BEYOND NATIONALISM

BY SUNIL DANG

When Pt. Jawaharlal Nehru first described the slogan “Bharat mata Ki Jai’ in his Discovery of India, he wrote that Bharat Mata was essentially the people of India and victory to her meant victory to the people of India. It was he who led us to adopt an inclusive and democratic Constitution. That was preceded by the most momentous occasion in history when he presided over the first coalition Government of Independent India that had all sections of society & all shades of political divide constituting the said formation including the right wing Hindu leaders as well as leftists. This was followed by a bold experiment by way of a constitution that re-shaped a historically in – egalitarian society into an inclusive and democratic State where everyone could have a place of honor and dignity without sacrificing one’s individual identity.

Cut to the current times & we wonder if any of this is either been preserved or respected enough for our Bharat to move forward without any hiccups. The new slogan is a sort of identity paradingthat has potentially damaged the very essence of the Victory‘we the people of India’ had over casteism, inequality, poverty & discrimination.  How does it matter more to the respect & love for the country if someone chose not to utter the words & that too if he or she has to be coerced? If raised every day, it may well leave most people wondering why it should be raised in the first place. It may well sound appropriate & befitting if we all said so when we beat the enemy in his own den? But would it mean the same if we were raise it before watching a movie or having an important business meeting?

The BJP’s consistent attempts to define a nationalist as one who will say ‘Bharat Mata ki Jai’ is a gross distortion of history. Moreover, when religion is used to construct this national identity, then religion is politicized into an “ideology” and vice versa and nationalism is cast into a “religion”. This entanglement of religion and politics inevitably becomes explosive, as religion becomes fundamentalist and exclusive; and politics becomes extremist and violent. No religious tradition has been an exception to such political manipulation; even those purported to be tolerant and non-violent. Only the expression of the violence varies.

While claiming full rights & respects of all citizens, BJP has in its political practice throughout the years demonstrated that its version of Hindu nationalism, often clashes with generally acknowledged features of Indiandemocracyespecially minority rights. Hindu nationalism is ideologically acombination of nationalism & religion. If Nationalism means ‘Bharat Mata ki jai’ alone, then most of the leaders ever since India won its independence in 1947, have been proud nationalists.

What this means exactly is a tricky business, for no one text or organization can lay claim to Hinduism. Likewise with Hindu nationalism, a political ideology that is expressed differently by a variety of groups which share little more than a family resemblance. We have seen a tendency in the recent times that the charge of ‘anti-nationalism’ has been applied to those who allegedly shouted slogans expressing dissenting views. Anything constituting a contrarian view or speech is labeled seditious.

Frankly speaking, I wish to ask, if India needs any of this. What we may actually need is power to all, liberty, right to free education, healthcare, good governance, roads, jobs, equality etc. Aren’t we constricting our view & vision by resorting to jingoism & populism? Who does this any benefit?  Political parties, I am afraid are limiting their horizons. They are certainly missing the wood for the trees. For India of 2019 has changed beyond their imaginations.