23 April 2024 04:05 AM


Surajit C Mukhopadhyay | 21 JUNE, 2017

The Ministry of Utmost Fear:What An Idea General Sahib!

Surajit C Mukhopadhyay

KOLKATA: I am writing this majorly afraid. Just like the General sahib had ordered. I mean yes, the Army is friendly but it must be feared.

How can there be friendship without fear?

This idea that the citizen must not be afraid to voice his concerns in a democracy is balderdash. I am all with General sahib. I mean you may not believe it, but right from childhood I have always lived in fear of these friendlies. Seventies in Calcutta was awesomely fearsome. The Army, the para-military, the police, you name it and it was there.

I have a small quibble here General sahib. Can we add the police into the friendly but fearsome category? After all they are also the servants of the state. And every day they strike fear – you should have seen them the other day in Kolkata bashing up old men, ladies and even children. These people had the temerity to protest out there in the streets! Imagine that!

I mean when the state is eminent domain and the army and the police is the state, these people come out on the streets asking questions! The gumption, I say. You see by adding the police in the friendly but fearsome category we may be able to create a new ministry – the Ministry of Utmost Fear. I know the Army is under Defence, and the police under Home. But that should all be in the past. This is the post truth era and Home is where fear is. We should be upfront on these things pretty soon. That is the reason I am writing this even after so many days have passed after that dastardly chap, that Kashmiri Dar, was so magnanimously tied to the Army jeep to save lives.

This is why we don’t like liberals anymore in this country. (Or for that matter nearly everywhere now – all across the globe.) When you clearly see how tying up a person saves lives, ammo, time and everything that needs to be saved, the tying up officer needs to be congratulated. That was the state’s Peace Moment – a Magsaysay at least if not a Noble nomination.

But no, that Peace Moment is vilified by these democray wallas. I tell you General sahib, the problem with these Indians. They take the Constitution seriously even after all these years of battering and leaving it in tatters. They are still reading serious stuff like political theory, rights, entitlements and what not. I mean, come on, there is this whole beautiful world of food, fashion, holidays and super models. If they watch social media carefully, these liberals, Lefties and Constitutionalists would see how Indians are living in utmost happiness in the era of utmost fear.

FaceBook pages are full of notices of people flying, eating at top restaurants, drinking expensive wine, travelling in luxury cars, holidaying in Hawaii (Bangkok is passé) and planning their next bash. That shows how developed we have become as a nation. Just look at our street accidents – each time a person dies on the road mark the car – expensive Mercs, BMWs, SUVs – I mean when you have this level of development in motor transport you are bound to have silly people sleeping on footpaths run over.

The liberals are not getting it! Just not getting it. That is why you need to have the Ministry of Fear. Not only in Kashmir or Manipur or some such place. In the very heart of India – and boy am I glad that Madhya Pradesh has taken your advice so well. I saw this on the internet the other day – a police officer looking very fearsome telling his men to go out and beat the hell out of the farmers protesting about debts or some such idiotic things. Well you would be happy to know that the police fired as well. People died.

Of course that is exactly what you asked for, post that Dar incident. Drop the stones pick up guns so that we can shoot you. That is very honourable of you General sahib. Guns for guns, bullets for bullets. And since they are not firing the Army is hamstrung. That is a severe constraint and yet the MP police just fired when the other side did not. Would you like to have a word with them, you know about how guns can be matched with guns like stuff? But you must concede that firing into farmers sends the message of fear even better. After all we are trying to create this brave new world. This post-truth world where the Ministry of Utmost Fear would be the most crucial ministry looking after people’s happiness.

Happiness is fear, fear is happiness. I say what an idea General sahib. People will long remember you for this great formula. Maybe we can all lobby to get you a Nobel in Peace. I mean if Barak Obama can get one after all that US bombing, a brilliant idea like this just deserves the Nobel. Must put this petition online at Change.Org or somewhere similar.

And then just to complement the fear of the Army we have the fearsome television channels. Yes, really fearsome, awesome. You deliver the hardware of fear, they deliver the software of fear! Division of labour, that’s it.

A French chappie wrote this quite some time back. Althusser by name. (Anyway, forget the name, forgetting history is post-truth.) He said there are these repressive apparatuses which of course you know so well and is so solidly part of the state but also the ideological state apparatuses. Now with friendly TV anchors who can shout down any dissent it’s a great tango.

You can shoot any dissent and they can shout down any dissent. And people are lapping it up. The great combo, two pillars of the new nation. You see, there are now two types of people defending our borders – those who are standing there and those who are sitting in television studios. And mind you that the latter is equally strenuous and patriotic. Just think how hard a job it is - you are 24x7 outshouting anyone who dares to raise a voice. Atta boy, I say this is a chic combination.

