True Indology has again been suspended from twitter, this time probably for good. Although the handle regularly enters into debate with Islamists and Marxists on historical facts, the orders for suspension have often come from the officers of the government. This time, the it started a debate with a sitting police officer of Karnataka on the sanctity of the tradition of using firecrackers during Deepawali.
We need not discuss the contents of the debate here. At sometime during the debate, the officer openly said to True Indology(TI) that “Your time is up.” According to the instagram page of TI, within five minutes, he was suspended by Twitter. According to him, Twitter did not send him a mail or asked an explanation. As noted by TI, Twitter India is headquartered in Bangalore and the said officer is Home Secretary of Karnataka, so something seems to be fishy with the suspension of TI from Twitter.
Apart from this, the episode also raises many questions regarding use of social media by officers, abuse of power by officers and also puts in spotlight the larger question of the role of state in matters of religion.
Officers on Twitter
The use of social media by serving officers was initially hailed as a new and effective method to connect with people. Official twitter and facebook profiles have been effectively used as a grievance redressal system by officers as well as ministers. However, the issues regarding personal profiles of serving officers need to be debated. It must be noted that as opposed to civil officers, serving military officers are not permitted to use personal social media handles. Similarly, people working in private companies have their social media profiles checked regularly for content that is against company policy. Curiously, civilian officers of the government seem to be immune from any such restriction.
The personal social media presence of officers blurs the lines between personal and official and although officers use the same for many commendable deeds, it is also often used to promote the cult of the officer. The internet popularity sometimes trumps the official work and thus we have serving officers with verified handles complaining and worrying publicly about likes, followers, reach etc. Some even indulge in cheap followback games on twitter! If this is acceptable behavior according to the service rules, government should probably amend the service rules, if not, it should accordingly advise officers clearly in this regard.
Naturally, any criticism of then views expressed by the officer using personal handle is also taken on a personal level. Perhaps the same view tweeted from an official handle would be let go.
Agents of State as arbiter of Religion
The second issue that should be discussed is whether the agents of secular state have the competence to decide the religious issues. As the discussion was about a religious tradition, and whether it was authentic or not, should such a decision be within the purview of state?
Supreme Court has decided in many cases that there is a “test of essentiality” in such cases. In essential parts of religion, the court has no right to interfere. However, it can put some restrictions on the non-essential aspects of religion. The catch is that it is within the purview of the court to decide whether a practice is essential or non-essential! Should the courts have such a right or should the scholars and religious leaders of a religion have such a right?
However, the state, including executive, judiciary and legislature, has repeatedly violated even the above condition solely to the disadvantage of Hindu Dharma. The case of Sabaraimala is a case in point, where it sought to impose its ill conceived and imperious reformist agenda on an ancient seat of Hindu Dharma in Kerala. It must be noted that the petitioners in the Sabarimala case were not even remotely related to Kerala or the devotion of Bhagwan Ayappa. Similarly, the practice of pashubali has been forcibly stopped by the secular state and its zealous servants. However, similar zeal is not shown by anyone in case of Eid sacrifice by Muslims. In fact, it is deemed perfectly legal!
In another case a few weeks ago, a young IAS officer arm twisted a priest in a Himachal Pradesh temple to change the rules of the temple in the name of gender equality. Given that officers enjoy immense power in Bharat’s administrative system, the potential for abuse of that power is huge.
Abuse of power
The bureaucracy in Bharat is the direct successor of British established civil service. The fundamental truth about the civil services has never changed even after British are gone for more than seventy years. Government officers still consider themselves mai-baap of the people who cannot think on their own and who need to be told what to do and what not to do.
Further compounding this situation is the same system of education that British left. This problem is specially felt in the official school and college history books. In many cases, we were reading the same books for decades after British were gone. The NCERT started publishing books only in mid 1960s and there too Marxist and Congress historians like Romila Thapar, Bipan Chandra, S. Gopal etc. were given preference. They put forward a particular brand of history, which denigrated and spread lies about Hindus and Hindu Dharma. At the same time it whitewashed Muslim atrocities on Hindus, gave exclusive focus on Muslim dynasties during medieval period and continues to credit them for almost anything that is good in Bharat.
Naturally, a bureaucrat that came out from such an education system has a high probability of being in the mould of a colonial administrator with a Marxist bent of mind. That worldview is in direct conflict of the Hindu worldview and hence we continue to see conflict between bureaucrats and Hindu traditions. It might be seen in the case of Himachal temple, the brutality in Munger, as also in the suspension of TI from twitter. Thus social media is just a new frontier in the wider conflict.
The government has to work on comprehensive reforms to align the state with the ancient values and worldview of the people of the country. These reforms need to be in the education, in training of bureaucrats, in service rules, in judicial system and even in the constitution. This is not something that can happen overnight and needs to be a continuous project. However, having an awareness and understanding of the issue is of supreme importance.
The suspension of TI from twitter is a regular occurrence, often on complaints by government officers. However, in the overall scheme of things, it is just one incident out of many. Unless the required reforms are taken up, we should not be surprised with these things continuing in future.
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