A young girl I met at the Jaipur Literature Festival (JLF) this year mentioned that the Left influence was quite evident in the selection of topics as well as speakers. She also narrated a conversation she had with her team leader, a self-proclaimed left activist. The team leader told her that the well-known lyricist, Prasoon Joshi, was not invited to JLF because “he had become a right-winger” as was evident from his lyrics in Manikarnika. Literature for the Left is a tool to invoke revolution, to take a stand against State oppression.
Now, it is the prerogative of the organisers to decide whom to invite. Two years ago, the festival organisers decided not to retract invitations sent out to Dattatreya Hosabale and me despite opposition to us speaking at JLF. This year they invited Ramesh Patange, which I consider a positive step. In fact, this year they also invited Prasoon Joshi but he could not make it due to ill-health. The observation made by the young girl about the “left activist” was in the same context.
It is worth highlighting the hypocrisy of the Left. On the one hand, they are self-proclaimed warriors of free speech, considering even genuine criticism as an assault on their freedom of expression, and, on the other, they do not shy away from forcefully suppressing any viewpoint that is not to their liking. Hence, it was not at all surprising that two years ago, when the organisers of the JLF invited RSS speakers for the first time ever, the Left was incensed. Senior communists leaders like Sitaram Yechury boycotted the festival. The RSS is a grass roots organisation which exists despite serious opposition from the establishment, only because it enjoys the support of the people of India. Thanks to the common people of Bharat, standing solidly behind the Sangh, its strength and influence has only increased over time. The Left, on the other hand, has consistently lost popular support. Today, the Left’s political dominance is restricted to one state in the south.
Filmmaker and author Vivek Agnihotri shares his experiences with this illiberal Left in his book, Urban Naxals. He narrates how he and his team were physically manhandled at Jadavpur University by women student activists in 2016. The activists wanted to stop Agnihotri from screening his film, Buddha in a Traffic Jam. Agnihotri simply suggested to the protesters that he was only screening a film, and they were free to not watch it. To which they replied, “You cannot show any movie here.”
Coming back to the team leader’s opposition to Joshi’s lyrics in Manikarnika, the team leader’s main problem was with the song “Main rahoon ya na rahoon, Bharat rehna chahiye” (I may or may not live, but Bharat must live on). One cannot help but wonder what possible objection anyone could have to lyrics as benign and as moving as this. Not unlike the Semitic religions, the Left, too, insists on only one version of the truth. No other narrative can be allowed to exist. If one chooses to differ, she loses the right to freedom of expression, rather even the right to live. Leftist ideology has been responsible for some of the worst political crimes in the history of the world. In Bharat too, the left bastions (Kerala and West Bengal) have a reputation of carrying out political murders. Such intolerance is against the spirit of Bharat and of Hindu dharma. Spiritual uplift forms the cornerstone of Bharatiya society and hence inclusiveness, freedom of thought and expression are inherent in the Hindu thought. It is this nature of the Hindu dharma that has allowed people of various social, religious and political strands to coexist peacefully in Bharat since time immemorial.
I am reminded of this story of Swami Vivekananda. Having introduced the rich cultural heritage of Bharat and Hindu dharma to the West, Swami Vivekananda was getting ready to depart from London for Bharat. The year was 1897. One of his British friends asked him, “Swamiji, how do you like your motherland now after four years’ experience of the luxurious, glorious, powerful West?” Swamiji replied: “India I loved before I came away. Now the very dust of Bharat has become holy to me, the very air is now to me holy; it is now the holy land, the place of pilgrimage, the tirtha.”
As his ship approached the shores of Bharat, Swamiji was overcome with emotion. He stood there with hands folded and eyes moist, gazing at the shoreline as if Bharat Mata had literally appeared before him. As soon as the ship pulled up in the harbour, Swami Vivekananda got off the deck and kneeled on the ground, and said, “All my worries have dissolved in the lap of my mother”.
How have we come to this point where those born on this land, nurtured by its food, water and air, and, educated by the money of its tax payers, are somehow okay with Bharat tere tukde honge (India, you will be broken into pieces)? Political parties who nurture this mindset for their narrow vested interests or outsource their intellectual outreach to leftist groups, need to introspect about the fraudulence of their ideological premise. If not, the patriotic citizens of this country will be forced to act.
(This article was first published in The Indian Express on 27 Mar 2019.)