By Sumitra Padmanabhan.

Rationalists have earlier been targets of public wrath. Rationalism as against spiritualism has for ages tried to bring out the truth by exposing frauds, explaining natural or man-made mysteries. In the process charlatans of all kinds were naturally up against rationalists. This trait of laying bare the truth, of busting the hypocrisies behind religious or spiritual practices has a long history. It dates back to the ‘Charbak’ saints of India. (Approx. 350 B.C.)

But problem arises when educated modern day youths misunderstand or misrepresent the rational approach. There is a trend at the moment – of branding the rationalists as ‘negative’ in their approach. Particularly Prabir Ghosh the rationalist leader has been portrayed by many as indulging in negative propaganda --- breaking myths, digging into the evils of society, finding out unpleasant truths about people, religious groups, political parties and day to day incidents; attacking the wicked and the crooked in no less unpleasant terms.

I want to highlight this particular situation – when logic gets blurred on the face of active anti-propaganda. What exactly do we mean by ‘negative propaganda’? If truth itself is unpleasant, can we or should we be so polite as not to utter the truth? Can we shut ourselves from reality?

“India’s economic future is hostage to crooks and cheats”.

This is not my line. It is the headline of an article in the editorial page of The Telegraph dated January 24, 2009. Does it sound negative? I should say the columnist is bold enough to provide a vivid picture of the economic situation facing the country – where a mammoth organization like the LIC invests massively in companies known and proven to be ‘dubious’, where a corporation like CESC swindles lakhs of consumers by taking away a rupee or two that should be deducted from the gross bill, leave alone big houses like Satyam, Wipro, Megasoft Consultants, DCM, Escorts and the likes. These are all negative news served to us by the media and highlighted by none other than Sunanda K. Dutta Ray. Gradually each and every company, people, individual are being pulled into the vortex of this massive whirlpool of corruption. And the polite, soft-pedaling of the educated middle-upper middle class mindset is indirectly responsible for this. Is this the time to be polite?

“Laissez-faire” – the tricky philosophy of the sophisticated has gone so far that not protesting, not speaking out your mind in unpleasant situations has become fashionable.

“How rude can you be?” is a question I would like to face. Yes, there is a fine line between being rude and being truthful. We should attack a philosophy, and not the philosopher personally-- this was the catchword of the Rationalists’ Association in the nineties. We all tried to maintain this norm; not because we respected those dubious philosophers, but because we respected people’s sentiment.

But when we talk of the present political and economic scenario, whose sentiment should we try to protect? Positively not those crooks and cheats who hold our country at ransom! Then should we protect the interests of those upwardly moving middle-class boys and girls who constitute 10% of our youth? Who follow the middle path and are too careful and gentle to protest? Why? The apparent face-lift of our nation by way of shopping malls, flyovers and highways, the 9% growth in GDP – these are all good news. And they are already hyped beyond all proportions. But should it be at the cost of wiping out the true picture of our nation – ignoring the remaining 90%?

This is not only ethically wrong. It is utterly foolish. Today’s youth is the material the future of our nation will be made of. They need to know the truth. Otherwise the balloon will burst at a time when they are totally unprepared to cope.

So, we need ‘good butchers’ to take control, as Gladstone had put it. Do the words sound unpalatable or negative? Well then, we need efficient doctors who use scissors and scalpels to eliminate the undesirable growths. Yes, for the betterment of the entire body.

Those who cannot actively participate in protests, who do not have the stomach to be ‘rude’, like the rationalists, need not take part. But the honest, who I still feel constitute the majority; need to have a perspective and not indulge in negative propaganda about the ‘negativity’ of the rationalist view. After all, we all prefer straightforward rudeness to sly smooth-talking opportunism. Irrespective of class – the honest should unite and fight this corrupt system. When judges and auditors join the corrupt band – the country is in for serious trouble. And skepticism is inevitable.

We are glad there are still people like Arundhati Roy and Prabir Ghosh – to name a few who are worth listening to.


The captains of industry who swindle people of their savings are the pillars of society. They support every political party and lord it over august organizations like the Federation of Indian Chamber of Commerce and Confederation of Indian Industry” … Sunanda K. Datta Ray

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