The Rise of ‘Tele-Nationalism’ in Safron Era

Nation, and nationalism can be, at times, quite confusing terms at philosophical level of thinking. Why am I saying so? Because of a simple fact- every nation has a different nationalism despite having the same fabrics in it. It is like all the nations are wearing clothes which are made of thread, but each have its own form and characteristics. All these different appearances are somehow connected to two set of fabrics: the ethnic and the civic. Like for example, some are inclusive, and some are exclusive.  Take the modernist nationalistic sentiments of Germany and India for the contradictory example. One looked for exclusivity, and the other, to fight the British was inclusive in nature. But, when we say two set of fabrics, then dialectics and contrast is natural at one point or the other.

The dialectic of civic and ethnic, and the new uproar of oppression is what India is facing post 2014, to be precise, though the process had started in fractions ever since Babri Masjid demolition or much earlier, somehow. Primarily, India follows civic nationalism, i.e. the liberal form of nationalistic sentiments which are driven by coinciding political aspiration, sovereignty, equality, tolerance, and freedom of the people. But, somehow, since 2014, this has been changing rapidly. With the conscious injection of ethnical bigotism into the society, India has begun to transform, failing its civic foundation. The vibrant example of it is the rise of Hindutva Nationalism- a radical form of ethnic nationalism. It emphasizes on looking at history, culture, language and geography through a conservative, religious prism. To be precise, the Hindu radical prism. So, the disintegration and oppression of minority is running like wild fire, which is obvious, for it is the numbers that counts in a democratic war. The war of majority. In here, minority is composed of the opposition, other religions, and other cultures and beliefs. The ethnic alienation, and the paranoiac attitude towards intellectualism, and liberalism has boarded onto Indian democracy.

The election of 2019 and the staggering numbers of seats is a clear indication of the transformation, as is the rise in the hate crimes as recorded by Fact-Check India gives us a crystalline picture of the oppression of ethnic nationalistic values on India.

2019 24
2018 92
2017 73
2016 42
2015 30
2014 18
2013 9
2012 1
2011 1
2010 8
2009 3

(Year, and number of hate crimes committed)

hate crime victims

hate perpetrators


In a country like India which has a past of valuing secularity, the sudden shift is creating friction in the society, and the anima of individuals. What it is also creating is a sense of ethnic superiority. This very sense of superiority is causing the “Jai shree Ram” terror. Why am I calling it terror? Because the constitution of India doesn’t allow religious dictatorship, nor does it allow murders. The case of Tabrez Ansari is the latest addition to the list:

A 10-minute video shows Tabrez Ansari, 24, being beaten by a group of men last week over accusations he had carried out a burglary in Kharsawan district, in Jharkhand state.

Tied to a pole, Ansari is also forced to shout “Jai Shri Ram” (Hail Lord Ram), a slogan increasingly used by Hindu far right groups, according to the footage, which has gone viral. (Aljazeera wrote)

There are many more such instances of the stark consequences of this shift of nationalism – be it in policies, politics or the society. The killing of intellectuals, the labelling of opposition and voices of dissent as “anti-national”, “urban-naxal”, “khan market gang” so on and so forth; and the structural clowning of presidential image in a parliamentary democracy. There has been a continuous attempt to frame the government as nation, and to most extent, it has been successful. The deteriorating press freedom rank has not emerged out of the blue. It was a conscious move.

India has been suffering from the problems of illiteracy and unemployment. Only 8.15% Indians are graduates. Census show that with 6.8 crore graduates and above, India still has more than six times as many illiterates. (The Hindu; Rukmini S)The statistics of unemployment rate is also widely available- the latest displaying a 45 years high. With illiteracy, they’re not skilled enough for a respectable job; and unemployment and ill-mental health go hand in hand. With unemployment comes poverty, and with it, lack of respect and dignity. In the same context, I would like to share an excerpt from an article I’ve read few months back, and the shocking impact of unemployment it introduced me to before we move ahead:

I’ve written before about my friend Sharon and her job search travails. For two years, despite days when she felt so discouraged she was ready to give up, she kept on networking and finally landed a position that paid well and offered new challenges. But only a year into the job, the organization got hit with a funding cut and she found herself out of work again. She valiantly mounted a new job search but after slogging to interviews, writing countless peppy cover letters and opening herself up to jobs outside her field, she was still unemployed after a year. She finally succumbed to depression and went on medication that is screwing with her digestive tract. But at least she isn’t crying every day.

