Liberal thinkers such as Sagarika Ghose often ponders over this issue. In fact, in an article where she talks about the lack of right-winged intellectuals in India, Ghose wonders whether the lack of conservative intellectuals in the country a result of a badly inculcated ‘bhartiya sanskriti’? She goes on to add whether the cause behind this is the constant upholding of Indian scriptures such as The Bhagavad Gita or the Arthashashtra or the Manusmriti – some of these are probably outdated or fail to offer advise on issues beyond divinity, spirituality and religion. Maybe she is right. Or maybe, the right-winged intellectuals in India have the right wisdom sources, but do not know which lessons to pick.
The thin line between intelligence and ideology
There are intellectuals, on both sides, who often fail to notice the thin line between intelligence and ideology. If a scholar writes a research paper or a thesis, it is obvious that no matter how hard he/she tries, the words will reflect his/her personal leanings to some extent. However, if the same scholar promotes his ideas primarily for the growth of political ideas than the growth in wisdom and knowledge, then the scholar is not an intellectual, he/she is an ideologist.
There is nothing wrong about being an ideologist. Deep inside, every human being lives by a particular ideology. However, when a scholar intends to use a platform for spreading his/her ideology by omitting or adding misleading information to alter reality or history, then there’s a problem. An intellectual cannot escape the criticism or the controversy that his/her work generates. He/she has to argue against them with valid justification, not by merely waving off the subject altogether
Taking these facts into consideration, it is surprising that India can currently count the number of right-winged intellectuals on its fingers. It isn’t that there are no right-winged intellectuals in India. There are many. But so far, only a handful of them have been able to exhibit their thinking neatly and justly. The question is – where are the rest? Why are they not as prominent and effective as Sagarika Ghose or Arundhati Roy?
Why is there no space for the right-winged intellectuals in India?
Look for some of the most appreciated and widely read Indian historians. You will come across names like Shahid Amin, Seema Alavi, Janaki Nair, A.R. Venkatachalapathy, Chetan Singh, and many more. The problem is, all of these historians (although they don’t make their political preference public) always lean towards the left in the writings. One can also say that they actually trying to move as far as possible from the right-wing ideologies and stances.
Most of the greatest Indian thinkers and authors in the field of political science – such as Rajeev Bhargava, Gurpreet Mahajan, Suhas Palshikar and Zoya Hasan – claim to be liberalists and socialists. Even leaders in the arena of sociology – such as Nandini Sundar, Amita Bhaviskar, and Susan Vishwanathan – make similar claims.
The question here is – what is that the left-winged intellectuals in India are doing right? What is it that the conservative intellectuals fail to notice? Where is it that they go wrong? If the intellectuals that lean on the left can make their opinions public and receive praise for it as well, why can’t (and why won’t) the right-winged intellectuals do the same?
The difference between fact and fiction
The thin line between fact and fiction, between reality and myth – is probably negligible to the right-winged eye. In 2014, Y Sudershan Rao took up the post of a chairman at the Indian Council of Historical Research. But, here is a problem. To his resume, Rao has only added the authorship of one thin book – 25 years ago – with little to no publications in esteemed journals.
Dina Nath Batra – another right-winged intellectual in India – who has quite an influence on the ever-changing curriculum in India – insists on removing Urdu and Arabic words from the textbooks of school students. Not only that, he has also asked that the mention of the Gujarat riots be eliminated from the textbooks. Altering history or deleting some of the richest treasures of literature in India is this intellectual’s solution to disperse creative knowledge and wisdom on Indian students.
Batra also asked that all sentences that praise the Mughal and the British invaders be erased from the textbooks, since in his opinion, how can the students be introduced to the bravery and glory and valor of Indian fighters and heroes like Shivaji, Subhash Chandra Bose, or Maharana Pratap if there is no space in the texts for them? No wonder there is a dearth of the right-winged intellectuals in India. They refuse to use their intellect and go for provocative and illogical stances. But, there are exceptions and solutions.
The right solution for the right-winged intellectuals of India
If only the right-winged intellectuals in India transform from stubborn, rigid thinkers to logical or ‘out-of-the-box’ ones, this crisis of fewer Indian right-winged intellectuals on the ground can be solved. The question is – how can they go about it?
First, the right-winged intellectuals in India should stop making grandiose statements without enough evidence or justification. Myth is something that a nation can always look back at and learn its lessons from. But if certain myths or statements from scriptures cannot contribute to a country’s progress, is it really worth hoarding it in our collective consciousness?
Secondly, right-winged intellectuals should begin to promote the fact that even a conservative approach to progress is feasible. They should start passing on this simple message – that progress is not the enemy – rather, imitating the Western model or forgoing the Indian model is the obstacle. We do not need to sacrifice our treasured culture to move on to development of any kind. There is a need, an urgent one, to demonstrate how tradition and technology can come together, walk hand-in-hand, for the betterment of India.
Thirdly, the right-winged intellectuals should realize that erasing a moment or experience in history is not the solution to creating a discourse that suits a conservative approach. Any education is hollow and incomplete without facts and figures – no matter how disturbing they are. However, one can make enough space in any discourse about the historic or cultural elements and stories without having to compromise on the whole truth. Rather than removing Urdu poems from the texts, add Hindi ones to create a versatility or diverseness in that particular discourse.
India has always been a land of great, rich and diverse experiences. No one can negate that. If only the right-winged intellectuals in India stop making unsupported claims and begin to integrate tradition and technology in their thoughts and words – no one can stop India from gaining the best of both the worlds. All we need is better channeling of the right-winged thinking. And we are set to soar.