Since the OCI status of Aatish Taseer has been revoked, Tavleen Singh has waged a war against ‘right wing trolls’, who, according to her, are India’s new elite. In an article in Indian Express, she argued that “Prime Minister Narendra Modi has brought real ‘parivartan’ that has gone almost unobserved because of India’s new elite.” In the last six years, Mrs Singh shared a sine curve relationship with Modi and his supporters. She supported some of the policies while vehemently opposed others.
Before Modi took over the national horizon, and polarized the India politics like never before, Tavleen Singh has been critical of the left-liberal establishment, which has been called as Lutyen’s elite by Modi supporters. She has written books such as Durbar in 2012 and India’s Broken Tryst in 2016, both critical of Lutyen’s Elite.
In the aforementioned books and thousands of the articles written by her, she described the lifestyle of left-liberal establishment. Singh grew up in the very same circles and therefore she has the ‘insider’s detail’ of old elite.
In review of Aatish Taseer’s book STRANGER TO HISTORY: A SON`S JOURNEY THROUGH ISLAMIC LANDS for Outlook magazine, late Khushwant Singh wrote, “Tavleen is the granddaughter of Sardar Bahadur Bajamber Basakha Singh, one of the principal builders of New Delhi, including the North Block of the Secretariat. He lived next door to us on Jantar Mantar Road and was my father’s closest friend.”
Born to Punjabi Khatri family in Mussoorie in 1950, Tavleen Singh was educated at Welham Girls School, an elite boarding school in Uttarakhand. Later she joined St. Bede’s College for graduation and then trained in journalism in England for two and a half years.
Due to her lineage from Punjabi Khatri community, which dominates the business, politics, and culture of Delhi, Singh is very well integrated into Lutyens’s circle. She has described the scene of Lutyen’s parties with pictorial accuracy.
In 1970s and 80s, Delhi was dominated by Sanjay Gandhi and Rajiv Gandhi respectively. Educated at elite boarding schools in Dehradun, both sons of Indira Gandhi had contempt for Indian culture and civilization. While in power, they surrounded themselves with westernized Indian elites, who were educated at same boarding schools established by British colonizers. These families threw lavish parties, with member of Gandhi family being a regular invitee.
The political and business elite of Delhi, which included people like Mani Shankar Iyer, enjoyed quality food, costly wine, and preferred to discuss ‘world politics’ in their gatherings, as Indian politics was considered below their standards. In the opinion, ignorant masses of the country needed ‘rulers’ not ‘leaders’.
Being familiar with this circle, Singh describes the Lutyen’s elite with graphic detail. In her books, it is very clear that she has deep contempt for these elites. In the latest article in Indian Express, she writes that “Unlike the old elite, that was generally upper class and upper caste, the new elite is entirely of lower origins and caste.”
It is very much true that the Lutyen’s elite were composed of upper caste and class. As one can observe, in the pre-Modi era, the only OBC Prime Minister of the country was Deve Gowda, that too for less than a year. Whole leadership of Communist parties, who pay lip service to poor and marginalized like a daily school prayer, was composed of upper caste, upper class, western university educated, male members of the society. Similarly, whole Congress leadership, the left-liberal media establishment, and academia were composed from very similar social group.
But, in describing India’s new elites, she makes many mistakes, because, unlike Lutyen’s elite, among whom she grew up and lived for most of her life, she has ‘no familiarity’ with India’s new elite.
As per the article ‘Hindu nationalism’ is founding value of India’s new elite. On this argument, Tavleen is true to a large extent but the next subset of values described by Mrs Singh are far from reality. She argued that “utter disdain for such ‘western’ habits as eating meat and drinking wine, utter disdain for reading books that come from foreign lands, and they rage against people who speak English.”
As far as my interaction with India’s new elite in concerned, I found that India’s new elite is more receptive to so called western habits like eating meat and drinking wine. They are also receptive to books that come from foreign land, but, rather than taking the ideas in those books as ‘Gospel’s truth’ in a slavish manner, they ‘critically examine’ those ideas.
As far as speaking English is concerned, the new elite is eager to learn English and receptive to language, but, they have no ‘superiority’ or ‘inferiority’ complex for language. As Sanjeev Sanyal argues an article, “To the new group, English is just a skill necessary to climb the job market. In contrast, the language was about a whole culture for the old middle-class. Great pride was once taken in speaking “propah” English and quoting Shakespeare. Hardly anyone cares now. The point is that the new India has the confidence to absorb outside influences on its own terms.”
Mrs Singh’s war against ‘India’s new elite’, which she definitely she does not understand, is due to revocation of her son’s OCI status. Her article on India’s new elite was not received well so far. At the time of writing this article, the tweet has received 145 likes and 181 comments, most of comments were critical of the article and pointed out her ignorance about India’s new elite.
Her argument that India’s new elite is composed of ‘lower origins and caste’, is partially true. India’s new elite is ‘self-made’, like their leaders Modi and Shah, but, the caste composition remains the same. Like economic liberalization brought many new business leaders of humble origins, but, the caste composition remained same, similarly, the caste composition of new elite has also remained same.
Mrs Singh is as ignorant to India’s new elite, as a poor lower caste person from UP to the Lutyen’s elite. Her criticism of new elite is not based on facts or experience, but, it is a natural reaction to what happened to her son.