The Chronicles of a Lapsed Marxist

In response to the Karnataka state unit of the BJP Yuva Morcha, which sent him a legal notice, alleged historian Ramachandra Guha reposted a link to his June 2017 article titled “Eight threats to free expression in India that lay the ground for attacks on Taslima, Bhansali.”

We can begin with the very first sentence of that piece:

Some years ago, I characterised our country as a “50–50 democracy”.

And some years ago — actually five years ago, I wrote a rebuttal to one of Ram Guha’s typical banalities woven around his pet themes of Narendra Modi, RSS, BJP, Hindutva-bashing on the one side and the Great Grand Eternal Glory of Jawaharlal Nehru and Mohandas Gandhi on the other.

But because we’re relatively distant in time now, and in vastly better circumstances than we were under the stranglehold of the dark era of the UPA regime, it’s hard to recall the intensity, ferocity, and vehemence of the almost nonstop barrage of Modi-bashing back then.

Ramachandra Guha. Pic courtesy: Google Image Search

That rebuttal so riled up Guha that he fished out just one sentence from it and dedicated an entire article, which basically reads like his CV written in long form, justifying and explaining his professional accomplishments. Here’s the sentence in question (quoted verbatim from Guha’s piece).

Earlier this week, I was alerted to an attack on me posted on the website of the chief minister of Gujarat, Narendra Modi. “Ramachandra Guha’s impotent anger,” claimed Modi’s website, “is typical of a snobbish but vacuous intellectual who simply cannot tolerate a person from a humble background attaining greatness by the dint of his own hard work, learning and persistence. But Ramachandra Guha, after more than 40 years of Dynasty history writing remains where he is while Narendra Modi has continued to scale up. Which is why Modi can speak about and implement well-considered policies on topics as diverse as governance, economy, environment, industry, infrastructure, solar energy, IT, and tourism while Guha is simply unable to look beyond the walls of 10 Janpath.”

Oh, and the note about the CV isn’t mine. It’s his. Some more bits from his angry response:

This paragraph contains a series of innuendos, half-truths, and outright falsehoods. To begin with the most elementary error, my CV as it appears on Modi’s website exaggerates my professional longevity. I have been a historian for a mere 25 years, and a political historian for only the last 10 of those years.

And I do admit to have erred, so let me correct myself now:

Ramachandra Guha, after more than 4̶0̶ 25 years of Dynasty history writing remains where he is while Narendra Modi ̶h̶a̶s̶ ̶c̶o̶n̶t̶i̶n̶u̶e̶d̶ ̶t̶o̶ ̶s̶c̶a̶l̶e̶ ̶u̶p̶ is currently serving as the fourteenth Prime Minister of India.

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Ram Guha devotes the rest of that piece to elaborately justify how he has actually been critical of the Congress dynasty — from Indira to Sonia and Rahul — and has “never entered 10, Janpath, nor met any of its occupants.”

I suppose Mr. Guha is an honourable man, so I’ll take his word for it. In reality, my “walls of 10 Janpath” mention was an allusion to the larger Congress-Communist/Marxist ecosystem of which Ramachandra Guha remains an engraved art-piece and beneficiary.

There’s a reason for recalling this bit of the recent past.

The Discourse Around Narendra has Remained Unchanged

I’ve since moved away from writing rebuttals to a narrative, which at the core is essentially self-negating and denialist. Back then, if Ramachandra Guha and his ilk focused all their energies on stopping the ascent of Narendra Modi, today they’re doing the same in the hope of bringing him down.

Because they can no longer call him a fascist, mass-murderer, Hitler etc, they are resorting to viper-like wordplay which essentially means the same thing. For example, “complex interplay of social forces, ideological biases, and political choices that inhibits freedom of expression in India” simply means this: We hate Indian voters because they gave an overwhelming majority to Narendra Modi and we’ll use our special version of freedom of expression (indeed no tactic is too low) to bring him down.

And they’ll never change. And never stop attacking. Sample some of these:

  • Great strides in foreign policy: Modi loves going on world tours
  • Mangalayan launch: Hindutva brigade and Internet Hindus celebrate evil patriarchy by splashing pictures of married middle class Kumkum-wearing Hindu women scientists responsible for the launch
  • GST and Demonetisation: Modi will crash India’s economy irreparably
  • Doklam victory: Don’t piss off China; Modi is undoing Nehru’s lofty legacy
  • Swacch Bharat: Another drama by Modi

Add to this the frequent stream of rabid articles about intolerance and the rest.

Which is why I said that no sane, decent, and honest person can beat this ilk at this depraved game whose innate motivation, pulse, and tactic John Milton described so powerfully more than four hundred years ago:

This essence to incarnate and imbrute…
But what will not Ambition and Revenge
Descend to? who aspires must down as low…
obnoxious first or last
To basest things…
Some of [the] Serpent kind
Wondrous in length and corpulence involve’d
Their Snaky folds, and added wings…
Of huge extent sometimes, with brazen Eyes…
The Serpent, subtlest Beast of all the Field
Fit Vessel, fittest Imp of fraud, in whom…
dark suggestions hide
From sharpest sight: for in the wily Snake,
Whatever sleights none would suspicious mark
(Paradise Lost: Book IX)

Reading the Law Books of Judge Guha

I’m not a big fan of intimidation-by-legal notices. That is the diabolical tactic used by the likes of Barkha Dutt who became insecure by what Chaitanya Kunte, a little-known blogger wrote about her appalling coverage of the 26/11 attacks.

