When the deputy chief minister of Uttar Pradesh publicly declared that Sita was a test tube baby, I could no more laugh. Even the best joke loses its sheen if repeated continuously as the listener gets numb. And that’s what I was this time; entirely numb. This is not the first such remark made by a senior BJP minister, and by far not the dumbest. For the latter, the crown goes to Biplab Deb, the chief minister of Tripura. I do not want to reiterate the comments made by Deb and other BJP ministers as I do not want to fall into the trap of giving them undue publicity.
Then why these people with such vital portfolios suddenly started making such absurd claims? I refuse to believe that these are merely personal comments. There are multiple reasons for that.
The first being that this trend of making such comments is not recent. In the past 4 years, many voices within the BJP and its patron the RSS have given statements that articulate a particular narrative of nationalism. This brand of this nationalistic sentiment arises out of a sense of history that perceives Hindus as the sole people of the land. A land which was taken away from them by first the Muslims and then the British; both foreigners without roots in the subcontinent. The critical part of this narrative lies in the idea of a golden period in the ancient past when the Hindu civilisation flourished. This is a textbook case of any form of jingoistic populism, the basic idea that becomes the foundation of this theory is a flawed perception of history. Therefore, when any fringe group associated to Hindutva lynched a Muslim or any member of the BJP accused the Taj Mahal of being a shiv temple; the underlying logic that justified all these incidents is the historical narrative of Hindutva. The only problem is that the level of the commentary never stooped down to such a level of absurdity.
If we analyse the timeline of these comments, we realise that they aren’t disconnected. In fact, they have a common theme, that is technology which is related to ancient India. This correlation ensures the reiteration of their agenda, which is the celebration of a golden Hindu period. This is not something new, the Hindutva brigade has a knack for meandering the public discourse. While the previous issues created by them on anti-nationalism and cow vigilantism diverted the attention of not only the media but also the citizens. This strategy of calling ancient India as the modern equivalent of Silicon Valley is, in the end, the same vine in a new bottle.
While a single comment this obtuse and can never be taken seriously, a systematic commentary reaps normalcy. This is the reason that these people make these comments, as they know that it garners political dividends. The unfortunate use of fake news and falsehood has created a sense of ignorance amongst the population. These elements exploit that ignorance. This is the reason that we should be worried. Never has the level of public discourse fallen to such low a level. The people who argue that ancient India had internet, satellites, machines and technology are not naive. I’m sure they do not believe one bit of this nonsense (except Biplab Deb I guess). It would not be prudent for us to brush these comments aside.