The other day some academic analysed that Dar moment as the general Dyer moment. Chitty, chitty bang bang went our patriotic media threatening to tear intellectually apart the gentleman. This is exactly what a great nation is all about. Don’t just allow any nonsense to be said and get on with it. Drive in the fear. Reap the benefits – eternal peace, great dollops of television soaps and just unbelievable discounts on goods. The people must be allowed to buy and buy and buy.

That is the way out. If people are not made busy buying and shouting at dissent just think of the calamity that will strike us. You will have people like this Professor, Partha Chatterjee who will write and pontificate and try to take the fun out of the fun. I tell you what is wrong with these academics. They are reading too much. It’s a bloody disease – reading and quoting this and quoting that when all that is required are some few bullet points on a PPT! PPTs are lovely, concise, sharp, and simple to understand. And the points are called bullet points. No beating around thinking bush. Plus, reading creates disobedience.

You may have heard of this chap. Satyajit Ray. Came to fame, if you remember by making this film on poverty and these good for nothing intellectuals lapped it up. Someone, some member of our Parliament pointed that out. Good for her, I mean us. We had a whole new perspective on film making from that lady-who-was-once-in-Bollywood-then-in-Parliament.

But I am digressing. This Ray made this film called Hirak Rajar Deshe (In the Land of the Diamond King) where some hard truths were told simply. A teacher, yes a humble school teacher was trying to incite students against this great king. And what did the king do? He ordered his arrest, sent his men to hunt him down. Hirak Raja said look, the more people read the less they obey. So close the school. And that is so true. So even as we inch to that fantastic peace and development we must take care to see that too much reading is not done. It pickles the brain cells and creates disturbances.

It is a global problem sahib. Ask the French. Their Algerian experiences. They went out and civilised the Arabs, taught them French, that most sophisticated language of all languages, so that within a few years they were speaking fluent French, an achievement par excellence. And then, yes then, those chaps started reading Rousseau, Voltaire et al and bingo, before you could say bonjour they were talking about equality, fraternity and all that rubbish. That was a major blunder I dare say and the French soon found out. Had to leave Algeria, lose that land and that revenue and that prestige.

So its a hard historical lesson and we are taking measures. Closing down universities without even people noticing it, you know like squeezing out research, cutting down on seats, funds. All done to help the effort of constructing this great nation of ours without pesky intellectuals. Someone the other day was saying that Tagore had said that we must have that kind of a land where the mind is without fear. And that we must read him to get a grip on nationalism and patriotism. Now, now, if we are to take the poet seriously, we will have no Ministry of Fear. And no Ministry of Fear means no happiness either. The two we have already proven is one and the same.

I suspect that all these people who are writing critical pieces on our great nation have been all along reading poets like Tagore. Poets really are so unpredictable, they so get-under-your skin types. And sometimes even before you can call out ‘attention’ some chap somewhere has memorised a line or two of poetry. But progress cannot be left to the poets. Too risky a matter and see how Assam has put a ban on his texts, if the press is to be believed. Good job. Now you can concentrate on management teaching right from school so that when the student comes out she would not know a line of poetry. Or prose for that matter.

We are in fact doing this right now. I was invited a couple of years ago to interview students seeking entry to a top management school. Over two days I asked them to tell me part of a story from a book that they have recently read. You will like this surely, sahib. None, no one, zero. All of them were busy reading notes preparing for business school. That is ambition sir. Dedication.

Right from high school days, focused, on the job, reading bullet points, learning to decipher the bear and the bull. Bright chaps all ready to serve the corporate world, err, nation. I mean the lines are no longer valid, right? Serving mammon is serving the country and that cannot be done by reading poetry or prose that takes you away from the purpose of earning top dollar. Now am digressing I suppose. But strangely these things have a tendency to come together. They cohere so that one feeds onto the other. It’s a kind of a mosaic where the entire story can be told from either the start or from the middle or you can begin at the end.

One last salute sahib. The tying officer is innocent as you have indicated. And yet there is this court enquiring into the matter. What fairness sir, what faith in THE PROCESS. The verdict is out for we all know that justice delayed is justice denied. Time was of the essence any delay would have killed the morale of the officer. That is what intellectuals are not getting right, correct me if I am wrong sir. But soon all of them will be with you and celebrate the Ministry of Fear. Let them not forget fear is happiness unbound.

(The writer is a well known academic and columnist)

(Cover Illustration: Army of Fear by IISHARKII IMacabre and Horror)