Her experience is all too common, according to new research by Gallup. “The longer that Americans are unemployed, the more likely they are to report signs of poor psychological well-being,” says the study. “About one in five Americans who have been unemployed for a year or more say they currently have or are being treated for depression — almost double the rate among those who have been unemployed for five weeks or less.”


Gallup ran the telephone surveys in 2013 with 356,599 Americans including 18,322 unemployed adults. Among those with full-time jobs, 5.6% said they were depressed or were being treated for depression. Among the unemployed, more than twice that number, 12.4%, said they were depressed. When Gallup polled those who had been unemployed for more than 52 weeks, the share of depressed people jumped to 19%.(Susan Adams; Forbes)

Unemployment and poverty brings the void of importance, respect, dignity and self-worth, which as human beings- people crave for. Also, the age in which we’re residing- of social media, it has its own demands, and supplies. Narcissism, or multiplication of self-worth or importance has been one such evil. Francine Edwards explains in “An investigation of attention-seeking…” the tendencies of narcissism or attention-seeking attitude of the post-modern humans-

Not only has it become an outlet for motivated social behavior, but also Facebook activity is closely related to narcissism. Rauch (as cited in Whiteman, 2014) says that social media provides reinforcement every time a person logs on, thus leading to Facebook addition. Through word choice, users deploy a number of different tactics to regulate their self-esteem on social media through communication patterns. As needed, users will adjust the word choice in order to direct attention toward the desired outcome; meaning posts will be crafted to yield a desired emotional outcome or response (Buss &Chiodo 1991). The goal of the narcissist is to gain admiration from followers by way of likes, mentions, or shares, however because the psychological underpinning of the need for affirmation is rooted in their psyche, the narcissist-user may not be aware of this implicit compensation process (DeWall, Buffardi, Bonser, and Campbell, 2011)

Individuals may also develop an addiction to the amount of likes, comments, reposts, and shares, which result from a given post. The power of the like indirectly pressures users to go to greater lengths to get noticed by friends and followers. Social media users crave feedback and responses (Seiter, 2014). Stephanie Tobin (nd) further investigates the addictive nature of social media in a study where half of the participants who regularly post to Facebook were told to function as active social media users and the other half of the participants were instructed to engage in ‘lurking’ or ‘trolling’ of followers who were active on Facebook. At the end of the study, those users who were in the non-posting group reported that they perceived their own self esteem to be adversely impacted by the lack of interaction.

This attention-seeking cycle and the understanding of social media has enabled the BJP to create a mass force of political commentators with no knowledge of polity and politics in general. As an organisation, they have tapped onto the silent nerve of human psychology- thus, offering the trolls, or the peoples behind the Ids a purpose beyond and bigger than their lives- of service to the nation, and nationalism. The trolls troll the voices of dissent for the purpose of climbing the ladder of attention on social media groups where people with same manipulated ideas create a space of appreciation and worth for the person who in real life might be criticized by his friends and family for being a loser. Also, they are injected with a sense of purpose beyond their existence, and so when they troll a differing voice, they do it for their motherland.  Somehow, for them, it creates an equal psychological satisfaction as a soldier in Kargil might have felt. The television, and the provocative ambience of the prime time news shows-adds onto the establishment of the hierarchy of toxic-nationalism. When the intellectual class, and the journalists will act and defend the purposes they were defending moments back on the social media, it gives them a sense of intellectual importance, for which they have craved for all their lives. For example, the event surrounding J.N.U. and the charges of sedition was propagated by news channels, and picked up by the social media forces- thus, showing the mechanics and the structural system of the new form of radical nationalism- the “tele-nationalism”. The lack of educational infrastructure, unemployment combined with the lack of self-worth has manufactured a mechanism for the BJP (IT Cell) to radicalise the nationalistic values they aspired to preach. The free-internet revolution started by Reliance Jio, though now it has moved to being internet in cheaper prices, have helped the party to multiply the target audience with SIM generations, 4g mobiles at affordable rate and new users of the internet (social media). The belief of constructive dialogue, and discourse have been replaced by illiterate ridiculing, and trolling.  The growth of social media users, and estimated social media users, according to Statista proves my assumptions to be true-

