As the world’s largest democracy, we thought we could name our own cities, towns or public places. But now a house sepoy tells us that we can’t do that.
A British daily, The Independent, has decided to stop referring to Mumbai as that and revert to calling it by its colonial name Bombay.
A short history is in order here. Bombay was the name given to the city by Portuguese colonisers. In 1661, King Charles II married the Portuguese Catherine of Braganza. As a dowry to the King, the Portuguese ceded the seven islands to the Brits. In 1995, forty-eight years after independence, the Shiv Sena-BJP government, a democratically elected one, decided to change the colonial name to a native one, Mumbai.
As the world’s largest democracy, we thought (and still do) that we could name our own cities, towns or public places. But now a House Sepoy Tells us that we can’t do that. He terms his newspaper’s move as a stand against a “nastier strain of Hindu nationalism”.
Paraphrasing Malcolm X, a House Sepoy is one who lives close to his masters. You have only heard of sepoys in history books, the native soldiers who were employed by the British to police and administer India. They were field sepoys. Now we have 21st-century house sepoys. They dress like their white masters, eat what their masters eat, speak the same language with the same accent and, most importantly have the same disdain, if not more, for everything Indian.
This sepoy Editor says:
If you call it what Hindu nationalists want you to call it, you essentially do their work for them.”
As journalists, as someone who edits The Independent, it’s incredibly important to be specific about our terminology.
Most of the political analysts have failed to notice the assumption underlying the editor’s statements. Where is this bravado emanating from? Why this grandstanding by the house sepoy
Hint: It’s not just about his neo-colonial mindset.
Equivalence with the Islamic State
Most of the western leaders like US President Barack Obama, US Secretary of state, John Kerry, French President, Francois Hollande among others have started referring to the Islamic State as “Daesh”. The western media is also following suit. What’s in a name, you ask? Well, the ISIS doesn’t like it because it takes away the group’s legitimacy of representing the whole of the Islamic world. So, the usage of the terminology is purely ideological and psychological. Since ISIS doesn’t like it, this is as good a reason to call it just that.
Now, the editor of The Independent, like a good coolie he is, is trying to ape the ‘West using Daesh for Islamic State’ equivalence and apply the same to Mumbai, imagining the city as under some kind of Hindutva state. And as a journalist, he feels it’s incredibly important to be specific about the terminology. The kind of terminology the west employs as a weapon of ideological and psychological warfare against the ISIS.
Some Indian journalists are little more than a bunch of glorified stenographers. The brown editor, after all, is of Indian origin. It seems even the British system, which has produced giants like Christopher Hitchens, failed to correct this inherent defect.
He calls himself a journalist but the Don Quixote wannabe fails to demonstrate the common-sense knowledge of the difference between an area held hostage under Islamic state terrorists and a city administered by a democratically elected government in the world’s largest democracy. This is not just lack of common sense but a deliberate attempt to paint the Hindutvavadis and ISIS terrorists with the same brush. But in an attempt to show off his Hinduphobia credentials, the editor ends up displaying his ignorance. But as George Orwell, a Brit born in India, would have said it, “Ignorance is bliss”.
The white elites of London had their fill of India in 1947. But the brown sepoys, overeager to prove their loyalty to their white masters, will keep using the stick of colonial disdain for anything native to beat Hindus with, even if it means trying to delegitimise Indian democracy in general and Hinduism in particular by going to great pains to equate Hindu nationalism with Islamic fundamentalism, when the former has hardly done anything beyond a failed mosque demolition drive in Ayodhya.
The house sepoys sure love their white masters, more than the masters love themselves.