Nationalism has been the matter of debate yet again. From last few years we saw the individuals being labeled as Anti National for criticizing the ruling Government, we witnessed the attack on JNU on the ground that it is breeding ground of anti-Nationals. At the same time those belonging to ‘Hindu nationalism’ have been presenting themselves as Nationalists. The shrewdness involved in this is that they have been hiding the prefix Hindu to the word, Nation. It is this prefix which shows that they in no way were part of the process of India becoming a nation. Indian Nation building has been a multi layered process. On one hand it was to oppose the colonial rule and simultaneously it was a journey towards democratic values.

This issue comes to fore yet again as Sant Tukdoji Maharaj Nagpur University has brought in a damaging change in their second year B.A. history course. The earlier chapter in the book was on the rise of communalism in India. That has been replaced by the chapter on ‘History of RSS and its role in Nation building’ The university spokesperson put it “Nationalist school of thoughts… is also part of the Indian history. Similarly, history of the Sangh is a part of the nationalist school. Hence, introduction to RSS was included in the course," On the other hand the state Congress spokesperson Sachin Sawant disputes this by saying, "Where would Nagpur University find reference of RSS & Nation Building? It is most divisive force which collaborated with British, opposed freedom movement, didn't hoist Tricolor for 52 years calling it inauspicious, wanted Manusmriti in lieu of constitution, spreads hatred." 

What have been the components of India becoming a Nation? The earlier kingdoms were replaced by the colonial rule. The colonial phase was marked by introduction of major economic and social changes. These changes related to transport (railways), communication (Post and telegraph) modern education (Schools and universities), free press and modern judicial system among others. With these changes the social relations began to take place. The process of breaking of the ‘iron frame of caste structure’ began. The subordinate status of women was challenged as the likes of Savitribai Phule started schools for education for girls. The new class of Industrialists, modern businessmen and educated classes came up in the society. The political expression of these processes got reflected in multiple streams.

The major expression of this political phenomenon was the formation of Indian National Congress. The movements for breaking caste inequality were inspired by Joti Rao Phule and Babasaheb Ambedkar. The aspirations of workers got expressed in the unions led by Narayan Meghaji Lokhande and Com Singarvelu. Revolutionaries like Bhagat Singh stood against colonial rule with a dream of socialist society. This process of nation building has two sides. One was to express the social aspirations of these classes coming up in society; workers, women, educated classes, bureaucrats and industrialists in particular. The other was the political expression; the struggle against British colonialists.

To oppose these social-political changes section of declining classes, the kings and landlords and their fellow travelers, threw up their organizations. These organizations had two aspects. One was to oppose the social changes related to caste and gender transformation and second was to harp on nationalism in the name of religion. They were the ones who were opposed to the anti-British national movement. These declining sections had religion as a prefix of their nationalism. Their aims were purely political. Their political agenda was to preserve the birth based values of hierarchy, as manifested in feudal times.

Muslim League on one hand and Hindu Mahasabha-RSS on the other stood for Muslim and Hindu nationalism respectively. In case of Muslim League, Hindu Mahasabha, the religion is written on their sleeves, in case of RSS religion is the core part of their nationalism. Savarkar did work against caste system in patches, but mostly these organizations were totally aloof from the social changes related to caste and gender transformation. As far as freedom movement is concerned; as organizations they were never a part of any anti British movement. Individually pre-Andman Savarkar was anti British, but after his release his was a changed man. Similarly Dr. K. B. Hedgewar, RSS founder, as an individual did take part in 1930 Civil disobedience movement, but that was with the goal of finding like-minded workers in jail As far as RSS is concerned, the instructions were given by Golwalkar, not to disturb the peace of British.

During Quit India movement the second Sarsanghchalak M.S. Golwalkar states, “In 1942 also there was a strong sentiment in the hearts of many. At that time too, routine work of Sangh continued. Sangh vowed not to do anything directly.” Defending his decision to keep aloof from the movement he says “We should remember that in our pledge we have talked of freedom of the country through defending religion and culture, there is no mention of departure of British from here.” (Shri Guruji Samagra Darshan, vol. IV, page 40) “

While Indian nationalism is inclusive and plural, as expressed in Indian Constitution, RSS has been eulogizing the ancient laws particularly those of Manu. Nationalism is not just the state and boundaries, it is the social relationships. In case of Indian nationalism these values are Liberty, Equality and Fraternity. ‘Nationalism under the garb of religion’, regards these values of equality as Western, not suitable for this or that country. For example Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt promotes feudal hierarchical values in the garb of Islam. It labels democratic values of equality, liberty as being Western ones’. RSS similarly regards Indian Constitution as being Western.

With these types of changes in our educational syllabus, the attempt is to present RSS as part of Indian nation building. This lie hides that RSS neither struggled against British rule nor for the democratic values of equality. The efforts like change in syllabus are attempts to give legitimacy to RSS as Indian nation builder, which they are not. 

Category :- English Bazaar Patrika / OPED

The Way You Look at Me

Aarti Nair

There are both merits and demerits of living in the same city, same country all your life. Merits being that you can be deeply rooted and connected to a particular place, its people, and you have the ability to feel that place better than others. Demerits that you lack exposure of what there is in the world outside, how do different cultures survive, and co-exist. At least this is what I used to think when I left India in 2018 for my Masters in London.

Although this is not the first blog that I am writing while in London, there is a series of them. I have written down my experiences as a reader, my daily finances as a student, my first hand experiences of cooking, and how a new person can survive in London. Funny part, the last piece I wrote about London (which was later translated and published in a fascinating Gujarati publication), has stark differences from this one. I wrote that London is a place where your judgements don’t matter. It was true to my experience by that time. But what I have experienced in the past few months is quite new, something I have never felt before in life. Before I reveal what is that feeling, a little background about the character that I am.

