How to better understand the malaise that’s nationalism? Consider this; a formerly high ranking minister in one of India’s prosperous state is convicted of inciting & leading a blood thirsty mob across the streets of a slum. What followed was absolute savagery; people were maimed, killed & raped with impunity as the administration turned a blind eye. The minister was Maya Kodnanai who’s sentenced to 28 yrs of imprisonment but, is often out on bail. Curiously enough, the State of Maharashtra fervently pressed for death sentence for Yakub Memon; a key conspirator in Bombay serial blasts. However, in the neighboring Gujarat the government chose not to pursue capital punishment for Maya Kodnani. Why this farce in the name of rule of law? Why would hate mongers like Adityanath & Pravin Togadiya walk free & Akbaruddin Owaisi be thrown into the cellars for his incendiary remarks? Why this double standards?
Another one here; a young man accused of participating in a mob that killed an elderly Muslim man on the suspicion that he offended Hindu ‘sensibilities’ by consuming beef dies in police custody most likely owing to illness , is draped in the tricolor & his body is exhibited as if he were a fallen soldier. The local administration afraid of violence chooses to be a meek spectator.
Widespread protests across the valley following the killing of Burhan Wani; a Kashmiri militant claimed scores of lives. As I write this, little has changed in the valley; normal life is completely off gear & little may improve as protests again intensify after a 13 year old boy succumbs to pellet injuries.
Let’s try to thread all these instances; to put it plainly, the first two are cases majoritarian nationalism that balks at the idea that India is a melting pot of motley cultures. It aspires a homogeneous nation; idolizes a non- existent utopian past & reveres Israel for its reprehensible treatment of Arab Muslims (Many amongst them would actually love to emulate the Israeli model here in India). The third often cited as a classic case of rising Islamic fundamentalism conveniently eschews the fact; rising anti- India sentiment in Kashmir is a result of repeated betrayals of successive Indian governments in finally settling the Kashmir issue, a direct product of the partition conundrum. How does this fit in context here? Actually, the heavy clamp down on the people of Kashmir says it all; the state would never flinch away in resorting to inordinate violence when it considers the receiver(s) as the ‘other’ who need to be disciplined. On the contrary; the state & its machinery dares not to ‘discipline’ the Jat agitators of Haryana or the ruffians of Shiv Sena , Bajrang Dal & a multitude of far- right militant organizations regularly accused of rioting, xenophobic attacks & even massacres like Post- Godhra genocide & Bombay riots.
It disillusions people when someone like Bal Thackeray; known for his role in the anti- Muslim riots of Bombay is accorded a full state funeral & none would bat an eyelid. The Indian media with its unbridled jingoistic propaganda covered the funeral as if it were the cremation of a war hero. By the same token, how could these bigoted creatures label those attending Yakub Memon & Burhan Wani’s funeral procession as anti- nationals & ‘potential terrorists’? What sort of conscience allows them to blatantly vilify a community when they themselves sing eulogies for perpetrators of genocides & pogroms? It takes a great deal of charade & canard to paint someone as a villain & the other as a war hero despite both involved in similar heinous acts. Certainly, the vast majority of Indians think the two are different & that’s where the root of this malaise lies.
Lately, there is this rising trend of hateful tweets emanating from handles of governmental organizations. One of the tweets from Digital India’s handle called for a massacre of Kashmiri civilians another by India Post called out Kejriwal for playing into the hands of Pakistanis. From jingoistic twitter trolls to official accounts spewing hate; the ruling party may soon find it hard to tame its hoards of right wing fanatics stomping the internet. Undoubtedly these are trying times for the modern Indian nation built on the idea of secularism & plurality. If this rabid nationalism is left unchecked then, India may soon turn a Hindu Pakistan thus, defeating the legacy of India’s founding statesman; Jawaharlal Nehru.