Congratulations to the BJP on completing two years of being in the Centre.
The saffron party leaders think they have good reason to be pleased with themselves. Apart from achhe din and lambi raat, in random order, they built Gatiman Express- a train slightly faster than Shatabdi Express- but forgot to build a temple they promised, chose to ignore their promise of building the tallest statue in the world and got the PM to deliver one speech every 1.9 day.
So is the celebration about one of the worst ever droughts, hitting a large swathe of the country with 3000 deaths in Marathwada region of Maharashtra alone? Or it could be about sixth straight fortnightly hike in diesel prices when there’s been continuous slump in international market. Or probably about the value of rupee hitting continuous lows- lowest in 2 1/2 years. And the list of government’s utter failures is endless.
The song and dance over Narendra Modi completing two years in office aside, the crowning glory of Sangh Parivar and their creations remains the ‘nationalist’; he or she of the cow, Vande Mataram, Bhagwa Dhwaj, Bharat Mata ki jai, naked display of fire-arms and combat trainings.
Surprisingly we didn’t see many takers for the national anthem. I wonder why!
I guess the reason is its author, Rabindranath Tagore, who even though wrote the national anthems for two countries, is never regarded as a champion of nationalism.
In all their brazenness, the Sangh brains know it too well that Tagore would have scoffed at their attempts to use his creation to incite a feeling he truly abhorred.
He wouldn’t stand the idea of a world fragmented by narrow domestic walls. He would have shuddered at how the BJP and its ideological affiliates want the clear stream of reason to lose its way into the dreary desert sand of dead habit, they call culture and tradition.
After all, what is a nation, to which these nationalists owe allegiance to, but an ‘imagined community’ like Benedict Anderson defined it. Where a nation tries to group people on the basis of language, culture, tradition or history, India is many nations come together; each unit unique in itself and yet together, as in a beautiful painting. And to create one nation out of a country like India would be to splash black on its colours.
Tagore equated nationalism with Imperialism where the West attempted to bring more and more slave countries under one homogeneous unit. He rightly questioned why we should ape the West. Don’t we have our own concept of Vasudeva Kutumbakam, where the whole world is our family?
Tagore was so ahead of his times that if he had been around, he would have been thrown out of the Times Now Studio by some frothing-at-the mouth blabber-box on charges of being anti-national.
Tagore preferred humanity over nationalism. Because while humanity tries to include more and more people, nationalism excludes. As of date, all beef – eaters, people who don’t say BMKJ, JNU supporters, who don’t practice Yoga, who don’t want to learn Sanskrit, who speak against the PM, who speak against any wrong done by the army, who speak against Ramdev, who question the authenticity of the Batla house encounter, who speak against Sri Sri, have been termed anti-national. And the list of exclusion is just growing.
Tagore’s protagonist Nikhil from his “The home and the world” has almost sprung to life today. Nikhil would still have been unpopular because he does not join in the chanting crowd as he confesses “I am not running amuck (amok) crying Vande Mataram.” In light of this, the administration would have still branded him a trouble – maker.
Tagore called nationalism a disease which could eat away the country from inside out. Why? Because like the Spartan song “We are what you were; we will be what you are”, nationalism seeks to look back, treating the past as an acceptable ideal rather than look into the future and go forward. What else can explain this new – found love for Vedic science and Sanskrit? Being proud about your history is one thing, living in the past is another. There is a reason why the rear view mirror is smaller than the windshield. You are meant to check your back from time to time, but you can’t drive ahead without your eyes looking ahead.
Ernest Gellner made a comparable point by stating that ‘Nationalism is not the awakening of nations to self-consciousness: it invents nations where they do not exist.’ And this Nationalist rewrites history, to suit his own version of nation. In this nation, there is no place for contrarian voices, no matter how tall. Akbar is an aberration and so is Nehru.
What this nationalist doesn’t quite get, is that India that is Bharat was created long before the names India and Bharat were coined. It was created by mythology and history, the invader and the invaded, the friend and the foe, the mighty and the helpless, the believer and the non-believer, the religious and the agnostic, the questioner and the questioned; You take one piece out of this jigsaw and the picture would not be complete.
When we speak about nationalism, how can we forget Dr Bhimrao Ambedkar who said ” Unfortunately for the minorities in India, Indian Nationalism has developed a new doctrine which may be called the Divine Right of the majority to rule over the minorities according to the wishes of the majority. Any claim for the sharing of power by minority is called communalism while monopolizing of the whole power by the majority is called Nationalism.”
That is how nationalists like terror accused Sadhvi Pragya and the murder accused Gujarat IPS officer DG Vanzara are given a long rope while young Muslim boys are masqueraded in front of the media as terrorists and then are set free without even an apology.
This nationalism is what created the good terrorists for our neighbour; who ended up slaughtering their own children.
This brand of nationalism creates heroes out of scoundrels. Much like patriotism, it becomes the last resort of criminals who can wash away all their sins in this Ganges of nationalism. Because it can accord honour to the lout, the goonda, the thug, the chain snatcher, the rapist, the dalal, the jobless, the frustrated and the failed, the jail bird, the fixer; it gives them the opportunity to do exactly what they were trained to do and yet, instead of slinking and disappearing in the quicksand of ignominy, here, they get a chance at heroism and maybe even martyrdom.
It’s not surprising that politicians love nationalism because they need exactly such people to bribe and terrorise the voter and ensure he or she turns up to vote. And once the elections are over, to use them for marches and rallies and in delivering threats. Once a party has recruited a parallel army of such people, it is ready to face elections with a force multiplier. Look at the Bajrang Dal giving arms training, the Gau seva groups terrorising meat dealers and every Ram, Shyam and Ghanshyam claiming to be the custodian of our asmita.
Tagore and Gandhi had their differences, but still Tagore called Gandhi, the Mahatma and Gandhi named the poet, Gurudev. That is where the seeds of democracy were sown, not of this demon called nationalism which attempts to devour each voice contrary to its own; in TV studios, in colleges, in cinema theaters, on the streets.
Today, the power is in the hands of the BJP, which is ruling the roost. Drunk in its own power, it probably doesn’t remember what Tagore concluded in “The sunset of the century” that “know that what is huge is not great and pride is not everlasting.” Tagore is not around but his words are. Every time the PM stands to the tune of Jana Gana Mana, I hope he remembers what Tagore stood for.
Celine Mary is a social media activist based in Doha and is working as an IT consultant. Views expressed here are the author’s own and jantakareporter.com doesn’t subscribe to them.