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Hidden in plain sight

Our institutions have lost the credibility to project the truth.

While we debate such serious matters as the battle for the soul of India, the transformation of Indian politics, the possibilities of growth, the real political battle of the moment remains hidden in plain sight. The ponderous debates over the big issues cannot throw a cloak over the really ugly battle: India’s elites are now like a crazed pack of wolves, completely out of control to the point that they are devouring each other in an unprecedented frenzy, taking down every institution with them. The real crisis is not order versus disorder, communalism versus secularism, growth versus stagnation. The real crisis is this: what happens to a society when everyone tears into each other without restraint? It is general versus general, chief justice versus chief justice, economist versus economist, media against media, bureaucrat against bureaucrat and all professions against each other. The real battle is among an old elite now in the last throes of self-destruction, where even minimal self-awareness is too much to expect. Much of this fight is a frenzy of rhetorical excess. But alas, most of it will have deadly consequences on the ground.

The latest controversy regarding former army chief General V.K. Singh is an expression of this crisis. Fairness requires that there be no rush to prejudgement. Everyone will take an injured recourse to the truth. But you know an elite has completely lost it when it does not understand one plain fact about truth and power. Truth is not about the facts. It depends on the credibility of the regimes that produce it. None of our truth producing regimes has any credibility left. From the judiciary to the media, the government to the opposition, no institution has the credibility to be able to project the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. But whatever the truth, think of the harm already done. It will take years for the army to recover its credibility. Any large institution will have some degree of factional politics. But it has now reached proportions that are damaging the very credibility of the institution. The government had little credibility to begin with. It has compounded this by targeting opponents in such a way that the odour of politicisation hangs over everything. The entire decision-making structure of the defence ministry is culpable in bringing things to such a pass. But its credibility is so destroyed that even when it takes the correct action in future, you will not be able to trust whether it took it for the right motives.

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