Retalls (5.5.19)

 (…) The institute’s classes offer a version of Indian history and society that has parallels with narratives pushed by the Steve Bannons and Nigel Farages of the world. India’s political establishment, the IIDL’s lecturers argue, has for years benefited from corrupt excesses, to the country’s detriment. In their telling, Westernization and globalization have caused more harm than good, and India’s path to greatness lies in reviving religious and cultural traditions. The world over, “democracy is failing,” Sahasrabuddhe told me. “If democracy is not in a position to cater to better quality of lives—if after changing government, I can’t see a change in my life, what is the point?” (...) Fees are steep by Indian standards, at 300,000 rupees ($4,200) for a nine-month course. Classes are structured to cover a range of topics, including governance, social-media skills, and speech delivery. The works of philosophers such as Jean-Jacques Rousseau and Thomas Hobbes are packed in with practical skills related to electioneering and administering government. (...) When I visited one recent Friday morning, a guest lecturer asked his class to brainstorm arguments for banning the sale of beef, something of a totemic issue for the BJP and one that has sparked much acrimony between India’s dominant Hindu and minority Muslim populations—Hindus consider cows sacred, but many Muslims rely on the beef industry for their livelihoods. A student called out from the back of the room that India’s majority “doesn’t want it,” as if to say, What’s to debate? The lecturer dismissed that answer, explaining that the rules of democracy equated to “the rule of the majority, and protection of the minority.” He then suggested that a smart politician might sell the policy without mentioning religion at all, and instead focus on milk being a source of protein (…)