Elites and their fakery
The global influence exercised by the elites has failed to reflect the realities of society
In his provocative tract "Has the West Lost It", thinker-diplomat Kishore Mahbubani makes a very interesting observation regarding Western elites and the carriers of their thoughts and articulation in the West. Mahbubani writes, "Western elites, who remain the most globally influential elites, believe that they understand the world better than anyone else. They display little humility when they write in the pages of the New York Times or the Financial Times, the Wall Street Journal or the Economist or when they speak on the BBC and CNN. Most of these elites remain convinced that they are right. Yet they are now distrusted by their masses, who sense in their daily lives the emergence of a new world that the elites either pretend is not happening or dismiss…"
There could not have been a better description of the predicament of the elites and of their instruments for propagating a certain biased world view. The elites, both in the west and in the east, largely lead a deracinated existence and the lines that they espouse, most often fail to reflect realities of their surroundings and aspirations of the majority of the people of their society. They are clearly delinked from the subaltern thought, emotion and yearnings.
This same set of western elites and their extension groups in India had decried the advent of Modi as heralding the end of democracy in India. They had failed to read or had deliberately ignored the fact that the "masses" had voted Modi in the first term because they thought that the narrative and plan he presented would credibly alter their lives.
The same set of elites across continents then predicted in 2019 that Modi would be routed, that his rout was necessary for the future of Indian democracy. Again they had pathetically misread the mood of the masses, who had clearly sensed in their daily lives, in the five years that Modi led, the "emergence of a new world." As they had done in 2014 – displaying the bad spirit of a loser – in 2019 too, they blamed the people of India for choosing Modi and for displaying an immature political sense. They think it fit to castigate the voters of the world's largest democracy on their electoral choice and their preference of their leader!
Mahbubani has a word of advice for the Western elites, but it applies equally to the Indian elite, he says that they "need to develop a good understanding of this new era that is emerging forcefully, and work with their own populations to formulate thoughtful and pragmatic policy responses that will help everyone prepare for the great changes that have begun, and which will only gain further momentum through the twenty-first century..."
Both, the Western elites and the Indian elites are incapable of doing this because they have already condemned their populations on the electoral choices that they have made. The Indian elites, in this respect, are completely disconnected from the reality and are incapable of accepting the fact that a new era is emerging forcefully and that Modi has already been firmly designated as the symbol of that era. This is their dilemma, they are unable to read the subaltern narrative, are incapable of identifying with it and are repeatedly failing to evolve a counter narrative to Modi. All that they have been reduced to doing is to peddle fake stories, to push subversive elements and to scatter untruths with the hope that some of it will someday gain winds in some international quarters!
Coming to Kashmir and the abrogation of the vexatious Article 370, one clearly sees how the Western elites and their megaphones such as the BBC, the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times, the Al Jazeera, Reuters, have been repeatedly indulging in fakery and peddling a narrative that is patently dishonest, while being soft, supportive of and sympathetic to the narrative of terror and of separatism. These Western elite mouthpieces and their counterparts in India refuse to realise that a new era is forcefully emerging in Kashmir, it is an era in which the narrative of the region will finally be shaped and directed by the common population of the area and not by the political oligarchs, the separatists cohorts and their agents who alone had been the beneficiaries of this separating article in the Constitution.
It is was indeed astounding to see how the Wall Street Journal in a fake story on August 28, propounded that 'clampdown' in Kashmir had turned hospitals into 'graveyards.' The story was promptly tweeted and circulated on social media by that other Western elite-driven organisation – Human Rights Watch and its director, one Ken Roth, with the aim of trying to reinforce a fake narrative which has repeatedly tried to prove that Modi's government has unleashed repression on the people of Jammu-Kashmir. Primarily because of social media again, and because of conscientious journalists and impartial and yet dynamic civil administrators in the state, the myth of the hospital turning into 'graveyards' was soon exposed.
That the healthcare system is running well and hospitals in the state are functioning normally and benefitting a large number of ordinary citizens was soon demonstrated with adequate evidence from the ground. This is but one instance. In the last month, ever since Article 370 was neutralised, there has been a deluge of fake stories, with both the BBC and Al Jazeera sharing images and stories which are concocted. It, however, augurs well that these have been repeatedly exposed.
These Western media platforms have now emerged as the foremost champions of the separatist narrative. It almost seems as if they are competing with Pakistan's fake news units which have been working overtime, trying to reinforce a diabolic narrative of Kashmir. There is essentially no difference between these media centres purportedly running from free democracies and the propaganda machines of a rogue state like Pakistan. This in itself ought to make us reflect on the nature of these platforms. Interestingly, records show that some of them have always played a dubious role when it came to Kashmir, the New York Times, for example, on July 5, 1953, "published a map, hinting at independent status for the Valley...". Around that time Clement Attlee too had publicly stated, that "Kashmir should neither belong to India nor to Pakistan but should be independent." A section of the Western elites and their mouthpieces, thus, have almost always adopted a motivated stance when it came to Kashmir.
In the historic debate in the Lok Sabha in 1964, on the private member's bill for the abrogation of Article 370 brought in by Prakash Vir Shastri and which saw support for the move from across the political spectrum, K Hanumanthaia, legendary leader from Karnataka, the state's second chief minister and sometime Union minister, made a very forceful intervention. He argued that, "Even if the top leadership is nervous about the opinion that exists [on abrogation of 370] in the west or east, they are not our masters. It is not they who have to dictate what is to be done by this Government. It is the responsibility of this House to direct this Government as to what to do and what not to do. If you escape from this responsibility [of removing 370] it will not be in the democratic traditions."
While the great Hanumanthaia's party has been taking a stand on 370 which only aids India's adversaries, Narendra Modi not only took the historic decision of abrogating the Article without any fear of international opinion, not only did he not come under any international pressure but after the decision was taken, he displayed an astute international sense of diplomacy and balance and veered round international opinion in support of India's move. While Pakistan, the Congress party, Western and Indian elites continue to find themselves increasingly isolated on this issue.
(The author is Director, Dr Syama Prasad Mookerjee Research Foundation. The views expressed are strictly personal)