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How The Latest Cult Of Nationalism Threatens India’s Social Fabric

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By Ananya Barua:

“In spite of our great difficulty, however, India has done something. She has tried to make an adjustment of races, to acknowledge the real differences between them where these exist, and yet seek for some basis of unity.” — Rabindranath Tagore (Nationalism in India)

‘Unity in diversity’, ‘cultural, religious and linguistic plurality’ all sum up to the tentative patronage of the illustrious secularism. And, haven’t we all at some point of time, loved to vouch for that? Well, I have. Since the initial days of my submission to institutionalisation, I have grown up believing that my country is indeed unique and unparalleled due to its exceptional ‘inclusive attitude’, and heterogeneity. A part of my heart still wants to believe so. However, the contemporary times force me to differ.

mohan bhagwat.

It is indeed this cult of nationalism that forces me to differ. But, I apologise for this detraction to an emotional and personal account while firmly believing that this agenda of secularism and nationalism is deeply inherent in both personal and public perspectives. To sweep off this ambiguity clouding the discussion, one needs to understand the very meaning of nationalism and why, despite its much acclaimed fame in India, both in the past and the present, the term still feels utterly foreign in both meaning and practice.

By definition, nationalism is indeed a belief, a faith or a political ideology that helps an individual to identify with his or her fellow individuals with respect to a single nation or country bound by its territorial restraints, a common language, culture and religion, to unleash the divaricated feeling of patriotism. So, here comes my question: Can a country endowed with such diversified identity be captured within the ‘singular’ restrains of Nationalism? And, if so, then will there not be an involuntary emergence of a particular caste, religion, language or culture into dominance while the rest is hidden behind the repression? And this phenomenon of cultural, religious or linguistic superiority of one over the rest has sadly been predominant in India despite its much eulogised declaration of Secularism. The status of adjustment of different races and religions on the same land, as mentioned by Tagore in the above quote, is but fading away. This is due to the overpowering influence of one over the other, and the urge to establish one’s unique and ‘separate identity’ midst the assemblage. And this practice is actually a product of the philosophy of nationalism, one that is extensively a Western concept, where such diversity as that of India is a rare sight.

It is then this widespread communal and cultural prejudice that is inflicting a deepening ‘wound’ to Indian secularism. The idea of having one nation, through one language, one culture and religion is not what India stands for. In practice, however, it’s just the opposite, as in the cases of rampant communal riots stemming out of religious prejudice (mostly Hindu-Muslim scrimmage); the 2002 Gujarat riots or the 2013 Muzzaffarnagar riots being two of the prominent examples of the gruesome endeavour. This widening gulf between communities has been and is still being used as a political device in the power-struggle between the political parties. Creating political agendas based on religious feud, as that of the recent issue of building a ‘grand Ram temple’ in Ayodhya, is being revisited, one which was included in the BJP manifesto. RSS Joint General-Secretary Dattatreya Hosabale says: “Ram Temple is in agenda of the country, it’s in national interest. We had been supporting VHP and religious leaders on the issue of construction of Ram temple.” My question here is – how does an issue with predominance of Hindu sentiment become a ‘national’ issue in a country which is a religious pot-pourri, embracing within its boundaries, Muslims, Christians, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis and other indigenous creed, on the same plane?

However, the attack on India’s pluralism and secularism does not end there. The recent hype regarding the implementation of Vedic mathematics in the school curriculum to enhance the hegemony of the Hindu ideology, roughly termed as the Hindutva, is one doing rounds at the debates. Furthermore, the renaming of Teacher’s Day as Guru Utsav by the BJP, or rather Modi’s government, despite much criticism, has been wholly a product of the idea of the Hindutva ideology. These ensure the linguistic dominance of Hindi as a language in a country where almost 25% of the population speak Dravidian languages. Therefore, this culture of inculcating Hindi or the root language, Sanskrit, into the Indian perspective, while ignoring the other predominantly spoken languages, is but an outrageous attempt of linguistic discrimination.

To add to this plight of lingo-war, Tamil Nadu former Chief Minister Jayalalithaa lambasted the Centre’s circular to the universities in the southern state, of introducing Hindi, along with English, as the primary language at the graduate level. Terming it “unacceptable” and not “legal”, she took a step further in sensitizing the ages old Tamil-Sanskrit tussle, with her demand to the Centre and the Supreme Court to make Tamil the official language of the Madras High Court.

