by Chaitanya Pandey and Sandeep Pandey

indian national flag

India today is witness to two contesting ideas of nationalism. There is an idea of nationalism which emerged from the freedom movement. This idea of nationalism was inclusive and tried to take everybody along. It was based on concepts of democracy, secularism and socialism and espoused values of equality, justice, liberty and fraternity. The torch bearers of this concept of nationalism included Mahatma Gandhi, Jawaharlal Nehru, Khan Abdul Gaffar Khan, Dr. Ram Manohar Lohia, Jayaprakash Narayan, among others. This idea of nationalism promotes unity in diversity and believes that nation will be strong when all diversities would be respected and there would be an egalitarian society.

The other idea of nationalism is based on the premise that India is primarily a Hindu country. The politics of Hindutva is exclusionary. It not only denigrates Muslims and Christians to secondary status, it also marginalizes Dalits, tribals, women and ethnic and other kinds of minorities. This idea of nationalism, ironically, aspires to create a strong nation by uniting everybody, is divisive in its basis nature. It fails to see that alienating various sections of society will weaken it, not make it stronger. Recent examples include organization of an event under the banner of Bharat Jodo Andolan at Jantar Mantar by Advocate Ashwini Upadhyaya in which anti-Muslim slogans were raised. The organisers fail to comprehend that objective of uniting India and putting down Muslims, its largest minority, cannot be fulfilled at the same time. The contradictions of Hindutva ideology also came to the fore when some upper caste people celebrated in front of Dalit hockey player Vandana Kataria’s residence making casteist slurs in Haridwar after Indian team lost at recent Olympics. Upper caste male hegemony is inbuilt into Hindutva ideology which cannot tolerate excellence by anybody else, especially a Dalit, minority, tribal or woman. The mindset of asking Eklavya’s thumb as Gurudakshina by Dronacharya continues. In Rajasthan in two separate incidents tribals communities of Meena and Bhils have objected to hoisting of saffron flags at symbols which they consider their own, Amagarh fort in Jaipur and statue of Rana Punja Bhil in Udaipur, respectively. Tribals resent the appropriation of their icons by Hindutva politics. People subscribing to the Hindtuva ideology don’t realise that country cannot become strong if you leave the Bahujan, literally numerically, out or try to force your concept of nationalism on others who would like to maintain their distinct identity.

Ironically, immediately after Indian Home Minister held a meeting with Chief Ministers of Northeastern states to resolve long pending border disputes, the security forces of Assam and Mizoram clashed with each other with central security force merely watching. The relationship between two states, which have governments aligned with the central government, became acrimonious and the dispute is yet to be resolved. This raises a serious question on why under the umbrella of strong nationalism propagated by Bhartiya Janata Party two of its states are embroiled in a conflict like two bitter enemies? Quite clearly BJP’s nationalism doesn’t subsume their insecurity with respect to their identities and doesn’t have the cementing capability to iron out the differences.

The only hope for people who are inspired by the concept of nationalism is to go back to our freedom struggle or the Constitution and keep the idea of secularism, socialism and democracy at its core. Nationalism need not be jingoistic or aggressive. There are crores of people in this country who are silently working to make it strong. They may not raise the Bharat Mata ki Jai slogan or pour venom against Paksitan or Muslims at the slightest pretext but are completely dedicated to strengthening the fabric of society, which is a prerequisite for a strong nation. How can a divided society be ever cohesive?

The nation will become strong only if everybody feels part of it. India is a diverse country with people following different religions, cultures, languages, ethnicity, food habits, clothing habits, completely defying the idea of a monolith or one size fits all thinking. If the Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh or BJP would forcibly try to fit everybody in a pre-defined mould of its wishful thinking there will be revolt. The country will be torn apart. Large majority will feel alienated as we’ve seen with Muslims after the passage of Citizenship Amendment Act and the farmers after the promulgation of three anti-farmer laws. People in large numbers sitting on such long protests is a phenomena becoming common in BJP rule pointing to the intransigence of the government’s mindset or its inability to resolve difference with people opposed to its decisions. Either way it is bad for the country. It certainly doesn’t make the nation strong as BJP would like to see.

It is only the ideology which believes in democracy, socialism and secularism which can take everybody along and also has the capacity to accommodate conflicting interests, which can hold the country together. Mutual respect and willingness to make adjustments is key to making people feel that they are part of the project to make nation strong. The RSS-BJP believes in a sectarian and fundamentalist ideology which is not suited for the above purpose. They may have formed coalitions with various forces around the country to remain in power in various states but the basic nature of their ideology has not changed. For example, in the context of recent Afghan crisis the government said it would do everything to bring back Hindus and Sikhs stranded there. Earlier the Prime Minister failed to condole the death of Indian journalist Danish Siddiqui at the hands of Taliban. Such actions are divisive and may serve the politics of Hindutva well but in the long run are going to harm the nation.

Hence there is an urgent need to go back to the basics of our Constitution before the right wing ideology causes further erosion of our values thereby weakening our society. A political movement to restore the spirit of the Constitution and the freedom struggle is necessary. The political parties which profess to be socialist and secular but have compromised under the pressure of Hindtuva politics do not have it in them to bring about this transformation. A fresh beginning has to be made.

Note: Chaitanya Pandey is a recent LLB from Jindal University and Sandeep Pandey is Vice President, Socialist Party (India).

e-mail ids: chpan257@gmail.com, ashaashram@yahoo.com

Originally published in Indian Express


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