Saturday, 2 September 2017

Why This Blog and Why This Name: An Update

Quite a few people have been curious about my blog (which I resumed after a long gap) and I have had to refer them to my first post in January 2005, Why This Blog and Why This Name. Then I started reading the post myself. And I realised nothing has changed since then. In fact, things have gotten worse now.
The sharpening of polarisation in discourse had, even in the early 2000s, made normal conversation difficult. Now it has become impossible.  Not virtually impossible. Not next to impossible. Just impossible.
Nuance was fading then. It has disappeared now. There was some labelling then. There is outright name-calling now. And yes, it is all centred around Narendra Modi – the Divine Deliverer or the Devil Incarnate, depending on which side of the ideological divide one is on. If you believe – like I do – that he is neither, that he is as much capable of getting things right as getting things hopelessly wrong, then your plight is worse than that of the proverbial dhobi ka kutta.
This is not about the bhakt brigade alone. Stories about their trolling, abusive name-calling, peddling of lies and fake photos/news and assertions that whatever good is happening in the country is only because of Modi are well known. I am not going to spend time repeating them.
This post is equally about the Modi/BJP/RSS haters. In fact, it is more about them, because they are not being called out sufficiently. They rue the demise of nuance and the rise of intolerance, but they have contributed to both in no small measure. Try saying something positive about this government at a gathering of Modi haters. Try pointing out factual inaccuracies and logical flaws in their arguments. Try outing their fake news and fake photos (yes, they too indulge in them). Hell, just try joking about their obsession with Modi. You will not emerge unscathed. They are as sneery and spew as much venom as the bhakt brigade, except that the English is better.
Nothing brings this out better than the cacophonous debate over demonetisation. The DeMo Deriders (an assortment of libertarians, Modi hating liberals or MoHaLis and opposition politicians) are no less shrill and unreasonable than the DeMo Defenders (an assortment of liberals and Modi bhakts). It is one thing to question someone’s claim to being an economic liberal/libertarian or their understanding of basic economics if they made even a `yes, but’ kind of equivocation on the issue. It is quite another to question their professional and personal integrity. The bhakt brigade calls anyone who doesn’t agree with them a Congress chamcha. The hater brigade calls anyone who doesn’t agree with them a Modi chamcha. Is there a difference?
Personally, though, my experience has been slightly different. I have liberal friends who are bhakts and liberal friends who are allergic to the very mention of Modi. The former lot are okay with my not deifying Modi. They don’t bully me. The bullying has come only from bhakts whom I don’t know. I have been told to change my name to Soorpanakha (which explains my Twitter handle) and go back to Lanka (Pakistan is not an option for me, clearly).
But my MoHaLi friends, have a huge, huge problem with my refusing to demonise Modi, and have not hesitated to bully me. I have been told I need to fight the good fight, that my pox on both houses stand won’t do, that my obsession with facts is irksome and so on and so forth.
But I am not going to be bullied by either side and I will continue to strive to be beyond labels, through this blog and other writings. The writings on this blog will be more free-wheeling than in my journalistic pieces. I believe the need for this blog is more in these times. As in my journalistic writing, I will take a stand on issues based on facts. Regardless of what the bhakt brigade or the hate gang feels. Just one word to members of both: don't waste your time posting abusive comments; comments are moderated.

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