Three years after I almost voted for Narendra Modi, India looks alarmingly simple and satisfied — as if dozing on a mild dose of bhaang, people in many north Indian states pop into their mouths early in the morning with crushed rose petals to sail through their lives in a purple haze.
Newspapers are full of surveys suggesting India has transformed completely over the past three years and janta's happiness quotient, as far as Modi sarkar is concerned, is at an all-time high. The reasons, as an elaborate survey in Dainik Bhaskar suggests, are as follows:
Almost all of India (83 percent) is swooning over 'surgical strikes'. An equal number of people (82 percent) is happy with demonetisation. And another 60 percent are happy that he withdrew beacon lights and some other privileges from the ruling elite.
Read that again. Most people are happy not because what Modi did for them, but because of what he did to others — he struck Pakistan, he struck the rich and he struck the VVIPs. Applause! That is so typical of a mentality captured by a Rajasthani saying, which when loosely translated, means there is no grief over the death of bhai (brother) because it is so satisfying to see bhojai (brother's wife) lose her clout.
That quintessentially is the sum and substance of the euphoria among people over the Modi sarkar. It is being judged not on the basis of how it has positively changed the life of Indians, but how woeful it has made people we dislike or envy.
So, beef eaters — imagined or real — are on the run and being lynched.
Liberals are being marginalised, hounded and sent to Pakistan. Twitter hyenas are baying for their death by stoning army jeeps, or rape, as the lead singer of troll sena, Abhijeet said. The rich and the affluent are in misery because their black money — imagined or real — has been sucked out of their mattresses and pillows. Applause.
Pakistan is so scared of us that it has stopped sending terrorists across the border or beheading our soldiers. Thunderous applause.
And Yogi ji is the chief minister of India's largest state, ready to teach a lesson to the 'others' we despise. So, Bharat Mata ki Jai!
It would have been worthwhile to ask those high on the opium of jingoism and faux nationalism to ponder how exactly their own lives have changed over the past three years.
Are they facing less corruption? In the survey , 62 percent respondents say no.
Is there less inflation? Again, 62 percent say no.
Has the rate of employment gone up? No, it is a paltry 5 percent, almost equivalent to the UPA era.
Have fuel prices, one of the factors behind public anger during UPA, gone down in spite of the fall in the prices of crude oil? Are schools charging lesser fees in spite of repeated government warnings for rationalisation of the structure? Has the cost of health care gone down, is it accessible to more and more people at affordable rates? Is the Ganga cleaner? Are Dalits and minorities safer? Are our democratic institutions allowed to function with greater freedom and neutrality?
Even Arun Shourie was wrong when he said Modi raj is "UPA plus cow." On the roads, the cows still continue to look for food in mounds of garbage littered in our smart cities.
In a mature democracy, the only yardstick to judge a government is to introspect how it has contributed to the greater general good, not how it has created more misery for the greater common enemy. But, as columnist Mukul Kesavan points out, we are in the age of ''infantalisation of Indians." We are living in a time where " instead of being proud, equal, adult members of a republic, we are reduced to being the wards of an all-seeing parent, policed by our siblings and, when necessary punished by them."
The dystopian dichotomy of the perceived happiness quotient of Indians and the realities staring in our face is nowhere more visible than in the very pages of the newspaper whose survey shows Indians to be happy with the Modi raj.
On its inside pages, the lead story talks about the alleged gangrape of four woman just a few kilometres from the national capital, on one of India's premiere highways. This follows the brutal rape and murder of a woman in Rohtak that was no less horrifying than the incident that rocked the conscience of Indians just a few years ago — the rape and murder of Jyoti Singh.
Another story talks of the unrest in Kashmir, where separatism has now gone so mainstream that even girls are willing to bunk schools to throw stones at security forces. Yet another talks of the lynching of dalits in Jharkhand and the caste-war in Saharanpur. Mercifully, there is still no mention of jungle raj.
My favourite story, however, comes with a picture that shows Korean delegates visiting an Indian state capital lifting their wheel-chair bound colleague on their shoulders because there is no ramp at the headquarters of the municipal corporation. Incensed by the episode, one of the delegates opines: "Forget smart city, first build a ramp, please.''
This, then is Modi's India for you, where not much has changed except our perception of the misery of the others we hate. Three cheers and another lump of bhaang please.
Published Date: May 26, 2017 11:51 AM | Updated Date: May 26, 2017 11:51 AM