Why India Needs To Be Wary Of Its New-Found Love For Nationalism

Posted by Sunit Bhattacharya in Politics, Society
June 17, 2017

In 2015, the whole country was introduced to the latest fashion of our age. In the month of September that year, an insignificant village of Bisara near Dadri in Uttar Pradesh made headlines when a person was attacked and killed by a mob. The reason projected for the said assault was consumption of beef. As everyone expected, the entire incident snowballed into a bitter controversy with each side in the political spectrum fighting for their share of publicity in the media. The infamous media on its part milked the cow and enjoyed soaring ratings. All sides were happy. The only people seriously affected by this chaos were the family members of Mohammad Akhlaq Saifi.

As the political battle raged, the family quietly left Dadri for an Indian Air Force zone in Delhi, where Akhlaq’s son Sartaj works as a corporal ranked technician. What followed this was a ridiculous discourse on nationalism, senseless comments by politicians looking for political profit and a clear attempt at polarizing the masses on communal lines by the media. This was just the initiation of a string of disgusting events that are still unfolding.

The term nation and state have clear distinctions in the literature of political science. A nation can be defined as a politico-cultural entity, which is identified by its unique character and collective rights. On the contrary, a state can be defined as a politico-judicial entity, which is identified by its sovereign rights. But over the last three years, as we have been showered with gifts of demonetization, corporate loan waivers and fund cuts in higher education, the line has slowly blurred between nation and state. The greatest gift from the government so far has probably been the State imposed nationalism. Over the last few months, it has become especially clear that the political environment of the nation is being fine-tuned to impose a strange hegemony over the people of the nation.

India has always been known for its diversity and pluralism. But the recent lynching events and the establishment’s attack on dissenting voices is a clear indicator that not everything is good and probably it is time to analyze the whole situation. Imposing a sense of nationalism through violence is probably the worst possible thing that can happen to a nation. Still, as the state with all its might has been continuously defining parameters on how to be a good Indian, it is evident that the blunders of the government are being cleverly masked by these rhetorics.

It is now an accepted fact that demonetization was a disaster for the economy and that there is a problem in the policies somewhere. No, one does not question the genuinely good things that have been done over the last three years. One questions the atmosphere of hate that is slowly developing. One questions the gross indifference of the state when it comes to reacting to the mob lynchings and the ridiculous violence of self-styled vigilante groups. One questions, why nationalism starts with the holy cow and ends at extreme dislike for dissent or rationality or just opinions.

The concept of a nation is based on the idea that several different kinds of people, with their individual views and opinions, amicably live in a specific geographical area. The people have their own choices and have different cultures. So, these attempts at imposition of hegemony, violent reaction to dissent and glorification of wrongs are surely not in the best interests of the nation. Also, it is possible that in this struggle for implementing the idea of “superiority”, the nation loses its democratic tricolor to a single fascist color of oppressive dominance.

Maybe the gift of nationalism could have been presented in a different form. Three years is a long time for anyone to understand what is wrong with the system. The best hope lies in expecting a change in the policies. Otherwise, we are all heading towards a volatile and dangerous future.