Like most of the political phenomenon, even the practice of Nationalism is not a static one. It changes with the changing political equations of the political forces and assumes the expressions which are very diverse. As such the phenomenon of Nationalism has a long journey and various state policies in particular have used it for purposes which relate more to the power of the state ‘vis a vis’ its people, power of the state ‘vis a vis’ the neighboring countries among others.

In India there has been a certain change in the practices of the state which have transformed the meaning of Nationalism during last few years. Particularly with BJP, the Hindu Nationalist outfit gaining simple majority, it has unfolded the policies where one can discern the drastic change in the meaning and application of Nationalism in regard to its citizens, particularly those belonging to minority community, with regard to those who are liberal, and with those who stand with the concept of Human rights.

Our former Prime Minister of Dr. Manmohan Singh hit the nail on the head when he said that “Nationalism and the "Bharat Mata Ki Jai" slogan are being misused to construct a "militant and purely emotional" idea of India that excludes millions of residents and citizens. Former Prime Minister recently stated this in an apparent attack on the BJP.” The occasion was the release of a book, ‘Who is Bharat Mata’, edited by Purushottam Agarwal and Radhakrishna. This is a compilation of significant extracts from writings of Nehru, and important assessments of and contributions of Nehru by prominent personalities.

Dr. Singh went on to add "With an inimitable style…Nehru laid the foundation of the universities, academies and cultural institutions of Modern India. But for Nehru's leadership, independent India would not have become what it is today," This statement of Dr. Singh has great importance in contemporary times, as Nehru is being denigrated by Hindu nationalists for all the problems which India is facing today and attempts are on to undermine his role and glorifying Sardar Vallabh Bhai Patel. This is also significant as it gives us the glimpses of what Nationalism meant for Nehru.

As Singh’s statement captures the present nationalism being practiced by BJP and company, the Hindu nationalists, immediately shot back saying that Dr. Singh is supporting the anti India activities at JNU and Jamia and his party is supporting the anti India nationalists. They asked whether Singh likes the nationalism of the likes of Shashi Tharoor or Manishankar Ayer who are provoking the Shaheen Bagh protest rather than making the protestors quiet. Whether he likes the anti national protests which go on at JNU or Jamia? As per them there is no Nationalism in Congress. One more example being cited is the private visit of Shatrughan Sinha who talked to Pakistani President during his visit there recently!

Most of the arguments being used to oppose Dr. Singh are very superficial. What is being referred to; is not opposition to Indian nationalism and its central values which were the core of anti colonial struggles. While ‘Bharat Mata Ki Jai’ may not be acceptable to a section of population, even the book he was releasing has the title ‘Who is Bharat Mata’. What is being stated by Singh is the twist which slogan ‘Bharat Mata ki Jai’ has been used by Hindu nationalists to frighten the religious minorities.

Indian nation came into being on the values, which later were the foundation of Indian Constitution. Indian Constitution carefully picked up the terminology which was away from the concepts of Hindu or Muslim nationalism. That’s how the country came to be called as ‘India that is Bharat’. The freedom of expression which was the hallmark of freedom movement and it was given a pride of place in our Constitution. It respected the diversity and formulated rules where the nation was not based on particular culture, as Hindu nationalists will like us to believe, but cultural diversity was centrally recognized in the Constitution. In addition promoting good relations with neighbors and other countries of the World was also part of our principles.

JNU, Jamia and AMU are being demonized as most institutions so far regard the freedom of expression as a core part of Indian democracy. These institutions have been thriving on discussions and debates which have base in liberalism. Deliberately some slogans have been constructed to defame these institutions. While Constitution mandates good relations with neighbors, creation of ‘Anti Pakistan hysteria’ is the prime motive of many a channels and sections of other media, which are servile to the ideology of ruling Government. They also violate most of the norms of ethical journalism, where the criticism of the ruling party is an important factor to keep the ruling dispensation in toes.

A stifling atmosphere has been created during last six years. In this the Prime Minster can take a detour, land in Pakistan to have a cup of tea with Pakistan PM, but a Congress leader talking to Pakistani President is a sign of being anti National. Students taking out a march while reading the preamble of Indian Constitution are labeled as anti-national; and are stopped while those openly wielding guns near Jamia or Shaheen Bagh roam freely.

Nationalism should promote amity and love of the people; it should pave the way for growth and development. Currently the nationalism which is dominant and stalking the streets has weakened the very fraternity, which is one of the pillars of our democracy. Nehru did explain that Bharat Mata is not just our mountains, rivers and land but primarily the people who inhabit the land. Which nationalism to follow was settled during the freedom movement when Muslim nationalism and Hindu nationalism were rejected by the majority of people of India in favor of the Nationalism of Gandhi, Nehru, Patel and Maulana Azad, where minorities are equal citizens, deserving affirmative action. In today’s scenario the Hindu nationalists cannot accept any criticism of their policies. 


