Troubled by incessant news of corruption of the UPA regime, beginning 2010, and the concern of the previous decade when voter turnout had dwindled to a shameful abyss, a section of the age demography, hitherto apathetic to politics, plunged headlong into the fray. Unprepared. Unlike Naxalism of the late 1960s in West Bengal, this was not a brew that had finally begun to boil. Anna Hazare of 2011 was a media circus that made disruption look glamorous and more effective than what it was, with claims about the size of the crowd the Maharashtrian activist attracted exaggerated to dizzying levels. In due course, the Goebbelsian tactic worked and the crowd really started swelling year after year up to 2019, excited by the idea of protesting against any perceived wrong. After ministerial corruption vanished since mid-2014, the arena for activism naturally shrunk from the large Ramlila Ground and the India Gate circle to campuses like that of JNU. Humiliated and discredited for going against the idea of the nation with their slogans and antics, however, they did hold the national flag in their hands for the first time since their inception in the 1920s. But being like other Indians would kill their distinction. The communists could not afford extinction from their borough as well. They looked for some festering grievance elsewhere and half-found it in the form of a Rohith Vemula, an OBC touted as a Dalit for convenience. As north India squeezed them out, they sneaked into the south, with Periyarites and Ambedkarites without the knowledge of Babasaheb playing their ready collaborators. Reinforced, the malcontents hit the north and the rest of the country again with a Bharat Bandh. Yet, with a government boasting of the largest representation of the Scheduled Castes at the helm since Independence, this breast-beating activism was not sustainable.
Meanwhile, Muslims wondered why Akhlaq of Dadri had stopped motivating the rabble-rousers after the Bihar election of 2015 was over. The Marxist-Leninist-Maoist cabal put its money on the community that had a lesser affinity with the mainstream than Dalits. By now, Kashmir, which non-Kashmiri Muslims hardly cared about earlier, had come under a stronger grip of the union, thanks to the virtual abrogation of Article 370. They made it look like anti-Muslim legislation. The Narendra Modi government was seen behind the Ayodhya verdict going in favour of the Hindu side, the technicality of mutual independence of the legislature, the executive and the judiciary be damned. Persuading such a misled and perpetually aggrieved section of the population to believe that an amended law had imperilled their Indian citizenship was not difficult. Hallucinating that they had been cornered, they hit back, setting the nation on fire.
Earlier, the bid to incite Christians had failed, as every attack on a church proved unrelated to the Sangh Parivar. The dispensation yet had to reach out to them. The government did not try it, probably underestimating their clout due to their minuscule size and ignoring the fact that they enjoyed an international backing, replete with deluded American and racist European NGOs. Facts such as a Republican Donald Trump ruling the US, a Conservative Boris Johnson regaining the British faith, a less leftist Emmanuel Macron being in the driver’s seat in France and an Angela Merkel of the Christian Democratic Union managing Germany did not help. For, the collapse of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics in 1991 notwithstanding, leftism is now entrenched in university campuses and civil society across the West, itching them forever with the idea of changing the order by the heft of a revolution. And the media cannot be thought of in isolation from the land of the Whites with the supremacist attitude that Asians need deliverance. Media in India is but a chapter thereof, having learnt its primary lessons from the Raj.
Unfortunately, unlike the communists of the 1960s in India, who did not have the confounding luxury of the Internet, their descendants do not have the education that would eventually lead them to disillusionment. They would find it hard to realise that any area, province, region, country or even continent that found holding people hostage and throwing routine life out of gear fantastic was doomed. From Russia to Bengal, from all the countries under the Warsaw Pact to Hyderabad Central University, from the impoverished Latin American countries to Jadavpur University, no activism-infested territory can be called a vibrant economy or a peaceful abode for the pursuit of one’s interests. The decade 2010-2019 was a decade of activism, lost without the realisation it is suicidal. Overrating the potential of the youth without making them undergo the rigour of education in history and economics and subjecting them to rent-a-cause celebrities created these pesky children whose idea of freedom translated to free lunches: cheap food and cheaper hostel accommodation, roads and water pipelines out of thin air, free electricity, quota and, finally, government jobs.
But if a phase of complete indifference gave way to one of undue indulgence in politics, this stretch of activism shall pass too. In the absence of a broad perspective, this generation will outgrow activism only on coming to terms with its sheer futility after so much of exhaustion of the self and neglect of families even if they never agree they also harmed the nation. If the future is merciful, the children of these children will not pity their wasted parents who believed the nation was an automated teller machine, who demanded income without creating wealth, who insisted they were Indians while bearing nothing but contempt for India.