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Manufacturing consent for a ’Hinduised’ nation

by Ram Puniyani, 22 October 2008

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Economic Times

Noam Chomsky is one of the foremost rights activists. He theorised as to how the US administration creates consent of the broad layers of populati
on for its acts of aggression.

The perceptions which were drilled into popular psyche related to the dangers of communism, while attacking the emergent nation state of Vietnam in yesteryears or weapons of mass destruction (WMDs) in Iraq in recent times.

By the time such propaganda starts getting questioned, the mainstream US propaganda becomes part of popular consciousness and too large to be countered by the sceptics and its opponents. Manufacturing consent is achieved through various mechanisms, the major of that being the media.

And by the time the state version starts getting challenged the ‘goal’ of the state is achieved. So even if the critics prove that there were no WMDs, the goal of controlling the oil wells is over. Even if some sections question the veracity of the version of 9/11, Afghanistan is in its pocket.

Another dimension to this comes when the powerful political formations, in power or out of power, achieve the same, through molecular permeation, infiltration in media, through other parts of state apparatus. In the Indian context, the perceptions about minorities can be traced to the role and sustained propaganda programmes of ‘supra-political’ formation with a political agenda of a Hindu nation.

Currently ‘all terrorists are Muslims’ is the perception, deep rooted, hardly affected by the reports of citizens fact-finding committees or the academic and popular contributions by activists/scholars. The initial propaganda gradually became part of broad-ranging perceptions and the policies of the administration, police and other investigating agencies make it the base of their actions. So we see that Batla house encounter in the Jamia Nagar has lot of holes in the story dished out by the vacillating police authorities, and the human rights activists have pointed the flaws in the same demanding the deeper probe.

The acceptance of such a simple demand is shelved in order to go along with popular sentiments and to ‘preserve the morale’ of police force! The voice of these activists questioning the version dished out by the authorities hardly reaches the popular level as the media already ensures that police version is part of popular perception. Truth, the desirable guiding principle of the social policies can wait.

In different acts of terror, in front of mosques or in other crowded places, always the Muslims are involved and the job of investigating authorities is fairly well cut out. The tragedy with a section of media is that, contrary to ethical norm of doubting the official/police versions, they are not only meekly accepted; at times they are accepted in highly exaggerated form as well.

Here the word ‘Islamic terrorism’, initially popularised by the US media after 9/11, is generously used while nobody has heard of Hindu terrorism when Dhanu of LTTE killed Rajiv Gandhi or Sikh terrorism, when Khalistanis were doing such actions or Christian terrorism when Irish republican army was indulging in acts of terror.

The other points elaborated by Chomsky relate to ‘Thinkable thought’ and ‘Unthinkable thought’. These are the outcome of the propaganda, indoctrination, which is the culmination of the same process. So by now the thinkable thought is that all Muslims are terrorists and unthinkable thought is that anyone else can be also be a terrorist.

By now all the acts of terror where Bajrang Dal is involved are either, suppressed, under-projected or forgotten with ease by the social thinking process. So the Bajrang Dal activists getting killed while making bombs in Nanded or Kanpur soon lapse out from popular memory, and the blasts where Hindu Jagran Samiti is involved is not taken due note of.

The consistent propagation that Christian missionaries convert by force and fraud is thinkable thought, good enough of a pretext to kill and maim them. There are reports by the human rights groups to the contrary, but that is not the story bought by the mainstream, media and others.

While a section can claim that they are objective, the pattern of reporting of large section of media on anti-Christian violence is hidden in the small columns in the back pages while the acts of terror hog the front page banner headlines. Channels keep screaming about a Muslim terrorist, while reports of violence against Christian are buried somewhere under the weight of the news of ‘jehadi terrorist’, and of those doing aggressive conversions!

So today, even when the role of state in the carnage of Gujarat, even when Modi’s role in leading the carnage in Gujarat is well known, for section of media he is the hero, for whom he is the hope for India.

So today when it is a well known secret that VHP and Bajrang Dal are behind the Orissa violence, they can dare the state to ban them and see the consequences! So it is thinkable (and doable too) that SIMI should be banned, it is unthinkable that Bajrang Dal can be banned, despite its role in Orissa violence.

( The author is retired professor of IIT, Mumbai)