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Why saffron is anathema to Indian elite

Ramesh Khazanchi  (Times of India)
10 June 2011, 09:20 PM IST

The ongoing crusade for probity in public life has brought into sharp focus the revulsion of Indian elite, not necessarily civil society, for anything remotely associated with the saffron shade of opinion. Historically, ethno-cultural India– as conceptually opposed to Western civil society — has its roots deeply embedded into the saffron soil.
And, saffron unambiguously means the mainstream nationalist Hindu India that draws its sustenance from those inhabiting the faraway hamlet to ones in the nearby urban cluster. The countryside India is as much part of the civil society as its urban counterpart.

Hence, by inference or by implication, civil society cannot be co-opted by the contemporary ‘westernized’ urban elite. Ironical as it were, the present-day ‘elected oligarchy’ is part of the same elite which is now exasperated by the institutionalized foul play of their chosen few.

Spewing venom at anything that looks or resembles saffron is tantamount to pitting one section of society against another and is fraught with dire consequences. And the Constitution expressly forbids it, too. The last thing one would expect at a time when the nation is at the threshold of an economic leap.

To stay in power by hook or by crook when it is under fire for constitutional impropriety on the issue of institutionalizing corruption, the government at the Centre is busy playing Nero’s fiddle. The monster it is trying to unleash will not only devour the present dispensation but may cost the nation dear.

By its anti-saffron rhetoric, the governing clique has precariously polarized Indian society on ethnic, cultural and religious faultlines that one shudders to think if this nation is slowly but surely treading the path to Balkanization.

The recent statements by ‘resident’ ministers of the ruling elite, associating saffron with — among other things — terrorism, constitute a sound legal basis for seeking the dismissal of the Union government on grounds of spreading disaffection among various sections of society.

In the guise of a rationalist, an analyst, an intellectual, an academic, a littérateur or even a scientist, the elite taunts all those who do not speak their dialect or do not follow their discourse as folksy, saffronised brutes.

Indian elite, if at all there is one, is anything but elitist. Sophistry, not sophistication, is its hallmark. More rustic it is than those whom it chides and derides as rustic. Crass by thought and crude by practice, it exhibits a cocoon mentality.

Perhaps, saffron for them is a taint worse than corruption.

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