A recent complaint registered at Netflix against filmmaker Anurag Kashyap has been a source of much glee and jeering in the right-wing circles. According to a report by the tabloid Mid-Day, the streaming company has asked the producers of the January 2020 release Ghost Stories to explain the “reasoning” behind a quasi-cannibalistic scene of a mother devouring her own foetus after miscarriage. The producers RSVP Movies and Flying Unicorn Entertainment were asked to provide the rationale after Netflix received a complaint under the country’s new IT laws that mandate a mandatory registration of a complaint within 24 hours and address at the earliest.
The complaint read:
“The scene is not required for the story, and if the creators wished to add such a scene, there should have been a trigger warning for women who have gone through the trauma of miscarriages.”
Perfunctorily, this is seen as a ‘victory’ of the ‘right-wing’ in the country, in heckling or haranguing the clearly Hindu-hating mainstream content cabal of the Hindi entertainment industry, of which Anurag Kashyap is the poster boy. Given that his movies, web series, and even his Twitter timeline and public statements have been not just anti-government or anti-Modi but unapologetically anti-Hindu and anti-Hindutva, the schadenfreude is understandable, but ultimately, short-sighted and self-defeating, at least from an ideological and philosophical standpoint.
In trying to score some cosmetic victory over far left or cultural Marxists, the anti-left lobby and citizens of this country are not just using the same toolkit and tricks of theirs but also validating their philosophical premises and policy positions. Every single political tool and philosophical premise in this case is a favourite of the left. It is the left that takes delight in curbing offensive free speech, privileging “hurt feelings” over rational discussions and discourses, and nanny-state overreaching its mandate of governance. Weaponised laws used by one set of politically motivated citizens to legally harass the other is what we have been seeing Left wreck countries from within. And, in time, it will be used against us manifold.
The idea that a citizen of this country can shut down another’s speech just by claiming that it has the potential to hurt the “trauma” of someone is a deeply disturbing and, frankly, disgusting idea. Such flimsy, subjective, ambiguous, and capricious grounds of handing citizens veto powers against each other are a certain recipe of more civil strife in the long run. They are also against the “right-wing” ideals of rule of law, objective and predictable laws and jurisprudence. Most importantly, fostering this kind of culture curtails public space for masculine ideals like strength (including mental strength of withstanding the ugly side of life), toughness, logical and rational discourses in the public arena, and self-sufficiency (as opposed to running to the nanny state or flexing its muscles for settling your personal grudges).
Philosophically speaking, while both feminine and masculine values need to be in play in the psyche of the public/collective as well as the individual, the trajectory of independent India has always been more and more feminisation of public discourse and culture. The government acted as maai baap sarkaar or a nanny state, penalising emotionally offensive speech, alongside stifling economic aggression (and masculinity) of free trade, free markets, and private businesses. The very first amendment of the constitution gave the government virtually infinite powers to curb free speech on the ground that it’s important to protect feelings of communities from being hurt, as a pre-requisite to law and order. What is happening today is just a worse rehash of the same Nehruvian legacy of mollycoddling “feelings”, made worse by that now
- You don’t even need a whole, tangible, sizeable community for taking offence — only one individual, batting for an imaginary/hypothetical group, like “women who have gone through the trauma of miscarriages” in this case will do,
- The ground for taking offense has widened from the already large grounds of religion and caste to now even personal tragedies and traumas.
Now, for instance, you can raise objection to each and every movie that ever showed fast-moving vehicles or road accidents, ranging from Dhoom to graphic documentaries on road accidents, saying that it is insensitive to “women who went through the trauma of losing husbands to rash driving and/or road accidents”. And the broadcaster will be forced to act on this non-sensical complaint, wasting precious man hours on unnecessary paperwork.
Such a Kafkaesque dystopian horror should be enough to horrify you if you cared even a little about living in a sane polity. In case it is not, go back to the point earlier raised about the constant feminisation of the culture, and add to it that the Left also plays up the female-victimhood narrative to push the misandry in law and jurisprudence, and penalise the male sex. Imagine if a man objects to the movies like Thappad, or Haseena Dilruba, saying that they respectively insult the pain of men going through a divorce on flimsy grounds of domestic violence, or men cuckolded/cheated on. Will that be given a hearing? Under even the so-called “right-wing” government of Narendra Modi? It will most certainly not.
Ego-invested defenders of this government (or even the feminised, masculinity-exorcised contemporary culture) would say it is being done “for a larger cause”, for Hindutva — to teach a lesson to enemies of enemies Hindutva like Kashyap. But the reality could not have been further away from that.
Firstly, this government doesn’t give two hoots about Hindutva — it never legitimised an iota of Hindutva in its seven years. It settled Ram Janmabhoomi as a land dispute, not a reclamation of the natural culture of this land; it completed the integration of Kashmir with India as social justice (reservation, backwardness) and nanny state (economic disparity) issue, not a civilisation-related one. For this government, Hindutva is like a concubine — to visit secretly, entertain her a little, and assure that the heart belongs to her, but never give the legitimacy of a lawful wife who can then make legitimate irrefutable claims.
Secondly, Hindutva is a masculine trait — it is a culture, not an ideology, and cultures are by definition masculine. Moreover, if one studies deeply the literature of Savarkar and Golwalkar, the first detailed articulators of Hindutva, if one studies the ways of Shyama Prasad Mukherjee, the tallest personification of Hindutva in independent India, if one goes to the roots and looks at how Bankim Chandra Chattopadhyay conceptualised Hindutva, they’re all masculine — aggressive, assertive, stoic, strong, even violent (when needed, not compulsively) — manifestations. Hindutva is the trait and characteristic of strong men (and even strongmen, if needed).
To redeem Hindutva, respecting masculinity, the Purushatva needs to begin. And this cannot be just a superficial celebration of Men’s Day or scraping of misandrist laws. Those are needed, but they’re just the surface. To save Hindutva, we need to start demanding space in the public domain and conversation for masculinity itself — strength, assertiveness, aggressiveness, conflict (when necessary) need to be celebrated instead of being reprimanded and penalised. And this has to begin from culture, for politics is downstream from culture, as Andrew Breitbart rightly pointed out. What is seeded in culture today will fruit in polity tomorrow.
And we need to be ready to make necessary sacrifices — not just personal but also political and ideological — if we want to change the culture. This means that we need to resist the temptations of cheap political shots, like this attack on Anurag Kashyap, if they push the envelope of toxic femininity, nanny state, stifling of freedom of speech, privileging feelings, sentiments, victim cards over the right to offend, political incorrectness, individual’s rights against the state and other individuals, etc.
Ideally, this means that there should be no content censorship or regulation, no trigger warnings, complete freedom to offend any religion and all religions and sensibilities, etc. However, even if one is not committed to absoluteness of free speech because it’s an “Abrahamic” idea, even then at least cases like the present one where just one person can heckle and possibly bring to trouble another man’s speech by misusing the legal provisions should be discouraged and penalised. The purushatva (masculinity) of this land and its people is what needs urgent protection — the left is coming to castrate the people first. Once purushatva is repaired and rejuvenated, the power of Hindutva would automatically surge through it, the manhood (pun most definitely intended) of our people, for Hindutva is our natural spirit. But to sustain itself, it needs a strong body of purushatva — which needs to be created.