Anti-Nationalism: My Mistake And Yours

Posted by Ayush Shekhar in Society
March 9, 2017

“Nationalism is power-hunger tempered by self-deception.”

 – George Orwell

I pity the ‘Pakistani chaiwaala’ and all those who thought that he was Internet’s latest crush. They were all so wrong. The Internet, social media, and the world of journalism as a whole, along with a whole bunch of political and non-political forces, inside and outside India, found love, passion and profession, when on Feb 10, 2016, a major national news channel aired a video, in which a mob was allegedly seen chanting slogans, which were anti-India. This incident then set out a fire, which blazed through news channels, for weeks on and replaced, “Aaj mausam achha hai, nai!”, as the official small talk on our streets.

Yes, I say small talk, because most people who engaged in this nationalism debate, may never understand the meaning of it, leave alone, applying it in the context of real life events, and justifying actions and decisions based on it.

When you google nationalism, the following turns up:

Dictionary definition of Nationalism.

“An extreme form of patriotism marked by a feeling of superiority over other countries”

“Countries”, look closely and it still says “countries”, not ideologies.

In a diverse and culturally vibrant country like India, which houses all sorts of people, opinions are bound to clash and disagreements are the order of the day. That doesn’t mean that the opinions which do not fall under the self-satisfying convention are in any way wrong. Because wrong is a very subjective term. These are opinions a bunch of politically motivated individuals created to maintain their on screen time, at TRP oriented 9pm prime time debates, hosted by journalists who are more keen on establishing their vocal dominance rather than focussing on getting to the core of major issues and relating it on screen to inform their viewers, and not polarise them with an opinion “they” believe is right.

The JNU issue was exaggerated into something which framed a perception of “the seat of intellect” of our country, as some sort of “anti-national” warehouse in the minds of many, which is not just wrong, but miles away from reality, that too walking away in the opposite direction.

The government failed to handle it, as is clear from the multiple statements that the Hon’ble. Home Minister of India, gave, clearly pressing on the fact that Umar Khalid, the prime accused in the case, had connections in Pakistan, where he regularly pays a visit, while the man claims that he doesn’t even own a passport.

So was the minister indirectly trying to imply that the passenger system between India and Pakistan is compromised, or was he so irresponsible so as to make a public statement without any factual background?

He said that evidence was in order and a case was being prepared. Umar Khalid, Anirban Bhattacharya, and the former JNUSU president Kanhaiya Kumar were accused and arrested on grounds of sedition, but as of now, they have been given a clean chit, though the charges are yet to be dropped.

On February 21 and 22 this year, students in Ramjas College organised a conference on the “Culture of Protests” in which Umar Khalid was also invited as a speaker. Some members of the ABVP interfered and made an effort to close down the conference by chanting slogans like “Vande Mataram” and “Bharat Mata Ki Jai”, besides playing patriotic songs, just outside the venue for the conference. The situation escalated when they resorted to throwing stones, and misbehaved with students and professors. The next day, students of Ramjas College organized a march to protest against the suppression of free speech in their campus and universities, in and across the country.

The protest turned violent when ABVP members manhandled students, professors, media personnel and anyone and everyone was stamped as an anti-national.

Is this what we have become? A country of outrage and misinformed unjustified violence?

While the right-wing leaders and activists threaten to shoot “anti-nationals” on sight and continue to polarise the masses for political vantage, the left wing is trying to carve out, its own definition of nationalism, seasoning it with the spices of free-speech, and continue to spread their propaganda with a revamped vigour, after they have engaged in a, now routine cycle of self-victimisation.

Between blame games, narcissistic agendas and illogical and irrelevant headlines, there surfaced a video of a daughter of a Kargil Martyr, who stood up against ABVP and expressed her own opinion, stating that Pakistan didn’t kill her father, but war did. This video went viral online and gained prime time focus of mainstream media, when Virendra Sehwag, who, in response to her, posted an image on twitter which said, “I didn’t score two triple centuries, my bat did.” Blooming with sarcasm, this statement earned diverse reactions from people, both online and offline.

Now, let’s get the facts straight:

  1. Gurmehar Kaur, irrespective of her family background, is a mature and independent citizen of India, who willingly expressed her viewpoint in front of the world.
  2. Sehwag, irrespective of his celebrity status and stardom, is also, a free-minded, independent citizen of India, who said what he thought was correct.

Free speech, right?

But we, as people who are as volatile as alcohol, victimised Gurmehar Kaur, thereby setting aside the entire point and intent of the message she was trying to deliver, instead, the situation was transformed into a virtual battleground, accepting hate comments a wide variety of pointlessly aggressive perspectives and actions. Neither is she a victim, or an anti-national, nor is Sehwag some sort of tyrant reigning over harmless innocents, or some sort of nationalist messiah.

They are two people, who disagree. Period.

All of us continue to leave our discretion in the other room, while we cosily sit in front of our TV sets at 9pm every single night, and shout in phase with the violent news anchor, or judge people without a single shred of logic, ignorant of the fact that we are readily contributing towards defaming universities and institutes which have long been the centre and seat of intellect in our country.

While the meme market flourishes and troll culture thrives, what dies a slow and painful death, is rationality and logic. If we don’t stop now, like right now, we will have no option but to curse fate and regret because, the tradition of free thought and expression, which is a result of decades of hard work, will no longer be at our disposal.

We elect our government and leaders, but that doesn’t give them the right to dictate our thoughts, actions and our lives as a whole, or define how we go about expressions.

I am a patriot, and I believe in the spirit of my country, and I do not need the government, or the Supreme Court to remind me of my patriotism, and I for sure, don’t need to prove it.

Next time you hear someone speak baselessly about any of this, for practicality’s sake, correct them and let them know the facts. And remember, the whole point of a discussion or a debate is to be productive in the end and to bring about a change, not to spark another controversy or initiate a fight, aggravating into mass violence.

I hope that all of us will think practically, before sharing another junk of a meme.