RIGHT ANGLE – Toxic Progressives
Progressives will never go by facts; they live essentially on their perceptions which they go on repeating so that these could be converted into facts
I have often argued, based on my personal experience, that in India many of those who proclaim to be progressives are the worst authoritarians or fascists. They may be numbering a small section of the country’s population, but their influence is inversely proportional to their number. They dominate the country’s intelligentsia, bureaucracy , media and the judiciary. They try to monopolise the political conversations on social media.
They have been the most privileged class and pampered by every government. It is these people whom Prime Minister Narendra Modi had termed once ” the Khan Market Gang”, a term I liked immensely and used many a time in my writings. Obviously, they cannot stand Modi; they, in fact, hate him. After all, Modi systematically withdrew undeserved perks and privileges to them – free houses, scholarships, foreign trips, and jobs in the government as consultants and advisors.
A true democracy gives scope to all, whatever be their views and life styles as long as these do not result in violence. Democracy values dissent, tolerance, generosity and a permissive society. These are standard features that every liberal state should reflect, and every person who claims himself or herself to be a liberal should practise, irrespective of one’s conservative or progressive outlooks.
But today’s progressives do not cherish them. They want the country, all its administrative systems and the overall Society to agree with them; their words must be laws, their texts should be the only texts to be taught in schools and colleges, their views should be the only views expressed in the media and other forums. For them, anybody holding a contrarian view should have no place. They will brand their critics with all uncharitable terms.
Progressives will never go by facts; they live essentially on their perceptions which they go on repeating so that these could be converted into facts. They will challenge their adversaries of wrongdoings, but will not provide any evidence of their charges even when the matter goes to the courts. We saw how those accusing the Modi government of hacking their phones refused to give these phones for verification to the enquiry committee set up by none other than the Supreme court.
They demand one Nupur Sharma should be hanged for saying that the Prophet had married a 6 year old girl, but their friend Zubair Mohammad must be admired for asserting his freedom of expression or opinion of ridiculing “Shiva Linga”( which prompted Nupur to say about the Prophet). They find almost everything associated with Sanatan Dharma abhorrent to the extent that they applaud or are conspicuously silent when some politicians call for its obliteration or “eradication” like “mosquitoes, Dengue, Malaria, fever and Corona”. But for them heaven will fall if one points out a word of criticism against other regions, particularly Islam.
So intolerant these progressives are that they call for official censure against anyone perceived as uttering non-progressive views. They are literally furious that twitter has been taken over by Elone Musk who now ban anti – Hindu views unlike the previous management which was only sensitive to anti-Muslim views. Musk now allows pro-nationalist and pro- Modi opinions that were censured before. Musk’s level-playing policy has made him now a hated figure amongst the progressives not only in India but also all over the world, particularly in the UK and USA( his crimes there are that he removed the ban on Donald Trump that he has a contrarian opinion on the war in Ukraine and that he is against anti-semitism).
According to Professor Geoff Haddock at Cardiff University, UK, who specialises on Social Psychology, the rise of progressivism is an “era-defining shift” within the political left. “Until recently, left-wing ideology had been dominated by traditional liberalism, which advocates for equality through persuasion and consensus-building across voting blocs. More recently, progressivism has challenged this view, emphasising political activism within, for example, racial and cultural identities. Differences between these factions have played out across social media (e.g., “cancel culture”), academics (e.g., “de-platforming” campus speakers), and electoral politics (e.g., “Establishment Democrats” vs. “The Squad” in the U.S. Congress)”, he wrote.
Indian progressives are also displaying the same mindsets. For them, Muslims and dalits can never be wrong and Modi or any proud Hindu and nationalist can never be right. They can never accept that despite severe challenges, India has progressed on many fronts in the last few years. They do not believe in unity and consensus. This intolerance manifests as a professed preference for avoiding others with different values, a stance entirely antithetical to liberal values.
Progressives explicitly endorse the view that free speech can harm “marginalised” groups and often will impede progress toward equality. And ironically, the best way they justify all this is by calling all those holding divergent views from them as fascists and right-wingers. It is like a whore extolling the virtues of chastity!
In fact, I have heard many so-called progressives openly saying that free speech is a dangerous thing as right wingers can cause great harm to the poor and underprivileged by using this right. Like this – “ See the way they are criticising the caste census and reservations for the Muslims. See how they are against the same-sex marriage. See how they are against opening India’s borders for the Rohingyas. See how they are against the restoration of Article 370”.
No wonder why it is becoming increasingly common for such progressives to shut down public discourse, disrupt speeches, tear down posters, censor and deplatform those with whom they disagree.
Readers may ask what has provoked me to write all this in this column? Well, it is because of the way Indian progressives, now joined by the Congress party, have reacted to the brutal and heinous attack on the innocent Israeli civilians by Hamas on October 7. Of course, this reaction is common to all the progressives in the campuses, cities and capitals all over the countries belonging to the democratic world. They are not just expressing support for the Palestinian cause but in fact justifying the attacks as a response to colonialism.
Their support to HAMAS and opposition to Israel are being equated with an LGBT issue, a feminist issue, a reproductive rights issue, and dozens of other so-called progressive causes. They are agitated over Israeli retaliation in Gaza, which they think to be blatant violation of human rights of the ordinary Palstinians, women and children, but they do not utter a single word of empathy for more than 200 hostages, including women and children, kept by the Hamas.
In fact, these progressives have torn down the posters of the kidnapped Israeli children. Progressive professors in the universities have condemned using the word “terrorism” to describe Hamas’s massacre. These progressives, who are so much against Hindutva and theocracy, have joined their counterparts in the West to glorify Hamas as “freedom fighters,” despite the Hamas charter openly calling for Islamist theocracy and violence against those who rebel — including Jews, Christians, Hindus, members of the LGBTQ community, and even other Muslims.
Do we deserve such toxic progressives? The answer is yours.