The Madhya Pradesh police has very magnanimously withdrawn the sedition charges against 15 men for allegedly celebrating the victory of the Pakistan cricket team over Team India in the finals of the ICC Champions Trophy. The men have now instead been booked under Section 153A of the Indian Penal Code, for disturbing communal harmony. As profoundly unbelievable as this seems, it is undoubtedly true. Furthermore, the Karnataka police arrested three persons for bursting crackers while allegedly celebrating Pakistan’s victory, and booked them under non-bailable and stringent sections, so that they remained behind bars. The clinching argument purportedly put forward is that the ‘accused’ had hurt religious sentiments. Again, as incomprehensible as this sounds, it is undoubtedly true.
I would like to quote a third instance here, that of a rape of a Dalit girl in Gujarat. The girl, having been first raped on June 10, and then further abused and beaten up by the police officials for seemingly trying to register an FIR against the accused, has failed till date to get a FIR registered. Instead, the case of rape has been converted into one of eve teasing and a complaint of eve teasing has been registered. In a fourth incident, Zafar Hussein, a CPI (M-L) leader in Rajasthan was lynched to death by the state employees for allegedly objecting to their taking photographs of women relieving themselves in the open, those women who do-not have any other option, what with one public toilet, with no water and flushing facilities catering to 3000 households in their basti! The gruesome story however does not end here, after lynching the man to death, the state employees also registered a case against him for trying to interfere with them in their official duties! Just for information here, public naming and shaming of people, especially women, forced to defecate in the open due to lack of facilities which the authorities are duty-bound to provide, is being used as a legitimate means of creating a clean India, under the Swachch Bharat Abhiyaan, in some states!
The first two incidents are a grim reminder of the overzealousness of the state in trying to redefine nationalism for all of us. A nation and the people that took pride in their unique heritage and culture, that was tolerant, receptive, large-hearted and absorptive, is being given a rude jolt. A nation with unmatched potential, both in terms of physical and human resources, would do much better to realize that potential completely if utilized its creative energies for some constructive purposes rather than whiling them away in arriving at a creative definition of nationalism. Would that not be the best way in which we could serve our nation? Would it not be proof enough of our love for our nation?
The latter two incidents are exemplary of the attitude that the authorities exude for the weak and the dispossessed. The basic human rights of the marginalized are being destroyed under the weight of authority and political intrigues. The very same people who are desperately keen on providing us with a rejuvenated version of their nationalism, somehow completely forget that these people who are being meted such shabby treatment, are legitimate parts of that very nation itself, which they are attempting to redefine.
The above instances and innumerable such instances which keep on repeating with a frequency that would have been unbelievable had it not been true, send shivers down my spine and leave me with a nauseating feeling. Yet, if the redefinition of nationalism needs to continue abated, then can we not define it in a way that actually takes the nation to glorious heights, rather than lead it towards unnecessary and unrewarding pursuits? Will the nation feel loved if its people raise it to the heights of glory that it truly deserves, by putting in their best in whatever they do, or will it feel loved if its own people actually inflict it with numerous cuts and bruises, such that it is forever bleeding?
These questions cannot be answered by anybody else for us, nor can they be ignored or wished away. Each and every one of us will have to answer it for ourselves, sooner rather than later, and will have to have the courage to live with all the consequences of that answer. I really hope that all of us are up to it.
Nivedita Dwivedi has done MA in Elementary Education from Tata Institute of Social Sciences.