Being patriotic, being nationalist
On a trip to the Nanda Devi Biosphere Reserve early this year, I happened to chat up a fellow birdwatcher, a foreigner. He was born in 1988, fair, blonde and wore a black T-shirt emblazoned with two words in bold white – FCUK NAZIS. So I asked him if he was a German and he nodded. When I commented on his apologetic tone, he explained how hyper-nationalism harmed his country resulting in two world wars during the last century, how devotion to one’s country was manipulated by generating a narrative against Jews who had settled in the country and dominated businesses through hard work and enterprise.
Finally, he added that no child born in Germany can ever be named Hitler. I thought about India, and smiled. We have recently seen a Bollywood Muslim actor name his child Taimur. For the uninformed, Taimur is one of the cruelest invaders into India who massacred Indians in millions and laid out pyramids of thousands of skulls in Delhi one fine day; a hero for Pakistanis, a villain for Indians irrespective of religion, not unlike how the Baluch view Changez Khan. A very likely winner candidate for the Mr Hitler contest!
So what does being a proud Indian mean? Where do we draw the line between patriotism and nationalism, at least as long as the world is divided into countries and especially India located between cut-throat neighbours like China, Pakistan and Bangladesh?
An editor of one of the numerous anti-Modi web portals who have come up suddenly since 2014 (or thereabouts) calls a film on India’s cross border strike on Pakistani terrorist camps “toxic nationalism”. Compare that with the countless Hollywood war movies – Zero Dark Thirty, Black Hawk Down, Bridge on River Kwai etc – they would have watched and praised! His genre wake the Supreme Court and the President mid-night to demand a special clemency appeal for Pakistani terrorist Kasab who boated into Mumbai one fine day and killed Indians (including at the iconic Taj hotel), they do the same for Afzal Guru, the terrorist who attacked the Indian parliament having received training in Pakistani camps, they cry intolerance when the China sponsored Maoists and their urban supporters are hauled to court because they kill the poor, prevent development activity in tribal belts and even plan an assassination of the PM. Isn’t the attempt to equate the execution of Pakistani terrorist with the safeguarding of minorities’ interests and, by extension, secularism is to demean the Indian Muslims, as any sane-minded person will say.
Connect this with the contention of Shivam Vij, another media person of this genre in his post (Change the Conversation) last year – “To counter Hindutva, left-liberals need to focus on Caste. Nationalism, Secularism, Kashmir, Pakistan are only going to help saffron grow bigger.” Given that he is the former Associate Editor of Scroll, and later Deputy Editor of Huffington Post, the prejudiced anti-India and anti-secularism tone of these media portals is not surprising. In effect, even as the Indian society has been divided vertically through decades of appeasement policies, the focus in now on a horizontal division through caste. True secularism amounts to the rule of uniform civil code as per democratic principles but since this directly affects vote bank politics, the Left tries to keep the minorities conscious of their religion and scare them through a fake narrative. And this is where the issue of patriotism and nationalism comes in.
Simply put, the patriotism-nationalism debate is yet another narrative being generated by the Left, anti-India centrifugal forces and lastly, Modi-haters who can go to any extent even at the cost of India’s unity. Other Indians who are supporting it are either doing it for money, prejudice against Modi, or sheer ignorance.
The Oxford Dictionary defines BOTH Patriotism and Nationalism as “devotion to one’s country”. The latter is further amplified as “national aspiration”, and “support for national independence”.
All this is fine, but then the thesaurus goes on to add two more terms under Nationalism – Jingoism i.e. advocacy / practice of a bellicose foreign policy, and Xenophobia i.e. deep antipathy to foreigners or to foreign things.
So let’s take Jingoism. Do we have a bellicose foreign policy? China keeps us on our toes by its sheer volume. Pakistan, an apology of a nation, keeps us busy – even divided – through terrorism, Bangladesh treats us like a refugee camp, hostiles from Myanmar raid poor villagers across the border, their illegal migrants walk in and are courted by pseudo-secular parties who do religion-centric appeasement for vote banks. We are the ones who put up the fence, we are the ones who debate whether to throw out illegal immigrants. The ruling party – BJP – has a neutral and protective foreign policy, with no expansionist mindset. So who are we fooling?
Xenophobia? Really? India is a melting pot for all major ethnic groups ( Caucasians, Negroids, Mongoloids), all religions (crores of Gods and Godesses), and countless languages. We are masters of assimilation – we even have music and language born out of conflict; Sufi and Urdu. We do not selectively bar foreigners from legally entering India. Nor has the current government created a policy which discriminates against any group; even the Babri case is a five centuries old land case between Mughals and Nirmohi Akhara!
So exactly on which parameter are the self-professed but foreign-paid “intellectuals” fanning this debate? Obviously the model being referred to is Nazi Germany and the fascist persecution of Jews and they seek to equate it with BJP-ruled India and Muslims.
But this is not Nazi Germany. No one is persecuting Muslims in India. In fact they have been on the beneficiary end of decades of appeasement by the Left (remember the Congress’s dictum of the Seventies – “Till such time we have Ali i.e. minorities with a persecution complex, and Coolies i.e. poors living on sops in India, Congress can never lose”). The tactic used by Left-wing parties is to make Indian Muslims (or Christains) believe that they are different from the rest of Indians, to make them forget that they are themselves the real victims of foreign invasions, and to make them identify themselves with the invaders who forcibly converted their ancestors. For this, they have to be made to look outwards for moral guidance (Mecca and Rome), disregarding the assimilative hug of Indian culture. And this is where the issue of “toxic nationalism” is being used. No wonder that we have discussions on whether to stand up for the national anthem, or find the national song communal, or question throwing out illegal immigrants from Bangladeshi and Myanmarese (being Muslims), or support for clemency for a Pakistani terrorist just because he is a Muslim!
During the Modi interview in 2014, a known media Modi-baiter asked pointedly if Modi was a “Hindu Nationalist” and the latter nodded saying that since he was a Hindu and a Nationalist, the term was all right. But the term was used to scare the minorities both by the media and the Left.
However, as it turns out, Hindu Nationalist is no different from Nationalist Hindu.
Indian, first, always.