Atul Kochhar losing his job for expressing opinion is bad enough, naked triumphalism of liberals far worse

The Atul Kochhar incident leaves the taste of ash in the mouth. That someone's livelihood can be snatched away at the blink of an eye for expressing an opinion (for which he subsequently expressed remorse) is bad enough. It is worse to see Indian liberals, the so-called defenders of free speech, celebrate the Michelin-starred chef's sacking and the stifling of his voice with all triumphalism at their command.

File image of Atul Kochhar. Image courtesy: @atulkochhar

File image of Atul Kochhar. Image courtesy: @atulkochhar

It is a brutal statement of intent and a blatant expression of hypocrisy. The intent is simple: To bully nonconformist voices into submission and set an example before others so that those with opposing views are either silenced or fall in line. The idea is to trigger self-censorship by inducing fear so that ideological domination becomes simpler.

These coercive methods are not really uncommon. Human history is essentially a violent treatise of the tension between subjugation and liberty. As a marker of human ideological evolution, the higher ideal of liberalism strives to set us free from such prejudices and discriminatory practices.

The colossal betrayal lies in the fact that its self-appointed practitioners — instead of standing against precisely the fate that befell Kochhar — celebrated his plight with gay abandon. It was doubly hypocritical to see liberals employ every trick in the totalitarian playbook to bully Kochhar and then claim to have done so in the name of liberalism. It is difficult to find a more perverted moral crime.

It seems clear by now that liberalism has fallen prey to its inherent contradictions and its self-proclaimed practitioners are no better than illiberals. In fact, liberal intolerance is more toxic precisely because it is deceptive.

As Mark Brandt, an American-trained psychologist at Tilburg University in the Netherlands found in a 2013 paper (co-authored by Geoffrey Wetherell and Christine Reyna in Social Psychological and Personality Science), "While liberals might like to think of themselves as more open-minded, they are no more tolerant of people unlike them than their conservative counterparts are", despite the fact that they "have a variety of personality traits and moral values that should protect them from expressing prejudice."

The Kochhar episode reinforces many home truths, especially one that pertains to India. Having won the culture war, the liberals and Leftists are more desperate than ever to retain control over the avenues of soft power because they are mortified at losing political power. This is exemplified by the way a liberal lynch mob co-ordinated its attack on Kochhar, ensured his harm and felt satisfied at the turn of events. These nasty attacks are likely to recur.

The problem with liberalism lies deeper than its fake practitioners. Liberalism as an ideology has fundamentally failed to come to terms with Islamism. Instead of tackling the problem, it tiptoed past or remained deliberately oblivious to the challenge Islamism poses to its basic tenets. This problem has been allowed to fester for so long that now liberalism must take recourse to double standards to explain many contradictions that it espouses.

For instance, while denigration of Hindu gods and goddesses (or poking fun at the Pope) is insured under liberalism, similar liberties with Islam are disallowed. This hypocrisy has been internalised by liberals in such a way that now they are either unable to detect it, or forced to take a conciliatory approach out of fear.

The Kochhar incident is a stunning indictment of this hypocrisy. The London-based chef, who had a contract with JW Marriott Marquis hotel in Dubai that housed his Rang Mahal restaurant, was reacting to the Quantico controversy involving Priyanka Chopra in his 10 June tweet which he has since deleted:

“It’s sad to see that you [Chopra] have not respected the sentiments of Hindus who have been terrorised by Islam over 2,000 years. Shame on you.”

Kochhar may have been inaccurate with his dates but his larger point is a documented, historical truth.

Columnist Tavleen Singh tweeted:

The brutalities of Islamic invasion cannot be denied or wished away. As VS Naipaul told Tarun Tejpal in a 1999 interview in Outlook, "In art books and history books, people write of the Muslims "arriving" in India, as though the Muslims came on a tourist bus and went away again. The Muslim view of their conquest of India is a truer one. They speak of the triumph of the faith, the destruction of idols and temples, the loot, the carting away of the local people as slaves, so cheap and numerous that they were being sold for a few rupees." Sir Vidia also held forth on the destruction of temples which is evident from both their presence and absence. "The architectural evidence: The absence of Hindu monuments in the north is convincing enough. This conquest was unlike any other that had gone before. There are no Hindu records of this period. Defeated people never write their history. The victors write the history. The victors were Muslims. For people on the other side, it is a period of darkness." In The Diplomat, Akhilesh Pillalamarri wrote how this destruction was carried out to send a message of humiliation. "Today, most of the large and important historical Hindu temples are found in southern India (Tirupati, Madurai) or in Odisha, on the eastern coast. These areas remained outside of Islamic rule for most of their history. The traditional heartland of Hinduism in the Ganges river valley (modern Uttar Pradesh and Bihar) as well as Punjab and Sindh feature no major large Hindu temples, most of which were destroyed by Muslim iconoclasm, much of which occurred in the period of the initial Muslim conquest of the region from 1000-1300 C.E. As many historians like to point out, many, if not most, Hindu temples were not destroyed, but major ones were, primarily to make an impact on Hindus." It is also important to note that for stating a historical fact, Kochhar issued two "sincere, unqualified" apologies:

The Kochhar incident sparked a counter-reaction on social media where some from the right-wing have called for a boycott of JW Marriott chain of hotels. This is a silly position to take. Marriott is duty-bound to obey strict Islamic laws of the UAE if it wants to conduct its business. It is unreasonable to expect the luxury brand to keep Kochhar on at the risk of hurting its business. It has taken a decision which became inevitable as the controversy grew.

The question to ask is why liberals hounded Kochhar in such a way that leaves the chef facing "imprisonment of up to five years and a fine of between 500,000 dirhams and 1 million dirhams"?

This is not merely hypocrisy at work, but Islamic exceptionalism that forces liberals to concede that Islam and Muslims should be kept outside the purview of liberalism. This, of course, is a deeply unprincipled and perverted position to take but as Jeffrey Tayler wrote in Quilette, these liberals are "not genuine progressives at all… but deeply confused de facto apologists for the most illiberal notion conceivable: Namely, that one group of humans has, on account of its religion, an inalienable right to dominate and abuse other humans: And to do so unmolested by criticism."

It is here that the can hits the road. In order to justify their illiberalism, liberals performed the old trick of labelling Kochhar's words as "hate speech" and called for punishment against "bigotry". This purportedly frees them from carrying the can of liberalism and they may go about their task of bullying those they do not approve of.

This fake liberalism similarly prevents them from standing in favour of the AMU students who were hounded (and received death threats) for visiting a bar during the month of Ramzan. The Kochhar incident shouldn't surprise us. The only lesson to take from it is this: Liberalism is dead. RIP.


Firstpost is now on WhatsApp. For the latest analysis, commentary and news updates, sign up for our WhatsApp services. Just go to and hit the Subscribe button.

Updated Date: Jun 14, 2018 20:33:39 IST

Also See