Chetan Bhagat’s ‘Anatomy of a Liberal’ is the autopsy of logic

Narayani Syal Anand

Reporter, feminist, poet, political observer. I believe in asserting individual identity to combat sociopolitical oppression. Political awareness is key to change.

“Just because you can (write) doesn’t mean you should.”
― Pearls of wisdom for Chetan Bhagat

In the cacophony of political debate in India, the right-wing holds an untainted record of presenting disinformation in the loudest voices. Besides a swarm of flag-waving swayamsevaks and jingoistic andh-bhakts, Modi is also backed by a fat chunk of upper-middle class, what some might call, “English-educated” Indians and class-A industrialists & capitalists.

The band of Modi supporters also has its share of public figures. And Chetan Bhagat, in his latest column “Anatomy of a Liberal,” has proven yet again, why he is by far the worst thing to have happened to the world of writing.

Let’s begin by acknowledging Bhagat’s talent of spinning fairytale into “fact” with a huge courage of conviction. Bhagat presents his myopic view with a deluded sense of self-righteousness that immunises the right-wing against any criticism. Essentially, he says: the middle-lower middle classes make the ‘nationalists,’ and therefore, represent “real India,” while the liberals are a bunch of tea-in-china-cup elites, their lives devoid of struggle, and are therefore clueless as to what India needs.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

Ironically, Bhagat has probably alienated the ultra-rich capitalist class from his own camp; the Tatas, Ambanis and Adanis who accompany Modi on all his globe-trotting adventures, with all and sundry who pumped crores of rupees into BJP’s election campaign. As Praful Bidwai, professor at the Council for Social Development in Delhi, writes in DNA, “Big Business loves the “Gujarat Model” because it gives huge tax write-offs (eg, over 60% on the Tatas’ Nano project). Business adores Modi for his ruthless decisiveness in granting super-fast industrial approvals.”

Or as The Economist pointed out in 2013, “It is only a slight exaggeration to say that almost everyone in a suit and with a pulse in the private sector wants Narendra Modi to become prime minister.”

The dichotomy of a Bhakt is this imaginary idea of representing “real India,” while consciously ignoring and often suppressing class, caste and gender struggles. In true BJP-fashion, Bhagat gives zero mentions to ‘caste’ in his heaven-knows-how-many words of rubbish. In his spare time, he likes to keep the patriarchy alive by promoting sexism, misogyny and rape culture…

CB Tweets 1

A typical man-child who protests a woman’s right to say ‘no,’ by whining about the “friend-zone”
A typical man-child who whines about the “friend-zone

On other days, he is seen shouting “Izlahm also!!11” when liberals point out the patriarchal vices of Hindu tradition. A classic logical fallacy: “two wrongs make a right.”

The gender-bias in Islamic societies, which, by the way, has its fair share of critics – Mona Altahawy, Sherry Rahman and Tabassum Adnan, to name a few.

Bhagat’s “real India” is such a poorly imagined fairytale, you could swear it’s a chapter from one of his infantile novels. His theory defines us as a middle-lower middle class Hindu nation that will magically rise to glory under the Modi Raj. And it is precisely this kind of homogenisation that jeopardises the plural culture of India – one of mutual respect and healthy debate.

And while the right-wing has consistently shown poor faculty to understand something called ‘democratic dissent,’ Bhagat’s logic-soup comparing legal documents to awards, was particularly cringeworthy…

Chetab Bhagat tweet
Just Bhagat things

It must require truckloads of self-admiration to be so uninformed, so publically.

Bhagat goes on to vomit the word “privilege” with such ease, you would hope he realises at least some of his own. Unsurprisingly, he ignores the upper-caste male camaraderie that has largely defined India – from politics to popular culture.

Sections of liberals have begun to realise the different levels of privilege embedded in Indian society – that of gender, caste, race, class and language. The right-wing, however, has remained largely the same – suspicious of and paranoid about upward mobility of lower castes and women. And understandably so; their status quo at the top is finally beginning to shake with Dalit and women’s struggles, and support for sexual and gender minorities. No wonder the Hindutva movement is also gaining ground. So much so that poor Mr. Bhagat is unable to distinguish between religiosity and terrorism.

The butts of the privileged are plump with the fruits of blissful ignorance.

Bhagat obviously isn’t keeping up with liberal opinions when he laments the apparent lack of “real liberals and intellectuals in our country.”

Or perhaps he’s too busy berating historians and other intellectuals just for laughs…

CB Tweet historians
Once upon a dark time in Indian history

“Modi is more of an “economic growth reduces poverty on its own” kind of guy; which is not true in a country like India, where there are millions of poor people,” says Udaiveer A., a financial management expert and MSc in Economics. “Until we are able to create many more millions of manufacturing jobs to absorb people in rural areas who have very little means to survive, the problem of urban and rural poverty won’t go away.”

Liberals are a largely heterogeneous group that has its share of atheists, leftists, believers, anarchists and others, and covers the spectrum of classes and religions, right from the peon who believes that Hindus and Muslims must live in harmony, to the director of a financial management firm, who believes that Modi’s economic policies have bypassed poverty reduction altogether.

Zubin Madon, an engineer and atheist, has a simple suggestion, “Govt should be secular in a very literal sense of the word. Religion shouldn’t be “tolerated” in the public sphere. Ban loudspeakers outside mosques as well as ganpati mandals. Plough down shrines on the footpaths. That sort of secularism.”

And finally, as a moderate feminist and devout Hindu, I often find myself debating and discussing ideas with people from diverse social, religious and political backgrounds.

That’s one benefit of belonging to the liberal camp. You can choose to be an anti-national, liberal, leftist, commie, sickular, congressi, aaptard, etc.
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Here, Mr. Bhagat, have some scalding hot tea – in a china cup, or kulhad, if you prefer.
We promise to not let your class affect your right to debate.

  • C M Naim

    Thanks. Please try to publish this in some print form too. I have not read Bhagat’s novels and had not read anything by him until now, when I read the article you critique. God, it is such sheer garbage. Reminded of the stuff that the Organiser used to publish way back.