A counter narrative has emerged in India that there is nothing to talk about post-truth politics since India was already a post-truth society. Prof Ranjit Goswami’s 2017 article on The Conversation is the most influential in this reaction amongst Indian Left. Ironically, to me it seems to be an attempt to dismiss the debate over post-truth by post-truth.
The core argument of Prof Goswami is that India entered the post-truth era even before 2014 and that explains why Narendra Modi came to power riding upon various fake narratives. The decision of demonetization and its justifications were also based on fake narratives. Goswami also questions the West of suddenly being outraged with lies and fake narratives when they had gone to war with Afghanistan and Iraq in the name of Weapons of Mass Destructions and other fake narratives.
I agree with Goswami’s observations but I disagree with the conclusions he draws which is a dismissal of the concept of post-truth or any critical debate around it. While it is true that America went to war based on fake narratives but a section of American liberals spoke up then and the same ones are also speaking up now against Donald Trump and others. True, unlike the West, India has been witnessing post-truth since 2012 or even before, BJP’s entire election campaign being a post-truth narrative but it has scaled up in recent years. It is therefore a relevant topic to debate and discuss. Instead of making a case for political scientists to observe and analyze the growing trends among post-truth narratives in India, Prof Goswami’s piece appears to be dismissive and gives the impression that we in India need not bother with this ‘western concept’. This dismissal of something coming from West without proper reason or rationality is the very definition of ‘post-truth’
Such eagerness to promptly dismiss any idea emerging in the Western public sphere is most common amongst a section of the post-colonial post-modernist Left in India whom Meera Nanda has called the ‘reactionary modernists (Nanda, July 2001, EPW). They first rejected Enlightenment which Nanda fiercely criticized and now they are rejecting the debate over post-truth politics.
Both the Right and Left have this tendency to dismiss everything that comes from West which I have always failed to understand. “Just because West is talking about something why should we also talk about it,” is both wing’s default nag, unless of course the West gives them validity or solidarity. For the Right Wing it’s when West does Yoga and for the Left Wing when white people expose and criticize Modi’s lies and mis-governance and human rights violation etc.
With both Left and Right avoiding the concept, ‘post-truth’ politics is not being debated in India. Indian public sphere has also failed to properly debate the liberal Enlightenment and its values for similar reason which Nanda has explained. The Left seeks to radicalize the Liberal Enlightenment but has not allowed it to first gain legitimacy over the dharmic traditions. Meanwhile the Right does not want Liberalism to gain any ground and only wants to legitimize dharmic traditions. Together, both left and right have failed to focus on Liberalism and Enlightenment and the values of reason and rationality and diluted the discourse on political economy with post-colonial post-modernist fluff. Collectively, we have failed in articulating political issues in terms of ideologies and concepts which needs critiquing and have been only scratching the surface of social problem without addressing the underlying causes.
I track post-truth politics in India and regularly write about it. You can find all my articles here and also check out the latest related articles.
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