What is Indian Culture? It seems to me that the invective against an ever-growing list of things in Indian politics and public life has basically come down to something along the lines of “That’s against our culture”, or “It’s not Indian/Maharashtrian/Xian…” I refer, at the perhaps more civilised end of the spectrum to the BJP and its hindutva flag-bearers, or at the thuggery-heavy end of the spectrum to any number of problems Bal Thackeray and his goons have not only with people in Mumbai using English, but even with people using Hindi; or to the antics of the Shiv-Sena inspired Karnataka Rakshana Vedike and the Ram-Sene in Karnataka. What gives these people the idea that the rest of us, and especially the women, need to be told what to wear, or whether we can drink, or what language to speak, or what music to listen to? In other words, who the fuck died and made these buffoons Darth-Vader?
The Ram Sene and its ruffian-in-chief Pramod Muthalik were in the news most notably for declaring war on Valentine’s Day (and being sent the choicest of pink underwear from all over); and most recently for beating up women in Mangalore who had made the un-Indian, anti-Hindu move of being in a bar. Turns out, though – to borrow a phrase from Marjane Satrapi and her description of Iran’s fanatical Islamic thought-police – that their outrage at the ‘degradation of morals’ in Indian society isn’t necessarily ideological. Tehelka is running a story that exposes the Ram-Sene and Pramod Muthalik for what they really are – goons for hire, a mob. The report says that for the right amount of money, this mob will do pretty much anything you want. The head-goon will not get directly involved, of course; he’ll talk to you, ask you what you want, and discreetly direct you to the right people for the job. And ask you to maintain discretion as well – ‘people think [he’s] an idealist, a hindutvawadi’, you see.
Most of these goondas have had numerous police cases filed against them, mostly at their own insistence – ‘It is more believable that way’ – people tend to be cynical of cases of violence where police cases aren’t filed, I guess. Tehelka say, however, that to their surprise, even people who are supposed to be locked up in high-security prisons have free access to mobile phones, not to mention conference rooms to discuss future paid attacks with prospective customers. Atleast two of the people involved in the organisation of these attacks are well-off, financially, and conduct ‘business’ through their attorneys.
The thing that hits home hardest in the Tehelka expose is how blatantly, cynically, methodically the entire process is carried out. These thugs discuss everything from how many people you want attacking your art gallery, to what sort of violence you want them carrying out – whether and how much material damage you’re willing to undergo, whether you’re all right with a few people getting bashed up, and hence, whether you want to keep an ambulance ready – and to how you will file complaints with the police and register faux protests with the media to maximise the ‘impact’ of the violence, all over a nice cup of coffee.
If this doesn’t give pause to the sensible people who think these mobs of cynical, bloody-minded, medieval slime-balls are safeguarding ‘Indian Culture’, one shudders to think what will. Or maybe sensible people don’t think ‘Indian Culture’ needs custodians at all.