Bhakti – Symptoms, History, Transmission & Treatment
A medical guide to Bhakti, its origins, methods of diagnosis, means of transmission and its treatment.
You meet a relative, or a friend from your college, after several years. The discussion somehow turns to Indian politics. You criticise the current Modi government’s policies on something, he suddenly turns very aggressive. “How can you insult the Prime Minister of India? If you cannot respect the PM, how can you respect India?” he angrily demands.
You silently remember how this very person himself used to hurl the choicest of abuses at the previous PM of India , the last time you two had met.
He labels your digging up of Modi’s tainted record from 2002 as irrelevant old news, as he loudly moves “Fast-Backwards” through history, “where were you when Kashmiri Pandits were being expelled?”, “What about 1984?” He blames Nehru, Mughals and Delhi sultanate for all that is wrong with modern India; How Gandhi was a crook, How Marxist historians have distorted the achievements of ancient India, Why intellectuals are wrong, Why secularism is bad for India.
First of all, before you get too worried about your friend’s state of mind, RELAX, you have just encountered a Bhakt.
Bhakt (noun bhak·ta \ˈbək-tə\): It is a Sanskrit word and also used in Hindi and several Indian languages. It means a devotee who believes or has faith on somebody he follows. As far as Indian political scenario is considered, this term is used for Modi supporters, who support everything that Modi does. They also like old Hindu kings and conspiracy theories about how Hindus were shortchanged in the past – they often swap such stories online on social media.
Just as a Leper is infected with Leprosy, a Bhakt (devotee) has been infected with a medical condition called Bhakti (devotion).
As previously mentioned, the key characteristic of Bhakts is that they are extremely protective of Mr. Narendra Modi.
- Person goes completely silent, and you can sense simmering with anger.
- Person goes very defensive, starts grilling you about why you said so, starts telling you some common hoaxes about Mr Modi (how hard he works, how simple he is etc)
- Person starts abusing either you, or some other leaders of other parties (usually Mr Arvind Kejriwal of AAP, and Mr Rahul Gandhi of INC, as per author’s own observations from numerous experiments)
then, the infection of Bhakti is confirmed.
In general, a Bhakt lacks independent thinking and follows a predictable pattern in any argument.
While some scientists believe that Bhakti was originally transferred to Humans from the Sheep, the accepted academic consensus is that Bhakts originated in 2002 in the western region of India, mainly in the state of Gujarat. While we have no definite information on the “patient zero”, we can safely claim that, Initially, they were limited in BJP/RSS cadres before an epidemic caused it to spread out to the wider public. These days, they are most prevalent in Cow belt states of India, and some Gujarati/North Indian communities in US, UK and Australia.
The original bhakts were Hindu chauvinists, particularly of Gujarat. After the 2002 riots in Gujarat, a large section of media was regularly exposing the failings of the Gujarat Government headed by, then a relatively unknown CM, Mr Modi. Even PM Vajpayee was giving him sermons of following the Raj Dharma, and wanted to sack him.
However, the lifetime pracharak Mr Modi had RSS behind him. The RSS propaganda machinery went full throttle, and shaped an image makeover narrative that eventually caught the Hindu bigot’s imagination more than the truth. This was an early manifestation of phenomenon we now refer to as the “post-truth” world. In this world, truth and justice are no longer relevant, strategically aroused feelings and emotions are more important.
This was also the first time Mr Modi successfully adapted the strategy of dodging an attack on himself, by diverting it towards others, who would then rise to defend him.
The media had attacked Mr Modi and his Gujarat Government for its inept handling of the riots, that had allowed several genocides to happen right under the nose of police.
Mr Modi embarked on what was termed “The Gujarat Gaurav Yatra”. He turned this criticism of his government, and his handling of the riots into an attack on Gujarat’s “Asmita” (honour). Gujaratis were distributed provocative Video CDs that showed graphic images of Godhra victims, were wrongly made to believe that any “reaction” was justified, and that the “secular” press was not criticising the Modi led administration, but all the 5 crore people of Gujarat themselves. While this was a rather silly tactic of dodging criticism, a large number of Gujarati Hindus willingly lapped this all up. Whether this was a psychological defence mechanism to fight their guilt, is beyond the scope of the current article, and we may never know. What we do know for sure is that this crude and laughable tactic actually worked. They rose in defence of their “Hindu Hriday Samrat”, fighting the evil “Seculars” tarnishing the image of Gujarat. Lo, and behold, the Modi bhakt was born!1
Modi and his bhakts continue to employ this technique to this day. When you criticise Mr Modi, it is quickly seen by them as criticising India, and you are dubbed an anti-national by his propaganda. Such is the mental level of Modi bhakts. So, saying “intolerance in India has gone up under Modi” is responded with “How dare you call India intolerant?”
