“Pervading nationalism imposes its dominion on man today in many different forms and with an aggressiveness that spares no one. The challenge that is already with us is the temptation to accept as true freedom what in reality is only a form of slavery.” – Pope John Paul II
The word ‘nation’, according to Wikipedia, stems from the Latin word ‘natio’ which means ‘people’, ‘tribe’, ‘kin’, ‘genus’, ‘class’, ‘flock’.
Ernest Renan’s “What is a Nation?” declares that “…race is confused with nation and a sovereignty analogous to that of really existing peoples is attributed to ethnographic or, rather linguistic groups.” He goes on to say. “The truth is that there is no pure race and that to make politics depend upon ethnographic analysis is to surrender to its chimera.'”
He claimed that a ‘nation’ is not formed on the basis of dynasty, religion, language, geography or shared interests. Rather a nation is a soul, a spiritual principle.
As evident from the above definition, it can be concluded that nationalism is an abstract idea and aims at preserving the native culture and uniqueness of a ‘nation’. In present scenario, the kind of nationalism that is being practised in the Indian subcontinent cannot be called as the ‘true’ form of nationalism.
The sort of nationalism propounded by organisations like the RSS and several other extremist groups, has drawn its inspiration from the fascism of Hitler and Mussolini. Veer Savarkar was highly impressed by the autocratic dictatorial regime of Hitler which was legitimised in Germany in the name of nationalism.
According to Hitler, Germans were the purest race (Aryans). He claimed that Jews were trying to pollute the pure German race and hence they should be banished from the German land. This was the nationalism of Hitler and all of us are well aware of the fruits it bore.
Now a days, in India, we hear phrases like, ‘Hindu rashtra’, ‘Hindutva ki rajneeti‘, ‘Hindu dharm shreshta hai‘, ‘Bharat Hindu rashtra hai‘ and many more. If observed carefully, we will find a lot of similarities in the kind of nationalism prevalent right now in India and the one that burned Germany and Italy during middle of the first half of the 20th century.
In 1919, Benito Mussolini described ‘fascism’ as a movement that would strike “…against the backwardness of the right and the destructiveness of the left.” Fascism is defined as a tendency towards exercising strong autocratic or dictatorial control.
Political scientist Dr Lawrence Britt defined 14 characteristics of a fascist state:
1. Powerful and Continuing nationalism – By patriotic mottos, slogans, symbols, songs, flags, etc.
2. Disdain for the recognition of human rights in the name of national security.
3. Identifying enemies/scapegoats as a unifying cause – For example, in India, the nationalist propaganda of the right wing extremists gets its relevance from othering Muslims and creating slogans like ‘Pakistan Murdabad‘.
4. Supremacy of the military
5. Rampant sexism
6. Controlled mass media
7. Obsession with national security
8. Religion and government intertwined
9. Corporate power is protected
10. Labour power is suppressed
11. Disdain for intellectuals and arts
12. Obsession with crime and punishment
13. Rampant corruption
14. Fraudulent Elections
If observed carefully, we will be able to realise that these 14 characteristics of a fascist state are slowly spreading their roots in the Indian state. Also, fascist forces are growing at a very rapid pace and it is really very difficult to counter them.
The unfortunate murder of the journalist Gauri Lankesh who was a strong voice against Hindutva fascist forces is just an example. There are more such incidents which are either suppressed or not even reported. The opposing voices are continuously being crushed. There is chaos everywhere. Therefore, it is really very important to make a clear cut distinction between what is ‘true’ nationalism and what is nationalism inspired by fascism.
When we talk about true nationalism, it can be defined as that nationalism which cherished our freedom struggle during British colonialism. It unites the entire nation, irrespective of language, religion, caste, gender and race to achieve a common goal of ‘swaraj‘.
It not only aimed towards protecting our native Indian culture but the idea of ‘India’ itself – which includes not only Hinduism but also Islam, Christianity, Sikhism, Jainism, Buddhism, etc. It tried to protect our idea of ‘Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam‘.
It fosters various languages and not only Hindi; various cultures and traditions, ranging from the culture of Jammu and Kashmir in the north to Tamil Nadu in the south and this is the ultimate beauty of it. This sort of nationalism never declared that Hinduism is the best religion. Rather, it declared that India will remain ‘India’ if it fosters its unity along with its deep rooted diversity.
Otherwise, India will lose its originality and uniqueness will be just about protecting the interests of a single religious/racial/lingual community.
Hence, there is a need to be really aware of these ‘fake nationalists’ who are trying to impose fascism on the Indian population and create a sense of majoritarianism which, in turn, would create fear among minorities.
All this will ultimately destroy the very idea of India by dividing it in the name of nationalism.