A man and a teenager transporting their cattle for a regular market auction are brutally lynched in broad daylight in BJP-ruled Jharkhand. Later, like trophies of proud head-hunters, they are suspended in benign surrender from a tree, as if apologizing for their misdemeanors. This was reminiscent of Mohammad Akhlaq's callous betrayal by his own formerly friendly neighbors, who participated in the bloody orgy because he was suspected (wrongly so) to have consumed beef. The Dadri murder symbolizes India's disturbing congruity with communal sentiments; if one violates that thin line even on mere suspicion, the punishment is unequivocal-- violent death, often by an uncontrollable mob that sees even rumoured sacrilege as an unpardonable sin. For a country that spends its scarce financial resources in showing a majestic lion propagate the meretricious 'Make in India' concomitant with a self-satisfied mug of its Prime Minister, this is nothing short of hara-kiri. It shows, at the very least, that India is meandering aimlessly, the tall talk by grandiloquent dream-merchants wafting above a grassy backdrop caught in a raging conflagration.
Educational institutions are prime targets because they are susceptible to indoctrination.
Something is seriously amiss, and we are still insouciantly dismissing each incident as a one-off event without a distinctive pattern. The fact is something else altogether. By turning a blind eye, we are kissing goodbye to the much-celebrated Idea of India, which itself is being targeted by right-wing fundamentalists as a politically opportunistic, nebulous definition of Gandhi-Nehruvian idealism by the Lutyens' cocktail chatterati. In short, there is a vociferous call to rewrite the Idea of India by inking it with saffron colours, giving Hindutva ideology a political legitimacy.
There is a pattern. And it has assumed menacing proportions because it is being imperceptibly institutionalized. Educational institutions are prime targets because they are susceptible to indoctrination. Repeated drills of twisted history and campus visits by camouflaged ambassadors of the RSS/BJP think-tank can easily overwhelm an impressionable soul. The university, which is meant to encourage free-spirited thinking free of ideological dogma, becomes imprisoned in a parochial context of binary-thinking--Left vs. Right, national vs. anti-national.
The atrocious assumption of Modi's government seems to be that nationalism can be appropriated by a political party... This intellectual hollowness is aggravated by moral turpitude.
Life and societies do have black and white walls enclosing them, but we live essentially in the grey. That grey is the laboratory of democracy; the permanent space of experimentation, where ideas are generated, dissent expressed, and solutions, from the boisterously bizarre to the bodaciously imaginative are sought. Some work, some don't, but the environment itself cannot be shoehorned. At JNU, what one has seen is the flagrant suppression of independent thinking, conveniently slotted as "anti-national". By giving it the hue of cultural nationalism and patriotic sentimentalism, political leverage is being created by the Hindu Rashtra brigade. Thus, nobody was flabbergasted when RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat promptly issued his own advisory: Students must be taught to say Bharat Mata ki Jai. The atrocious assumption of Narendra Modi's government seems to be that nationalism can be appropriated by a political party; in a way, this is symptomatic of a regressive, retrograde thinking that has little intellectual content at its core. This intellectual hollowness is aggravated by moral turpitude. Criticizing certain actions of the State is deemed as apostasy; this is antithetical to the concept of modern democracy, especially in the free-wheeling social media age that motivates the proliferation of anti-establishment campaigns. Whether the BJP believes this hyper-nationalism of Biblical proportions will help it in its election campaign in the forthcoming contests in five states, I do not know, but I can safely prognosticate that this brazen oversell will soon be going past its expiry date. Censorship, clampdowns and curtailments of the natural human voice are unsustainable.
Censorship, clampdowns and curtailments of the natural human voice are unsustainable.
"Patriotism is the last refuge of the scoundrel," said Samuel Johnson. Within two years we have seen the BJP under Modi assume a multitude of schizophrenic avatars. Their classic favourite, the Hindutva card, has shared space with OBC positioning, a sudden adulation of Ambedkar and even a dubious image makeover to impress the impoverished and devastated farmer. Shibboleths have surfaced with monotonous precision to keep the propaganda machine busy. But nationalism encapsulates our whole being; beyond our Aadhaar number, it is what we proudly stand for as Indians. There is nothing more demeaning and mortifying than being put through a perennial test based on voice samples from doctored videos and snooped text messages on WhatsApp to establish your nationalist credentials. The hardline Talibanization being imposed on identity-lines and nationalism can only boomerang.
The argumentative Indian needs to speak up now, and say: My NQ is none of your business!
Narendra Modi's electoral algorithm has inherent bugs. By playing the hyper-nationalism card under the garb of pseudo-patriotism, he has sowed the seeds of destruction for civilized debates, discussions and deliberations. In a democracy, that is blasphemous. From IIT, FTII, JNU, University of Hyderabad, Jadavpur University, Allahabad University, AMU, IIMC, there is an insidious, subterranean attempt to destabilize institutions of learning through imposition of the RSS ideology. Modi's mathematical formula for ballot-box windfalls seems to ask the students (and the rest of us by logical extension): What's your NQ (Nationalism Quotient) ?
India's answer to Modi's calculated NQ probing will determine the fate of the world's most chaotic, populous democracy. The argumentative Indian needs to speak up now, and say: My NQ is none of your business!
The author is National Spokesperson of the Indian National Congress party. The views are his own.
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