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This book reasons why Ram rajya and ‘sabka saath, sabka vikas’ have been just ‘jumlas’

By Rajiv Shah 

Offering a collection of his articles published in the Mumbai-based daily “Free Press Journal” (FPJ) between 2020 and 2022, Anil Kumar Singh’s recently-released book The Fault With Reality: New Experiments With Truth gives enough indication as to why and how the so-called mainstream media would give “free run” to a journalist, and under which circumstances this “free run” could possibly be withdrawn.
Former metro editor of “The Times of India”, Mumbai, Singh’s column in the daily “The Fault With Reality” in FPJ, which he began at the start of the pandemic, was suddenly discontinued following his last piece ‘India isn’t a safe place for comedians either’ (May 7, 2022), where he scathingly asks, “Where was the need to rely on the global index published by the Paris-based Reporters Without Borders when hundreds of your own brethren are being locked up under trumped-up charges ranging from sedition to spreading infectious diseases?”
While the book doesn’t contain this last piece, there is reason to wonder why the column wasn’t stopped earlier. No doubt, it has several pieces on environment, urban development, architecture and heritage in Mumbai, but Singh, ever since he began writing in early 2020, was always strongly critical of Modi and his policies.
In “Mahatma of the New Millennium?”, which he wrote on September 20, 2020, for instance, he says, the common man is led to believe that if Nehru “thrust alien concepts such as secularism on us”, while Modi “is a homespun hero” not hesitant “about flaunting his Hindu identity”, hence he “embodies their hopes and aspirations today just as Gandhi once did.”
Disputing this, he comments, “Gandhi harvested hope, Modi harvests hatred. Gandhi appealed to the higher values, Modi is a rabble-rouser. The Mahatma insisted that the end should not justify the means and called off the non-cooperation movement at its height in 1922 after the Chauri Chaura incident when a mob burnt a police station with the 22 cops and three civilians in it. Modi’s handling of the Godhra riots which saw over 1,000 deaths was not seen as ‘raj dharma’ by his own party leader, Atal Bihari Vajpayee.”
He continues, “Gandhi would surely launch a satyagraha against the undeclared Emergency of today, he would join the Shaheen Baug sit-in, side with Prashant Bhushan over the contempt of court case and demand the release of scholars such as Sudha Bharadwaj, Anand Teltumbde, Gautam Navlakha and Varavara Rao and others held for over two years in the farcical Bhima Koregaon case.”
Despite such writeups, the column continued for two long years till May 2022. Indeed, there is reason to ask: Did FPJ owners sense which way would the political mood in Maharashtra was likely to move in early May 2022, a little over month before Uddhav Thackeray’s coalition government with Congress and NCP was to collapse, giving way to the breakaway Shiv Sena under Eknath Shinde forming government with BJP as partner?
Indeed, Singh remains critical of Modi or his policies all through. In “Modi’s Temples of Modern India”, for instance, he says, “Modi and his masters in the RSS” razed “Nehruvian temples and build their own on the ruins”, noting, “Some mad cow disease has afflicted our research institutes. IIT-Delhi received several proposals from top research institutions to explore the benefits of panchagavya, a mixture of five cow products: urine, dung, milk, ghee and curd.”
Then, critical of the Modi establishment for dismantling of institutions, he states how the Election Commission of India went out of the way to hurriedly disqualify 20 Aam Aadmi Party MLAs from Delhi on the ‘office of profit’ charge; how the Chief Information Commissioner has turned into a toothless tiger after the RTI Rules-2019; and how nobody hears about the Lokpal and the Lokayuktas, who are supposed to be ombudsmen representing public interest.
At one place, he asks, is Modi the “the same man who swears by Lord Ram who went to the extent of banishing his wife based on hearsay?”, even as reporting elsewhere that donations were being solicited for the Ram Temple “in the middle of a pandemic”. He comments, “Babies die like flies in our hospitals for lack of oxygen cylinders, as in Gorakhpur, or are charred to death because of faulty incubators, as in the Bhandara civil hospital in Maharashtra, but we are obsessed with a temple for Ram ‘lalla’.”
At another place, pointing towards how “religion has been weaponised to suit political ends”, he states, under the Modi dispensation, Ram rajya and ‘sabka saath, sabka vikas’ are just ‘jumlas’; the rule of law is an alien concept; lynch mobs will rule the streets and troll armies will rule the information highways; and those like Harsh Mander, who quit IAS to work for communal harmony and launched Karwan-e-Mohabbat campaign in solidarity with the victims of communal violence, are sought be prosecuted for ‘hate speech’. 
Singh asks, “Are lynch mobs our answer to the alleged appeasement of Muslims by the Congress?”
The author wants the love poems of Bharatiya sanskriti must feature in Valentine’s cards, quotes Kalidas and Jayadeva’s Geet Govinda
Singh doesn’t spare Modi for seeking to “manipulate voters” by whipping up “the fear of rapid population growth” either. Giving the example of how population control method miserably boomeranged in China, he asserts, it is difficult to believe that the PM was misinformed that “Indian women in the 1950s averaged six births each, the Total Fertility Rate (TFR) fell to 2.7 in 2005, then to 2.2 in 2015 and now it is down to 2... An average of less than 2.1 children per woman indicates that a generation is not producing enough children to replace itself.”
The book has several pieces on culture, heritage, architecture and environment. Singh disputes the “misconception” that Urdu is a Pakistani language, the language of the Islamic invaders, pointing out the “vilification of Urdu is part of a sectarian campaign that springs from the misplaced ideology of the late Guru Golwalkar of the RSS”, stating the “sectarian campaign” on Urdu was being being by “ignoramuses who are graduates of the WhatsApp University”.
He recalls, some of the top litterateurs “Upendranath Sharma ‘Ashk’ and Dhanpat Rai Srivastava, better known as Munshi Premchand, were famous Urdu authors before they even began to write in Hindi, that Urdu literature has been overwhelmingly patronised by non-Muslim writers and poets: Krishan Chander, Rajinder Singh Bedi, Raghupati Sahay (Firaq Gorakhpuri), Gulzar (Sampooran Singh Kalra), Khushwant Singh…”
At another place, he wants the love poems of Bharatiya sanskriti must feature in Valentine’s cards, quoting Kalidas, born 2,000 years before Shakespeare, for writing: ‘Her hand upon her hip she placed, And swayed seductively her waist, With chin upon her shoulder pressed, She stretched herself to show her breast’.” He refers to the 12th-century poet Jayadeva’s ‘Geet Govinda’ for describing the relationship between Krishna and Radhika and the ‘gopikas’ “in language that would make today’s moral police see red”, adding, “Even the Ramayana and the Mahabharata do not display any squeamishness regarding sex.”
Then there are writeups on Mumbai’s “narrow and clogged roads” offering little space to pedestrians, which is in sharp contrast to the “charm” of Navi Mumbai, a common man’s city; and manipulation of Mumbai data to show putting the mega city “on par with Singapore and Sydney in terms of percentage of open space”. And writing three days after the World Wetlands Day, he regrets how it “went unnoticed in Mumbai”, asking “When will it occur to us that wetlands are not shallow water bodies with no utility but ecosystems as important as forests?”

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