Cat and Mice

Amit Bhaduri

Deng Xiaoping famously said: How does it matter if the cat is white or black so long as it catches mice. This was considered pragmatism about open market oriented economic policy for China. China’s spectacular economic success since then as a rising super power has led to repeated celebration of this quip as self evident pragmatic truth about relying on economic liberalization as the way to success.

If pragmatism is a virtue in itself, it should apply elsewhere too. Politics is not so distant from economics, so let us see how it fares there. The one-party system of China is a good pink cat because it catches more than 99 percent votes in any election anywhere including Hong Kong. Deng who did not carry the excess baggage of any ideology, and propagated no ideology as his ideology, would have probably agreed.   Now turn to see how it works with its biggest neighbour India which takes pride in its multi-party democracy. In the competitive electoral game each political party is out to catch the maximum number of mice, namely seats. And, in our first- past electoral system Modi is the hero with BJP getting about 38 per cent votes, but enjoying majority in Parliament. How does it matter whether it is a black, white or saffron cat? It has caught the mice alright.

Absolute pragmatism is not bounded by ideology. However, this is not true of the BJP. It has Hindutva which sets a boundary to its pragmatism. In the absence of any coherent theory, ancient Indian ‘history’ is a cornerstone of its ideology. As P.M. Modi explained: “India’s history is also that which the common people of India have kept in the folk stories of India, that has been carried forward by generations” (Deccan Herald, February 17,2021). Anthropologists and historians often take myths and rituals seriously as a possible source from which undocumented history might be deciphered. Not so with our current Prime Minister and many of his colleagues.  Unadulterated myth is history for them. So  Ganesa’s elephant head was a result of plastic surgery (PM Narendra Modi).  Mahabharata’s  Sanjaya had internet technology and sattelites to aid him(Tripura CM Biplab Deb)…Darwin’s theory of evolution is wrong because our ancestors haven’t said anywhere that they had seen an ape turning into a man (Junior HRD Minister Satyapal Singh)..Nuclear tests are not new to India because Sage Kanada had conducted a nuclear test lakhs of year ago (Union Education Minister Ramesh Pokhriyal). It is a short distance from this to its modern beliefs like, cow is our mother, and Ram was born in a particular spot, where the Ram Temple will be built.

 This rather remarkable version of India’s ancient history embellished with its modern beliefs appeals to many in this land of Gurus and Babas. And yet, this version of Indian history, black or white, was not a good enough cat that catches sufficient number of mice to propel BJP to political power. It required  pragmatism of a different kind which was injected in two massive doses.  First, a version of history which was  marinated in the hatred of the Muslims by depicting them as the invaders who violated that glorious ancient history diminishing the Hindus.    Neither Savarkar nor Guru Golwalkar ever quite explained why the Muslims alone and not the British deserve this distinction. The Hindu elements even in Congress might have had some sympathy for this view, but officially fought against the British coloniser. RSS never joined the anti colonial movement; rather it helped the British. So it took a long time for BJP to be counted as a serious contestant for power.

However, once BJP broke that barrier, a heavier second dose was administered. It emphasized that the Hindu Rashtra in the making needs to be protected against the Muslims in particular, and perhaps other religions also. The government under BJP took up that challenge. However, meeting successfully that challenge required that no fine distinction should be made between the government and the country.  After all, the main architect of the Indian Constitution was never known for his adherence to Hindutva. He even changed his religion in disgust against the Hindu caste system.

This indeed is a good cat, the right kind of pragmatism needed to catch the mice. Once you see the beauty of the equation that government is equal to the state and nation, the rest follows easily. Government has to defend the county against invaders from inside and outside, including those anti- nationals who had either destroyed our glorious history or betrayed the country by criticizing its government. Naturally they have to be ruthlessly dealt with for the sake of the nation which means the government. What appears as unjustified repression of all kinds of dissent by many is the need of the hour to defend the country. What appears to be a legitimate dissent against government policy can never be legitimate. It is big, it is a serious, it is dangerous, and must be dealt with ruthlessly using the sedition law. It is a sound strategy under a determined leader who knows how to be decisive and use authority with the country in awe of his authority.

It is such a wonderful strategy, this sedition law. It neatly divides the people between those who support the leader, the real nationalistic patriots and the treacherous anti- nationalists who are out to divide the country, the ‘tukre tukre’ gangs of various types. There is of course a silent middle, (may be they are in the majority) who cares so long as  they are in awe, if not of the leader, then certainly of the sedition charges which can in one stroke destroy their lives. The silent majority would remain blind, see no evil; they will be deaf, hear no evil; and most important, they will be mute and speak no evil against the government. Can there be a better pragmatic cat that can be set to catch all the mice? And the people will be made aware of the colour of the cat, which is neither black nor white, not even red but Saffron. Deng should have thought of more colours to make his wisdom universal.

But then, why is this fool-proof strategy not working out so well on the ground? Too many fault lines seem to be appearing . Foreshadow of an earthquake? Take for example the project of the Hindu Rashtra. Dalit’s started questioning its very foundation: the caste system which they claim is loaded against  them. Following Ambedkar they went back to Bhima Koregaon to commemorate the historic  event of Dalit valour against upper caste Peshwas. They had to be stopped, and two local upper caste nationalistic   patriots were doing the needful rioting. However, for a delicate matter like the caste system this was too crude, tending to open wide the fault line of the evil of castes in Hindu Rashtra. Pragmatism fortified by sedition law demanded a better solution.

The police took little time to change the narrative focusing away from caste to sedition including conspiracy to kill our leader. A conspiracy of waging war against the state was lodged in no time against a group of writers, lawyers, poets and human right activists. They were all anti-nationals, not in awe of the government, and had been committing the worst crime of seeing, hearing, and speaking out against evils. Evidence was found in their computers. The cat had caught the mice. But then, who would have  known  that  there are also more specialized experts in Boston  who came up with evidence of malware implanted in their computer. It could not be hushed up, because there are newspapers like Washington Post which had brought down Former President Nixon with Watergate. Unlike our pliable media which sees no evil, and therefore speaks no evil so the citizens hear no evil, Washington Post published the opinion of the Boston experts. One of the main lawyers who argued against the conspiracy case, and had arranged to send the supposed evidence of the police to Boston remarked that this was only the tip of the iceberg. Some more anti-nationals immediately saw the evil possibility of similar implanted malware and tampering with Electronic Voting Machines (EVM  connected with paper trail verification) .

Other political parties should have had a vested interest in taking up this issue vigorously. But they did not.  Of the largest national parties, one is paralysed by Parivarvad of ‘Mummy and her two’, and the other is paralysed by another Parivarvad of ‘Hum do, hamara do’ (we are two, and we have nurtured two). So the cat could still probably continue to catch all inconvenient mice, with a silent middle which did not dare. That silent middle, for long blind, deaf and mute to evil, is suddenly stirring to life. They are the farmers, millions of them across the country who have started seeing through this game of evils. The cat is being swamped by mice, millions of them. If the cat is pragmatic, it should realize that the show cannot go on much longer. 

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Mar 6, 2021

Amit Bhaduri

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