Every postcolonial nation state goes through a period of political churn where the remnants of the old colonial order which was the status quo is discarded and a new national identity emerges. In India’s case, that process is only now getting started despite the colonists physically vacating the country seven decades ago.

Rahul Roushan’s book is not only his ideological journey but a chronicle of the decade in India’s contemporary history which saw a political churn and the beginning of unshackling of the indigenous people of India from colonial chokehold. For me personally, this book is a walk down nostalgia lane, since during this time, I too became a Sanghi who never went to a Shakha. This was an organic bottom up change which was also fueled by the internet. It’s impact was far reaching that I became a Sanghi despite not living in India, having emigrated out more than a decade ago, when I was barely out of my teens.

The journey of the author goes from what he calls a “Congressi Hindu’’ to a journalist with free market libertarian leanings to embracing Hindutva and the “Sanghi” label. A Congressi Hindu is one who votes for Congress by default. As Rahul Gandhi, the scion of the Nehru dynasty said, Congress was the ‘default operating system’ of India.

There are many witty and stinging one-liners in the book, just like what comes out of his Twitter persona, while an engaging narrative is woven throughout the book. One-liners such as “Anything in Urdu is secular. Anything in Sanskrit is Hindutva.” describes the mindset of “secularists” in India.

The book traces the modus operandi of the Congress party and the much talked about “ecosystem”. And this ecosystem is the “establishment”:

“The establishment is an entrenched bunch of people and institutions that systematically control the thoughts and beliefs of the masses. It is often achieved via control on the media and academics. The establishment also aims to control the citizens’ speeches and actions, so that the status quo is maintained, and counter-thoughts and movements are suppressed. This control is achieved through judiciary, and through advocacy and activism.”

The establishment does not comprise the bunch of people who sit in government offices for a 5-year term after winning the elections. Such political power is transient, but the power that a real establishment enjoys is potent and lasting.” (Page 195)

This ecosystem which was created by the British was inherently anti-Hindu and designed with the goal of not only eradicating Hinduism but creating

“a class of Indians who would not resent the British rule. Indians who were not proud of their roots, Indians who would lack self-esteem, Indians who would willingly be ready to be civilized — such a class of Indians would be easier to govern by a foreign force — and it will be easier to create such a class of Indians if their faith and identity were diluted and drained.” (page 204)

The Congress under Nehru inherited this ecosystem and did not bother to dismantle it because Nehru himself was a quintessential Brown Sahib with no liking for indigenous Indian culture.

“[W]hile the Congress party didn’t appear to have an ideology, the ecosystem had. They enjoyed a symbiotic relationship. The Congress never went all out against the ecosystem, while the ecosystem never went all out against the Congress.” (page 48)

The period leading up to the general elections of 2014 with Anna movement was when this ecosystem went rogue and wanted to capture political power themselves bypassing their old patron, the Congress party. An excerpt of this chapter explaining this is available on OpIndia.

Through his own experience as a journalist, Rahul identifies a big factor which led to cracks in the ecosystem — the general public losing trust in the media. The UPA 2 was marred by scam after scam. And the Radia tapes in which ‘celebrity’ journalists like Bharka Dutt were caught fixing ministries created a total distrust. This made people consider exactly the opposite of what the media said to be the truth. People started feeling that the then Gujarat chief minister Narenda Modi might not be a monster which the media portrays him to be. Rahul also explains the “responsible journalism” which the media was indulging in where they suppressed facts or put out narratives to tarnish the image of RSS, BJP and Hindus in general in the pretext of the greater good.

The portion of the book which discusses the run up to the 2014 election was the most nostalgic part since the discussions and debates during that period became a big part of my life at that time. Though I lived in North America, I was part of the conversation since the diaspora was also in a way reflecting what was happening in India. That phase saw the sudden support for AAP among a section of the Indian diaspora. This section was the typical deracinated types who considered the Indian identity a temporary inconvenience. The other section was the Modi supporters who were not deracinated and started seeing through the Islamist aggression in India and Christian evangelical aggression towards Hindus in North America and in India, and Hindus being asked to shut up in the name of “Secularism”. The internet was the bridge between the diaspora and India.

Modi had navigated the waters skillfully during these years and he let the antagonistic media do the job of awaking the Hindus. Thus the mass embrace of Hindutva was actually a ‘woke’ movement where people were awakened to their identities and injustices which the ecosystem had managed to keep suppressed for long. Modi rode this wave to win 2014. For the newly minted “Sanghis” this win was like seeing their favorite cricket team win the world cup, as Rahul puts it. But for the left-ecosystem it was more than that, since they are trained to see every interaction in the world through an ideological lens, just like the radical Islamists. For them, it was war.

They doubled down on the usual narratives of minorities under threat, lynchings and acerbic hatred of Hinduism and gaslighting of Hindus in the guise of anti-Hindutva. They thought they could do a Vajpayee on Modi and keep him a one term Prime Minister. But the people had already seen through this. The Pulwama terrorist attack had shaken the nation’s conscience. The Indian government under Modi showing the courage to give back in kind to Pakistan had created an impact. Along with ‘vikas’, welfare schemes and representation for the backward classes, Modi rode to an even bigger win in 2019.

The chapter aptly titled “Sore Loses 2.0” discusses how the ecosystem from going rogue had by now gone fully mad. Earlier they were gaslighting Hindus to make them believe that they were being bad people by electing a terrible monster like Modi. Now they started openly supporting radical Islamists, every anti-social element and those who explicitly wanted to break India into pieces. The anti-CAA protests ending in riots and anti-Hindu pogrom in Delhi was the breaking point of many Hindus. Rahul gives a brief account of all the incidents which happened during this time.

The historical narrative ends at this point, tracing the history and the churn of Indian politics from the 1990s till 2019. A lot further developments had taken place since then, like the farm middlemen protests. The ecosystem had gone completely rabid and they were now actively collaborating with foreign media, foreign governments and spy agencies, Big Tech and anti-India elements abroad to induce “regime change” in India. Only time will tell if they succeed. And if they indeed do, we can expect a Stalinist or Maoist style purge of the “Sanghis”. We already saw a glimpse of this post the West Bengal election results in 2021.

The last chapter of the book is looking into the future. Rahul categorizes Indians into five categories based on their view of Hinduness: “Hostile, Condescending, Indifferent, Supportive, Assertive”. It is more of a stocktaking to see what the RSS does and fails to do to wake up Hindus in the ‘condescending’ and ‘indifferent’ camp. Those in the ‘supportive’ and ‘assertive’ camp find the RSS to be doing too little and being ignoramus when it comes to security and the future of Hindus. An excerpt of this chapter can be read at OpIndia.

Overall this is a great book which chronicles the social and political changes in India. For the neo-Sanghis who went through this period, it would help in better understanding of some aspects of events at that time. For the left-ecosystem too it’ll be a good guide for introspection but sadly their “messiah complex” wouldn’t let them do it as they feel they are always right and it is these idolatrous heathen savages who needed to be civilized.

I would have liked Rahul to delve more into his association with OpIndia and building up the brand. He barely mentions it and says it exists to provide a counter narrative to the ecosystem. More details on it would have been interesting. But perhaps he has reserved it for the book on his personal journey.

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