Letter to Sagarika Ghose: All Rightists aren’t ‘communal’ or ‘Sanghi’

Dear Sagarika Ghose,

Hope this letter finds you in the pink green of your health. I happened to read your piece Letter to India’s Right last week where you had written a letter addressing the right wingers and have lectured them on dissent & freedom of speech. As a right winger, I believe that the letter was addressed to me too and since etiquette says that one should respond to letters; here I shoot!

First things first, you accuse us of making social media a propaganda arm of the government & compare us to a “ferocious army”. LOLJK! I was quite amused when I read it because it was coming from the (ex) deputy editor of a channel which chose to edit the infamous ‘Cash for Votes’ scandal video after receiving a call from Mr. Prithviraj Chavan. So, what propaganda are we talking about? Also, for your kind information, social media can be used by any one Sagarika. I repeat anyone; like you use it for your ‘propaganda’ of maligning the entire right wing. And given the fact that we support the government of the day; what else do you expect us to do? You also say that to be pro-government and pro-establishment is now de rigeur on social media. How I wish it was true. At least we would have escaped from the zero IQ tweets where you rant so much about the government.

On Saturday, 1st November 2014, twitter suspended a couple of accounts and most of these were the soldiers of the “ferocious army”. Poor us! We soldiers can’t protect our own accounts on twitter & you ask why we are seeking to shut down all our critics & opposition? On the contrary, I would like to remind you that it was the “Left Liberal” Congress which tried to stifle the voices of dissent when it was in power. Remember how Kapil Sibal instructed Google & Facebook to ‘screen’ content? I hope you at least remember the suspension of twitter accounts of your fraternity folks – Kanchan Gupta, Shashi Shekhar et al. Did you write a letter to the secular government? No? Okay!

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Also, since you feel we are shutting down voices of dissent, I must give you a quick revision of history.  India has a long standing record of banning books and films. Yes, the BJP & other right wing parties have done it but the “left-liberal” Congress & CPM governments don’t have a good track record too. Nehru: A Political Biography by Michael Edwards, was banned in 1975 because the author made sweeping comments about Nehru such as that his life was a “series of dependences (sic) on stronger characters than his own”. India Independent by French historian Charles Bettelheim was banned in 1976 because it was critical of the government policies. The True Furqan: The 21st century Quran, originally written in Arabic as al-Furqan al-Haqq, was banned in 2005 following claims that it mocked Islam and was the work of American evangelists as part of a US-Israeli conspiracy. The left front in Bengal promoted a ban on Taslima Nasreen’s Lajja which talked about the atrocities on Hindus in Bangladesh following the Babri Masjid demolition. The smart, charming & suave Rajiv Gandhi banned Salman Rushdie’s Satanic Verses because it offended his vote bank of Muslims. Last but not the least, Javier Moro’s The Red Sari which was supposedly based on the life of Mrs. Sonia Gandhi was banned in 2005. The list can go on but you are an intelligent & well read journalist so I am sure you got the point!

It is also heartening to see you talk about debate & dissent. After all, you believe in the right to dissent so much that you blocked me on twitter for reasons best known to you. Why is satire not acceptable? Why is dissent not to be tolerated?  For you, any critic of the media or the Congress is an “Internet Hindu”; any hint of disagreement and one becomes a “Sanghi”; any small critique means one is a “minority-hater”, “communal”, “Khakhi knicker wallah”, who must instantly take up membership with the RSS or Bajrang Dal.

I have always condemned the demolition of Babri Masjid and I regard it as a blot on India’s democracy. My heart went out to the crying widows and children who lost their loved ones in the Godhra riots. I believe that the attack on Christians in Kandhmal was shameful. And guess what? I know a hell LOT of rightists who share the same emotions because though you paint all rightists as ‘blood thirsty-minority hating’ species, we are human beings at the end and are made of same blood & flesh like you.

Having said that, I don’t suffer from selective amnesia like you. I castigate the Sikh pogrom in Delhi & the exodus of Kashmiri Pandits also. My heart bleeds equally for the Hindus who died in Godhra riots & in the Sabarmati express in 2002. I also feel strongly for your fellow Bengalis in Deganga who were tortured by mobs from minority community in 2010.  It was good when you visited the Muzzafarnagar riot victims in the camps but I would have loved if you had visited the refugee camps where Kashmiri Pandits are living since last two decades; just like you wanted Mr. Narendra Modi to visit the Gyanvyapi mosque after visiting the Ganga ghat.  As a nationalist, I felt outraged when a group of Muslims in Azad Maidan vandalised the ‘Amar Jawan Jyoti’.I also feel angry when my fellow countrymen show disrespect to the national song, anthem & refuse to sing it and no ‘freedom of speech’ crap justifies it.  If I question the media for selective outrage & coverage and if that makes me communal then so be it!

Lastly, you question us on our economic policies. Now it’s kinda cute that somebody who never questioned the ‘economist’ PM for the falling economy is asking questions within 5 months of the government formation. The fact that inflation today is at a 3 year low, World Bank predicting a healthy 5.6 % GDP growth & Moody predicting a rating ‘upgrade’ for India speak a lot about the economic policies of the government. Of course, government deregulating diesel prices, increasing the FDI cap in defence, aviation & real estate, raising the income tax exemption limit by Rs 50,000 for all taxpayers below 80 years of age, reducing the excise duty on food & footwear industries mean nothing to you.

Just to give you a perspective, India when last had the right-wing government at the centre saw huge economic growth. Vajpayee in his tenure showed true commitment to liberalizing reforms. For example, Life and general insurance were opened to the private sector with foreign investment permitted up to 26 per cent. The small-scale industries reservation was substantially ended. In the area of macroeconomics, the government had freed administered interest rates on many government savings instruments, which had held the rate above market rates. The inflation rate below 5 per cent reflected on the government’s success in streamlining the monetary policy. The current account deficit had remained low during the NDA rule showing a modest current account surplus. The rupee had remained stable with foreign exchange reserves rising from $29.4 billion at the end of March 1998 to $113 billion at the end of March 2004.

Over the past few years, you have created a mainstream thinking that it is almost a taboo to carry the right wing label which conjures up to images of Trishul holding fanatics who are out to slaughter minorities or anyone who disagrees with them. Historically, cultural nationalism or brute majoritarianism have been associated with the extreme right. But, extreme left has been equally destructive. If Adolf Hitler committed innumerable crimes in the garb of right wing politics; so did Joseph Stalin in the name of left wing politics. Fortunately, in India there is little or no room for the either extremes so we can either lean to the left or to the right while standing at the centre.

Yours truly

Rahul Sharma