Howbeit, in a country with a perpetual breeding ground for racial, religious and cultural prejudice, communal riots or lingo-wars alone don’t stand out as the by-products of the ‘deliberate’ rotting of the country’s pluralism; the issue of bifurcation has also joined the league. By bifurcation, I mean the separation or partition of one state within the premises of India, to form another state, due to the cultural, linguistic or religious clash (along with other reasons, such as the exploitation of the minorities by the majorities) between two communities. And, several states have been subjected to this ‘tearing -apart’ phenomenon, like the bifurcation of Telangana from Andhra Pradesh, Jharkhand from Bihar, while Vidarbha from eastern Maharashtra, and Gorkhaland and Bodoland from the North-east are following. Separation of existing states into newer states on grounds of differing linguistic majority in a country with 122 official and more than 780 unofficial languages and over 2000 dialects, is indeed a dangerous affair. It not only inflicts a wound to the unity of the country above all diversity, it also ensures a fractured form of polity in the country. Just imagine, India with its existing 29 states and 7 union territories, already has a plethora of regional political parties contributing to the consequent instability both at the Centre and the states. A dozen more, as per the demands are coming up, especially those made by the letterhead organizations, can literally break the country into pieces while fragmenting the entire politics of the ‘nation’, India. If this goes on, it might just bring about the death of plurality, leading to the balkanization of India.

The subtle infiltration by non-secularist movements cropping up nationwide, in the guise of ‘Nationalism’, to enhance the country’s ‘Indian-ness’, is what jeopardizes the Indian unbiased plurality. Since the victory of BJP in the Indian General Elections, where they emerged out to be the first , after 1984 elections, to form the largest majority, the party devising the Modi wave has indeed rose out strong. Their recent victory in the Haryana and Maharashtra Legislative elections confirms so. And, this victory along with all its glitters, brings forth the haunting possibility of emanating Hindu influence, (not in terms of the religion only), all over the nation. The rising Hindu hegemony in the guise of establishment of ‘Indian-ness’ and the subsequent birth of other religious or linguistic hegemonies in protest of it (like the Tamil-hegemony), is what threatens India’s Secular Plurality. The future of an all-inclusive diverse India is indeed doubtful, provided the contemporary communal feuds incited by the political parties. Then, are we looking forward to an India, (or literally Hindu-stan) with one religion, one language, one culture and only a ‘single’ identity?

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  1. Nationalist

    Muzzafarnagar RIots too was incited by a muslim who raped a Hindu girl and when beaten up by hindu families for raping turned out with his entire rioting community to which they are given a befitting reply!! So you the writer of this story make a perfect analysis if not “Chullu bhar Pani mein Doob maro”

    1. Fiheon Imroze

      As expected Just Hatred…So why all muslims are accused for wrong deeds done by few pseudomuslims…as per our ethics the person will no longer remain a muslim if he does such heinous act..its punishment is death in islam.. and riot broke out by adding fuel to fire..if it was a fault of two then why the quarrel expanded into a riot…

    2. Indian By Birth

      Nationalist Bhai or Bahenjee:
      Muzzafarnagar riot was not started because of a rape incident. It was a case of eve- teasing of a Jat girl by Muslim boys. Jat boys beat up the Muslim youth to death. Please correct your facts.

  2. Veer

    Why are you guys so obsessed with BJP ?

    Owasi and his MIM, which thrives on hate speeches, won its first ever 2 seats in Maharashtra elections last week. They plan to enter into UP now. They are the same people who openly made fun of Hindu Goddesses and beliefs and boasted to eliminate entire Hindu population if given a free hand by police. Their hate speeches were so inflammatory that no channel could show them un censored and they had to be removed from youtube channels.

    My question is why dont you guys ever write something something on them ? Are you afraid of their terror ? Don’t you have the guts to speak against the rise of religious fanaticism on the their side ?
    Are you so blind and dumb that you fail to understand that such by isolating BJP in your criticism you are just helping religion based communal parties of the other color.

    I m not sanctioning the works of BJP or RSS here, but i am really pissed off by reading a dozen articles in this forum focussed on BJP/RSS and not a single on MIM rise /TMC bomb blasts etc.

