Getting Away With Murder in the Name of Nationalism

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The ruckus created by the ABVP activists at Ramjas College, in New Delhi on Wednesday. Credit: Jaideep Deo Bhanj/The Hindu
The ruckus created by the ABVP activists at Ramjas College, in New Delhi on Wednesday. Credit: Jaideep Deo Bhanj/The Hindu

The kind of discourse that is now being imposed on the people of this country through brute muscle power and abject violation of laws, it is difficult to imagine what would be construed as anti-national next. In this endless season of deepening madness, the Hindu right wing brigade, which does not believe in constitutional democracy, even as its constituent BJP has been elected to govern the country and protect and safeguard that constitution, should at least do the rest of the nation a favor: it should prepare an almanac of what it considers nationalism and anti-nationalism to let the rest know how they should behave.

ANURADHA BHASIN JAMWAL

[dropcap]G[/dropcap]eorge Orwell wrote of nationalism in his seminal essay ‘Notes on nationalism’ that, “it is the habit of assuming that human beings can be classified like insects and that whole blocks of millions or tens of millions of people can be confidently labelled ‘good’ or ‘bad’”. He also wrote about nationalism engendering “the habit of identifying oneself with a single nation or other unit, placing it beyond good and evil and recognizing no other duty than that of advancing its interests”.

Warning against confusing nationalism with patriotism, Orwell drew the significant distinction between the two. He called patriotism as devotion to a particular place and a particular way of life, which one believes to be the best in the world but has no wish to force on other people. “Patriotism is of its nature defensive, both militarily and culturally. Nationalism, on the other hand, is inseparable from the desire for power. The abiding purpose of every nationalist is to secure more power and more prestige, not for himself but for the nation or other unit in which he has chosen to sink his own individuality,” he summed up.

The problem with nationalism is that it allows the powerful, and that includes those with muscle power, to decide what is right for everybody else. This important demarcation between the meanings of the two terms ‘nationalism’ and ‘patriotism’ is getting more and more blurred as a jarring discourse of jingoism and ultra-nationalism is seeping into every sphere of Indian society, including its educational seats of learning where reasons, thinking and free speech is being forbidden, step by step, in pursuit of a national interest. A Left liberal leader rightly pointed out that it was getting difficult to recognize the country as democratic space is shrinking by the day.

Delhi University student and Kargil martyr's daughter, Gurmehar Kaur.
Delhi University student and Kargil martyr’s daughter, Gurmehar Kaur.

If there is method in this madness, then the ongoing happenings in Delhi University appear to be the second step of what happened in Central University Hyderabad, JNU and Jadavpur University last year. If slogans for ‘azadi’ provoked and enraged the self-proclaimed nationalists, this year mere criticism of ABVP became anti-national by virtue of the fact that the critics were the same people demanding either a discourse on Kashmir or end to wars. Quite deviously, an old video clipping selectively hand-picked with just one phrase ‘Pakistan did not kill my Dad, war did’ was picked up for circulation on the social media when 20-year old Delhi University student, Gurmehar Kaur, also daughter of army officer slain during the Kargil war, chose to take to similar video clippings to criticize hooliganism by ABVP on University campus.

Finance minister Arun Jaitley when questioned about threats, intimidations and thrashing of Delhi University’s Ramjas College students and teachers by goons of BJP’s student wing, ABVP, instead suggested there was need to debate the freedom of expression guaranteed by the Indian Constitution. On Friday, he again joined the issue proclaiming that ‘nationalism’ was being treated as a ‘bad word’ by those opposing this onslaught on freedom of expression by hooligans on the streets and universities. In Orwellian thought or Rabindranath Tagore’s world view, nationalism indeed is not a word eulogized. Jaitley’s assertions are an open proof that there is nothing praise-worthy about a sense of nationalism that allows the government to overlook serious onslaughts to constitutional laws by violent mobs and chain the very pursuit of the nation to engage with reason, liberal ideas and logic; but criticism of that hooliganism is construed as an unholy ‘anti-national act’.

If there is method in this madness, then the ongoing happenings in Delhi University appear to be the second step of what happened in Central University Hyderabad, JNU and Jadavpur University last year. If slogans for ‘azadi’ provoked and enraged the self-proclaimed nationalists, this year mere criticism of ABVP became anti-national by virtue of the fact that the critics were the same people demanding either a discourse on Kashmir or end to wars. Quite deviously, an old video clipping selectively hand-picked with just one phrase ‘Pakistan did not kill my Dad, war did’ was picked up for circulation on the social media when 20-year old Delhi University student, Gurmehar Kaur, also daughter of army officer slain during the Kargil war, chose to take to similar video clippings to criticize hooliganism by ABVP on University campus.

