The quality of public discourse has been steadily declining and needs to be arrested. The quality of enquiry, the quality of interrogation, interpretation of the data which normally precedes discussion, is poor.
One is not referring to the number of public denigrators of Prime Minister Narendra Modi who have now turned vocal adulators. One is not even talking of the new found enthusiasm of media personnel who now see him in a ‘sunny’ mode.
Some persons ‘discovered’ within days of Modi assuming power that the Prime Minister is going to put India back on track. Books under print were re-labeled and re-packaged. ‘Rewards’ are yet to come! Headings and sub-headings touched fresh depths. Some magazines even captioned stories as: “Modi embraces poor”. But they were only trying to make a living. They can be forgiven.
The cause for concern is much deeper. In the last two years, public discourse has progressively moved from name calling to heckling.
As public life stands today, there really are no major controversies. Hence, controversies are being created. Public bashing, duly aided and abetted by untalented anchors, continues. The examples are too many to critique but some reflections on the quality of enquiry and the quality of marshalling of argument is essential.
To begin with, let us take the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh. For several people in the country anything which originates from the RSS is wrong and has to be debunked. Hence, the industry of RSS baiters is feverishly working over time.
One may or may not agree with the RSS on all the solutions that it proposes but then again, is there any agency with which everybody agrees? What is beyond doubt is that the RSS is devoted to the Indian nation and has a stake in how to work for the country’s welfare.
The organisation has the right to project its solutions, within the constitutional framework, just as much as anyone else. What is regrettable is the uncouth argumentation of adversaries that is presented without due research.
Consider the controversy over the word ‘Hindu’. There is no concept of the Hindu in any of the ancient Indian texts. Those who are now labeled ‘Hindu’ mostly believe that they belong to the Sanatana Dharma. Sanatana means eternal.
Unlike many other religions, Sanatanis do not believe in a prophet, in that sense of the word. It is their way of communion with the divine consciousness. They are entitled to it, just as anyone else is entitled to their route to ‘godhood’.
The point to be made, however, is different. Those who have studied the past of this country, not necessarily just professional historians, are aware that the word ‘Hindu’ came into the lexicon after the Greek learnt of the Sindhu river, which is know as the Indus to the anglicised.
Facts, however, show that phonetically the sound ‘S’ does not exist in the Greek alphabet. The Greeks cannot pronounce ‘S’. So wherever there is the ‘S’ sound, the Greek pronunciation converts it to a ‘H’ sound.
When the Greeks learnt of the Sindhu (Indus) river, they referred to it as the the ‘Hindu’ river, much in the same way as the Sindhu river became Indus to the other Europeans.
In their imperial quest, when the Greeks from Macedonia marched through the Khyber and the Bolan passes, they found it convenient to refer to all those who lived across the Sindhu (Hindu) river as Hindus. Thus, a new word was added to the vocabulary.
To the many hoards of foreigners who travelled through the region, this trend caught on and those who lived beyond the Sindhu River were labeled Hindus. The land where such people lived became Hindustan or, literally, the land of the Hindu.
Positions can be taken on any debate through predilection and prejudices. All one is pleading, here, is for an informed discussion.
As far as the argument of the Congress spokesperson that the Constitution of India talks of a Bharat, not a Hind, there is little to say. Perhaps he should condemn the first Prime Minister of this country for having given the slogan of Jai Hind from the ramparts of the Red Fort. Jawaharlal Nehru did not say ‘Jai Bharat’. It’s the Congress that launched a movement to correct this aberration.