    1. Fiheon Imroze

      Just hate speech of one person made you so angry and wat about daily comments made by right wing extremists. Because of that one speech you all are accusing every single Indian Muslim. Many heinous comments on our Prophet are made and many more. Just few speech you count always inspite of daily remarks made by right wing. What about Pune case,What about hate speeches in muzaffarnagar before LS polls. If you want to keep burning in Hatred, revenge for nothing and blame games May god forgive you. As per our ethics we are not allowed to take revenge…and whosoever takes it shall pay for it on Judgement day…

    2. Rajiv Singh

      The media persons only need to create chaos for earning reputation or say cheap publicity..

  3. Aditya Malpani

    You seem to suffer from the western(or eurocentric) mindset of nationalism that you fail to see it beyond the perspective of religious faith, belief, political ideology etc. That is what I felt after reading this article.

    Factually there are 22 official languages in India not 122. Also speakers of Dravidian languages were 205 million a/c to 2001 data and the population of India at that time was 1.071 billion making it to approx 19.1%(hope you don’t need vedic mathematics here)

    Now coming to other parts in this article, naming to teachers day as guru utsav seems nothing wrong as the meaning does not change. The naming was opposed only in southern states in India(and leftist parties, who have no job now-a-days). Its actually pains me to see that a foreign language takes precedence over so many Indian languages. we have varied languages and each Indian language must be respected. just that guru utsav naming cannot have any ulterior motive. Though conspiracy theory junta will think otherwise.
    Thinking about Dravidian use by you, it seems to me like an attempt to discriminate a/c to western views of India. As a nationalist I am totally against the views imposed systematically by european and american indologists/historians to undermine India.

    And again things come back to the old rant about hindu hegemony,influence etc. where what I see is all conspiracy theories which do not seem to have truth.

    And FYI read about how the word Hindu came up and the supreme court judgement on what Hindu and Hindutva means.


  4. Veer Vikrant Singh

    I don’t know how do you associate Nationalism with Godhra/ Muzaffarnagar but I never any issues arising with Americans, Iranians, Swedish etc finding themselves insecure by this collective identity. Rather I have always find a sense of pride in them being called by the identity of their nation. India, being a diverse country accommodating multiple religious beliefs and cultures, also faces the problem of regionalism and linguistic differences that time and again arise. I believe in order to strengthen the bond of oneness, the fabric of nationalism can be a possible thread to bring together all.
    Also your mindset possibly is influenced by the same ideology which has deviated some people, who were misguided by some false interpretation of marxist theory and lead them towards anti-nationalist pathways like naxalism. I request that being a responsible citizen , you should avoid propagating any false stance about a concept which was the core of our civilization and existence since thousands of years and also give it a though before you comment over the same.

  5. Gaurav

    writer has extremely poor understanding of nationalism, secularism, godhra/muzzaffarnagar riots, elections in maharashtra/haryana and other issues. the article is devoid of any logic or substance and betrays a pathetic understanding of the issues facing india. I have not seen such ignorance in any other individual. it has become a fashion to abuse your right to free speech and spew forth poison against your own nation. shame on such anti national writers.

  6. Pramathesh Borkotoky

    Hi Ananya,

    I am not a great supporter of BJP but I do believe that we don’t have any better choice. Please understand that India has a way strong foundation which will keep it getting stronger. Stop thinking like the west wants us to think. Be good to yourself and think about the good things that is in front of us. For the next 5 years, we will have the same government, so start thinking of something where you can make a change.

  7. Aditya Singh

    Don’t worry. Some form of nationalism and patriotism is necessary to motivate a large number of people and make them feel good. I think its benign. A large number of people don’t have any interest in religious conflicts.

  8. Ishan

    Going through the comments, It appears to be a fight between Hindus and Muslims.I believe India is a secular country and will remain to be one for long.The secularism is enshrined within the constitution of India specifically by article 25 to 29, where as most of the fundamental rights and duties also advocate secular character.

    Mr. Modi being from RSS background sincerely support the agenda of Hindutva which is against the secular interest of the nation. If Mr Modi is a righteous Prime Minister he must not give special interest only to Ram Mandir,Ganga, and various Hindu yatra and pilgrimage centers, Equivalent support must be given to Muslims, Sikhs, Buddhist and Jain centers.

