Opinion

Demonetisation is a sacrifice that cleanses. It is the real swachch abhiyan of the republic

There is no sense of injustice or a feeling of being misused. It is a pollution ritual that involves everyone.

There is a touch of the eerie about politics that the Narendra Modi era inaugurates. I must confess that it is not in the stated rhetoric of the regime. Its ideas of patriotism, voluntarism, purity, security have enough violence, installing fear in the very hint of policy. The vigilantism that polices dissent on these occasions is obvious and brutal. But these are the bully boy tactics of any populist regime. Such criticisms have been stated beyond redundancy.

I want to talk about another kind of fear, a fear that oozes out from silences, from patient lines waiting at ATMs, in the quiet support of the middle class. These ATM lines are not like the ration card lines of the socialist regime. There was a tiredness, an unruliness, a fatalism to waiting then. The new generation waits differently. Even when there is despair, it is muted.

There is a sense of tacit trust of support for the regime. It is as if the crowds are acting as if they were the surrogate legislators of monetisation that (this pain, as Urjit Patel called it) is necessary and for the future good. It is almost as if a new social contract has been initiated, where the crowds believe in the leadership. There is a sense of faith, of solidarity, which I can only describe as policy patriotism. Policy patriotism emerges when the social group supports a regime because it shares a common vision of the future.

The language of discussion immediately changes. There is no sense of injustice, or a feeling of being misused. There is not much discussion. It is as if people are aligning to the Truth of policy. There is deep patience. The language is not of suffering and pain but of sacrifice. Sacrifice is much nobler. Suffering allows complaint, even a touch of hypochondria. Suffering can be spread and inflicted unfairly. Sacrifice is self-inflicted. It is suffered for a dream, a promise. Suffering can corrode but sacrifice cleanses the republic – many citizens are talking of demonetisation as sacrifice. It is the real swachch abhiyan of the republic, an act of cleansing, a pollution ritual that involves everyone.

These events also mark a particular relationship between leader and followers. The leader is seen as joining in the act of Socratically drinking the cup of hemlock, sorry, Kadak Chai, to demonstrate his commitment to his policy. So Kadak Chai becomes a refrain, a ritual of loyalty of solidarity.

Prelude to tyranny

Policy always creates rituals that require affirmation. These need not be acts of solidarity which can be loud and rhetorical. These are more effective in being understated, muted, speaking the language of silence as affirmation. It is not an ideological statement. It is a semiotic agreement, a tentative act of solidarity which digs deep into the body politic.

The mythical opening raises old memories. One saw this tacit support in the first days of the Emergency. There was a new sense of order. Trains were running on time, clerks were present in offices. It was a middle class sense of bureaucratic order where the time table is a piece of social contract and punctuality the new morality. One could smell change in the air, the whiff of progress which changed into fear much later.

One senses something similar, the initial approval of a draconian regime. The tacit tenor is once again discipline, law and order – and it appeals to the middle class psyche. Yet sometimes the signals are not clear. The crowd seems captive to Modi. It is behaving in the way a child seeks a parents’ approval or the kidnappers captives respect their kidnappers. The people want to show they share his decisiveness, his machismo, that they are like him.

Yet it is this that is worrying in a populist, majoritarian regime. There is little scope for dissent. One cannot say people suffer differently, that the targets of the regime might be sitting smugly. It reminds one of a cartoon where Modi on TV is claiming that demonetisation cleans black money. Lounging in the room are culprits of 2G, black money and they are laughing. The irony hits home.

It demands that narratives of policy be many sided and yet the ground level support may not allow dissent. I sometimes wonder whether emergencies begin as self-imposed entities, of people gung-ho about sacrifice, desperate for change before the regime like a chameleon changes colour. There is a loneliness and marginality too. The silence of the argumentative Indian is eerie. It calls for a more clinical set of readings. Something does not smell right or is mine a liberal fear of an old fashioned scholar?

I cannot help feeling that there is a touch of the Pavlovian in the prelude to tyranny.

Shiv Visvanathan is a social science nomad.

Support our journalism by subscribing to Scroll+ here. We welcome your comments at letters@scroll.in.
Sponsored Content BY 

Following a mountaineer as he reaches the summit of Mount Everest

Accounts from Vikas Dimri’s second attempt reveal the immense fortitude and strength needed to summit the Everest.

Vikas Dimri made a huge attempt last year to climb the Mount Everest. Fate had other plans. Thwarted by unfavourable weather at the last minute, he came so close and yet not close enough to say he was at the top. But that did not deter him. Vikas is back on the Everest trail now, and this time he’s sharing his experiences at every leg of the journey.

The Everest journey began from the Lukla airport, known for its dicey landing conditions. It reminded him of the failed expedition, but he still moved on to Namche Bazaar - the staging point for Everest expeditions - with a positive mind. Vikas let the wisdom of the mountains guide him as he battled doubt and memories of the previous expedition. In his words, the Everest taught him that, “To conquer our personal Everest, we need to drop all our unnecessary baggage, be it physical or mental or even emotional”.

Vikas used a ‘descent for ascent’ approach to acclimatise. In this approach, mountaineers gain altitude during the day, but descend to catch some sleep. Acclimatising to such high altitudes is crucial as the lack of adequate oxygen can cause dizziness, nausea, headache and even muscle death. As Vikas prepared to scale the riskiest part of the climb - the unstable and continuously melting Khumbhu ice fall - he pondered over his journey so far.

His brother’s diagnosis of a heart condition in his youth was a wakeup call for the rather sedentary Vikas, and that is when he started focusing on his health more. For the first time in his life, he began to appreciate the power of nutrition and experimented with different diets and supplements for their health benefits. His quest for better health also motivated him to take up hiking, marathon running, squash and, eventually, a summit of the Everest.

Back in the Himalayas, after a string of sleepless nights, Vikas and his team ascended to Camp 2 (6,500m) as planned, and then descended to Base Camp for the basic luxuries - hot shower, hot lunch and essential supplements. Back up at Camp 2, the weather played spoiler again as a jet stream - a fast-flowing, narrow air current - moved right over the mountain. Wisdom from the mountains helped Vikas maintain perspective as they were required to descend 15km to Pheriche Valley. He accepted that “strength lies not merely in chasing the big dream, but also in...accepting that things could go wrong.”

At Camp 4 (8,000m), famously known as the death zone, Vikas caught a clear glimpse of the summit – his dream standing rather tall in front of him.

It was the 18th of May 2018 and Vikas finally reached the top. The top of his Everest…the top of Mount Everest!

Watch the video below to see actual moments from Vikas’ climb.

Play

Vikas credits his strength to dedication, exercise and a healthy diet. He credits dietary supplements for helping him sustain himself in the inhuman conditions on Mount Everest. On heights like these where the oxygen supply drops to 1/3rd the levels on the ground, the body requires 3 times the regular blood volume to pump the requisite amount of oxygen. He, thus, doesn’t embark on an expedition without double checking his supplements and uses Livogen as an aid to maintain adequate amounts of iron in his blood.

Livogen is proud to have supported Vikas Dimri on his ambitious quest and salutes his spirit. To read more about the benefits of iron, see here. To read Vikas Dimri’s account of his expedition, click here.

This article was produced by the Scroll marketing team on behalf of Livogen and not by the Scroll editorial team.