By Manoj Kurbet:
The discourse on nationalism in India mainly revolves around two concepts: Hindutva and anything other than Hindutva. I would like to clarify my stand at the outset. I am against the construct of nationalism that the right-wing Hindutva radical forces subscribe to and would defend and fight for the diversity this country stands for. This form of nationalism is shaped by an identity that is Hindu and organisations who subscribe to this identity have defined various physical attributes and geographical territories for forming a nation based on that identity.
Now that many have debated and have showed, and I too believe, that this is detrimental to our country, what has not been talked much is the nationalism in Kashmir, in Tamil Nadu, Nagaland, Manipur. What is the basis for such arguments? Is it about religion? Is it about language? Is it about ethnicity? Is it about the subjugation or humiliation they face from the rest of India? What is it? Why do they want to form a new nation?
Now, there are two sets of people who support such ideas. One that does not believe in the idea of a nation, a country. Their belief is in the utopian idea of humanity without borders etc. For them, be it India or Kashmir or Pakistan, it doesn’t matter. The other set comprises those who believe in the idea of ‘nation’ and are convinced by the justification the separatists are providing but oppose it to the Hindutva idea of nation. This amounts to a double standard.
First, my question is to those from the second group. Are these claims to a new nation any different from that of right-wing Hindutva ideology of the nation in principle? Are such claims justified?
And now, a question for the first group. Why is it that the arguments of Kashmiris or Nagas or Tamilians for a homogenous nation state accepted and seen as their right to dissent, while those who subscribe to a Hindutva ideology and want India to be a homogenous country using religion as their parameter are made demons and condemned for diluting and destroying the diversity of India?
Each group has its own idea of ‘nation’. I am of the opinion that if one supports the idea of new nations then they should also be open to an idea of a Hindutva nation else it becomes hypocritically selective. Is the onus of preserving the diversity of India only on one set of people? The plurality of this country remains only when Kashmiris, the Nagas, Tamilians, tribals, people of all faiths/ atheists remain under the present definition of India. Else, there is no India at all! Be it Hindutva or anything else, it affects the nation and dissolves the country we call India and is not justified.
In a more liberal sense, let’s assume that there is a genuine need for creating new nations owing to various historical, political reasons. Then we would have a situation wherein India might have to be divided into its earlier famous figure of 565, the number of princely states in British India. Each of those 565, or more, would have their own stories and justifications to give. It would be ethically wrong to grant nationhood to only a few of them only because they have for a certain number of years been demanding nationhood and have created an arms resistance. Weighing the rationale of each of those 565 would be an absolute blunder. Where and how would this dismantling stop?
Now, for the people who think that the world should be without borders, I would like to say that no physical lines on the map can restrict humanity. But we can’t treat ideas of nationalism as farce and waste inspired by the writings of a minuscule literary and artistic elite. The military, the armies according to them are a burden and hindrances to such utopian ideas. Being a firm believer in Hobbes’ theory, I do not see any such scenario wherein any country would demilitarise and open its border and expect its enemies, or friends for that matter, to follow suit. Though theoretically possible, I haven’t come across any such cases in the history of mankind. Boundaries have always existed. Armies have always existed.
Hence, it’s very unlikely that this utopian idea is practical in any imaginable future. Now, on the current issue, groups who subscribe to this belief are often found supporting separatist sentiments. Then, doesn’t this contradict their own stance of no national boundaries. Again double standards! Moreover, on real-time burning issues like that of the violent Jat agitation, how would a demilitarised, anarchist state handle it?
PS: Yes, for some it has become fashionable to call some people as ‘prestitutes’, or to call themselves as ‘anti-nationals’ and to brand anyone who differs with their ideology as ‘bhakts’. Yes, I am a proud bhakt. But, mind you, I am not a bhakt of a party or ideology unlike you. Neither am I a bhakt of any individual personality. I am a bhakt of this country India and I need not shy away or hesitate in saying that. More importantly, I don’t have to prove my credentials and carry ‘red’ or ‘rashtravadi’ certificates.