From Modi To Deb: What To Say, What Not To

There are plausible manners in which beliefs can be interpreted without attracting derision, but if Biplab Deb and some others in the BJP cannot pull it off, those who burst into guffaws hearing the takes on ancient India betrayed immaturity while dismissing the Tripura Chief Minister’s economics


Tripura Chief Minister Biplab Deb has not been in news for the past 24 hours, and that is news. His proclivity otherwise seemed to be to put a foot permanently in the mouth. How he sensed the word “civil” in “civil engineering” took the cake. However, while the guffaws are in place, the criticism is going a bit overboard, with no room for deciphering the intent behind the odd utterances. The former gymnasium trainer is clearly not at home occupying a public office, given the non-existent of his party BJP in the northeastern State until recently. While the RSS swayamsevak was rewarded perhaps for his dedication to social service, which the organisation is hardly credited for, the justification of traditional beliefs is not restricted to the Sangh in the larger Hindu society. His frequency of awkward comments being high, one has perhaps found him an odd man out. He cannot still be singled out for a rough critique because no less than Prime Minister Narendra Modi had attracted the wrong kind of attention by finding the elephant head of Lord Ganesha an ancient example of cosmetic surgery. Thereafter, Union minister Dr Harsh Vardhan had found in the Vedas some formula superior to Einstein’s E = mc2 and Satya Pal Singh had wondered why nobody had seen a monkey turning into a man if Charles Darwin’s theory of had been true! It is a fact that Hindu society at large tries to find equivalents of the modern world in the oldest faith. They do it because their belief system was hit with derision for centuries by immigrant and invading Christian and faiths who ‘harvested souls’ by degrading what appeared to them a polytheistic or pagan practice of the civilisation of this land. With little knowledge of the Testaments or the Qur’an, Hindus were unable to hit back laughing at theories like Eve was created out of the thirteenth rib of Adam or pigs could fly. Instead of going on the offensive, therefore, they put up a defensive front, seeking in faith.

That said, sophisticated metaphysics could be used to explain the supernatural instances from Hindu scriptures — if an average, unscholarly Hindu is a stranger to the otherworldly experience. In any case, the discourse on what lies beyond should have a select audience. When delivered from a public platform for mass consumption, especially by one who holds a secular constitutional office, the speech will attract the scrutiny of material science. If the BJP pantheon from Deb to Modi does not comprise scientists, they are not seers either, who can pull off a sermon. These headline-grabbing sound-bytes are, therefore, best avoided by the said gentry. They could be advised bulldozing their way through the incredulous crowd if the BJP were an unabashed advocate of Hinduism, which the party is not. The day they assume power, they turn quite apologetic of their Hindutva flag-bearing legacy. If this had not been their record, one could recommend to them the works of some colossal theologians the land has produced, reading which they would know how to represent the ancient texts. Let’s not count the reaction to the Prime Minister’s invocation of the Prophet, as that tweet was too politically correct for the chatterati to roast.

The belly-laughing lib-left warrants a rebuke, too. Whereas it is not expected they would revise their condescending view about any piece of heritage that is essentially Indian, it is doubtful whether they could appreciate traditional Indian economics either. Leave aside the crude manner in which the Tripura chief minister put it, there can indeed be a veritable business model centred around the cow, which worked for centuries in the rural landscape. It still works in semi-urban locales, and communists are not known to be great proponents of urbanisation. Ergo, if the Gandhian left’s inertial, status quo-ist, nostalgic romanticism with villages must be respected, the economics that would work in underdeveloped areas of the country cannot be urban. Importantly, a large section of the Indian population also needs to emerge from its obsession with job consumption and switch to self-employment, every unit of which would provide sustenance to individuals more than one. In a Bengali-dominated State like Tripura, this must all the more be drilled into the people’s mind, as the linguistic community has been largely observed to loathe business. Even after the end of Manik Sarkar’s regime that was averse to private enterprise, industrialisation of the State will take time. Until a bevy of companies begins offering jobs to the people of Tripura, they do not have a choice other than entrepreneurship. Deb’s urge to the people of his State to not grovel to his ministers for jobs is also a necessary lesson against the feudalism of our political class. If he was brash in some of his averments, his audience’s giggles were sophomoric, too.

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