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When the Right turns Leftwards

When the Right turns Leftwards

With lockdown restrictions easing today, it may be instructive to examine the happenings in the last few weeks. The novel coronavirus bared many a failing of Indians.

Covid-19 deaths in our country are 0.5 per cent of the global fatalities, whereas our population is 17 per cent of the world’s. Yet, fear, phobia actually, has gripped the nation; everybody is preparing to combat a disease whose deadliness in India nobody is sure about. In the meantime, though, health facilities for those suffering from cardiovascular ailments, kidney and liver troubles, cancer, malaria, typhoid, etc., have been suspended: you are not ailing unless you are corona positive.

If fear limits reason, phobia paralyzes it. Most of us today refuse to exercise their cognitive and cogitative faculties; they simply don’t want to discover the truth about the coronavirus themselves. Blindly believing what governments and experts say, never scrutinizing official statements or checking these against facts (one ‘expert’ had predicted 70-80 crore infections in India), they are so scared that they even refuse to ask simple questions: Is life without liberty worth living? If the curve doesn’t flatten in a month, or a year, should we continue to live like this? Should the economy and civilization be allowed to be flattened? Is it life anyway? Isn’t it better to die a free man or woman than live like a frightened prisoner? When was the last time when the world came to a grinding halt?

The lockdown has made fish of human beings. As a Hindi nursery rhyme says, Haath lagao to dar jaayenge, baahar nikalo to mar jaayenge… (Touch us and we get frightened, take us out and we die…). Fearful because Covid-19 kills, but so do TB, cancer, heart ailments, flu, malaria, and a zillion diseases. All kill, yet we don’t sit at home—in some kind of Passover.

It is easy to blame Prime Minister Narendra Modi for the mess the lockdown has occasioned. But this would be lazy, dishonest analysis. All politicians, in all parties, are control freaks. Nothing gives them as great a kick as the one they get when people look askance at them: What next? Would the lockdown continue? If yes, for how long? Would it be complete, or would there be relaxations? What kind of relaxations? Would there be more layoffs? All-pervasive fear, anxiety numbs sense of proportion, represses reason, generates more fear and anxiety, often engendering panic as well, creating a spiral, a vicious circle.

The Indian politician loves that. He plays on fear and panic, thrives on it, arrogates more power to himself, uses it with zest, relishing in its use. The thrill of the use and abuse of power without consequences. He can stop, or start, any section of the economy in whichever manner he deems fit. He can use the coercive arm of state with impunity. He can play God.

The media doesn’t object to it. Indeed there are compliant journalists who prod politicians to use more coercion. As I mentioned in an earlier article, there is an anchor with an English news channel who said on March 23 on primetime that Indians understand the language of danda only. There is a major Hindi news channel which has been showing a short, supposedly funny animation clip, informing the audience how venturing out during the lockdown could be hazardous for citizens. It shows how cops humiliate the offenders—forcing them do punishment sit-ups, making murga, and so on.

The message is loud and clear: if you disobey the lockdown rules, police will punish you. Don’t the channel bosses know that the job of police is to apprehend offenders? Don’t they know that only courts can punish a culprit? But there is this animation film; we are expected to laugh at the gross violation of human rights of citizens! Nobody has told the editors concerned that it is not a laughing matter.

Senior Bharatiya Janata Party leader L.K. Advani famously said that during the Emergency, the press was asked to bow; it started crawling. The situation is worse now: it didn’t need any prodding; it started crawling on its own volition. Most journalists blindly and unquestioningly accepted the pro-lockdown narrative. Some of them are even supporting and encouraging coercion.

The politician delights in that. There is ample sadism in our political system. There is also a great deal masochism in society. Most people have convinced themselves that they are doing a great patriotic, humanitarian duty by staying home, by clanging bells and lighting lamps, by enjoying rather than enduring the imprisonment that their political masters have imposed upon them.

The tragedy of India today is that a Rightwing government is executing a Leftwing agenda. The lockdown means unprecedented damage to the economy and enormous pain for the poor; the consequence would be a bigger state. This is the reason that the anti-Trump forces, which are steered by socialists like Bernie Sanders and pinkish intellectuals, favor the lockdown, while the US President want normalcy to be restored as soon as possible.

This also explains why the professional revolutionaries in our country are not slamming the Modi government over the imposition of the lockdown; their criticism pertains only to its gauche implementation. After all, they wanted the lockdown.

Isn’t a nation doomed when its Right imitates the Left?.