I am 28 years old and so far in my life, I have not given a damn to what anyone thinks of my appearance. I have easily survived without feeling the need to apply makeup on my face on any regular day. I do not disrespect or detest women who do. I just know it is not for me. The only ‘makeup’ I put everyday is a kajal and a lip balm. I have confirmed with ‘experts’ that both of those things don’t even count as makeup in the real world. At 21, I cofounded a company of my own, was a columnist for a daily newspaper, published long-ish essays, write a decent-enough blog, and have attempted stand-up comedy too. So at this point, I know I can successfully survive in this world, without putting anything on my face. Apart from that, I dress the way I please. I do not find the need to follow any fashion trend, nor do I feel the need to buy clothes in each and every festivities or events. People around me get to learn (the hard way) that if they insist me to do something against my will, they will get some uncomfortable answers. So most people either wholeheartedly love me for the way I am (my father, my lover, close friends) or just learn to keep their concern within themselves. I have been surrounded by adorable people who even a new earring or a slight change of appearance would fetch positive compliments. I do have body image issues, yes. But I am aware that it needs to be constantly correct; not my body, but that image in my own eyes. Nevertheless, for a girl, it is not just convenience that her close ones accept her the way she looks, but it also strengthens her. Hence, I have turned out to be a strong woman who is extremely self-aware, and would not be affected by anyone’s damn opinions. Until I moved to London.

In the past few months, I have been around a few people who perhaps see me differently. I had no idea that working in an extremely commercial area of London, travelling with people dressed up in blue suits and people with the ‘perfect office-look’, can take a toll on you. There is a split second difference between glancing at someone and staring at them. The speciality of human expressions is that even if you do not use words, you can just look at someone and make them feel something. What was happening was completely non-verbal communication. But more often than not, I felt judged by other ‘perfect’ looking people around. It is obvious that I am not just talking about some random people but even some of the people around me. How do you deal with someone’s judgement when they do not even bother to verbally address it? What do you do about being hated from the first moment, even before you get the chance to present yourself?

In one of my long conversations with a dear friend asked me: When you are outside home, do you think of what is in your head or do you look at others and think of, “What do they think of me?” Lately, both of us have been thinking more of the latter. It is hard to know what came first. Is it the privileged ‘looking down upon me’ make me insecure or is it my insecurity that bothers me when they look down on me? In London, I came face to face with my colonial heritage. The things from my country’s history which I thought was a thing of the past, and did not matter to me today, was deeply ingrained within my system. So much that I did not even know. I am extremely aware of my surroundings, and most living beings have this inherent ability to know when they are being looked at. I know when I am being stared at. The question is why? Is it because I dress too simply, or I apply no make-up or is it my skin colour or that I don’t have a gym-sculpted body or all of these? Can they see that my shoes are a little worn off? It is difficult to not think of these questions, and not question yourself when it happens everyday? As a result of this, your mind remains in a constant battle within. How much should I give up and what is non-negotiable to retain? Well, it is perhaps too late for me to unlearn my ideals of simple living. Never in this life, do I think that I will be drawn to wearing make-up. Fortunately or unfortunately, my course in London has even instilled the question of, “Do I really need it?” before I buy any new piece of clothing (more about that, some other time). How often should you remind yourself that what others think of you is none of your business?

One thing I know for a fact is that at its root, the behaviour of looking down upon someone is in itself the greatest sign of insecurity. It is their insecurity about themselves that they are transmitting into you. So I consciously do not feel a sense of intimidation or respect for people who do this. Some people around who are friends, also do it without having the slightest indication of how toxic this behaviour is. When this friend seemed to advice, “Oh you don’t have a foundation? Everyone must have a good foundation.” I had swiftly replied back, “Well, as Sheldon Cooper has said, everyone needs to breathe in oxygen and release carbon-di-oxide. Everything else is optional.” Next time, she was surprised that I did not know what a lip-scrub was.

London happens to be one of the most diverse cities in the world. I have seen open expressions of all forms of love, gender and sexuality here. But in that diversity, also exists an unsaid, subtle class-colour snobbery. And if you are not careful, it cuts through you, and sucks you in, like a vampire saga. Once you have adapted to this mindset (become a vampire), you spread this self-loathe to others by mirroring what your loathers do/did to you.

On the other hand, I am not a good hater either. Hating creates heart burns that I have never been a fan of. Loathing them, of course, helps in easing down the frustration of being rejected/not accepted but it is only temporary. In the world of social media, we can also get into the race of posting pictures online to further get validation about ourselves. Unfortunately, this validation is also temporary. More often than not, it screws with our mental health. Early in this year, I quit Instagram. Especially because I told myself: “I am going to be enough for my own validation.”

Nevertheless, if not cautious, you easily begin mirroring them. I have to keep telling myself that I CAN NOT look at myself the way they look at me. I repeat my father’s words (in his voice) in my head, something that he has told me hundred times: You are beautiful the way you are. I repeat what a dear friend in India used to say, “You have nothing to prove.” One has to walk with their heads held high. There are days when the nature brings a calming effect on you. I am addicted to napping in the parks. Or seeing the water flowing through the canals. Or cycling aimlessly with a beautiful sunset over your head. Some days are more difficult than others. On those days, my books become my support. I take my book in my hands and put all my focus on it. So whether it is the tube or the footpath, I remain engaged in something empowering. After all, I have learnt after falling multiple times, how not to internalise other people’s bullshit.


Category :- English Bazaar Patrika / Features