Why Indian Liberals Need A Fresh Perspective And A Fun New Name

Posted by Mohit Yadav in Society
February 22, 2017

In 2015 Richard Dawkins wrote an article explaining the corruption of the word ‘theory’ and recommended that we stop using the word “theory” for the case of evolution. Instead, he asked that we start saying “Evolution is fact”.

He wanted to save evolution from human ignorance and teach it the way it should be.

In the same way, it is now time for Indian liberals to stop using jargon like Secularism, Liberalism, Human Rights, Individual rights because they have been corrupted to the core in India. They have lost their relevance now.

Either we, like Richard Dawkins, change the vocabulary of liberalism altogether or we start the clarification and fight those who have corrupted its definition and save their sanctity.

We the liberals are crying out loud that Modi/BJP and Trump/Republicans have made liberalism shrink to irrelevance. We have also started copying West and using the word ‘liberal bubble’ now.

Problems with liberalism in India

1) Scapegoating BJP and the Right and not questioning our Constitution and institutions:

We need to understand that critiquing and waging a war against Modi and BJP won’t help our cause of liberal values and human rights. We need to critique the Constitution and champion for amendments. On one side, it talks about individual rights and liberal values, but on the other hand, it gives importance to age-old institutions like Panchayats and religious institutions. These institutions are the bedrock of the attack on individualism, liberalism, and human rights.

On one side, it declares the state to have no official religion, but then it allows pampering of all religious institutions with state funding and institutional support.

The Constitution gave its citizens individual rights but then let the state dictate what the citizenry can eat (beef) and drink (liquor).
I wish our liberal bubble have burst when:-

1) The state took the right to property away.
2) The right to the reservation was reenacted again and again in this country.
3) The words secular and socialist were included in our constitution.
4) Rajiv Gandhi passed The Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Divorce) Act overturning SC judgment.
5) When SC overturned the judgment of HC in the case of LGBT rights.
6) Islamic fundamentalists were favoured by masses, political parties, state and our very own constitution.

I wish! I wish! I wish! But our bubble did not reach its limits then but suddenly it reached its limits under Narendra Modi and BJP. This scapegoating makes me question the very foundations of our liberal values and human rights.

2) Indian liberals could not hold state and Constitution accountable throughout Indian history:

Liberals could not hold the state and constitution accountable to the terms of the contract in the Constitution. We were shown the honeymoon dreams of liberalism and human rights, but in all these years, we’ve been unable to ensure any change regarding:

1) In the name of religion and culture, women were and still are not given rights to marry who they want, the choice to study, work etc. be it in the government.

2) Inter-caste marriages and inter-religion marriages without conversion of someone’s faith were not talked about, facilitated and provided with protection.
3) Caste-based reservations kept renewing for years denying equality of opportunity, be it government of the right or the left.
4) Even after having female leaders at the state, as well as, the centre this country failed to ensure the sanctity of human rights for women.

3) Liberals chose the Left as their incubator:

Liberals chose the Left as their only incubator and attacked the Right to new limits. Empathy of liberals to the Left being its incubator lead to the degradation of liberal values and human rights in India. The Left is the incubator of identity politics which treats Muslims, SCs, STs, OBCs, Women, Children as groups, not individuals or humans.

Liberals’ selective criticism and opposition of anti-liberal and anti-human rights elements in the country lead to its tainted image and liberals just got entangled in the political landscape of the country. We lost relevance because the Left lost relevance in India.

4) The Delusion of Grandeur:

We liberals think that our failure led the Right and BJP to creep in. First of all, liberalism never had a mainstream space in India and still doesn’t. Its hypocrisy and rituals of political correctness lead to liberalism’s downfall.

It’s unfortunate that whatever face liberalism had or has is confined to the umbrella of the Left. The morality of which was exposed when the Left and even feminists didn’t question the ban on temple entry but attacked Triple Talaq. The Left and feminists of were not seeking the implementation of women rights under the Constitution of India and human rights but only within the Quran.

5) Our prejudiced secular lens and Selective Criticism:

Liberals failed to understand religion (be it any) which is so deep-rooted in India. Religion has extensive reach in India and this has allowed not just Modi and BJP but Gandhis, Post MKG (Congress), Mulayam, Azam Khan etc (Samajwadi Party), MGR, Amma (AIADMK), Karunanidhi (DMK), Mamta (TMC,) and now Owaisi (AIMIM) to creep in to politics in India.

Since Independence, Congress, SP, BSP, AIMIM, DMK, AIADMK exploited and are still exploiting Muslims, OBC, SC vote bank. We panicked under BJP and procrastinated under all other parties. Beef ban, Jallikattu enraged us but Triple Talaq and Bakra Eid were termed political gimmicks of BJP.
We measured all religions with the same yardstick and failed to understand that there are many differences between Jainism, Sikhism, Buddhism, Hinduism, Christianity and Islam.

Ludwig Wittgenstein in his work Philosophical Investigation said:-
1. Philosophical problems arise from the confused use of language and the way to solve these problems is by clarifying the language use.
2. Words do not get their meaning from individuals. Meaning is essentially a public and social phenomenon.

We need to find some new vocabulary, we need come out of our bubble and our own definitions. We need to try to understand the masses, political parties, politicians, different religious communities, state, constitution, and judiciary when it comes to Secularism, Liberalism, Human Rights, and Individual rights.

We need to delve into this conversation instead of just scapegoating one party and/or person if we really want to realise our dream of a liberal India which has human rights at its core.

At the end, I will say, “If you are wired to your memory, repetition will happen and redundancy will come; but if you are paying attention, that changes your ability to look at things.” We liberals need to come out of our age-old memory and act.