Anyway, coming back to the story, PM Vajpayee, who had kindly agreed to give Mr Modi a face saving exit in the form of a resignation at BJP’s meeting in Goa, became the first victim of this phenomenon. Behind Vajpayee’s back, Mr Arun Jaitley, then a relatively junior minister in Vajpayee’s cabinet, and Kushabhau Thakre, an RSS man who was BJP’s general secretary at the time, rallied Modi’s bhakts in BJP, and engineered a coup against PM Vajpayee. Vajpayee had to relent, and never again did he come in the way of Mr Modi or his bhakts from RSS. 2
Even when a planned visit to the UK, objected by diplomats of both India and the UK, threatened to sour the relations with Britain over a trivial matter of Modi’s ego over Indian interests, Vajpayee had to give in to Modi’s ego and his bhakts demands. 3 Within the next decade, this condition spread like an epidemic to large parts of India.
Bhakti is not contagious in the traditional medical sense, i.e. it does not transmit via touch, sneezing, or via blood and sexual contact. However, it is transferable, and spreads from one human to another via propaganda.
Once a person is infected beyond a certain level, he switches from being a carrier to an agent. You will find that most bhakts are actively involved in spreading Bhakti by sharing pro-Modi propaganda of all shapes and forms – photoshops about his achievements, hoaxes about his working habits, random “do you support Modi YES/NO” polls done with unusually and needlessly high frequency, using images of freedom fighters, army and many other things that typically appeals to the non-bhakt, in order to convert him, and also to increase the severity of the condition within existing bhakts.
This constant bombardment of propaganda ensures that once contracted, the condition becomes severe rapidly. Most mild cases of bhakti quickly mutate into extreme bhakti. You will notice this in your newly infected friend/relative – he will first start liking/retweeting some mild Sanghi propaganda, often disguised cleverly as something about Army or religion that even a person on the political fence may be agreeing with (“Do you support this martyr of Indian army?” from a “I love Narendra Modi” page on Facebook, for instance)
It is the same principle and techniques that had been employed by Nazis, or by Jihadis in brainwashing people. This is also the reason some converts to Islam suddenly get radicalised enough to indulge in acts of terror, by the way.
Following standard propaganda techniques, first devised by the Nazi propaganda minister Goebbels, are still the basic ones that are used widely.
It is important to recognise these, so as to not get affected by them yourselves. I have provided examples of their usage specifically by the Sanghi propaganda pages.
- Glittering Generalities – Words of praise for product or person; nice words like goodness or patriotism.
- “Hard working PM”, “True Deshbhakt”
- Name Calling – Trash-talking another product or person.
- “Anti-National”, “Pseudo-Sickular”, “Presstitudes”, spreading false hoaxes about killings of Hindus in Bengal, Kerala or Kairana.
- Testimonial – A famous person recommends a product or a political endorsement
- Fake Pictures of Wikileaks, or Ratan Tata endorsing Modi; Modi constantly tweeting any favourable articles (perhaps paid ones too) about himself.
- Plain Folks – Appeals to regular people and their values such as health, family and patriotism.
- Now you know why Modi visits his Mother with a camera crew, and makes a big deal about it.
- Bandwagon – An appeal to be part of the group that’s sure of “inevitable-victory”, attempt to persuade the target audience to join in and take the course of action that “everyone else is taking.”
- Most fake opinion polls predicting huge win for BJP, or a 92% support for demonetisation are done for this very reason. Ever wondered why some Pages have 30,000 people voting YES/NO every week to show they are with Mr Modi ?
- Transfer/association – An appeal that helps a person imagine themselves as part of a picture.
- Modi’s picture with Army, Flag, religious symbols, freedom fighters who are admired by a large number of Indians.
- Card-stacking – Manipulating information to make a product appear better than it is, often by unfair comparison or omitting facts.
- Lot of false half-truths about “Gujarat Model”, GDP growth, Rural electrification, or highways construction progress under Modi etc; projecting even some old foreign contracts as a result of Modi’s foreign trips, or his “masterstroke”.
In particular, the following websites are known to be Modi propaganda mouthpieces, that often spread propaganda hoaxes and fake news:
- Dharmik Bhakt (religious bhakt): This is the bhakt who thinks that he supports Hindutva (often without actually even knowing what this term means!). He supports Mr Modi because he feels Modi was responsible for the 2002 genocide in Gujarat. He feels happy that Mr Modi taught Muslims a lesson by killing them.
