Illustration by soham sen | The pressure
Competitive sports follow the system of leagues – upper, middle, lower, upper and junior leagues and so on. The stature of a candidate determines the league in which she plays. Who bends down to play on a much lower level or to fight with the “bachchas” (juniors) reduces his own stature.
We apply this test to our policies, particularly how the BJP government deals with student protests.
It is easier to understand how our great old wrestler Dara Singh handled new challengers. He asked him to fight his brother Randhawa first, to beat him and to earn the right to fight the champion. I asked him why and he said that every “Lallu Panju” (Tom, Dick and Harry) would like to boast of having wrestled with Dara Singh. Why should I lower my reputation to please them?
Back to the game of hard politics. This is what this all-powerful BJP government has been doing for a month: older, more powerful men and women fighting with children. They have set fire to campuses across the country in response to their guidelines. Her response – especially where the BJP was in power – was consistent. Override state power, internet and telecommunications restrictions, and at least impose collective fines on one case, Uttar Pradesh.
When a government elected with such a huge majority of votes finds it worth fighting against its students instead of arguing or listening to them, three things follow:
First, a bully against the outsider story is built.
Second, images are created that severely damage Brand India worldwide. And you can’t stop anything from “getting out”.
Third and most importantly, it inevitably creates a child-versus-uncle / aunty mood among young people. Let me elaborate on this.
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Every exit and opinion poll in 2014 and 2019 showed that the boys from India, all millennials, but above all the first-time voters, supported Narendra Modi with passion. I have had a number of brief conversations with young people in my archives as I traveled through the 2019 campaign across the country, in which only one leader was named: Modi. You can see a few here.
I wrote and spoke in a debate at the Center for Political Research in New Delhi about the factors that have driven Modi to great victory. Especially about how the boys emerged from the identity gap – caste, language, ethnicity, in many cases even religion – to embrace modes.
The feeling you saw in your eyes was optimism, joy, anticipation for a better life, the famous “achche din”. They haven’t broken their families’ old political loyalties because they hated someone or were afraid of them. If 2014 was a choice of hope for a better life, 2019 was renewing that promise, with the expectation that it will take so long to fully deliver.
However, within six months, they find that they are getting something completely different. The economy is in free fall. And it has been declining so long and so steadily that the promise of growth and better days now looks like a fantasy.
A kind of pessimism in the mid-1970s, even hopelessness, grows among the boys. New jobs are not available. And although all jobs are important and dignified, we can imagine it: Not every young student is looking forward to delivering for Swiggy or Zomato or driving an Ola or Uber.
Modi hadn’t promised them that. Your aspirations and needs are clear and present and will not be met. And they are certainly not going to be compensated for failure, either by “determination” with which you control and “integrate” Kashmir, or by the way you teach Pakistan a lesson every day. Neither will your needs be satisfied by how much you can convince them to fear the Muslim or to hate the migrant Muslim termite.
None of these will give them a job, a living, a better life. Unless, of course, they are your ideological followers. College teenagers’ disappointment with Modi-2 was quick and profound.
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Nobody should remain under the misconception that it is only a virus that is specific to the few liberal, left-wing public universities affected by “Urban Naxals”. Anger has now spread to expensive private properties that are closed to politics and unions, and has cost many students’ parents and savings a lot of their savings and legacy. I have spoken in several places in the country and have noticed a similar anger to that of JNU, Jamia or BHU.
The mood is amused – and is getting angry – “but we didn’t vote for it”. I can also say with sufficient certainty that a very large percentage of these young people voted for modes, and for the most part for the first time in their lives.
Once a month, ThePrint hosts an innovative event called “Democracy Wall” on an important campus. One of the features is a huge banner that looks like a wall where students can freely write what they have on their mind and sign their names. These have changed their character dramatically in the past six months. In the last three, the change has been drastic.
All of these come from private or elite universities. In addition to an outburst of anger and disappointment at the latest, along with clever lines like “P … k The Folice” and “Mera Desh Jal Raha Hai … # SaveAustralia”, what’s most striking is “Bure din Waapas Kar “do (please give me back my bad days)”. Up until about three months ago there was some criticism. Today we see no line, not even a word of praise. You ignore this kind of unanimity in anger among the educated youth at your own risk.
In most cases, a cocktail of nationalism, religion, and an almighty personality cult can win a choice. But you cannot win two in a row. Half a year after his second conquest of India, he has high-ranking police officers (who trust the police in their word in this country, I’m sorry) holding press conferences and calling students, rioters and enemies of the state, the cabinet ministers to talk about it on television channels how boys and girls at our locations have to behave and be patriotic. But today’s boys are smart.
They leave them speechless when they retaliate by waving the tiranga, reading the preamble to the constitution and singing the national anthem. A little over six months ago, you had Bollywood cream for selfies with modes. Nowadays, many of the marquee stars, not just the usual artists, have given their support for protests. And the rest may be silent, but almost no star of any consequence has gone up in government support. If you have any doubts, find out about the dignitaries who landed at the Mumbai Central Ministers’ Dinner to support the CAA You need Google to identify some.
And in the midst of it all, put up a second cabinet minister like Smriti Irani to mock and mock Deepika Padukone. Remember we said the league you play in determines your stature. Show us a more effective way to lose India’s youth.
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