Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Neo-Brahmins and a post-truth world

For thousands of years the Brahmins dominated the social and political narrative in India. They were always at the top in the social hierarchy and controlled the way rest of the society behaved. They laid down rules and acceptable behaviour for the rest to follow. Anyone who questioned the status-quo was branded anti-dharma. The Brahmins prescribed how the rest should treat them. They set the quantum of punishment to be meted out to those who rejected dharma. They created a system where they always had the final say, no matter what. They were the sole repository of truth.

Times changed and the role of the Brahmins was no longer relevant. But they were too clever to be left behind. They too changed and monopolised the modern system. They even managed to hoodwink the Imperial forces from Europe. They established themselves in administrative posts, became, clerks, accountants, mathematicians and professors. Their strangle hold was always strong. Just like it was thousands of years ago.

Time never stops but it sure throws surprises. According to the Brahmin declared cycle of time we are living in Kalyug. But wait, the old order has long been dismantled and a new breed of Brahmins has taken over. They are the neo-Brahmins. Like the Brahmins of antiquity, they have established their own repository of truth. They have laid down rules, which tell the rest how to treat them and what happens when someone digresses from their truth. They call the present time, “Post-Truth”. It is the Kalyug equivalent of the old Brahmin order.

Anyone who speaks against the established truth of these Neo-Brahmins is shamed and ridiculed publicly. The Neo-Brahmins firmly believe, much like the old order, that theirs is the purest version of truth. The rest have limited intellect and hence have to follow what they are told.

But who are these Neo-Brahmins? Not surprisingly they are the ones who are occupying influential positions, just like the old order. They are the liberal, fiercely honest, secular, decorated journalists. They are the socialist, people friendly, left of centre, liberal politicians. They are the independent, scholarly, brave, students studying liberal arts. They have collectively taken over the old order and established their Neo-Brahmin order to dictate new rules.

When my truth no longer matters
Image: oxforddictionaries.com
Like the Brahmin of the yore, the Neo-Brahmins have drawn clear boundaries around them. If the rest tries to cross over, they will be condemned to eternal hell in the fascist nether earth. It is advisable that the rest silently follow their rules. So when the Neo-Brahmins tell the rest that Modi is Satan personified, the rest should have voted against him. But then 2014 happened. They said Brexit is bad and the rest should have voted “remain”. But guess what, the rest voted, “leave”. They told the Americans, Trump is a clear and present danger to the American constitution. He now sits in the Oval Office. Shattered and devastated the Neo-Brahmins declared the arrival of Post-Truth.

It is the time where truth no longer matters. Because people are no longer acknowledging the Neo-Brahmins as a repository of truth. They are called out every single day. On social media. On news debates. Almost everywhere where the rest can find a voice.

So when a student stands up and uses her right to free speech, they make her a hero. But when someone counters her opinion, all hell breaks loose. Because it goes against the established truth. The Neo-Brahmin truth. The old order would have condemned the anti-dharma others to eternal hell. The Neo-Brahmins condemn the rest to a modern version of hell. They are labelled misogynists, communal, fascists, jingoists, far-right, and much more.

The question is, when the modern society gave us the opportunity to break away from the Brahmin dominance, should we appoint a new order? A new order, which is repeating what the old order did, although in English and dressed smarter than the old order. 

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Urdu, a language, which walked a country to its dismemberment

It was early spring in Dhaka, the then capital of the province of East Bengal in Pakistan. Students from the University of Dhaka started gathering for a protest on 21st February 1952. The protest was a result of more than four years of petitions and requests to give Bengali the status of the national language. A resolution passed in 1947 in Karachi made Urdu the only national language. This meant approximately two thirds (44 million Bengali speaking people out of 69 million Pakistanis) of the population was rendered illiterate and ineligible for government jobs. The Bengalis saw this as an attempt by West Pakistani political machinery to dominate them and eradicate their rich cultural and linguistic history.

Image: Google search
The February protests obviously did not go down well with the administration. Section 144 was imposed to prevent “unlawful” assembly by protesters. Students were arrested and teargas was fired. In their attempt to meet the legislators the students faced gun fire and many were killed. The iron hold of the administration to stifle the movement was understandable. In 1948, none other than the Qaid himself has declared that Urdu and Urdu alone represents the spirit of a Muslim nation.

The language movement or Bhasha Andolan as it was called in Bengali lasted for another four years and the issue was settled with a constitutional amendment of 29th February 1956. Bengali was accepted as the second national language of Pakistan. The issue may have been settled constitutionally but it continued to be controversial. During the Martial Law imposed by Ayub Khan, attempts were made to reverse the constitutional amendment but it did not succeed.

Bengali was not the only reason for the bitterness between the eastern and western halves of Pakistan. It had much to do with the assumed racial supremacy of West Pakistanis over their eastern brethren. The army was dominated by recruits from West Pakistan and state aid hardly reached the flood and cyclone prone East Pakistan. Amidst all this the final blow came with the overwhelming victory of Sheikh Mujibur Rehman’s Awami League in the general elections of 1970. West Pakistan never allowed the transfer of power to the legitimate contender, leading to a standoff between Mujibur Rehman and West Pakistan. It led to the Bangladesh’s liberation in 1971 and a humiliating defeat of Pakistan. Ironically the instrument of surrender was signed at the Ramana Race Course, the same place from where the Qaid has once declared that Urdu alone represents the spirit of a Muslim nation.

The polarisation unleashed by Urdu proved to be stronger than the Two Nation Theory on which Pakistan was created. The liberation of Bangladesh was proof that the Two Nation Theory was not only flawed but failed to act as the cohesive bond between the two halves of Pakistan.

The dominance of Urdu in Pakistan happened at the expense of local languages like Punjabi, Baluchi and Sindhi. A section of undivided India, which had many different languages was forced to accept an alien language. A language, which the elite imported from India, a country they refused to call their own.

Urdu influenced literature in much of Northern India and continues to do so. It has given us poets like Ghalib and Mir. It was once the language of the Delhi elite and represented the high culture of cities. Sadly, the language that once incited romance also incited hatred and bloodshed.