Nationalism Is Not About India, It Is About Nationalists

Posted by Nikhil Kumar
February 26, 2017

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The ABVP created an unnecessary ruckus at Ramjas College last week. This reminded me of their actions last spring when they descended on JNU campus over a controversial event. Their main claim was and is of anti-national activity in college and university campuses. So let us examine their nationalism.

They believe in their vision of nationalism as an indisputable feature that every Indian should possess, expressed through submission to symbols of authority and through the need to silence every voice of dissent. This, they see as an inevitable inalterable prerequisite of a nationalist. Their issue is not, I think, with the betrayal of India – of which they would the foremost culprit – but rather with the non-acceptance of their monolithic conception of India that has found voice in these outspoken groups of students.

They make no claim to their humanity but only their glorified nationalism – the greatest and the most magnanimous to ever exist – standing between a pure civilization and its enemies which includes its critics. And in their exceptionality, they ask of us to accept their claims at face value and inquire too much, to never think critically. The tragic belief in the incompatibility of dissent and love for nation depicts a deep, enduring trait that can disorganize our society.

They deify nationalism in a way that it pardons its many heresies – the riots, the murders, the violence, the incivility. They consider their nationalism to God’s own handiwork but their violence is the clearest evidence that it is a twisted work of their own making. The proclaimed untouchability of their nationalism is not in their power of reason or even some sacrosanct belief. It is rather in the duty to crack knees, ribs and arms. It is in their assumed right to shut others up and abuse their way into establishing their righteousness.

The elevation of the belief of being the only nationalist was not achieved through just the superficial show of submissions but by active perpetuation of violence against students, professors and journalists. The label of anti-nationalist is neither an error nor a disease but a correct intended result of our institutional policy that creates polar opposites and fosters them in isolation. The sedition law is just an excuse, for furthering the assault on a body. Rather than achieving its supposed good intention, it has succeeded in something much darker.

The police has been empowered by the state with the authority to let loose on the bodies of young students, even if it is an overreaction, even if it is a misunderstanding, even if it is foolish. Today if you voice your dissent with anything that the government does, you can be termed anti-national. You can be arrested – Guilty until proven innocent. I was appalled that a few students had become such a ‘threat’ to India that it can only be protected by the arm of criminal ‘justice’.

This has further emboldened them. If it were possible, I don’t think they would cut through the eyes of the protesters or destroy them through their words. They, still, would insist on the spectacle of beating up these ‘anti-nationalists’ – that’s were lies their true banality, their exceptionalism, their originality, their inviolable glory and yes, their powerlessness.

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