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The phrase “Anti-National” is curious, for more reasons than one can count. Still, we Indians both use it and allow it to be used far too often, contributing to the national disease of complicity, muddle-headedness and capitulation that plagues us and always has. The use of the phrase has echoes in eras that have gone before, thankfully some short-lived despite their grandiose plans of millennia of domination.

Now, one can imagine why the phrase is so powerful and has such resonance in India. We can imagine a world- not a nice one but a world nevertheless- in which people are rightly angered by others’ putatively “anti-national” behavior. But that which specifically constitutes “anti-nationalism” would have to be determined and agreed upon in some sensible way.

But that’s not where we are today. Today, we are in an Orwellian space in which anyone can be branded anti-national for almost any reason and thrown to the wolves- or the mobs as it turns out. We have allowed our democracy to erode by whipping ourselves into a frenzy and openly ceding our rights to the mind-and-bodybending forces of the Government and its bhakts.

What we haven’t stopped even for a moment to ask is, “what is the nation” that we are so rabidly defending at every turn? Indeed, “Kaun hai Bharat Mata?” is the question of the times.

We know a few things. We know that in the reigning conception of “the nation,” farmers don’t count much. We know that in the reigning conception of the “the nation,” Muslims don’t count much. We know that in the reigning conception of the “the nation,” adivasis don’t count much. We also know many such facts. Still, confusion remains.

The BJP came to power in no small part by sullying Congress and its dynastic tendencies. The logic there was that Congress had arrogated to itself the “right” to rule India and had in effect equated itself with the country. Now, there is some truth to this argument, especially in light of slogans like “Indira is India” and in the strange accession of Rajiv Gandhi to the role of Prime Minister upon the assassination of Ms. Gandhi. However, at no time – in reality- was the grand nation of India ever reducible to one party, or indeed one person.

Well, apparently, until now. Yes, it is the BJP that has finally created that equation between party and nation and, transitively, between a man and a nation.

Which brings us back to the curiousness of the notion of “anti-national.” Unless a political party is indeed the nation how can protest against it or its policies be anti-national? Unless a personage is indeed the nation, how can any disagreement with him be considered anti-national?

So if we accede to these labels- and the violence and suffering associated with these labels- are we not acceding to the notion that one man is India? And if we accede to that, how indeed is the BJP somehow different than the image of Congress it created to win the seat of power- one of Kings and Queens who equate themselves with the State? Accession is Concession.

If being anti-Modi is “anti-national” then isn’t Modi the nation? “L’etat C’est Lui?”

Surely, this idea must seem dangerous even to those who support him.

No man is a nation.

Romi Mahajan in an Author, Marketer, Investor, and Activist


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