The "Left-liberal" of social media or TV debates is a figment of our imagination. Almost invariably, they are neither Left nor liberal. Most of them are quite the opposite.
Leftists and liberals worldwide advocate change of the old order. The Left puts the collective above the individual, rejects elitism and god. The liberal embraces openness of ideas, resists every form of bigotry and treats equality as the bloodstream of liberty.
The delicious irony in India is that "Left-liberals" are not pro-change but pro-continuity. They are the real conservatives. They cheerlead for the colonial continuity of Macaulay-Nehruvian education, look wistfully back at the elitist, dynastic Nehru-Gandhian rule. For them, the last word in history is written by those who view a nearly 10,000-year-old civilisation through the looking glass of the 150-year-old Marxist ideology.
Awards are returned not when a pogrom is carried out against Sikhs in 1984, or a government bulldozes with brute majority a Supreme Court order to grant alimony to a poor, 62-year-old Muslim widow struggling to raise her five children.
Nor are they returned when The Satanic Verses is banned or an editor of an Urdu daily is arrested for reprinting the Charlie Hebdo cartoon depicting Prophet Muhammad.
“Atmosphere gets vitiated” only when a man in Dadri is killed by a mob supposedly over beef, but not when a child in Rampur is shot dead in a riot just three months earlier, or when a Kerala professor’s hand is chopped off for blasphemy, or a series of abductions of Hindu girls are reported in West Bengal.
Take, for instance, the surreal-ness of "liberals" fighting fiercely against a constitutionally sanctioned, progressive Uniform Civil Code, and the "right wing" demanding it vociferously.
The self-proclaimed Left-liberals on social media and television are increasingly a motley bunch of out-of-favour journalists, fading writers and artistes, Bollywood’s publicity-needy, and general Voltaires-over-vodka you meet after work hours, united by their helpless loathing of one man: Narendra Modi.
Even those who see, consciously or subliminally, only through the prism of their religion have found a handy cover under the umbrella named "Left". It is cool, urban and still in fashion in the right circles.
The "karmabhoomi" of our Martini Marxists is Lutyens drawing rooms or Bandra pubs — places where an EMS Namboodiripad or a Pramod Dasgupta failed to leave their mark. Beef steak is the battlefield of their liberalism, without a salvo fired Hitchens-style, for instance, at Mother Teresa or radical Islam.
Many who preach about the nature of journalism being essentially anti-Establishment had no problem accepting junkets or positions in institutions of the previous Establishment. “Neutral observers” regularly lean on one particular side.
It is this deep hypocrisy that kept them in denial of Modi’s rise and completely cut off from India’s larger reality. It is increasingly legitimising the voice of unnamed thousands they unsuccessfully tried to label and ward off as trolls. This duplicity has made "liberal" and "secular" cuss words, or worse, laughable.
One of the funniest and most acerbic spoofs on Twitter is @padhalikha, whose bio reads, “I am an eminent citizen of India. My views are better than the views of ordinary stinking conservative Indians. I am progressive, liberal, and intellectual”.
This is what a fast-growing and very large number of Indians feel about the smugness of the educated elite and the Right to Selective Outrage they have arrogated to themselves.
Earlier, this lot would be faceless, nameless. They could not talk back to the media pundit or challenge him or her with facts. Now they have a mobile phone, social media and anger.
To be a liberal in this time takes a great deal of honesty, courage, humility and a sense of equality. Just as it takes considerable commitment and sacrifice to be true to the Leftist-socialist ideology.
Any resemblance of our Left-libs to Leftists and liberals is purely coincidental.