On the ubiquity of sanctimoniousness
This article originally appeared in centreright.in. CRI content has now been subsumed in swarajyamag.com. The views expressed here are personal and do not necessarily reflect those of the editors of swarajyamag.com

Every aspect of our so called national political commentary and discourse seems to be steeped in a nauseating tradition of needless, unprovoked sanctimony.  

Consider the assault on Prashant Bhushan by those belonging to the Bhagat Singh Kranti Sena. While the assault was unlawful and deserved the prescribed punishment – even if it was against a seditious and sleazy personality – the reactions were found to be horrendously out of proportion and rather preachy. Colorful phrases such as 'the idea of India', 'freedom of speech' and 'grammar of anarchy' (Sorry Acorn) were being employed to express outrage. 

Amidst the boisterous twittering hoi polloi this ill-advised assault on an old man was a chance to quote some quaint Urdu shayiri or Shakespeare, to express disbelief at how low the standards had fallen in the Republic and how the country was going to the dogs.  If only the ill-informed plebs would stick to doing what patricians instructed them!

For a while it seemed there was a riot of some sort in Delhi and that people armed with Trishuls were taking down the Parliament building accompanied by shouts of Ek dhakka aur do. All that had occurred was two or three misguided youth assaulting a rather well known lawyer. (The assault seems to have ended in a fist fight, but nevertheless) An FIR would be filed and the due process of law would be followed. 

But what explains the hyperventilation?

Explanation one: It occurs to one that the outrage manufacturing machinery is only set into motion when the status quo of establishment is questioned. The narrative conventions are to be strictly adhered to in order flourish. The Delhi Consensus requires one to not only tolerate Naxal-sympathizers it mandates one to engage in alleged intellectual discourse to explore the broad contours of the 'idea of India' even as state troops and tribals are being murdered.

The Delhi consensus also mandates the tolerance of intolerant communal rabble rousing rowdies of a particular religious background. Conversely it  requires the extrapolation of the acts of intolerance of a few cases to the entire Right just so the Establishment appears saintly. Rare is the case when the idea of India was questioned or Shakespeare quoted when Taslima Nasreen was assaulted in a similar manner by a sitting MP!

Explanation two: It comes naturally to us. The middle class Indian is by nature sanctimonious and hypocritical. The average middle class Indian is always on the look out to impress the other of his class, his erudition, his arrival amidst the club of civilized elite leaving behind the hustle of unpolished bazaar crowd.  

In the immortal words of E.M.Forster 'Unless a sentence paid a few compliments to Justice and Morality in passing, its grammar wounded their ears and paralysed their minds. What they said and what they felt were (except in the case of affection) seldom the same.  They had numerous mental conventions and when these were flouted they found it very difficult to function.'

Next time you see Rajdeep Sardesai put up his act on Twitter have some pity on him. Even six decades after the British left the likes of him remain true to Forster's charaterisation: hypocritical brown-sahibs too eager to impress others.

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