By Azra Qaisar:
The season of college fests has begun. And this year, a patriotic fervour seems to have gripped the season. Strangely, IIT Kanpur invited Major General GD Bakshi and Markandey Katju to speak at their annual cultural fest. While ‘casual sexism’ has always been a part of the fest culture across universities, patriotism bordering on jingoism is the new trend this year.
IIT Delhi saw something similar happening in this regard on October 22. The ProNite at IIT Delhi Rendezvous’ 16 featured the popular Indian music band – Euphoria. The concert began with the video of a new song by the band – ‘Halla Bol’, which talks about azadi (freedom). The term azadi has become a much used term after the February 9 row in JNU this year. While the song itself appears to be a commentary on various issues that are affecting the country currently, interestingly student politics also seems to be represented as one of them.
Euphoria is a band that has been creating music for more than 20 years, and it was no surprise that a huge number of people gathered for their performance at the Open Air Theatre at IIT Delhi. The performance began with Palash Sen, the lead singer of the band asking the crowd to chant “Bharat mata ki jai.” Speaking from the perspective of someone who has attended one of Euphoria’s shows before, this seemed different and perhaps uncalled for in a college fest. What followed next was a declaration that this concert was being dedicated to the Indian army “standing at the borders.” The screen flashed images of the Indian flag. He ended his introduction by derogatory hand gestures towards Pakistan, and the crowd cheered.
Many would say that there is no problem in any of the aforementioned activities. These are perhaps perfectly normal activities that any patriot would carry out, but here’s the problem. Why has this not happened before and why is it happening now? The socio-political conditions in the country have laid the groundwork for such statements. Patriotism is no longer mere love for the nation – it is being conflated with jingoism. Euphoria made this statement knowing well that this was a crowd comprising of young people. The statement was not needed at the beginning of a music concert. It was not necessary because the situation did not demand it. It was also not needed because as much as it is important to love one’s nation, it is also important to not express that love to make a point.
These statements come at a time when relations between India and Pakistan are already tense. The entertainment industry is running into many troubles because of employing Pakistani artists. If examined in the context of this situation, Euphoria’s statements could then translate into a political stand – that a pertinent musical group stands with the army, is not friendly towards Pakistan while many others in the industry feel differently.
It is also important to understand this within the context of the past one and a half years, when campuses across India have been in the news for taking political stands – be it JNU, HCU, or FTII – however, they have received their share of criticism for doing so. Universities live under a facade of being apolitical, and the proponents of this facade discourage political activities among students. However, statements made by Palash Sen in his performance were also political and made on a college campus but are deemed perfectly acceptable.
In my opinion, it is a disturbing trend and it remains to be seen if this patriotic jingoism continues to be a recurring theme in the upcoming college festivals in the country.