Tuesday, August 30, 2016

The Nationalism Charade

"Jingoism, racism, fear, religious fundamentalism: these are the ways of appealing to people if you’re trying to organize a mass base of support for policies that are really intended to crush them."

- Noam Chomsky

When the going gets tough, the tough gets going. At the end of its half term, the Narendra Modi Government may be still cruising steadily in perception, but in reality the people of India have lost faith in this Government. Rapid signs of disillusionment are being witnessed on ground, in conversations with people and in the nature of the discourse. To its credit (or discredit), the Bharatiya Janata Party is aggressively fighting this perception battle with 3 M’s – the management of the media, the management of events and the management of opinion. The economy is in crises, foreign policy is confusing, reforms are stagnant and governance is diminishing. Devoid of any ideas, to keep the momentum of perception, the BJP has now adopted ‘Nationalism’ as the primary tool to set the agenda of the discourse.

The Bharatiya Janata Party has embarked on a nationwide Tiranga Yatra. Union Ministers and MP's have criss-crossed the entire country, with party workers riding on bikes, many a time seriously violating road safety rules. These party workers, mostly RSS cadre who are accustomed to fly a Bhagva Jhanda (saffron flag) are flaunting large Tricolours shouting slogans of "Bharat Mata Ki Jai". These workers might not have ever imagined that this day would ever come in their lives when the BJP flag or the Sangh flag will be replaced by the National flag. After all their political ancestors always taught them that this was the India's flag was the 'Congress flag' which the Indian National Congress cunningly (sic) imposed on India. This is the reason why the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) never raised the National flag at its headquarters till 2002- precisely for 52 years after independence.

The Hindumahasabha (the original avatar of the RSS) despised the National Flag. Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel is on record that any challenge to the National Flag by the Hindutva Right wing elements will not be tolerated.

The RSS want to somehow impose its boxed bigoted ideology of Majoritarianism into the circular ideology of India and its people who believe in Inclusiveness. 

When the regressive statements of Hindutvavaadis didn’t cut any ice, when the RSS got encircled in the tolerance debate by majority of right thinking people of this country, when the likes of ‘Love Jihad’ failed, when attempts to foil a ‘National’ vs ‘Anti-National’ debate surrounding JNU and other universities failed, the Sangh Parivar is now latching on to this debate of Nationalism. 

Narendra Modi in his recent speech to party workers thundered that "No political party in India has sacrificed as much as the BJP"(sic) . He said that "Nationalists are with the BJP" and BJP stands for Nationalism. Nationalism is the political card which the BJP seems to be waiving these days. In reality, it is not Nationalism, but Jingoism. BJP wants to create a disquisition, wherein it is seen as the most strident political force on nation state issues. The PM’s uncalculated Baluchistan gambit is also an element to bind this discourse. All this is being planned and managed in order to escape the real questions of governance. 

However, the people of India are unperturbed. The common man on ground is more concerned about whether he will be able to earn for his family, provide them with basic daily needs and fight the daily battles of sustenance. Who cares about ‘Nationalism’? They worry about the Rs 200/kg Daal and the soaring prices of vegetables. They worry about the education of their children and whether they would be able to afford the medical bills of their parents. Their spirit of nationalism ends there. 

The BJP’s game plan does not end here. The Hindu Right has always been devoid of credible icons. In the past 30 years, no political party in India has been able to form a single party government at the centre. 2014 elections have provided this golden opportunity of a brute majority to the BJP. The BJP is exploiting this chance like no other. It is virtually robbing the Congress (known for its exemplary role in the Freedom Struggle) of its icons and of its legacy.

First they came for Sardar Patel, when they announced building of that mammoth statue in Gujarat. Then they came for Mahatma Gandhi. The way Gandhi ji is being potrayed in the Swachh Bharat campaign is for the world to see. 100 years of Gandhi ji's Champaran Satyagraha is being observed by the Government next year. Then they came for Babasaheb Ambedkar. The Dalit plank of the BJP might not be working because of the upper caste Hindutva hegemony prevalent in their rank and file, but the BJP is trying hard to appropriate Babasaheb and play the backwards card. Now they are even coming for Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru. They officially celebrated 125 birth anniversary of Nehru and the Tiranga Yatra even has banners carrying his portraits. In fact, the Government is also celebrating the 125 year Birth Anniversary of Khan Abdul Gaffar Khan (known as the frontier Gandhi) this year. History records all of them as Congressmen. Period. 

Jingoism is only one part of the reality. The other one is to instil fear at local level. Vigilantism has become the order of the day. It is not just limited to the menace of Gaurakshaks and the Bajrang Dal activists or the beef controversy; it has now reincarnated itself into every aspect of our lives. The nanny state is trying hard with its official and unofficial dictates’ – what should we eat, what should we wear, what should we see and even what should we speak. Those who do not conform to the state or its vigilantes are branded as ‘Anti-Nationals’. The recent cases of actress turned politician Divya Spandana, the proclamation by the Culture Minister on skirts and the Sanskari Censor Board’s antics are few of the hundreds of examples in which fear of the nanny state has entered in our lives. 

Two decades ago, the BJP adopted Religious Fundamentalism as its core ideology in the form of Ram Janmabhoomi Andolan; now when it has reaped the political benefits of the same; it has adopted Jingoism in the form of Nationalism and Fear to rule the masses. 

This is the unfortunate truth.