By Rev. Immanuel Nehemiah
Nationalisms founded on religious fanaticism reign across the world today. Sinhalese nationalists plundered and annihilated the lives of Tamils in Sri Lanka, backed by the Indian Congress. Modi, our current Prime Minister, applauded the victory of Rajapakshe and acknowledged Rajapakshe’s claim of Aryan racial supremacy, suggestive of how countries and their political parties come together as killing machines, eliminating lives that seek equal rights and dignity.
The recent bombing at Pulwama has steered the entire country and geo-political alliances into the hysteria of nationalism. The citizens of the country are, almost across the board, screaming, along with Rajnath Singh, slogans against Pakistan. We came to a conclusion driven by a popular culture that is Islamaphobic and also the sustained RSS feuding vigour that we must eliminate Islam’s existence from the face of South Asia.
The government, the media, people in general, suddenly concluded that war was the immediate response to the bombing. The government, the media and the general caste public are still quiet about the caste apartheid that is a cruel reality of this country. The country at all levels and in all realms of is misogynist and sexist in nature but that does not seem to exercise people. That Pulwama could be an outcome of internal and external dysfunctionality of societies is not something we even entertain. The Muslim terrorist attacking is so much more seductive and othering as a narrative.
Time and again, we have Christianity, Hinduism, Islam, and all other religions directly contributing to the idea of virulent nationalism, not realising nationalism as such is a grave violence because it justifies walls, boundaries, arms and ammunition. Zionist Jews and Christians, Hindutva, ISIS and many more fundamentalist, fanatic groups contribute to the brutal and fatal violence that is religiously grounded and spiritually encased. The people are cultured in such a way that easily take the side of the army. The daily violence perpetrated by the AFSPA in Kashmir and North East states does not capture the national imagination at all.
Today, democracy is far from by the people; democracy is the rich buying and selling people and natural resources. Democracy is not ‘of’ but ‘off’ the people; the political parties thrive on electoral politics, political parties become mere defenders of their own party positions in the Rajya Sabha and Lok Sabha and kill each other. Democracy is not for the people but for the rich who rob us blind as they blind us with national rhetoric.
People from the most vulnerable communities are also pulled into this filth. The most affected people of this political reality are the vulnerable Dalits, adivasis, women and sexual minorities. Pulwama is evidence of how vulnerable communities can be pulled into this culture of war and terror and be further brutalised by the grave expectation of nationalist patriotism.
Surgical strike as a movie was greeted with applause, creating a sense of josh in many. The naivete is that people in this country aren’t aware of HAL and its current status. The Hindustan Aeronautical Limited had to seek a loan to pay their employees’ salaries but in the recent past the Ambanis and the present government agreed on privatising the arms and ammunition business, thanks to neoliberal capitalism the Congress embarked upon: the soft saffron sets the precedent and the hard saffron capitalizes on it. Rahul Gandhi is with Modi on Pulwama. The smokescreen is common to both.
The idea of nationalism also prevails in the idea of caste, because caste also defends boundaries and erases others based on convenience in any given space. Many of the jawans who died would have been Dalit but that is of no concern to anyone. Acknowledging that would be breaking nationalism but also acknowledging internal pollution.
The idea of nationalism is male, macho, misogynist in nature. Woman as a gender shouldn’t cross boundaries. If they dare, they will be raped and in some cases paraded and killed. But it is okay if they as Professors in JNU call for the murder of Kashmiris in retaliation just as they participated in violence against Muslim women in riots.
Nationalism, Einstein warned us, is an infantile disease; the measles of mankind. The nexus of caste, patriarchy, language, region and religion is what comprises the idea of nationalism and makes of it an ever-growing casket of Molotov cocktails.
However there is a super-powered nationalism: that is one country, one religion and one language, a dangerous off-shoot of hegemonic caste pride culture that threatens life in all realms in this country, the biggest nationalism of them all. Dalits, women, religious minorities, sexual minorities – all join in this fanaticism. We are stooges of the worst kind who turn a blind eye to our own oppression once we hear the word ‘nation.’
Trump understands why we are upset; we are in good company. The Congress is upset at how Modi is not upset enough. We are all asked to be upset. It is the right time to be upset. It will help us forget the shit we are in and make us feel better about being in the gutter. We are looking at the stars of war and nationalism, after all. The sky is all set to be orange again.
Rev. Immanuel Nehemiah is a Bangalore-based pastor. His interests are varied, particularly Dalit literature, art, history, politics, activism, and theology. He is also a music teacher and a theatre artist.
Cafe Dissensus Everyday is the blog of Cafe Dissensus magazine, based in New York City and India. All materials on the site are protected under Creative Commons License.
Read the latest issue of Cafe Dissensus Magazine, “Hatred and Mass Violence: Lessons from History”, edited by Navras J. Aafreedi, Presidency University, Kolkata, India.