister had mentioned that how good is the Narendra Modi regime would be judged by history but for sure it did unseat the deeply entrenched thoughts and ideas in the post-colonial India. There is no disagreement on this, however, the problem which Mr Modi would pose for the future historians is the lack of quality work to justify his acceptance as a mass leader, who changed the grammar of Indian politics for good.

To Utpal Kumar’s own confession, he is no Nehru-baiter for the sake of being part of a nationalist jinjoism. In fact he says that there are do doubts about first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru being a patriot, who wanted his country to do well. He however says that his policies cannot be held in the same high esteem as they were flawed and reflective of the mindset which resisted taking pride in our civilizational roots.

Utpal Kumar, through the 12 diverse essays, tries to establish the viewpoint that Nehruvian influence on Indian polity, culture and economy have been the liggest impediments in the rise of a new post-colonial India. This he does as a virtuoso of a seasoned researcher. His arguments are pegged on convincing facts, which somebody disagreeing with this line could find difficult to demolish intellectually.

His most lucid remark on Nehru’s policies are captured on page 103, writing, “Nehru could not always run with the hare and hunt with the hounds.” This imaging of Nehruvian policies can be seen in many governance initiatives of the post-colonial India. Utpal Kumar’s arguments can be likened to those of the best legal minds. Like on page 165-166, he deflates British Broadcasting Corporation’s claims of journalistic autonomy by pitching the Modi documentary issue of 2023 to the sacking of their highest paid anchor Gary Linekar two months later in March.

The book is full with each argument having a counter-argument. In time when debates on television has been reduced to very medieval blood and gore duels, such arguments and counter arguments are very refreshing. It helps one to understand the philosophic grounding of many a policies of the Narendra Modi regime.

The author is very critical of Lutyens’ elite who he doesn’t consider any less vicious than a cabal, “fiercely defending entry”and the elite prospering on the patronage of the Nehru-Gandhi dynasty. The author, however, fails to suggest how ‘Moditatva’ was going to guard against emergence of a similar clique under the present establishment.

He quotes from Raj and Romesh Thapar’s,  Äll these years”, “PN Haksar looked after the Left intellectuals and academia; Inder Kumar Gujral managed the media; and Pupul Jaykar looked after the ‘needs’ of the art world.” But can he contest that this role has now been passed on certain apparatchiks of a different hue, who have been as unfairly benevolent to their own favourites as were their predecessors in the Lutyens’cabal.

A books would have its shortcomings, in fact, what's a book without the shortcomings. It’s also true that more rigrous the work of scholarship, more rigrous is the evaluation. The look becomes harder if the book advocates the thoughts and philosophies of the establishment. There are several argument which can be effectively countered but for sure not dismissed.        

The essays in Bharat Rising: Dharma, Democracy, Diplomacy is advised as compulsive reading for those averse to the Moditatva especially the Left-liberals for several reasons. First being emergence of a scholar like Utpal on the Right, and second being the presence of several students at his book launch despite the winter chill at the prestigious Shri Ram College of Commerce of Delhi University.

Ideology of establishment throws up pretenders, their books sell well with the official patronage but not invite scholastic respect to live beyond the regime. Regimes come and go, books live beyond them. The post-Independence discourse is finding a new passage which for sure is through belief in India’s civilizational roots. This may not be getting effective and appreciative replications in the official organs and publications of the establishment but certainly it reflercts brightly in the books like the one under review.

Utpal Kumar, it can be safely said, is among few solid scholars on the 'right' and he has done the right thing by bringing out this collection of highly provocative essays . Utpal's book would have much longer shelflife than the regime itself. In the decades to come it be a great source of information for those taking to studying Narendra Modi. 

(First Published in News18)

 

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