Just another day in paradise

Just another day in paradise

Vaishna RoySEPTEMBER 07, 2018 16:10 ISTUPDATED: SEPTEMBER 08, 2018 22:59 ISTMORE-INActivist in our midstThe Hindu Weekend

No Dalits, women, tribals or poor people here. And certainly no pesky activists

Hot on the heels of his magenta-kurtawearing wife who expounded the Rafale theory, the husband emerges to save the nation. Film person Vivek Agnihotri’s brainchild — if you’ll excuse the oxymoron — is the gibberish phrase ‘urban naxal’ which, he states, stands for “urban intellectuals, influencers or activists of importance”. He says this with so much dread dripping off the words that none of his beloved acolytes has yet realised that neither ‘urban’ nor ‘intellectual’, ‘influencer’ or ‘activist’ is actually a dangerous or criminal category.

In fact, the learned public prosecutor in Pune admitted as much in court, saying the phrase didn’t exist in law. But why bother with details? A blood-bathed conspiracy theory is such fun!

Instead of getting intimidated, thousands of people immediately declared themselves ‘urban naxals’. So, Agnihotri and his Acolytes are now demanding that all these people should also be arrested. Even as we speak, they are drawing up lists, heating up vats of oil and so forth.

It’s not the first new coinage of recent times. Some weeks ago, I encountered ‘Chrislamocommie,’ a delightful term that I am sure, dear reader, you’ll decipher all by yourself. Earlier, there was ‘sickular’, ‘presstitute’ and ‘libtard’. It would all be quite hilarious if it weren’t for our beloved cops who think these words are real and go about arresting people.

All of last week that line from a BeeGees song has been running in my head: ‘It’s only words/ and words are all I have to take your heart away.’ A word is the smallest unit of meaning in speech or writing, but what disproportionate weight it lugs, what a world of meaning it hoists on its slender shoulders. This little building block has a huge responsibility — to be true to itself. We ask only that ‘dog’ mean a loyal, waggy quadruped or ‘rug’ mean some form of mat thrown on beds or floors.

This assurance is the basis of communication. Over time, we give it liberties. For instance, we could drawl out ‘Dawg’ when a particularly cool dude pal does something particularly cool, but we have a tacit understanding that ‘dog’ will never mean, say, a four-wheeled contraption which humans drive.

But linguistic integrity is exactly what propaganda seeks to overturn. Once overturned, it can be taken to lethal lengths, as during the Nazi regime when that deadly word — ‘undesirables’ — could mean anyone, from Jews to gypsies to homosexuals to the homeless, disabled, intellectuals, artists.

The words used to discredit the Aam Aadmi Party — which had the temerity to grab power in New Delhi — have always been sneering or ominous. Kejriwal has been called everything from ‘Naxal’ to ‘khujliwal’ to ‘anarchist’. Dozens of his MLAs are regularly arrested. The words create the myth of a nutty, unstable party. In reality, it runs one of the country’s best public healthcare and education systems. And of the 22 of its members arrested, 19 have been discharged or acquitted.

Take the word ‘Dalit’. It’s a powerful word — and represents more than 200 million Indians who chose this word over the patronising term ‘Harijan’. At a point in time when Dalit voices are getting louder and stronger, the Ministry of Information & Broadcasting has issued a directive asking satellite TV channels to replace the word ‘Dalit’ with ‘Scheduled Caste’. From here, it’s only a hop-skip to claiming that ‘Dalit’ atrocities are untrue because ‘Dalits’ don’t exist. Wordplay that turns meaning on its head is always only the thin end of the wedge.

Agnihotri Acolytes don’t remove social inequity; they remove the people who fight it. Or they change the words that define it. They don’t reject fascism; they label people who point it out as ‘urban naxal’ and arrest them. For AAs, acknowledging ‘inequality’ is to create it. Ignoring it is to make it go away. If a farmer complains of poverty, you simply give her alternative words that describe how her income has doubled since she started growing imaginary plums.

In an AA world, there won’t be any Dalits, women, tribals, activists or poor people — these are bad words. Instead, they would have all seen the light and changed their names to ‘happy citizens’. Like Phil Collins sang, ‘It’s another day for you and me in Paradise.’

Where the writer tries to make sense of society with seven hundred words and a bit of snark.

The article has been edited to correct a typographical error.Post a Comment

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