But in Ramachandra Guha’s case, it was plain libellous. The cops had barely begun their investigation but this patriarch of pluralism, secularism, tolerance, dissent and democracy donned the robes of Judge and pronounced his verdict that Gauri Lankesh’s murderers “came from the same Sangh Parivar,” in an interview given to the Extreme Left rag Scroll, a natural lair of sorts for his brand of politics.

One wonders if it’s native stupidity or an obstinate denial of reality that these discredited eminences practice when they keep hollering about intolerance, illiberalism and an overnight obliteration of free speech given that there’s enough freedom of expression for Guha to churn out his thinly veiled hatred day after disgusting day from every Leftist rooftop and gutter.

Minhaz Merchant puts it well:

A cursory look at the headlines of newspapers such as The Telegraph, The Hindu and The Indian Express reveal how dissent against the Modi government is in fact alive and kicking …Surf through TV channels, English, Hindi and regional. You’ll see enough vitriol against the BJP in general and Modi in particular to prove how free speech thrives in India. Online news sites are even more robust: From The Wire and Scroll to CatchNews and even our own DailyO, the “resistance” to Modi is strong if at times highly strung. Those who complain about dissent being stifled under Modi should speak to Raghuram Rajan and Amartya Sen who sell their books with anti-Modi barbs of the kind they never dared employ for Congress president Sonia Gandhi even at the height of the UPA government’s serial corruption scams. [Emphasis added]

But then this perfected spit-and-scoot tactic is the stock-in-trade of these worthies, something they did with impunity against Narendra Modi in the heady days of the UPA, secure in the protection afforded by the immigrant version of Bellona and reinforced by their vast global network of fellow travellers. Indeed, “libel” is a very mild term to describe their behaviour in those days.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi

And someone like Ram Guha who condescendingly pontificates about free speech, who’s regarded by the secular illuminati as Marx’s gift to scholarship must know the timeless truth in the simple dictum of obedience to the unenforceable: in this case, if he really had to assuage the itch, he should’ve done so responsibly, he should’ve been dignified and waited till the Gauri Lankesh murder investigation reached a definitive stage. But he became Judge.

Ram Guha’s double standards are appalling. In his toxic Hindustan Times column, he accuses Nitin Gadkari of denying “that the BJP or its affiliates had anything to do with Gauri Lankesh’s murder. How, so soon after the event, can he be so sure?” Yet, the selfsame Judge Guha pronounced the Sangh Parivar guilty barely 24 hours after the Gauri Lankesh murder!

And in the same venomous column, which is an angry obituary mourning Gauri Lankesh, Judge Guha paints a picture of how Bangalore is now

“captive to patriarchal and authoritarian tendencies…When she was young, wrote Lankesh, women in Bangalore were free to live their own lives, to follow their own instincts, to forge personal and professional paths in a manner unknown or at least uncommon in other cities.”

To put it bluntly, this is a brazen slur against Bangalore. The Bangalore that I grew up in and still know is hallowed by the legacy and memories of Sir M Visweshwarayya, the Mysore Wodeyars, D.V. Gundappa, Devudu Narasimha Sastri, Masti Venkatesha Iyengar, T.S. Venkannaiah, Sajjan Rao, the Town Hall, the ADA, the Attara Kacheri, the leisurely, unhurried serene life-rhythms of Old Bangalore textured by high cultural refinement.

But Ramchandra Guha views Bangalore through the prism of someone like the late Gauri Lankesh, a convict and a dangerous Naxal to say the least. This Eminent Distorian is indeed a disgrace to everything I hold dear about Bangalore.

Which is why I’m all for free speech: the more freely these eminences speak, the more they unravel themselves.

A Fatal Drug Addiction

But Ram Guha and others of his species simply can’t help themselves. He describes himself as a “lapsed Marxist,” but it’s my considered view that there’s no such thing as a lapsed Marxist: like drug addiction, that needle, that powder keeps beckoning you, it’s always within reach. Karl Marx indeed supplanted the world with an opium far more potent and fatal than the one he sought to destroy.

Therefore, compassion, and not sending legal notices is the method of dealing with Ramachandra Guha.

I mean, how do you even respond to a typical Guhaism which holds that India is an “unnatural nation and unlikely democracy?” What does this even mean? What is a “natural” nation? And how exactly is India an “unlikely” democracy? This alleged historian, this writer of grand fat tomes of unreadable emptiness on Nehru and Gandhi seems to miss the logical conclusion of India as an unlikely democracy: India shouldn’t have become a free nation.

Indeed, like thousands of others who inhabit the same Marxist coop, Ram Guha is a historian who doesn’t want to confront the horrible genocides of his own Hindu ancestors who were massacred simply because they were Hindus, and wants to whitewash these genocides as irrelevant today and brands any attempt at such remembrance as revivalist/revisionist history. Which is also why his history begins and ends with Gandhi and Nehru. You simply cannot change such a mindset.

But all this passes off unexamined and is touted up as some hoary intellectual and even historical insight because of the Guha Aura. Indeed, the interested reader will find enough material to compile an entire Book of Guhaisms.

Which is why we must regard Ramachandra Guha as a rich man’s Kavitha Krishnan.


Postscript: If this piece infuriates Mr. Guha, I suggest that he follow his own dictum:

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Sandeep Balakrishna
Writer, author, translator, and socio-political-cultural analyst. Author of "Tipu Sultan: The Tyrant of Mysore," "The Madurai Sultanate: A Concise History," and "Seventy Years of Secularism." He has translated Dr. S L Bhyrappa's magnum opus "Avarana" into English.
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