“Nationalism has always had a problematic relationship with truth,” said Pratap Bhanu Mehta, President of Centre for Policy Research, New Delhi and contributing editor at The Indian Express Wednesday. Mehta was delivering the B G Verghese Memorial Lecture 2015 — named after veteran journalist B G Verghese — on the subject, ‘Truth and Politics in Our Times’. He also presented the Media Foundation’s Chameli Devi Jain Award 2016-2017, for an outstanding woman journalist. The ceremony was held at the India International Centre in New Delhi on Wednesday.
Reflecting on the current political climate in India and abroad, Mehta said, “There are three operations that nationalism does to us: abstraction, alienation and amplification. You become one thing rather than another, your multitudeness has to be congealed in a name, India, etc; alienation: you have to be swallowed up in a collectivity, where your individuality becomes secondary; and amplification, which is that by congealing with others in this united will you somehow experience a different kind of thrill, power etc.”
Mehta concluded with a quote by Japanese writer Haruki Murakami: “Nationalism is like cheap alcohol, it gets you drunk after a few shots and makes you hysterical, it makes you speak loudly, but after your drunken rampage you are left with an awful hangover. I think we are, unfortunately, living in the politics of that hangover.” The lecture was followed by a panel discussion with Yogendra Yadav, national president, Swaraj Abhiyan; and Ashok Malik, columnist and distinguished fellow, Observer Research Foundation.
Neha Dixit, an independent journalist based in the Capital, received the coveted prize, instituted in the honour of freedom fighter Chameli Devi Jain, and first awarded in the year 1982.