“Nationalism is a western concept and defining it is a complex task. There could be different forms of nationalism but it could be loosely generalized as a political ideology and movement initiated to overthrow monarchy. In the era of globalization, nationalism limits itself to the collective union of people to safeguard their political, social and economical interests. It demands loyalty and devotion to the cause of the nation.
In a diverse nation like India with multiple language, culture, tradition and religion, the job of defining nationalism becomes all the more difficult. Political, ethnic, social and civic nationalism collectively play a role in the form of nationalism. In some cases, ethnic nationalism will play a dominant role. Essentially, nationalism has evolved from the fight against monarchy or occupying forces to an assertion of power to govern. At present in India, we see ethnic and cultural nationalism trying to get a foothold by sidetracking political and civic nationalism. Hence, we find a conflict of understanding of two strands of nationalism.
A supporter or believer in ethnic nationalism is called as a nationalist” while “anti nationalism denotes the sentiments associated with an opposition to ethnic nationalism.” The JNU incident and its aftermath have bought this into focus. Ethnic nationalist lawyers, politicians, and a few well-known personalities were active in branding the JNU students as anti nationalist. It looks like ethnic nationalism does not want to give space to civic and social nationalism and therefore term all who do not agree with their version of ethnic nationalism as anti-nationalists. If we try to assess the JNU issue, the actions of those who are blaming JNU students as anti-nationalist are damaging the collective interests of the nation as a whole. The paradox is that the burden of defining Nationalism – a western concept – is now being shouldered by desi bhakts.
The student community and others too have the right to question and debate government policies and programmes and decisions of the Supreme Court. A nation that abandons questioning is doomed towards fascism. The whole JNU case is based on doctored videos and the alleged sloganeering is yet to be proved. The question raised by the students of JNU could have been debated. The real video does not show that either anti national slogans or the slogans of Afzal Guru’s alleged martyrdom were raised. On the contrary, the evidences prove that Kanhaiya Kumar was emphasizing and supporting India’s constitution. However, there is no evidence to prove as who raised these slogans. Slapping sedition charges against Kanhaiya, attacking him, ignoring his side in the court and torturing him in the cell does not manifest any kind of civic nationalism. Umar Khalid, one of the student’s leaders, has been charged with draconian laws of criminal conspiracy and seditions and he has been persuaded to finally to surrender in spite of the fact that no evidence could be found against him. Within 10 days, Umar Khalid’s identity was reduced to a terrorist. The whole episode smacks of ethnic and ruling arrogance where the students who stood for justice and equal opportunities for all sections of the society (collective nationalism) were branded as terrorists just as Bhagat Singh and his companions. Surely, in the eyes of a great section of the nation, the students have made a place in their hearts by standing up for their freedom to question.
The student community and others too have the right to question and debate government policies and programmes and decisions of the Supreme Court. A nation that abandons questioning is doomed towards fascism.
During a sting operation, it became evident that a few lawyers and leaders had attacked the students in the courtyard and the police had remained spectators, but nobody tagged them as anti-nationals. The court refused to hear the bail plea of Kanhaiya Kumar and the bail plea of those involved in hooliganism at Patiala court was accepted. Today the students are behind bars but the hooligans masquerading as nationalists are free. The same desi bhakts will celebrate and honour the killer of the Father of the Nation.
Why did the idea of Nationalism in India become so disfigured and fragile that questions raised by students makes them eligible to be slapped with sedition charges? Does it not mean indicate something about Indian democracy when such vibrant student leaders have to be humiliated? What will happen if students lose their belief in political nationalism by such incidents? Are we not encouraging anti-nationalism when police commissioners are not questioned, where lawyers could assault defenceless students and protest against bail pleas of innocent people? If sedition charges can be pressed on students like Kanhaiya Kumar and Umar Khalid, then all those who engineer riots, spread communal hatred and incite violence, break law, train youth to use fire arms in the jungles and resort to terror must be prosecuted. Unless the officials who file false charges are punished heavily, this will continue to happen.
Let us not push this country towards ethnic nationalism. India is in dire need of tackling issues like poverty, education, unemployment, channelizing youth power, providing shelter, sanitation, sustenance, healthcare and many more. It is the utmost duty of the nationalists to unite and strive together towards prosperity of our nation by avoiding any kind of fascism.