Home >opinion >Ten tips for a ‘civil’ society

India is experiencing a great spell of enlightened governance. One of the biggest beneficiaries of the good times has been the civil society, with activists in particular enjoying a string of fulfilling experiences. I want to speak to you jhola-wallahs directly. I want to tell you my mann ki baat. Here are some essential tips for survival. Why just survive, if you follow these tips, you might even flourish beyond your wildest dreams.

I have kept them short and to the point. If you have to use them on a power-point slide in case someone from the government drops in unannounced, you can plug them right in.

Tip 1: Stay on the right side of the Indian state: when working and reflecting on the political sphere in the country, always point out how we really only achieved Independence in 2014. We did flirt with some limited privileges during 1998-2004, but this is our first taste of real change. Whether you are in India or abroad, tell everyone this at every possible opportunity.

Tip 2: Stay on the right side of the Indian state: acknowledge that a Hindu-majority makes India a Hindu country, not because a majority of Hindus want it to be so, but because mass membership-based, non-political, volunteer-led organisations have proven that khaki and saffron are the colours that matter in India.

Tip 3: Stay on the right side of the Indian state: accept the truth about India’s glorious past. Outside of the dark ages that lasted twelve centuries, our kings, scholars, physicians and architects were miles ahead of the rest of the world. All scientific progress we enjoy today stems from our history. Remember, if you can come up with a new fantasy to feed the nation’s imagination, you could be sponsored to attend international scientific conferences.

Tip 4: Stay on the right side of the Indian state: believe in the benevolence of a state-dictated model of minimum government in all spheres of public and private life. From our chosen modes of worship to what we eat and how we choose to have sex, the state has the right to both prescribe and proscribe—because the state knows best; and takes a non-neutral position on all matters other than the Internet.

Tip 5: Stay on the right side of the Indian state: when analysing the current governance model, focus on the superhuman will and magnetism of individuals. Institutions, whether those of the executive or statutory ones are merely a façade. Renaming equals reforming. If the media isn’t showcasing our unstoppable progress, or is focused on the negatives, it must be because they are all sell-outs.

Tip 6: Stay on the right side of the Indian state: when creating works of art—films, books or paintings, keep the above tips in mind. If you are planning to invest your personal resources of any significance, don’t treat the above as just tips. Indeed, these should be your guiding principles. If you coin a popular and state-pleasing slogan, expect a plum retirement posting.

Tip 7: Stay on the right side of the Indian state: if you need to work with poor and marginalised communities, talk to them exclusively about their duties as citizens. Don’t waste their time telling them their rights. Instead, tell them how their skills are going to be used to make in India. Mining equals progress, and pollution is not worth talking about. Tell them about ‘Swachh Bharat’ instead.

Tip 8: Stay on the right side of the Indian state: are you still interested in fighting social evils like rape? Do so by all means, but do not succumb to the temptation of raising these issues at national or international fora. Also, do not raise disruptive issues about criminalisation of politics. The benevolent state will take care of you.

Tip 9: Stay on the right side of the Indian state: stop laughing—whether at the absurdity of missing buffaloes, mangled up Star Wars lines, or mathematical gaffes, learn to suppress your laughter. If you laugh out loud even when watching a show at a stadium, you may be hurting the sentiments of the state. So stop laughing to stay safe.

Tip 10: Stay on the right side of the Indian state: stop asking questions; stop outraging; and stop thinking. Achhe din are here.

So here we are. I know you come in different shapes and hues, but if you heed these tips, you will be on the right side of history. Never before has a country needed you as much as India needs you today. The trade-off is quite clear—join the chorus and be rewarded, or stand up and be silenced.

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