By Ananya S Guha
Hindu nationalism is a misnomer. There can be nothing called Hindu nationalism in a secular democracy, whose values are clearly enshrined in the constitution of our country. If people are using this expression to espouse their cause of nationalism, then it is prejudiced and reeks of a narrow bias. The interpretation of Indian culture runs contrary, if not antithetical, to the values of a secular country. First, the almost sacrosanct pitching of religion in almost every discourse. Second, the dismantling of the period of Indian history roughly from the eleventh to the fifteenth centuries. This period according to the votaries of an insular history is the ‘dark period’ in the annals of Indian history. So it must be obliterated and its forebears must be castigated publicly. So Tipu Sultan was and is still a rapist. Such proponents are silent over the Portuguese, Dutch, and even British incursions. But, of course, the Christians are not spared and face everyday violence.
Hindu nationalism is a travesty of historical truths. It is the great untruth masquerading as the new knowledge. It is divisive and geared towards the vote bank. It assumes that the Hindu majority in India all think alike on this issue. It is a false assumption. And what does a false premise do? It builds chimera after chimera, creates disruption and discord. See what a movie like Padmaavat did even before people had seen it. The new-found Hindu nationalism is terribly cunning and guileful. It coins phrases like ‘love jihad’. It questions the very institution of marriage, making it anti-constitutional and unconstitutional. This is the internal politics managed by some rabid supporters of a ‘new’ but rotten India.
The external politics of Hindu nationalism is managed by the leader, who gives the impression to the outside world that this India wants peace and amity and is ready to mediate among warring nations. And the rest of the world has been fooled by this discourse.
While money is being wasted on external trips, in India, the common man, the insufferably poor, has to put up with inane, if not insane, actions like demonetization. The farmers are crying hoarse, their economy and geography are being besmirched by false promises. All that these forces do is malign anyone not supporting them. Historical icons have been forgotten and only their vilification continues.
So, what will history record? That we had demagogues and philistines in the twenty-first century India building a history of myths and fantasies. Imagine rebuilding the Ayodhya temple based on the claim that Lord Ram lived there. If this is not historical fantasy, what is? Unabashed Hindu nationalism is retrograde. The tragedy is that people who are doing this know it only too well. They are living for the moment in fanatical excitement but in perverse reality, blissfully ignorant of the irreparable harm they are causing to the nation.
Nationalism at this juncture should mean redefining it, rebuilding its archetypal walls, and having a people’s movement to junk this poison out of the country. A disease which is troubling millions, a disease which is making the stomachs emptier.
Can we let this insanity prevail? The insanity is making us a split nation. On the one hand, we have an impeccable international image. But we bleed internally. Look how the Karni Sena held an entire country to ransom. Look how ‘love jihad’ is scurrying the High Courts and the Supreme Court to either save a marriage or condemn it to ignominy. Look how on the pretext of religious sentiment, cow slaughter and food habits have been banned nationally, causing loss of livelihood to the minority community. Look how Dalits are being treated. And look at how money laundering has taken place in the most criminal of ways by a business family apparently having strong connections. Otherwise how could he turn up at the World Economic Forum? We need answer to these questions.
If the purpose of the government is to fill in only its coffers with GST and cutting grants-in-aid to universities by 30%, where will the money be distributed? Is privatization of education a cause for accessibility or the equity we talk about? Why is the health system being infernally grounded in malpractices and corruption? The government must answer as to the effectiveness of the public-private partnership in the health sector. So a veneer of nationalism propagated on an edifice of regressive Hinduism will do nothing for development. Development will come out of a constitutional forbearance, not out of a constitutional crisis. The crisis takes place because of the avowed anti-secular stand taken by fanatics, for whom building a temple and demolishing a mosque is a national issue.
First and foremost, we need the restoration of secularism. Then only development can take place. Recognize all Indians as ONE. Don’t make religion a formula for the vote bank. Don’t make culture an issue where there is one. We must save this constitutional crisis.
Ananya S Guha is Regional Director, Indira Gandhi National Open University (IGNOU), Shillong.
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