Category :- English Bazaar Patrika / OPED

This January 2020, it is thirty years since the Kashmiri Pundits’ exodus from the Kashmir valley took place. They had suffered grave injustices, violence and humiliation prior to the migration away from the place of their social and cultural roots in Kashmir Valley. The phenomenon of this exodus had been due to the communalization of militancy in Kashmir in the decade of 1980s. While no ruling Government has applied itself enough to ‘solve’ this uprooting of pundits from their roots, there are communal elements who have been aggressively using ‘what about Kashmiri Pundits?’, every time liberal, human rights defenders talk about the plight of Muslim minority in India. This minority is now facing an overall erosion of their citizenship rights.

Time and over again in the aftermath of communal violence in particular, the human rights groups have been trying to put forward the demands for justice and rehabilitation of the victim minority. Instead of being listened to those particularly from Hindu nationalist combine, as a matter of routine shout back, where were you when Kashmiri Pundits were driven away from the Valley? In a way the tragedy being heaped on one minority is being justified in the name of suffering of Pundits and in the process violence is being normalized. This sounds as if two wrongs make a right, as if the suffering Muslim minority or those who are trying to talk in defense of minority rights have been responsible for the pain of Kashmiri Pundits.

During these three, many political formations have come to power, including BJP, Congress, third front and what have you. To begin with when the exodus took place Kashmir was under President’s rule and V. P. Singh Government was in power at the center. This Government had the external support of BJP at that time. Later BJP led NDA came to power for close to six years from 1998, under the leadership of Atal Bihari Vajpayee. Then from 2014 it is BJP, with Narerda Modi as PM, with BJP brute majority is in power. Other components of NDA are there to enjoy some spoils of power without any say in the policies being pursued by the Government. Modi is having absolute power with Amit Shah occasionally presenting Modi’s viewpoints.

Those blurting, ‘what about Kashmiri Pundits?’ are using it as a mere rhetoric to hide their communal color. The matters of Kashmir are very disturbing and cannot be attributed to be the making of Indian Muslims as it is being projected in an overt and subtle manner. Today, of course the steps taken by the Modi Government, that of abrogation of Article 370, abolition of clause 35 A, downgrading the status of Kashmir from a state to union territory have created a situation where the return of Kashmiri Pundits may have become more difficult, as the local atmosphere is more stifling and the leaders with democratic potential have been slapped with Public Safety Act, where they can be interned for long time without any answerability to the Courts. The internet had been suspended, communication being stifled in an atmosphere where democratic freedoms are curtailed which makes solution of any problem more difficult.

Kashmir has been a vexed issue where the suppression of the clause of autonomy, leading to alienation led to rise of militancy. This was duly supported by Pakistan. The entry of Al Qaeda elements, who having played their role against Russian army in 1980s entered into Kashmir and communalized the situation in Kashmir. The initial Kashmir militancy was on the grounds of Kashmiriyat. Kashmiriyat is not Islam, it is synthesis of teachings of Buddha, values of Vedant and preaching’s of Sufi Islam. The tormenting of Kashmiri Pundits begins with these elements entering Kashmir.

Also the pundits, who have been the integral part of Kashmir Valley, were urged upon by Goodwill mission to stay on, with local Muslims promising to counter the anti Pundit atmosphere. Jagmohan, the Governor, who later became a minister in NDA Government, instead of providing security to the Pundits thought, is fit to provide facilities for their mass migration. He could have intensified counter militancy and protected the vulnerable Pundit community. Why this was not done?

Today, ‘What about Kashmiri Pundits?’ needs to be given a serious thought away from the blame game or using it as a hammer to beat the ‘Muslims of India’ or human rights defenders? The previous NDA regime (2014) had thought of setting up enclosures of Pundits in the Valley. Is that a solution? Solution lies in giving justice to them. There is a need for judicial commission to identify the culprits and legal measures to reassure the Pundit community. Will they like to return if the high handed stifling atmosphere, with large number of military being present in the area? The cultural and religious spaces of Pundits need to be revived and Kashmiryat has to be made the base of any reconciliation process.

Surely, the Al Qaeda type elements do not represent the alienation of local Kashmiris, who need to be drawn into the process of dialogue for a peaceful Kashmir, which is the best guarantee for progress in this ex-state, now a Union territory. Communal amity, the hallmark of Kashmir cannot be brought in by changing the demographic composition by settling outsiders in the Valley. A true introspection is needed for this troubled area. Democracy is the only path for solving the emigration of Pundits and also of large numbers of Muslims, who also had to leave the valley due to the intimidating militancy and presence of armed forces in large numbers. One recalls Times of India report of 5th February 1992 which states that militants killed 1585 people from January 1990 to October 1992 out of which 982 were Muslims and 218 Hindus.

We have been taking a path where democratic norms are being stifled, and the promises of autonomy which were part of treaty of accession being ignored. Can it solve the problem of Pundits?


Category :- English Bazaar Patrika / OPED