Skip to main content

Modi in tune with ideological trends of last 30 yrs, combines empowerment, ambition: Top essayist Pankaj Mishra

By Our Representative
A top Narendra Modi critic, who has described the Indian Prime Minister as “the divisive manipulator who charmed the world", has suggested Modi qualifies to be a rebel, insisting, “As the son of a chaiwallah who has overcome all kinds of adversity, including violent, vicious attacks from the country’s English-speaking elites who wanted to bring him down but failed.”
In an interview about his new book, “Age of Anger: A History of the Present”, Pankaj Mishra says, Modi has “overcome” challenges to “become who he is”, adding, “And he invites his followers to do the same.”
Published simultaneously in India, US and UK in early 2017, Mishra's book  claims to seek to answer "our bewilderment" in a changing world by casting a "gaze back to the eighteenth century, before leading us to the present”.
It points to how, as the world became modern, "those who were unable to fulfil its promises – freedom, stability and prosperity – were increasingly susceptible to demagogues.”
The top Indian novelist and essayist, who has won the prestigious Yale University's Windham–Campbell Literature Prize in 2014, does not agree with those who think call Modi just a Savarkar-type “Hindu nationalist in the old manner of thinking of India, primarily a country of Hindus and as a community of Hindus which needs to define itself very carefully by excluding various foreigners.”
According to Mishra, Modi is also “someone who is in tune with the ideological trends of the last 30 years, which place a lot of premium on individual ambition and empowerment”, adding, “He is a very curious and irresistible mix, as it turns out, of certain collectivist notions of salvation with a kind of intensified individualism.”
“The man from nowhere who makes it big: that’s the story that Modi has tried to sell about himself”, says Mishra, adding, individualism today really is "synonymous with modernity, which is all about individual autonomy and reason.”
”In this sense”, says Mishra, “Modi is an interesting case. He’s not only someone who incarnates the tendencies that we identify with Savarkar – who is a model for Modi – but also mirrors many contemporary tendencies which one can identify with a sort of aspirational neoliberalism.”
“There are many contradictory elements in this mix”, says Mishra, adding, Modi “comes from a party which has as part of its extended family the Swadeshi Jagran Manch”, an organization which “believes in Swadeshi, but Modi wants to attract foreign investment.”
Stating that this drives one to think “of a world where archaisms, modernity, post-modernity all exist simultaneously yet differently”, Mishra says, “There are many different contradictory tendencies that have come together to produce events or personalities like Donald Trump and Modi."
Pointing out that there is a need to shed the "old analytic method of either/or" so that one does not miss "many of these contradictory aspects of modern politics and economics”, Mishra says, his central argument is that "they correspond to the acute, inner divisions of human beings", of people "wanting individual power, expansion and at the same time wanting identity, longing and a sense of community.”

Comments

TRENDING

Arrest of Fr Stan Swamy: UN makes public letter seeking explanation from Govt of India

Counterview Desk In a letter to the Government of India (GoI), three senior United Nations (UN) officials – Elina Steinerte, vice-chair of the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention; Mary Lawlor, special rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders; and Fernand de Varennes, special rapporteur on minority issues – have said that the arrest of veteran activist Father Stan Swamy in October 2020 marks “the escalation of harassment the human rights defender has been subjected to since 2018.”

'These people shouldn't be in jail': UN official seeks release of 16 human rights defenders

By Our Representative A United Nations human rights official has called upon the Government of India (GoI) to “immediately release" 16 human rights defenders who have been imprisoned on charges of terrorism in the Bhima-Koregaon Case, insisting, “These people should not be in jail. They are our modern-day heroes and we should all be looking to them and supporting them and demanding their release.”  

Swami Vivekananda's views on caste and sexuality were 'painfully' regressive

By Bhaskar Sur* Swami Vivekananda now belongs more to the modern Hindu mythology than reality. It makes a daunting job to discover the real human being who knew unemployment, humiliation of losing a teaching job for 'incompetence', longed in vain for the bliss of a happy conjugal life only to suffer the consequent frustration.

