Nationalism and Hypocrisy

The saffron establishment hasn’t yet reached the level of brutality that the fascists did, but slowly its politics has begun to unfold the notion that the logic of ‘nationalism’ means physical liquidation. The saffron family is in a hurry to saffronise every aspect of social interaction before the earthly reality goes against them in the next general election. They have raised the bogey of ‘national’ and ‘anti-national’ with a sinister design to divert public attention and pacify their corporate friends who are restless for not getting things done quickly. The saffron brigade has long been trying to define or redefine Indian nation with very little success because national consciousness is not really nationalism. How to homogenise Indian nation state with so many nationalities lacking the requisite parameters to foot the bill of a nation, continues to haunt academics and politicians with liberal leanings. But it is no problem for the saffronites, albeit they have no theoretical answer to the paradox of ‘nationalism sans nation’.

Strangely enough, in this ‘nationalism sans nation’ scenario, Marxists are pathetically absent as if they have nothing in their Marxism to counter the saffron concept of nationalism in a situation where nation-building itself is a dilemma. Marxists of all hues just criticise Golwalkar and other saffron ideologues in the light of agit-propaganda and liberal democracy. But democracy without dissent is hypocrisy—plain and simple. For one thing the first president of independent India Rajendra Prasad quoted extensively from Stalin’s ‘National Question’ while refuting the idea of religion-based two nation theory in his ’India Divided’. In truth he was assigned the job of demolishing the concept of religion-based nation state and nationalism, by the Congress Party. For reasons best known to the top leadership of Congress, Rajendra Prasad’s excellent book ‘India Divided’, where he painstakingly analysed the uniqueness of Indian society against the backdrop of its plurality, diversity and tolerance, was never popularised. It is quite possible that 21st century Gandhians don’t know the existence of such a book at a time when any expression of nationalism is charged with religious fervour. Maybe many Congress leaders who fanatically practise hindu rituals in their daily life, are not totally averse to what the saffronites are trying to impose in the name of patriotism and nationalism.

The former Soviet Union collapsed for reasons other than socialism. The artificial integration of a large number of nationalities, including dozens of ethnic entities, didn’t make them a great ‘Soviet Nation’ overnight. In other words a crisis of national consciousness had all along been there. The emergence of a large number of independent nation states after the demise of Soviet Union was not that complex—in a sense smooth transition took place—because suppressed political aspirations of nationalities that were not Russian spiritually and culturally remained unaddressed in the Soviet Union framework. In those days the Chinese used to describe Soviet Union as a prison house of nationalities. It’s the irony of history that China itself seems to have earned that dubious distinction of being called a big prison house of national and ethnic minorities. Tibetans are still Tibetans in spirit and outlook, not Chinese, despite the fact that citizens from the Tibet Autonomous Region of mainland China carry Chinese passport.

Allegations against JNU students shouting pro-Pakistan slogans are motivated. As the saffron club’s nationalism revolves around Pakistan-bashing it is the easiest way to silence voice of dissent by dubbing anybody pro-Pakistan. What is ‘anti-national’ in JNU campus is not ‘anti-national’ in the Kashmir valley. If raising mere slogans makes one anti-national and separatist, then the entire Kashmir valley will face sedition charges. ‘‘In Kashmir raising anti-national (anti-Indian) slogans is normal. Such slogans cannot and will not divide the country’’. That was Farooq Abdullah, former Jammu and Kashmir chief minister. In other words they admit that Kashmir is different from any other part of India.

Without the mean little techniques of cultural denigration, marginalisation and limitation that operate throughout India against the under-privileged at societal level and now even in democratic institutions, the more obvious vulgarities of the saffron right would be impossible.

The point at issue is that sedition law is itself a legacy of colonial hang-over. They cannot explain why they need an obnoxious law like this in independent India. Those who would like to preserve and apply colonial legislations are no less anti-national by their own standards. The definition of Sedition law is so wide that ‘‘half of the parties of the country will be anti-national if there is a ban on speaking against the government’’. What is urgently needed is a thorough-going review of the Law by the Law Commission to get rid of this colonial legacy. A simple facebook post can land someone in jail under this Law. A total of 47 cases under the Sedition Law were reported in 2014, with the maximum number of 28 arrests in Bihar followed by Jharkhand and Orissa.
The way the police establishment has begun witch-hunting in universities and institutions of higher learning borders on emergency.

Students are the most sensitive section of society and they always take to streets against injustice and authoritarian tendencies, everywhere. They respond quickly to international issues that affect people globally. If they are not allowed to speak out, the very idea of nationalism, rather nation-building, as hawked by the saffronites will suffer. The essence of saffron offensive against students is to stop them from participating in active politics.

Gone are the days when students would remain satisfied with organising cultural functions only. It was student revolt that shook Europe in the sixties and produced a generation of future politicians. They even went to the extent of occupying university campuses, but they were not segregated as anti-national. And how students across the world galvanised anti-Vietnam war protest movements, to stand up against their own governments, is now history. Luckily they didn’t face sedition and anti-national changes by opposing war efforts of their own governments. Maybe, it is unthinkable in India because here anything against jingoism and prejudices against communalism and casteism is anti-national.

Vol. 48, No. 38, Mar 27 - Apr 2, 2016