There is something inherently problematic about intellectual left's heckling of a Kiwi-Indian MP's recent oath in the Sanskrit language.
An Indian-origin New Zealander academic and some co-ethnic activists have come out swinging in support of a Kiwi journalist's charge against the Indian-origin MP's oath-taking in the Sanskrit language.
By doing so, they have reaffirmed their commitment to their left-leaning ideological thinking and interpretation about India's history and culture even if it meant advancing an "apologetic narrative" about India.
Something that has been projected in global west for previous many decades, all in the name of critical probing and critical enquiry of different facets of the Indian culture, but is lately being rebutted everywhere in the world and under a retreat.
Clearly, in their worldview, an Indian origin person cannot be an "intellectual" and "unapologetic" – as that is deemed to be mutually exclusive.
This is in contrast to New Zealand's progressive politics that they so approvingly point towards, to make the contrast between India's supposedly regressive past and present, appear starker and overpowering.
New Zealand has recently voted on two referendums – cannabis and end of life choice - that clearly tested the mettle of where we stand on the scale of progressivism.
In that context, several MPs across party lines, and particularly from the Labour Party, were able to vote NO for both or at least one referendum, and still their integral position as a part of socially progressive movement could never be questioned.
Those positions could be non-exclusive and un-contested without any questioning on their overall commitment to the progressive movement.
However, in this small increasingly marginalised section of critical left's worldview, which is not necessarily reflective of the broader left-leaning thinking - that kind of luxury is not available in India and for the Indian origin diaspora.
To an extent that a freshly minted Indian-origin MP was heckled for taking oath in Sanskrit – a language that is now only confined to the domains of scriptures and deeply rooted in Hindu religion and philosophy and therefore aptly suited for ceremonial occasions like oath-taking.
Apparently, it is considered as a clear breach of tenets of progressivism and hence untenable.
To make it worse, when the Indian Weekender's story points towards this hypocrisy, not only a scholar hits back, but a small minority of members of Kiwi-Indian diaspora also bandwagons and calls out the story for "inciting polarisation."
Some over-enthusiasts even sought to discredit the publication by calling it as "right-wing" – a new form of "intellectual-orchestration" - reserved for anyone that seeks to challenge the long-held hegemony of explicitly left-leaning thinking and interpretation of India's society, history and culture.
So, what is the intellectual left's apologetic narrative about India?
That India's past is replete with oppressive structures of the caste system, minority-intolerance and majoritarianism and with an implied logic that India is on the brink of implosion. Added to this the rise of the so-called "Hindu-right" in contemporary India with all its accompanied impediments of majoritarianism, the sense of apology gets more amplified.
Brandishing of Sanskrit language as an instrument of oppression has been deeply imbibed in this apologetic narrative of India.
This is despite the recorded history of intense eclectic and literary accomplishments in Sanskrit language, and no substantial evidence to suggest any colossal state-push towards using the language as an instrument of power and oppression.
Contesting the critical enquiry of Sanskrit's past and connection with alleged "oppression" is not the main objective here, and anyway, that is much beyond the scope of this piece.
Neither is the goal to defend the now ascendant so-called "Hindu-right" in India.
The goal is just to point towards the hegemony of left-leaning interpretation on India's past and culture and the selective-application of "critical enquiry" on different facets of India's history.
A case in point is while modern Indian minds have been inundated with the knowledge emanating from left-leaning critical enquiry about Sanskrit's supposedly dark past rooted in "oppression."
On the contrary, there is no such widely available critical narrative made available to modern Indian minds about a foreign language "Persian" that was brought in India by new foreign ruling elites in the twelfth century and settled there permanently.
Notably, in the ensuing six hundred years, right till the arrival of Britishers, the Persian language had become the lingua-franca of the predominant part of the Indian subcontinent.
Persian was the language of the court. It was used not only as an official language for all state purposes; it was the medium of social intercourse, and it was the favourite of kings and princes, of officers and soldiers, merchants, and traders. The influence of Persian language on several India's indigenous languages like Punjabi, Sindhi, Bengali, Gujarati is enormous – and widely acknowledged approvingly.
The point being made is that modern Indian mind's collective public memory about the Persian language is of "elegance," "literary excellence," "style," "tolerance," and a symbol of a "shared composite culture" – an exalted status - vehemently deprived to the Sanskrit language in India's ancient history.
For Sanskrit language, modern Indian mind has been made available only binary imagery – either as a language par excellence yet a dark socially regressive instrument of oppression – or a symbol of a saffron-adorned monk and a trident swinging extreme right Hindu, seeking revivalism.
If this is not a selective bias of left's critical enquiry about India's past heritage, history, and culture, then what it is?
It is this obfuscation that a majority of highly educated rational-minded, scientific temper oriented, socially progressive Indians are facing today.
Can they be intellectual and yet remain un-apologetic about India and its culture?
It is also pertinent to the point that this is why this big hitherto silent and secular majority, is slowly and slowly turning in the fold of emergent "Hindu-right" in India.
They do not have access to a secular "political-right" or a rigorous intellectual right in India that can balance the hegemony of intellectual-left in India's thinking space.
They are not being inspired into the fold of "Hindu-right" by the trident-swinging saffron-adorned monks and hoodlums, who have anyway always been on the periphery of the Indian society.
They are seemingly trying to find some minimal moral anchor within their headspace that can allow them to live their day to day lives as buoyant, energetic, intelligent, liberal and modern being – yet unapologetic about their culture, beliefs and heritage.
The latest attempts of public shaming of a Kiwi-Indian MP from taking oath in the Sanskrit language exactly deny them that opportunity.
This is why it is problematic.