social network

(No. of social network users in India from 2015 to 2023 in millions)


(No. of monthly active Whatsapp users in India from August 2013 to Feb, 2017 in millions)

The strategical move to penetrate cheap data and mobile connectivity has worked in the favour of the BJP, as the silent rural base has found a new voice. According to a report by Nandita Mathur (2019):

The internet user base in India has exceeded 500 million mark and is likely to reach 627 million by end 2019, according to a newly released Kantar IMRB ICUBE report.

The number of internet users is estimated to be 566 million as of December 2018, registering annual growth of 18%, said the report on digital adoption and usage trends in India.

The report finds that 87% of the total user base, or 493 million Indians, are defined as regular users, having accessed the internet in the last 30 days. Of this, 293 million active internet users reside in urban India, while there are 200 million active users in rural India. Not surprisingly, 97% of users access the internet on their mobile device.

According to the report, digital adoption is now being propelled by rural India and figures show that it has registered 35% growth in internet users over the past year. It is now estimated that there are 251 million internet users in rural India, and this is expected to reach 290 million by the end of 2019.

Increased availability of bandwidth, cheap data plans and increased awareness driven by government programmes seem to have rapidly bridged the digital gap between urban and rural India. Consequently, the penetration in rural India has increased from 9% in 2015 to 25% in 2018

The report claims that Bihar shows the highest growth in new internet user additions across both urban and rural areas; registering a growth of 35% over last year. This is closely followed by Orissa.

Another key finding of the report is that the internet is now more gender balanced than ever before. Kantar reports that women today comprise 42% of total internet users. Besides their sheer presence in the digital universe, women are also equally engaged and active in the digital world – spending as much time on the internet as men.

As the internet is reaching to the corners of India, the constructive opinions are getting diluted in the cacophony of masses- mobilized by television news, the politicians and a purpose beyond their own life.Television viewership in rural India rose 10% between 2016 and 2018 while that in urban areas grew 4% over the same period, says the Broadcast India 2018 Survey (Lata Jha). So, the influence of television media is obvious, and with the acts of ‘Godi’ Media, the conversion of ideas of nationalism to Hindutva nationalism is a possible reality. Also, the hateful sermons of politicians against the minorities, and the islamophobic statements have helped in increasing a sense of religious nationalism by categorically differentiating patriotism from nationalism based on religion.( BJP has most number of lawmakers booked for hate speeches: ADR report). Bounties are given to the “tele-nationalists” as there are many trolls who are followed by policy-makers, and post-holders of BJP-RSS, and even by the Prime Minister himself. These bounties excite common Indians to join the programme and validate the greater purpose of their life. Metaphors such as Ram Mandir, Ram lala and Bharat Mata have been utilized to provide a purpose to the followers, which is both subjective and personal to the individuals. And, thus with all the factors intact in their places, we’re witnessing the rise of “tele-nationalism” in India.

Sutputra Radheye: He is a young Indian poet for whom poetry is a medium of protest against the authority. He channelizes his words to write what he sees, and how he sees.He doesn’t believe in pure arts- as for him, art is driven by the message it carries, as one can justify homicide or rape by putting on ornamental words on its body. His latest book of poetry is “Worshipping Bodies”, in which he explores the diversity in sexuality.




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