- Aarthik Bhakt (economic bhakt): This category of bhakt thinks that Mr Modi is some kind of economic messiah and a genius. He supports Mr Modi because he feels Modi was not responsible for the 2002 genocide in Gujarat. He has been brainwashed into believing that Supreme court has given some kind of “clean chit” to Mr Modi, and all of it was a huge conspiracy by “haters” to defame Modi. This category started appearing in the scene later on, primarily from year 2006-7 onward, when Mr Modi employed the services of the noted PR firm APCO to re-build his image. 4
Degree of Bhakti
A Bhakt infected by this severity does not care about any other thing. So, when Mr Modi ridicules some scheme such as Aadhar, FDI, GST or MNREGA, he finds them abhorrent too, and ridicules them. Later, when Mr Modi praises the same schemes, his brain registers no contradiction or hypocrisy, and he blindly and vehemently, supports the new position with the same fervour he had opposed it previously.
This person will overlook deaths of hundreds of Indians due to Modi’s Demonetisation, and still justify the foolish whim of Mr Modi. If tomorrow it is disclosed that Mr Narendra Modi was, in fact a Pakistani ISI agent sent to destroy India, this category of bhakt will not bat an eyelid, and start shouting “Pakistan Zindabad” slogans as well.
Some researchers believe such a bhakt’s brain activity is indistinguishable from a person who has been lobotomised.
This is first stage of infection. This bhakt’s brain cells, sensory organs and nervous system may still notice the problems, or hypocrisy with Mr Modi’s actions. However, his infection ensures that his brain still seeks and finds justifications for such actions.
Such justifications are commonly reduced to either of:
- Whataboutism, Others did it too.
- Each question about 2002 is met with “what about 1984?”, each question about bad treatment of Muslims is met with “what about Kashmiri Pandits? or Aurangjeb” etc.
- TINA (There Is No Alternative) – such a bhakt falsely believes we have a presidential system, and its just the leader of the party, and not the complete cabinet, that actually delivers the governance.
- However, in states where BJP is reluctant to announce a CM candidate, such a bhakt still supports BJP, citing parliamentary democracy not really depending on a single leader.
If tomorrow it is disclosed that Mr Modi was, in fact a Pakistani ISI agent sent to destroy India, this bhakt may hesitate before shouting “Pakistan Zindabad” slogans.
Dangers of Bhakti
So, the question arises, why should we not simply ignore Bhakts as a joke? Why should we care what Bhakts do? Why should we be trying to engage with them, even attempt curing them?
The very reason people like Mr Modi, or Donald Trump, attained power was that a large number of people ignored them as a joke, and did not take the threat seriously. We were all too busy with our lives to bother challenging our close friends and relatives when they were posting photo-shopped propaganda about Modi during 2009-14. Perhaps, we were even agreeing with them at times.
As mentioned above, Bhakti spreads via propaganda. Even if you ignore the propaganda, and you are immune to it, if you do not challenge it, your near and dear ones may become victims. Do you want to live like the man who can see in the country of the blind? Worse still, a dangerously large percentage of Bhakts means not only a general loss of rationality amongst them, and the society in general, extreme bhakts are abusive and aggressive on social media towards any dissent. Their zealous defence of anything and everything their master does, erodes the basic foundation of our democracy – an answerable authority, that tolerates dissent and opposition.
We have already seen how many of the extreme bhakts abuse and harass people from minorities and those who are perceived to be Modi opponents, on social media. The self appointed defenders of Hinduism who killed rationalists such as Kalburgi, Dabholkar and Pansare; Cow vigilantes that killed Akhlaq on suspicion of beef eating; the lawyers who assaulted an accused inside the court of our capital city; or social media trolls who unleash the vilest of abuse on opponents and women journalists, are not just attacks on a few individuals, these are attacks on our country’s democratic traditions.
And, as Dr Ambedkar warned us when presenting the final draft of the constitution to the country, Bhakti leads to dictatorship. 6
Is Bhakti Curable?
Milder bhakts can surely still be rescued from getting further brainwashed, sometimes even saved and “deModiFied” completely.
Extreme bhakts, you have to just patiently counter and neutralise them so that they do not recruit more bhakts, but do not expect a quick clinical cure – you have to engage (with the non-abusive types only), hammer home the point, and keep at it.
This will often appear futile, you will have self-doubt.
But, trust me, you are doing a valuable service by countering his propaganda publicly, on whichever social media platforms he is spreading it – Facebook, WhatsApp, Twitter:
- this reduces the effect of propaganda, hence prevents him from creating more bhakts.
- this may flip his recent converts back to sanity
- your counter-propaganda is slowly chipping away at his infection too.
