Welcome to the BJP’s nation-wide test lab, where the illusion of truth is crafted by swayamsevaks and amplified by eager bhakts aided by a veritable army of highly paid cyber propaganda warriors and rabidly biased news anchors who comprise the newest breed of BJP spokespersons.
The Goebbels doctrine – “Repeat a lie often enough and it becomes the truth” — is also known to psychologists as “the illusion of truth”. Under test conditions, people were more likely to rate statements as true when these statements were more familiar. Welcome to the BJP’s nation-wide test lab, where the illusion of truth is crafted by swayamsevaks and amplified by eager bhakts aided by a veritable army of highly paid cyber propaganda warriors and rabidly biased news anchors who comprise the newest breed of BJP spokespersons. They are uniformly ill-informed, under-qualified, and disgustingly loud in their fervour to win the race for that much-coveted Rajya Sabha seat.
Their latest “alternative fact” is that “minority appeasement by the Trinamool government is to blame for the breakdown of law and order in Bengal”. This may seem ridiculous, but it is still necessary to once and for all disprove the inherent falsehood of both the blatant lies in this statement.
First, “minority appeasement”. What does this even mean? This is actually the question that the agitators for Gorkhaland are finally asking the BJP. Three years ago, a crafty last-minute addendum to the BJP’s 2014 manifesto promised to “sympathetically examine and appropriately consider the long-standing demand of the Gorkhas”.
What does it mean? Gorkhaland – yes or no?
The Trinamool government has unequivocally opposed the division of Bengal to create Gorkhaland. Their stand is crystal clear. The BJP, however, cannot define what they really stand for. Prevarication and subterfuge rule the day.
Can this shibboleth of minority appeasement be quantified? Does the Bengal government, perhaps, spend disproportionately more on Minority Affairs? The answer is no. The numbers to prove it: Bengal, with a 27.5% Muslim population of 2.5 crores, has a total budget in 2017-18 of Rs. 2,815 crores for its Minority Affairs department – a per capita allocation of Rs. 11,433. Karnataka, with 13.2% Muslim population of 78 lakhs, has a Minority Affairs budget of Rs. 2,750 crores – a per capita allocation of Rs. 35,256. Telengana, with 14.2% Muslim population of 44.6 lakhs, has a budgetary allocation of Rs.1, 279 crores or Rs. 28, 677 per head. Telengana spends twice as much and Karnataka three times what Bengal spends on its minorities. So why is Bengal accused of “appeasement”?
“Mamata only gives cycles to Muslim girls.” “Only Muslim clerics get free houses.” “Muslims from Bangladesh enter freely and Mamata does nothing.” “Fake currency cross-border racket in Malda run by TMC.” Words we hear being passed off as gospel truth every single day on television and on social media. No. No. No. And No. Providing cycles free of cost to girl students of classes 9-12 was started as a scheme to promote education among backward sections of society in schools in the Sunderbans through the Sunderban Affairs department. It was later extended to SC/ST students via the Backward Classes Department and Madrassa Students via the Minority Affairs arm in 2011-12. It was extended to all government schools in Bengal in 2015. It is patently untrue that it was started for or limited to Muslim girls. But alas, the truth is irrelevant to our friends in the BJP.
Homes for imams also exist only in the twisted minds of pracharaks. The Bengal government’s Gitanjali housing scheme was started in 2011-12 for construction of houses for the Economically Weaker Sections. Initially, the scheme was implemented in rural areas by six departments including Minority Affairs and Madrasah Education, Backward Classes Welfare, Fisheries, Forests, Sundarban Affairs and Paschimanchal Unnayan and in urban areas by the Department of Municipal Affairs and urban bodies. The scheme was extended to all parts of the state in early 2014, and the nodal department today is the Housing Department. The RSS lying machine stands exposed. The Gitanjali scheme was not started just for Muslims and Imams do not get free houses constructed under it.
Bangladeshi infiltration?! The Trinamool is in its sixth year of power after an uninterrupted 34-year stint by the Left. Bangladesh and India share a 4,096 km long international border of which 2,217 kms lies in Bengal. Border security is solely controlled by the BSF, one of the five Central Armed Police Forces of the Union of India. It is not within the purview of the state government. The central government as recently as February, 2017 was reprimanded by the Supreme Court over its response to an order to fence the India-Bangladesh border to keep out illegal immigrants. The centre’s affidavit sought more time to complete the task, citing lack of data on the riverine stretches to explain why it had so far failed to carry out the court order and stated that work on the entire stretch could take till 2020 to complete. Again, the pre-election rhetoric of the BJP stands exposed – the centre is supposed to control the border, but, by its own admission, cannot even get data on its responsibilities.
Counterfeit currency from Bangladesh? The central government controls this border too, but more importantly, how do you explain counterfeit currency in a post-demonetisation world, Mr. Modi? Didn’t your midnight dhamaka promise to end fake currency once and for all? Pray, do tell us, Sir, why this contradiction exists eight months into your experiment? The Nation Needs to Know.
Second, the apparent breakdown in law and order. Tarun Vijay, ex-Rajya Sabha MP and ex-editor of the RSS’s mouthpiece, in his column here a few days ago lamented the purported lack of security for Hindus in Bengal. Mr. Vijay, Bengal comprises 70% Hindus. Mamata Banerjee’s government was re-elected with an overwhelming mandate in 2016, winning 211 of a total of 293 seats. Clearly Bengal’s Hindus don’t seem to view the RSS’s dangerously divisive and parochial usurping of their faith in quite the same shining light as Mr. Vijay. Tarun-ji, you might try to actually win a people’s election to truly understand ground realities.
To guard against the pernicious “illusion of truth”, we must stop repeating falsehoods. Facts matter. They must matter. We must stand guard to protect them. Every re-post, re-tweet, story, datum passed on, without checking if it is true, is another step towards a world where lies and truth are confused. But Goebbels didn’t finally succeed. And ultimately, nor will the BJP’s lying machine. Satyamev Jayate.
(Mahua Moitra is a member of the West Bengal Legislative Assembly and General Secretary of the West Bengal Trinamool Congress.)