Since the time Mr Modi has caught the imagination of the countrymen and emerged as one of the popular leaders there has been a raging debate on some contentious issues like Nationalism, Ultra Nationalism, despondency amongst minorities and as a result we had an Award Waapsi episode in 2014-15 and thereafter an Intolerance campaign, as a mark of protest by those who claim to be liberals.
I do not think those who protested and have been opposing Mr Modi’s rule on these aforesaid issues gained anything substantial because Mr Modi has once again come back to power in 2019 with a bigger mandate.
It is not very difficult to identify a conservative, because he usually derives inspiration from the past, established practices, norms, customs, traditions and so on. As per the definitions given in various dictionaries, one can safely define a Conservative, as someone who promotes traditional social institutions in the context of culture, religion and civilization and they usually oppose new ideas and often seek a return to "the way things were ; Shariat rule, Ram Rajaya, Caliphate rule etc.
From purely behavioural point of view, one can easily identify the Conservatives, the moment they open their mouths and at times even by the dress they wear. On the other hand, a liberal can only be recognised when he puts forth the ideas and views.
For instance, A Muslim CONSERVATIVE would normally have a beard, wear a skull cap, will speak about ; Muslim interests only, in favour of triple talaq, in favour of Burqa, about governing the society through Shariat law, dress code, Islam being in danger. Similarly a Hindu conservative would usually ; have a tilak on his forehead, saffron thread on his wrist and will talk of HINDUS’ interest, establishing Ram Rajya, following traditions and practices as written in old religious scriptures, and so on. This is applicable to members of other religious communities as well.
As a norm, Most of the conservatives wear their religion on their sleeves and their sentiments get hurt on slightest of criticism and even by cartoons. A liberal on the other hand does not carry any burden of the past. He is open to new ideas, respects and allows different types of beliefs and faiths, supports individual rights and human rights, democracy, secularism, gender equality, racial equality, internationalism, freedom of speech, freedom of the press and freedom of religion.
However, as everything cannot be categorised in this world into Black and White and will have to accept the existence of lot of grey also, hence there will be Conservatives who are a bit Liberals and so there can be Liberals also who may be a bit Conservative as well. I am for the purpose of this article addressing all of them as Liberals.
When we look back into our history, we find that Liberals have played an important role in various revolutions ; the Glorious Revolution of 1688 in England, the American Revolution of 1776 and the French Revolution of 1789, in overthrowing the tyrannous rule and ushering in parliamentary democracy. During 19th and early 20th century, it were the Liberals who spearheaded movements bringing about reforms in almost entire world be it Europe, Ottomon empire, USA and even in India reformist Leaders like Ishwar Chandra Vidya Sagar, Raja Ram Mohan Roy, Harbilas Sarda put an end to old evil practices of Sati, suffering of widows and Child marriage. The democratic principles of equality, liberty, inclusiveness as we see today are an outcome of the efforts of liberals.
But astonishingly one today finds that those who are labelled as Liberals in India are doing a great disservice towards the society and at times appear to be more Conservative than the conservatives themselves. They are largely status quoists, sycophants and attitudinally have no conviction to change things around. And it is because of this reason that Indian liberals today are fast losing their credibility amongst the masses.
The reasons are not difficult to be found.
When these liberals were supposed to stand for Kashmiri Pundits whilst their Human rights were violated, our liberals remained silent and are now speaking up for the human rights of Kashmiris when Article 370 has been repealed. They were expected to oppose the unfair muslim law and support the cause of the Muslim women being tormented by triple talaq but they rather preferred to stand steadfastly in support of a status quo, despite the SC orders of 1985( Shahabano case). Thousands of innocent lives were lost due to repeated terror attacks but they never spoke out to bring about a change in legal provisions to tackle this violation of human rights of masses but they spoke out for a convicted terrorist. They should have stood for Taslima Nasreen’s and Salman Rushdie’s freedom of speech but they succumbed to the pressure of the conservatives and instead stood for the freedom of expression of MF Hussein. They remained selectively quiet or spoke selectively when some were picked up and lynched to death ; whether they were Hindus in Kerala and in West Bengal or Muslims in UP, Rajasthan and MP, as if those innocents deserved to die and shrugged off their responsibility by conveniently palming it off to respective states, as a Law and Order issue.
We can go on and on describing their spineless behaviour and sycophancy and it is this reason that the conservatives have struck back and have labelled them as ANTI NATIONALS. It is the outcome of their sycophancy and double standards, that a great liberal leader, Mr Nehru who stood for all those democratic norms that India is now known for is being blamed for wrong reasons.
The Liberals had ample amount of time and numerous opportunities in all these years, to return their awards and also start an Intolerance campaign, but they did nothing and chose a wrong time to do so.
However, notwithstanding the above, the society needs Liberals in sufficient numbers because it is they who can take the society ahead, It is the Liberals who can inculcate an attitude of scientific enquiry amongst the people, It is they who can prevent violation of human rights, it is they who can prevent those who govern, from abusing the power, It is they who can remove the obstacles that prevent individuals from living freely and enable them to fully realize their potential. It is they who can make India a pleasant place to live in. It is therefore extremely important for the well being of the society that the Liberals regain their credibility.
But for that to happen the Liberals must first have to inculcate some soldierly habits ; calling A Spade A Spade, and have to give up this habit of speaking up selectively.
DISCLAIMER : Views expressed above are the author’s own.