Where nationalism has to be proved only by minorities

gandhi effigy shooting

This past January when India marked its 70th Republic Day, some Sikh and Kashmiri separatists burnt Indian flags in UK and US to protest against mistreatment of minorities in the world’s so called largest democracy.

Unable to tolerate this, the Indian government objected and raised the issue with foreign governments.

While the Sikh separatists have been campaigning for a separate Sikh homeland of Khalistan, an imaginary nation to be carved out of Punjab, Kashmiri separatists too have been fighting for independence.

Not only there was a knee jerk reaction of the Indian establishment to these flag burnings, several Kashmiri journalists were barred from attending the Republic Day parade in Srinagar.

Some time ago, the Indian government blacklisted revolutionary leftist activists who had protested outside the Indian consulate in Vancouver on an Independence Day. They were merely protesting against the growing repression of minorities and those marginalised in India and for exercising their freedom of expression denied visas to travel back home.

Barely four days after the Republic Day drama ended, Hindu fanatics in India belonging to Hindu Mahasabha publicly shot at the statue of Mahatma Gandhi and garlanded the statue of his assassin Nathuram Godse.

Gandhi, the leader of the passive resistance movement against British occupation of India and a strong advocate of Hindu-Muslim unity, was assassinated by Hindu Mahasabha activist Nathuram Godse on January 30, 1948.

Godse is frequently glorified by the Hindu Right. Ever since the current Hindu nationalist Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) government came to power, those who consider Godse as a hero have become emboldened. After all, the Hindu Mahasabha founder Vinayak Damodar Savarkar, who wanted to establish a Hindu nation, is revered by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his party colleagues. Savarkar was also arrested in the Gandhi murder case, but was acquitted due to lack of evidence. Not only was Gandhi’s brand of Hinduism more liberal, his philosophy of a secular India was in complete contradiction to the exclusionist Hindu state the BJP wants to create.

The latest incident happened in Uttar Pradesh where the BJP is in power.

While the Indian establishment is too much concerned about the “anti-national” elements abroad and their attempts to insult national symbols, there is a complete silence over repeated attempts to demonize Gandhi, who is widely known as father of the Indian nation.

It is pertinent to mention, that the BJP supporters had used the Indian flag in the past, during their controversial demonstrations in support of the Hindu extremists involved in heinous crimes, such as sexual violence and murders in the name of cow protection.

Taking all these episodes into account, will it be too much to ask the Indian government led by Modi – why has hyper nationalism of the extremists from the majority community never been questioned? Rather than making a big fuss about flag burnings all the time, why not first teach your own supporters to respect Gandhi and the national flag, and not let patriotism be used as a refuge by those involved in hate crimes? It is this selectivity and appropriation of nationalism and the process of othering the minorities who have some genuine grouses against the Indian establishment which is provoking people to burn the flags – which isn’t a big deal really as compared to the mass murders of the Sikhs and the Muslims in Kashmir and elsewhere by supporters of Hindu nationalism. Instead of forcing patriotism on the minorities the Indian state needs to take them into its embrace with honesty.

Gurpreet Singh is a Canada- based journalist who publishes Radical Desi- a monthly magazine that covers alternative politics.


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