This is how Congress changed meaning of ideologies in Indian politics by their “gaslighting” political strategy
The pre-2014 era of politics was characterized by a convoluted mechanism of switching political concepts and groups to mean their exact opposite. The Congress and their coterie perfected this dangerous con to a fine art over the years. The liberals were branded as conservatives, the secular were branded as communal and the honest were branded as intractable. On the other hand, the fascists were branded as socialists, the communal were branded as secular, the nepotists were branded as patriots and the rabid fringes were branded as activists. Through a systematic barrage of misinformation and by constantly sowing doubt in the minds of otherwise sane people like you and me, the Congress literally changed the meaning of concepts and ideologies in Indian politics. The word that comes closest to describe this political strategy is “gaslighting”!
Take for example the idea of “Akhand Bharat”. AB was never a conservative or uber-nationalist ideal at all. It was a return to the natural distinction made by geography. Everything bounded by the mountain ranges to our north/northwest and the Arabian Sea to our south is the Indian subcontinent. This was a land-mass that drifted apart from Gondwana and collided with the Eurasian plate nearly 55 million years ago. The hotchpotch of cultures that have lived here are essentially similar. We are all part of the same melting pot – Hindu, Muslim, Sikh, Christians or the countless other sects and communities. Whatever the faith, we are culturally bound to each other. That’s a very inclusive concept (to the extent of the Indian subcontinent). But even mentioning Akhand Bharat today is anathema in politics. You’re branded as an ultra-national Hindu. It’s been bombarded through mainstream media that Akhand Bharat is Hindu supremacy. That wishing for unification of the Indian subcontinent is a racial conspiracy hatched by Hindus to subjugate other religions and communities. Admittedly, there’s fringes on both sides of the ideological spectrum; but the fringe has been portrayed as the mainstream and the whole concept has been turned around on its head. Bizarroworld! How did this come about?
Take another example of the uniform civil code. In its essence, it is secular to its core. It seeks to do away with creed and religion in personal law. No more Hindu Marriage Act or Christian Marriage Act. No more would the question of succession be treated differently for Hindus and for Muslims. One single law for all citizens of India. This single law would be based upon the tenets of the constitution and would not use religion as a base. Inherently secular. But the mere mention of UCC in Indian politics would mean one would be branded as an oppressor and a communal seeking to establish Hindu law over others. Bizarroworld! How did this come about?
On the flip side, take the example of the First Family of India (ex). The Gandhis created a personality cult of worshipers around them. Anybody who worshiped the Gandhis were patriotic Indians. Anybody who questioned their origins and their dubious legacy was a heretic and a dangerous outlaw. In essence, patriotism was redefined as loyalty to one family. These same hypocrites are now busy rebranding genuine patriotism as fascism. Any talk of loyalty to the idea of India and love for the country is immediately labelled as unhealthy nationalism. Bizarroworld! How did this come about?
To take another example in the same vein, Arundhati Roy is called an activist! If you study her work across the years, her modus operandi is obvious. She uses slick packaging, half-truths and outright lies to paint a very negative picture of Indian society. She has openly supported secession of Kashmir from India using lies about the Indian government and is openly pro-naxal and pro-maoist in her writings and in her interviews. In no other country will such poisonous rhetoric be tolerated without punishment except India. She roams free spreading her vile and patently untruthful message in mainstream media. What is bizarre is that she is labelled an activist instead of being called out for what she is – an anarchist and a traitor.
Oh what a world we lived in! In our naivety, we never understood the evil within us and amongst us. We allowed it to fester. We allowed petty, self-serving men and women to hijack our common sense and allowed them to rewire our brains. North meant south and east meant west. There is only one word to describe this strategy – gaslighting! The term originates from a movie called “Gaslight” released in 1944. The movie is about a woman (played by Ingrid Bergman) whose husband (played by Charles Boyer) slowly manipulates her into believing that she is going insane in order to distract her from his criminal activities. Gaslighting is a form of psychological manipulation that seeks to sow seeds of doubt in a targeted individual or in members of a targeted group, making them question their own memory, perception, and sanity.
Using persistent denial, misdirection, contradiction, and lies, it attempts to destabilize the victim and delegitimize the victim’s belief. Gaslighting depends on first convincing the victim that his or her thinking is distorted and secondly persuading him or her that the victimizer’s ideas are the correct and true ones. We’ve seen it happen time and time again in Indian politics. The Shah Bano incident became an example of secularism instead of appeasement politics, the KHAM formula used in Gujarat in the 1980s became an example of empowerment instead of vote bank politics. The Congress and their ilk used gaslighting techniques to confuse us and to destroy our moral standards. Once we were vulnerable and our judgement was broken, they swooped in to define the new terms of the game. It was slickly done . . and it’s been used consistently till today.
We have a chance for a reprieve. The work that has begun in 2014 is at the cusp of fruition. A congress-mukt Bharat is a tangible reality today. State-level leaders have been ring-fenced and the Gandhis stand isolated. But next year is the real test. They say birds of a feather flock together. Indeed they do. On one side we have a party that has begun systematic reform and taken bold steps for endemic change. We are gathering momentum as an economy and as a people. On the other side are a roll-call of politicians with a track record of corruption and dishonesty. Just the roster of the names gives an idea of what’s in store for the country if they come to power. It is a telling sign that all the people who are thinking of a “Third-Front” as an alternative to the BJP are people who are ideologically opposite.
How then have they suddenly come together to form a common front? How can the Left co-exist with the Congress? How can the NCP whose entire existence is based in its opposition to Sonia Gandhi be bedfellows now? How can Didi fit into this unholy alliance? The gaslighters are seeking to change definitions again so that they can continue their criminal activities. This time around though, we must not let these techniques work. We should realize that we have been given another chance. It’s time to remove the blinkers and understand that the only way to combat this manipulative method of skulduggery is to reaffirm our core values as Indians and to use our moral compass. It’s time to call out the deception for what it is; a desperate attempt at misdireaction and confusion in preparation for 2019.
The choice ought to be very simple – a continuation of tangible reform measures versus an unholy alliance of crooks who seeks to confuse us using gaslighting techniques and try to come to power so that they can resume their legalized loot.
Virag Padalkar is a project management consultant by profession. He spends his spare time trekking in the Sahyadri mountains.