Neo – Nationalism is an individual’s ability to show utmost respect to the state & its rulers despite the latter’s inability to guarantee you free speech, space, right to dissent or question.
Nationalism is an addiction, a form of unabashed passion for sensationalism, propensity to whip up hysteria using the bogey of love for the nation as an instrument, a barometer, whose readings only few are able to understand & decode. No matter how many times such retrograde, self obsessive jingoism of self styled champions of Nationalism has been pronounced, dead, the idea finds its own unique means of rearing its head and gaining further trajectory over various forms of bigoted, bought out media outlets, besieging the political & social landscape by the throat. The drama & discourse become shriller in times of crisis or a national tragedy when the normal language too seems crooked & convoluted & if you chose to speak in any other language than what the hijacked sirens of the governing class ask you to follow, you are almost certain to be branded anti-national & even a traitor. This is what we essentially call Neo -nationalism, a dangerous double of a intolerant society.
Ironically, nationalism derives its power from the perceived message & sense of a love for the country or a collective good of the society. It is a way of tying all people together in pursuit of an imagined future, despite the inherent flaw in isolating the rationale & at the altar of liberty & free will. Its very credo is the idea of a nation is based on identity, rather than material principles. The idea that nationalism can be a neutral tool, used for good as well as bad, is a fantasy that has been tried and tested throughout history and almost always ended catastrophically. The argument against nationalism is both political and strategic. We don’t believe in valuing life on the basis of nationality, and so we cannot use that idea to achieve our end goals. Ultimately, we have to come up with other ways of attaching people to a common good and generating solidarity in a way that isn’t hostile to difference. It’s not easy, but it’s certainly not as hard as trying to shoehorn our principles of universality and equality into a concept built on the precise and exact opposite of those things.
Not many would have forgotten the tumult created by Advani’s ‘Secular Jinnah’ statement on his trip to Pakistan. It was then that the RSS think tank must have decided to cold shoulder the BJP patriarch who it thought had lost the plot for some strange reasons. From the moment those inglorious words were uttered, Mr. Advani has never shone on any platform till date. BJP till 2014, when Modi began a rearguard onslaught against the Gandhis & UPA, it had almost shed its radical image of Hindutva right wing party to a more nuanced, more acceptable soft Hindutva dispensation. It had hoped for an image makeover that wasn’t happening till Modi-Amit Shah combo gave a new definition to nationalism & Hindutva mixed together. Even though BJP reaffirms its belief in cultural nationalism and that India is not a politico-territorial state but a geo-cultural state, equating this with Israel & thus adding a new dimension to the ideology held by Sangh.
Contrast this with the values of India’s freedom movement and the principles of Indian constitution that describes India as a secular democracy, the Sangh combine projected that India is a Hindu Rashtra. It also brought forward the notion of cultural nationalism, the earlier version of which was Hindi, Hindu Hindustan just like the Muslim communal version of, Urdu-Muslim-Pakistan. These are both parallel but opposite concepts, mutually boosting each other. Cultural nationalism was contrasted to the notion of India as a nation state, as a geo political phenomenon, and carried the saffron flag as a symbol and Ram Gita and Acharyas as the central rallying cultural (religious) points.
Nobody ever believed in the concept of nation as a mix of one religion & its pluralistic cultural identity when both run parallel yet in symphony, defining the democratic values, ethos & secular standing of a nation. The notorious Hitler in & Mussolini in their heydays had usurped the internal democracy & had given more attention to the notions of cultural superiority of Aryans. This was propagated by both as ‘integral humanism’ for their vested political agenda. We all know where it took both the countries to. It wouldn’t be out of place to mention the praise, the founding member of the ideology of Hindutva, M.S. Golwalkar who had said that “to keep up the purity of the nation and its culture, Germany shocked the world by her purging the country of the Semitic races, the Jews. National pride at its highest has been manifested here. Germany has also shown how well neigh impossible it is for races and cultures, having differences to be assimilated into one united whole, a good lesson for us in India to learn and profit by (We or Our Nationhood Defined, p.27)”. It is no wonder also that Hitler found/finds a place of honour in the schools text book of BJP ruled Gujarat.
Curiously those elements that have little else to show on developmental front, they would try & use such a theory for electoral purposes at the cost of more serious economic and social issues. They would have an abysmal track record in to show in terms of social reform and the concept of rights of the marginalized, exploited, who are constantly pushed to the wall. Instead the favourite subjects would be and the ones’ related to dress code for women, the respect for clergy and god men, the promotion of religiosity and rituals etc. Notwithstanding the fact that some of the achievements so put forward by the establishment may cut some ice with the masses, yet the moot point pitched in political sphere is on matters of utmost emotional value for the nation.
Those who thrive on the ideology of cultural nationalism, the bread & butter issues, concerning affordable housing, healthcare, education, employment and farmer distress are akin to non – issues. These are merely used as lip service rhetoric as & when the situation demanded. It is this ideology of cultural nationalism (Muslim and Hindu both) that was exploited by the British & that finally resulted in partition of the country. Pakistan continues to bleed on all the fronts using cultural nationalism & its secondary & tertiary offshoots to foment terror. They haven’t learnt much from the Bangladesh debacle. Srilanka had its own share where similar politics played a crucial role in oppressing the Tamils leading to the rise of LTTE. In India though, it has reared its ugly head in stronger fashion than ever.