Instead of upholding the legal right of the girl in question to free speech and ensuring action against the serious threats she received for her comments, Minister of State for Home, Kirin Rjiju commented ‘who is polluting her mind?’ without even verifying the context in which Gurmehar made the anti-war comment, leave alone bother about why an old clipping had been propped up as a cover up for brazen hooliganism that is a cognizable offence under law. Such distortions are part of a nationalistic agenda where words, reasons, logic are considered threats to the nation and hooliganism, murderous assaults, intimidations and threats of raping women are deemed as actions that protect the nation; and where the government of the day endorses hooliganism either by its tacit silence or by asking counter questions. By this logic, one can be accused of anti-nationalism any time because at some point in their life they spoke against war or pleaded for human rights of Kashmiris, tribals or Dalits.

The kind of discourse that is now being imposed on the people of this country through brute muscle power and abject violation of laws, it is difficult to imagine what would be construed as anti-national next. In this endless season of deepening madness, the Hindu right wing brigade, which does not believe in constitutional democracy, even as its constituent BJP has been elected to govern the country and protect and safeguard that constitution, should at least do the rest of the nation a favor: it should prepare an almanac of what it considers nationalism and anti-nationalism to let the rest know how they should behave.

Instead of upholding the legal right of the girl in question to free speech and ensuring action against the serious threats she received for her comments, Minister of State for Home, Kirin Rjiju commented ‘who is polluting her mind?’ without even verifying the context in which Gurmehar made the anti-war comment, leave alone bother about why an old clipping had been propped up as a cover up for brazen hooliganism that is a cognizable offence under law. Such distortions are part of a nationalistic agenda where words, reasons, logic are considered threats to the nation and hooliganism, murderous assaults, intimidations and threats of raping women are deemed as actions that protect the nation; and where the government of the day endorses hooliganism either by its tacit silence or by asking counter questions.

With just a quick re-cap of some of the incidents across the length and breadth of the country in the last three years, one can hazard a guess what such an almanac could look like. Just for a sample: Holding the tricolor and singing Vande Mataram are hallmarks of nationalism. Beating up people for not singing the national song would be an act of ultra-nationalism. Pakistan bashing could earn rich points to be qualified as a nationalist. Preaching peace is anti-national and considered humiliation of soldiers guarding the borders or fighting ‘anti-national miscreants’ and terrorists, in conflict zones.

Eulogizing soldiers is an important qualification to become a nationalist. Asking questions about why these brave soldiers are not being fed enough food would be anti-national. Seeking answers to questions about why soldiers need to be positioned perpetually in conflict zones when peace processes could be initiated to resolve conflicts amounts to dishonoring their valor and thus by virtue of that is deemed an anti-national act. Beating up people for raising such questions is nationalistic achievement where as exercise of freedom of speech is sedition.

Criticizing Prime Minister Narendra Modi, his government and the entire Hindutva brigade is an anti-national act of the highest order. His government should not be questioned for its poor governance, lack of development, economic downslide and demonetization (even as it amounts to robbing people of their own money and new fiscal policies impose an extra burden on them through service charges for bank and digital transactions). Trolling women, intimidating them and threatening to rape them are nationalistic acts if they are aimed at teaching women, who are exercising freedom of speech, a lesson.

Those defending freedom of speech will be deemed as supporters of Afzal Guru, Ajmal Kasab and Yakub Memon and by virtue of that be seen as supporters of Pakistan, which at all times must be considered an Enemy. Condemning USA for Kansas killing is both nationalistic and anti-racist. But speaking against Dadri lynching and other beef related killings are not. Asking Hindus to turn their women into child-making factories or speaking about doing away with burial grounds is neither racist, nor anti-constitutional because these remarks are made in national interest.

Pseudo-seculars will not be allowed to call such purest forms of nationalism as racism (and don’t ask questions about what we mean by pseudo-seculars and whether we believe in real secularism or not). Violence perpetuated to protect and uphold nationalism will not be questioned. But if young boys pick up stones in Kashmir to fight the military repression in Kashmir, it would be construed as anti-national act because they raise the slogan of ‘azadi’ because words are more lethal than violent actions, even pellet guns that kill, maim and blind people. Dalits and their supporters will be deemed as anti-nationals for raking up caste based politics and no questions will be asked about their oppression which is legitimized by Manusmriti.

This is just part of a possible Hindu right wing manual guide on nationalism, if it were to be written down. Ooops! I just breathed. Would that go down as an anti-national act as well? It is difficult to rule that out. In a country where lumpen elements are turned into an extra-constitutional force to beat-up, threaten and brow-beat the rest, and where government decides to maintain silence over the brazen acts of violence of such brigades or to questions public seek about moral and ethical propriety with respect to governance policies, might would be right. There could be no guarantee that one could escape unscathed even if the almanac of nationalism were to be dutifully followed, in letter and spirit. Are we still unable to see the dangerous abyss this discourse of nationalism is pushing the country to?

theclarionindia
theclarionindiahttps://clarionindia.net
Clarion India - News, Views and Insights about Indian Muslims, Dalits, Minorities, Women and Other Marginalised and Dispossessed Communities.

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