Now it is a time for testing who is a nationalist. Your love for the nation may not be important. To show love, you need to participate in a referendum on a daily basis to establish you are a nationalist. The test of your nationalism is not your love for the Constitution of India, or your soil, your climate, your rivers, your mountains, your country’s geographical boundaries, or your concern for poverty and illiteracy. The test is whether you practise “yoga”, you utter “Bharat Mata Ki Jai” or whether you have stayed away from “beef” or not.
It is like if you are a Muslim and you have a wife, you keep her in a Burqa against her wishes while walking on the street. The lady cannot protest because it flows from religion while forgetting the constitutional guarantee in favour of a woman. If you don’t touch the feet of your parents, can you be presumed not to have respect for them? Today, we have reduced our concept of nationalism to this extent.
Is there any Muslim, Sikh or Christian who says he does not believe in the Indian Constitution, Indian Courts and the legislature? If yes, certainly there is an issue and he needs to be treated appropriately. However if somebody while retaining such a belief says that he would disagree with the way the custodians of the Constitution, Judges or legislature function, would that also be an issue of nationalism? Not if you are a sane person, but perhaps in the present circumstances.
The campaign for nationalism is not only a unique component to create class segregation but also a method to put certain sections of society on the defensive mode while dividing the countrymen. It is one of the elements of a larger edifice of prejudices and bias propounded by the school of hardliners to create emotive issues and keep the minds of the masses engaged. These issues reflect an appeal to others to strengthen the prejudices and biases against a large section of the population. Is it not true that sloganeering, inspired by a religious view point and embellished with unlimited emotions has always created a divide amongst countrymen?
Probably due to prejudices arising out of the rule in pre-independence India, many of us in post-independent India have manufactured various issues to prove that non-followers of Hindu religion cannot be true Indians. The issues of mosques, churches, beef etc. Were part of an initial agenda and thereafter it became terror, Love Jihad, Ghar Wapsi etc. Now all these are applied to test the level of love that one has for the nation. We have seen how the issue of organized crime was understood as terrorism and the onus was put on members of a community at large to prove that they are not terrorists. At the same time, the irony is that in majority of the cases registered for terror activities, Muslim youth of the country, who were made to face terror charges, had to be acquitted because the prosecuting agencies had no evidence against them. Why is there no debate on nationalism to find out who attacked the nation in those cases? Why is there no discussion about why young boys, citizens of the nation, were kept behind bars against the constitutional guarantee for their protection when there was no evidence against them? These boys still believed in the courts system and the Constitution. In my view, they are stronger nationalists and they have stronger love for the nation. But certainly this issue of terrorism was sold very well to create hate against a particular community, and the sufferer was the ‘community’.
A large chunk of our population does not realize the consequences that we face today due to the action arising out of emotional exploitation that led to the demolition at Ayodhya in 1992. The present debate on ‘Nationalism’, promoted through propaganda, shall probably unite the youth to hate a large section of the population, including tribals and they shall be able to project them as anti-nationals. This would ultimately damage the social fabric and the notion of a nation.
Hitler’s understanding was that “the broad masses of population are more amenable to appeal of rhetoric than any other force” and he used emotion “for the many and reserved reasons for the few”. The rhetoric we face now in India is of a piece with such thinking.
This article appeared in the Print Edition of The Statesman on 31st March, 2016