Keep in mind, even if you rescue just one Bhakt from his condition, it is a great service to not only your motherland, but the whole mankind.
You need to keep countering the Bhakt’s propaganda relentlessly. For this, you need to keep reading up for rebuttals on non-bhakt sources. In most cases a simple google search often exposes the hoaxes, in other cases, use some non-bhakt social media pages to find answers. (I’d personally recommend AltNews and SMHoaxSlayer for this)
A basic helpful flowchart to counter the “usual stuff” is provided below.
Bhakt: Modi was given a clean chit by SC over Gujarat riots, proving all his haters wrong.
|You: There has been no case against Modi in Supreme court, So the question of SC giving a "clean chit" does not arise. SC heard Zakia Jafri petition demanding a CBI investigation against the masterminds and ordered Gujarat Government to setup an SIT – which was dominated by officers from Gujarat Police – themselves an accused organisation. The observations SC itself made on Gujarat Government when transferring Best Bakery and Bilkis Bano cases out of the state are pretty damning.|
|Bhakt: OK, But why couldn't UPA do anything to indict Modi, if he was so culpable in riots?|
|You: The Commissions of Inquiry act doesn't allow the central government to probe a matter that is already being investigated by another commission setup by the state government. As soon as UPA came to power, Modi changed the terms of the reference of Nanavati commission, which was merely a hogwash to push BJP's version of the events. Its conclusions on the mastermind of Godhra train burning could not even stand the trial court's scrutiny.|
Bhakt: OK, but Modi is an extremely capable administrator, a great leader.
|You: Capable administrators don't allow a genocide to happen under their watch. They do not then appoint the perpetrators a minister. A demagogue thrives on hatred against one community, like Modi showed in his hate speeches, while a true leader strives to take everybody together.|
Bhakt: Achha, forget that period, Modi is a reformed man now, and his Gujarat Model was extremely successful in making Gujarat the top performing state in the country.
|You: Actually, based on the data, Gujarat was 14th in the country amongst all states in terms of state's "GDP" growth. Even if you filter out the very small states that usually outperform, there were several large states which did better. Worse still, Gujarat's Human Development Indicator records were pretty bad compared to many of its peers. As he has already shown with his U-Turn on MNREGA and Tughlaqi firman on Demonetisation, he is no economic genius or a free-market messiah but a clueless autocrat who gets influenced by quacks of dubious repute.|
|Bhakt: OK, but I care about the party ideologies, and BJP is the only Deshbhakt party.|
|You: True Deshbhakts do deshbhakti even when they are in opposition. They do not oppose steps like Aadhar, FDI, Civil nuclear deal just for the sake of opposition. They do not block GST for 5 years if they cared for national interest. True deshbhakts also respect the tricolour flag, and respect the father of the nation, and do not glorify his murderer. A true patriot does not go about calling his compatriots traitor, thus creating disunity. Do you even know what ideology of Hindutva is, and how some of its ideologues praised Fascism and even holocaust of Jews?|
|Bhakt: OK, but Where were you when Kashmiri Pandits were being driven out?|
|You: When the Kashmiri Pandits were being driven out of the valley in early 90s, BJP supported VP Singh Government was in the power in centre; Late Mufti Mohammad Sayeed was the Union Home Minister; (he was the leader of BJP ally PDP, your Mahbooba Bua's father!); and Mr Jagmohan, the BJP leader, was the governor of Jammu & Kashmir. Not only was the BJP unable to stop the exodus despite this, it has been in power for nearly a decade after this and done little to address it, apart from using it for political mileage, and polarisation of Indians.|
p.s. I was (Too young/Not the Home Minister/Not yet born/Too old/) in Januray 1990. (Fill in with whatever you were doing back then)
Treat bhakts sympathetically as a normal person who is suffering from a medical condition. He is merely a victim of propaganda and brainwash. You will need patience in dealing with them. Start with the mild curable cases, do not attempt to cure an extreme case early on in this endeavour. Keep in mind, this condition already affects almost a third of the population, so fighting its spread is an utmost national imperative.
Watching his epidemic grow further silently is no longer an option. By being neutral, you are still helping the spread of the disease and darkness. The loss of rational thinking that is being created by the spread of the cult-like blind following can (and will) come after you one day.
Also, finally, remember that your objective is not to create a Bhakt of your own favourite leader! Converting a Modi bhakt into that of Kejriwal or Nehru family or Karl Marx does not solve the problem, it merely changes the problem. Your objective is to rid the Bhakt mind of the effects of the Sanghi propaganda brainwash, and make him think rationally and critically, and not support any one person blindly.
Enjoy spreading the light Mitron, each one – teach one!