    It seems Mr. Modi do not know that India was predominantly a Buddhist nation before Mughal invasion, whereas Jainism was the only other major religion of India. The point to be noted is “The constitution of India uses term Bharat considering the rich history of this Nation”, but Modi and RSS is highly interested to make it a Hindu-stan.

    Mr Modi and his govt is also playing the biggest gamble to suffice their own religious vested interests, religion seems to be taught as a History to the people of Gujrat, and this might soon follow in entire nation. The situation is grim because people who call themselves as a Hindu has no Idea who is a Hindu, when did it originate, how did it prosper, whom should they follow, why should they follow the one they follow? and I should not hide but even I was the one among them. It requires effort to know all such things and people are not interested to take such efforts.The irony is “we still want to advocate the thesis of Hindu”.
    Considering the situation prior to LS election and the possible results the book like “The Hindus” was pulped by penguin.

    It seems to me the article written by Ananya is quite logical and makes sense to all unbiased people of this nation.

    1. Gaurav

      india was a hindu nation for 10000 years, by questioning it or abusing it you are showing your ignorance and animosities and prejudices against hindus and everytime you ignore or plead ignorance you ensure that hindus wake up more exuberantly.

    2. Ishan Janbandhu

      If that is so you should be able to provide adequate proofs and facts for your statement that “India was a Hindu nation since last 10000 yrs”. I am more interested in finding the truth rather than allowing my sentiments to overpower me. I have gone through various books on Hinduism and only after analysis I put my statements. If one might know Ramayan and Mahabharat is written around 200 to 350 yrs after the Buddha as confirmed by carbon dating and the language used in the literature. It has been modified ever since then to suffice the interest of pujari Bhramans till the end of 6th century AD. The first and tenth part of text is added much later in around Gupta period. The Bhagwat Gita highly revered by all Hindus, has its source from Dhammapada as given by Buddha. To be honest all this is hard to digest when sentiments play its role, but for the seeker of truth own should first research to his highest potential and only then accept the truth by his own understanding or logical ability.


    3. Gaurav

      buddy the left wing academics have filled yourr plate with anti hindu rhetoric, but that does not negate the fact that india is one of the oldest civilisation, i am not an academic or an archeologist, so if you expect me to invite you to different sites in india which show how old our civilisation is then you are just showing your ignorance and prejudice. best of luck

    4. Ishan

      Indeed India is a very old civilization but that does not mean they were the follower of caste discrimination and Varna discrimination which finds the base of Hindus.To sight an example the Indus valley civilization were not divided into caste as it prevail today in modern India, the question of Varna does not come as it came only after the people of Prussia and groups from Iran settled in India, they named themselves Aryans, which according to Indians mean Noble ones then. Varna actually means the color. The whites from these areas called the original inhabitants as Shudra’s and there own society was divided into 3 groups. The modern version of this infiltration of olden era is Castism which is a special and inseperable character of Modern Hinduism. Those days It was first Mahavir then the Buddha who made the real scientific society of India without any discrimination of Varna system.Recently nearly all the saints from Kabir to Sai baba went against all kinds of discrimination. The highest of all the Constitution of India preserves anti discrimination and secularism, but RSS seems to teach religion as History thus developing tremendous ignorance in the society. This is more devastating than any attack by nuclear weapons. Yet I firmly believe that RSS will not be able to impart their non secular ideas even on Hindus.

    5. Ananya Barua

      I genuinely thank you for your comprehensive comment. The entire idea behind this article was to speak against the extremism practised in the name of religion, and on a broader perspective, in the guise of nationalism, and you seem to be aligned with that. Though the common outlook arising out of the comments, are mostly centred around accusing the article of being polarized against a specific religion or political party, despite it’s clear implications of being the opposite, your logical analysis of the contemporary situation, lends the article an extended voice.

    6. Ishan

      To be Honest Ananya your article makes sense. I am a supporter of Truth no matter what religion I got my birth with. Truth alone Triumphs which comes from Mundaka Upanishad is exactly what I believe.What you say is indeed what one can understand by his own logical interpretation on present situation as long as one remains unbiased.
      With writers like you I feel confident that malpractice and supremacy on the name of religion can be checked.

  9. Avi

    Same old shit here. We keep fighting until we die!

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