“Social progress can be measured by the social position of the female sex” - Karl Marx


Jumlanomics:Chronicles of a Post-Truth Bharat

"The Oxford Dictionaries define "post-truth" as "relating to or denoting circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief." - Lee McIntyre, Post-Truth

The BJP government will soon complete its five-year tenure at the centre and by this time, we the citizens of India have come across a lot of jumla from the PM and his party. The Right has created an environment of post-truth in Indian politics, and historicity has taken a back seat with overzealous bhakts running the show.  

Jumla is a colloquial Hindi-Urdu word that became popular in social media almost four years back when Amit Shah made a comment about Modi's assurance to the people of India about retrieving "black money" and crediting the bank account of every Indian citizen with 15 lakh rupees.  

This offer that Modi made was a political jumla according to Amit Shah: an obviously exaggerated statement made during the election campaign. If we look at all the pre-election promises of the PM and the BJP, they have all turned out to be jumlas or empty promises.  

Such techniques use a form of commentary or narrative that twists facts, or present 'alternative facts' as the Trump-led Republicans in America term them, and are the essence of a post-truth world. A "normal" citizen or state subject becomes victim to these manufactured and construed versions of facts, which gradually make their way to our routine life-world through emotional manipulations performed by the media. The post-truth condition is established when such news becomes the norm of a society.  

Historically too there were plural and often dichotomous belief systems fighting one another to seize control of economy, polity or society in India, and besides outright violence a reason for Brahminism's success has been that its proponents could design the most efficient jumla of all. Brahminism never aimed to topple or destroy the existing structures, rather it manipulated them, building upon the existing system, adorning it with its discriminatory ideology topped by its most virulent feature, the man's right to power through Divine Law.  

The "Brahmin" being the mouthpiece of God "himself" ordained himself using pseudo-spiritual jumlas, and suppressed the systems that contested it through violence and administrative-level trickery. How was this possible?    "The media represents a world that is more real than the reality that we can experience. People lose the ability to distinguish between reality and fantasy. They also begin to engage with the fantasy without realizing what it really is. They seek happiness and fulfilment through the simulacra of reality, e.g. media, and avoid contact/interaction with the real world." - Jean Baudrillard, Simulacra and Simulation    

In the past, it was the divine scriptures that simulated their cultural authority and today it's the digital medium that's simulating the authority of jumlas. The only difference being that ordinary people back then never could fully understand the nature of these practices that was controlling their lives, categorising them into models of purity and impurity. Today, we are in a state of constant awareness - if not complete - of these models of control, but this awareness itself is pacified by the conflict of binary relations.  

Our nation has become one big Disneyland of simulations. All sorts of violence, be it in the name of food, religious beliefs, caste tensions, corruption charges, farmer suicides, nationhood etc. have become so normalised and intermixed within the post-truth environment of the media and so-called social networks, that we have immersed ourselves in the recumbent consumption of anarchy and disorder. The order of things manifests itself through simplistic and binary forms of narrative, with the centralised power structure weaving more jumlas around us, so that we get entangled, confused and dazed like prey caught in the web - pun intended.  

In this digital age, we are made to believe that our present reality is full of political binaries based on religious extremism and administrative incapability on one end, and the masculinist phantasm of the religious sacrosanct and cultural puritanism propagated through Hindutva on the other. What we really ought to understand is that Hindutva is a political ideology that leeches our rational judgment through provocation. It can only exist by creating a binary, a system that has to have opposing qualities from that of a radical Hindutva disposition.  

This vagrancy of rational reasoning is the product of an ideology created under the tenets of fear: the fear of losing a cultural, political vantage point in Independent India.  

The internet has in a way fostered these preconceived notions, of taking sides within what is given to us by a hegemonic (fully accepted) structure. If one chooses not to be part of this, one is branded with various labels like neo-liberal, apolitical etc. We are failing to listen to others - often labelling them ourselves - and are more concerned about how our opinions are received and appreciated or countered by others online.  

Lately, Modi faced a lot of flak and even became the first prime minister in the history of Indian politics not to hold even a single press conference. At the same time, inside the media industry there are pro-Modi factions who design news and narratives that try to boost Modi's putative charisma.  

This is a classic example of how our media construe narratives that defy the rationalisation of a political and historical continuum, in order to mould an individual or communal personality cult.  

We are faced with two options here: either to believe or to ridicule these narratives. But both work towards garnering popularity for the prime minister and his right-wing government (to use another binary).  

What we fail to realise is, this idea of good and evil is no longer relevant in the post-truth world. We are all living in a world that doesn't care about any absolutes, does not allow us to engage with the question of an absolute good or bad, but thrives instead by creating the conflict in us to choose a side.  

The most recent and last nail to the coffin was the Pulwama terror attacks and the events that transpired afterwards. The news-entertainment channels had a field day, with augmented reality representations of the Pulwama attack and the supposed counter-attack in Balakot. (Though not Pakistan's retaliation in Nowshera.) As viewers or as citizens, we were trapped in this conspicuous consumption of information floating through various propaganda narratives. There were reporters raging through the media, ending up most of the time as warmongering hypernationalists, though they claim and are supposed to represent a critical view of such sensitive issues.  

We are all caught up in this giant jumla, a world of empty promises and blown up achievements that is destroying the intellectual and critical prowess of a nation - of many nations. When the prime minister with his oratory skills blazes ahead with his 'pakoda lecture', citizens throw verbal slurs at each other through social networks and channel discussions trying to prove or disprove the rationality of the comments made by the PM.  

Meanwhile, the administrative transgressions happen underneath this furore of words. Deals are made, businessmen commit frauds, politicians enact their puppet roles, mystery mobs lynch people, and the world keeps spinning in an endless abyss of power's lies.  

None of this is to say that governments before this one were righteous, morally driven systems of administration. It simply means that the Right has very decisively crossed a line of pragmatic politics that somewhere had a resonance of social transformation and progressiveness. On the way they just made sure that we all remain in this dark cave that Plato feared humanity would get stuck in - staring at shadows, or the shadows of shadows - and the irony is that we are only too happy to be stuck here, contemplating the next Facebook status to be put up on the wall!  

The author is a PhD scholar at Pondicherry University.  


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