In 2016, Oxford Dictionaries declared ‘post-truth’ the word of the year in response to a rise in its usage in relation to political developments in the US for the presidential election and in the UK on Brexit. It is defined as ‘relating to or denoting circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion that appeals to emotion and personal belief’. Harold Pinter in his Nobel Prize in Literature lecture in 2005 spoke on “Art, Truth and Politics” and argued, “The majority of politicians, on the evidence available to us, are interested not in truth but in power and in the maintenance of that power. To maintain that power it is essential that people remain in ignorance, that they live in ignorance of the truth, even the truth of their own lives. What surrounds us, therefore, is a vast tapestry of lies, upon which we feed.”
Post 2014, India has been witnessing the same rising trend of post-truth politics. This is in habitual practice by the nation’s ruling party the BJP, its leaders and of course by their supporters through social media platforms like Whatsapp, Twitter, Facebook. This was endorsed vehemently even by senior ministers and leaders of BJP-RSS which either brought laughter or embarrassment depending upon the claim.
Let us have a glance at the galaxy of leaders banking on lies, false claims.
Statement 1: Stephen Hawking said the Vedas have theory superior to Albert Einstein’s E = mc 2.
Statement 2: Cow is the only animal that inhales and exhales oxygen.
Statement 3: We need not look to a US observatory for specifics about lunar and solar eclipses; our pundits consulting the Panchang (Hindu calendar) can do better.
Statement 4: Cow urine can treat cancer.
Statement 5: Yoga is a solution to all problems, including farmer deaths.
Statement 6: Ganesha, the elephant god, is proof that India always knew of plastic surgery.
Statement 7: Cow dung is more precious than the Kohinoor, even the Supreme Court says so.
Statement 8: Darwin’s theory of evolution is wrong and needs to be expunged from school and college curricula; nobody ever saw an ape turn into a man.
Statement 9: There is no difference between the language of Shah Rukh Khan and Hafiz Saeed.
Statement 10: In 2014, after 30 years, 600 crores or 6 billion voters in India (our population is 1.3 billion) provided the complete majority to a political party to form government at the Centre.
Statement 11: If a person has a cycle, a person aspires a scooter. If a person has a scooter, a person aspires a car. It is natural to aspire. India is getting increasingly aspirational.
Statement 12: India has finally been able to electrify all its villages before the set target date and to bear it up, a Nasa map of India on Diwali night.
The attributions made are in the following order – 1. Union minister of science and technology Harsh Vardhan, 2.Rajasthan’s education minister Vasudev Devnani, 3.Home minister Rajnath Singh, 4.RSS leader Indresh Kumar, 5.Union agriculture minister Radha Mohan Singh, 6.Prime Minister Narendra Modi, 7.BJP spokesperson Sambit Patra, 8.Union minister Satyapal Singh, 9.UP chief minister Yogi Adityanath when he was still not CM, 10.the PM at Davos in January, 11.the PM in London this April, 12.Union minister Piyush Goyal on behalf of the PM, this April last week.
New CM of Tripura, Biplab Deb has also joined the bandwagon of illusionary claims and is the new star in the galaxy of speaking lies. These include various fields such as history-Internet is something that existed even during the time of the Mahabharata – to administration – only civil engineers should opt for the civil services – to aesthetics – he said Diana Hayden did not deserve to be Miss World, but Aishwarya Rai did.
PM Modi has waged a war with truth at a much more higher level than all of his colleagues. It may be in the nature of Prime Minister Modi’s political realm to be at war with our historical legacy also which for him and his party is just an inconvenient truth in all forms. This method also shares a deep correlation with fascist Nazi regime of Hitler whose Propaganda minister, Joseph Goebbels famously said- If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it.” and “The bigger the lie, the more it will be believed.” Nation’s Prime Minister while delivering speeches in Karnataka election campaign this year, if acknowledged intricately, had spelt out incidents of our history by maligning them to gain political mileage. They are as follows-
- Claim- During Karnataka election campaign, Prime Minister Narendra Modi while being theatrical in election rally on 3rd May 2018 said- the previous Congress government, led by India’s first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru, had humiliated two military icons from Karnataka state – Field Marshal Cariappa and General KS Thimayya.
Reality- On this, son of Field Marshal Cariappa, K.C.Cariappa, former field Marshal clarified- “the timeline has been misconstructed by the prime minister in his speech. The controversies that cropped up between General Thimmayya and Krishna Menon. There was no controversy between my father and Krishna Menon because he was in the United Nations and father was here.”
- Claim- Going further to election rally for Karnataka elections in Bidar on 9th May 2018, PM Modi by pointing a gun at the Congress said- When Shaheed Bhagat Singh, Batukeshwar Dutt, Veer Savarkar, greats like them were jailed fighting for the country’s independence, did any Congress leader went to meet them?
Reality- Jawahar Lal Nehru was among the Congress leaders to visit Bhagat Singh and his compatriots in jail. In his autobiography, The Discovery of India he writes, “I happened to be in Lahore when the hunger strike was already a month old. I was given permission to visit some of the prisoners in the prison, and I availed myself of this. I saw Bhagat Singh for the first time and Jatindranath and few others. They were all very weak and bedridden and it was hardly possible to talk to them much. Bhagat Singh had an attractive, intellectual face, remarkably calm and peaceful. There seemed to be no anger in him.”
- Claim- Recently PM Modi while speaking on the death anniversary of Kabir at Maghar on 28th June said, “I once again salute Mahatma Kabir in this land of nirvana. It is said that Sant Kabir, Guru Nanak Dev and Baba Goraknath sat together at this place and discussed spirituality.”
Reality- Baba Gorakhnath was born far before Guru Nanak and Sant Kabir. Gorakhnath lived in the 12th Century while Kabir (1398-1518) and Nanak (1469-1539) lived in the 15th Century.
Above mentioned historical incidents should not be considered only as examples, rather the motive behind them must be understood. According to the Washington Post, the US President had spoken 2,140 lies in public life after becoming the President of USA. It is the first time in nation’s political history that a ‘Prime Minister’ is behaving as a demagogue drawing parallel to US President. In 2017 alone, Prime Minister Modi made series of claims which were either untrue or partially true. Post 2014, the new trend of shaping public opinion by twisting factual history has begun. Likewise, fake news has gained more ground in Indian society and politics than ever.
Apart from history, the current political arena made up by the BJP is itself a big living example of an establishment solely standing on misplaced facts, fudged data, broken promises and false claims. The concept of post-truth- which is apparently true, becomes more important than the truth itself. We need to demarcate between fact and opinion. Today, unfortunately, opinion is taking an upper hand when it comes to reaching people in one shot. The fundamental aim of the ruling establishment remains to control how people think, what they talk by indoctrination and brainwashing.
I must say, our history is under anachronism of the worst order.
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