Farm laws 'precursor' to free trade deal envisaged by US corporates to allow GMO

By Rajiv Shah Did the Government of India come up with the three farm laws, first rushed by promulgating ordinances in June 2020, to not just open the country’s agricultural sector to the corporate sector but also as a precursor to comply with the requirements of the United States for a Free Trade Agreement (FTA), as envisaged by the outgoing US president Donald Trump?

Savarkar 'criminally betrayed' Netaji and his INA by siding with the British rulers

By Shamsul Islam* RSS-BJP rulers of India have been trying to show off as great fans of Netaji. But Indians must know what role ideological parents of today's RSS/BJP played against Netaji and Indian National Army (INA). The Hindu Mahasabha and RSS which always had prominent lawyers on their rolls made no attempt to defend the INA accused at Red Fort trials.

Fr Stan's arrest figures in UK Parliament: Govt says, Indian authorities were 'alerted'

London protest for release of Stan Swamy  By Rajiv Shah Will Father Stan Swamy’s arrest, especially the fact that he is a Christian and a priest, turn out to be major international embarrassment for the Government of India? It may well happen, if a recent debate on a resolution titled “India: Persecution of Minority Groups” in the United Kingdom (UK) Parliament is any indication. While Jesuits have protested Fr Stan's arrest in UK and US, the resolution, adopted in the Parliament, said, “This House has considered the matter of persecution of Muslims, Christians and minority groups in India”.

Differing from Ambedkar, Kancha Ilaiah holds a 'different' theory of caste system

By Banavath Aravind* I was introduced to Kancha Ilaiah’s work when I was about 20 years old. He was then in the midst of a controversy for a chapter in his book "Post-Hindu India: A Discourse in Dalit-Bahujan, Socio-Spiritual and Scientific Revolution", which termed the Baniya community as social smugglers. During many of his debates, I had come to notice his undeterred fighting spirit in trying to bring up certain fundamental social issues that were hitherto undiscussed. I eventually came across some of his works and started reading them silently. I’m deliberately stressing upon the word ‘silently’ here, as this was the kind of silence particularly associated with sensitive social issues like caste, religion, etc. But, as I write this essay, I feel silences on sensitive issues should be broken. Ilaiah opened up an entirely new debate that had the vigour and strength to counter the systemic Brahmanism. His methods of research were also novel in terms of going back to the roo

New trend? Riots 'expanded' to new rural areas post-2002 Gujarat carnage: Report

A VHP poster declaring a Gujarat village part of Hindu Rashtra  By Rajiv Shah  Buniyaad, a Gujarat-based civil society organization, engaged in monitoring of communal violence in the state, in a new report, “Peaceful Gujarat: An Illusion or Truth?” has said that a “new trend” has come about in communal violence in the state, where the parts of Gujarat which didn't see communal riots in 2002 are experiencing “regular bouts” of communal violence.

More than 5,200 Gujarat schools to be closed down, merged, says govt document

RTE Forum, Gujarat, releasing fact-sheet on education By Our Representative A Gujarat government document has revealed that it is planning to close down 5,223 schools in the name of school merger. The document, dated July 20, 201 was released by the Right to Education (RTE) Forum, Gujarat. It shows that the worst-affected districts because of this merger are those which are populated by marginalized communities – especially tribals, Dalits and minorities, said RTE Forum’s Gujarat convener Mujahid Nafees.

Consumption pattern, not economic shock behind 'poor' child health indicators

By Neeraj Kumar, Arup Mitra* The findings of the latest round of National Family Health Survey (NFHS-5) conducted in 2019-20 covering 22 States/UTs under Phase-I  present a somewhat disappointing picture of children’s health in India. Majority of the experts, based on prima facie evidence, just highlighted the deteriorating sign of child health in terms of increase in proportion of stunted and underweight children in most of the phase-I states/UTs over last two rounds of NFHS (2015-16 to 2019-20).