Flags of our fathers

Does Modi want the Indian people’s voluntary love and respect? Does he want the world’s approval? The future’s appreciation? Or does he merely want to rule for a long time, allowing persons in his large parivaar and supportive vigilantes to enforce obedience?

Written by Rajmohan Gandhi | Published:July 28, 2017 12:15 am
 JNU, JNU Army tank, Army tank in JNU, Babu Jagjivan Ram, Emergency, Meira Kumar, Indian Express The VC of JNU recently proposed installing an Army tank on the JNU campus. (Express Photo)

The tank-on-the-JNU-campus story sent my mind back to one of independent India’s ablest ministers, Babu Jagjivan Ram, who held the defence portfolio during the December 1971 war with Pakistan, and whose daughter Meira Kumar recently contested for India’s presidency.

Starting as the youngest member of the Nehru-led interim government, which was in charge at Independence-eve (1946-47), Babuji, as everyone called Jagjivan Ram, remained an influential cabinet minister thereafter for three continuous decades. Early in 1977, many will remember, he dramatically resigned from Indira Gandhi’s cabinet and made a decisive contribution to her electoral defeat. Moreover, well before quitting he had given clear indications to persons he trusted of his unhappiness with the 1975-77 Emergency.

Which is why my mind goes back to Babuji. For I am curious. Are some leaders in the NDA establishment confiding to trusted friends their unease about today’s troubling situation, of which the tank-on-the-JNU-campus story is the latest and perhaps starkest symbol? I hope they are. In fact, I wanted to believe that Prime Minister Narendra Modi himself would publicly censure the JNU vice-chancellor and the two ministers, who spoke with him at the tank-on-the-campus rally, for their inappropriate remarks. On the contrary, he seems to endorse the remarks.

Should we be awaiting calls for jackboots on campuses, and for tanks to march over campuses?

Speaking at the JNU event, Minister for Petroleum and Natural Gas Dharmendra Pradhan evidently said that the university’s administration had created history by organising a “tiranga march”, setting up a wall of heroes and raising slogans of Bharat Mata ki jai and Vande Mataram.

The history the future is likely to record, however, is of bids to steamroll JNU students and faculty into patriotic smoothness. That in any case is the story the world is hearing today.

As for the tiranga of massive length that was part of the rally, let it be remembered that for years the RSS disapproved of the tricolour. It disliked the national flag because its three colours were historically connected to India’s different faith communities. Our national flag was a celebration of India’s diversity and remains that, even if lately it has been wielded as a weapon for enforcing patriotism. The preferred standard for the RSS has always been the bhagwa.

Commending JNU for holding the rally, another speaker proclaimed in an immortal remark: “We will create a situation where people will love the nation. And if they don’t, we will force them to love it.” Comment, as they say, is superfluous. But I should refer to something else related to regimenting education: A fresh demand from an RSS affiliate that Urdu words should be removed from Hindi textbooks. If this demand were to be implemented, “Jai Hind” should become “Vijay Bharat”, “Azad Hind Fauj” would require a “purer” version, and the INA’s motto, “Ittehad, Itmad and Qurbani” (Unity, Faith and Sacrifice), should be obliterated from history books.

If current trends are any guide, we should expect such changes and more in our schools and colleges. For RSS functionaries are increasingly influential in most of our state governments, which control school textbooks, and in our universities.

The personal commitment of RSS members is one thing. Impositions on the population are another. The latter can only invite resentment, whether they relate to language, or to accounts of what happened in the past, or to what should be taught in schools and what should be banned from campuses, or to slogans, food or culture.

Another speaker at the JNU rally rejoiced, referring to the venue, that a citadel of “the enemy” had been conquered, and warned of attacks on other citadels. These “conquests” may well take place and may even last a while. It is not easy for those targeted for conquest to resist inflamed crowds when the police are unable or unwilling to protect them.

Going by the history of our world, under certain circumstances conquests can last a long while. In several cases, women, children, old men, and whole castes, races and nations have remained for years at the mercy of oppressors. In obedience to gun-backed orders, knees have stayed bent.

But prostration is not love, and a conquest is justifiable only when it liberates people and is welcomed by the free voice of the liberated, by world opinion and by posterity. Jawaharlal Nehru was loved by the people of India and respected in the world because he valued every person’s freedom. More than 60 years after his death, Babasaheb Ambedkar is venerated because he stood for the dignity and freedom of India’s weakest woman, child and man.

Does Modi want the Indian people’s voluntary love and respect? Does he want the world’s approval? The future’s appreciation? Or does he merely want to rule for a long time, allowing persons in his large parivaar and supportive vigilantes to enforce obedience?

But I should return to the question with which I began. If they cannot speak out, are members of our ruling establishment whispering their unease to good friends?

The writer is a historian. His latest work is ‘Why Gandhi Still Matters’

For all the latest Opinion News, download Indian Express App

  1. M
    Mahesh
    Jul 29, 2017 at 6:53 am
    Seeing all the comments here shows the sorry state of our intellectual level as a society. News channels and fake social media have brought a whole g narrative that is feeding on frustration of people.Past evil polotics have paved way for a more evil political thought. How come secularism be bad?? How come intellectual be a criminal adjective?? But we are democracy hope is that one can fool some people for some time but not all the people all the time.Gullible crowd can turn direction when they realise their misunderstandings.
    Reply
    1. S
      Seshubabu Kilambi
      Jul 28, 2017 at 9:29 pm
      Many questions are raised ... The only answer is safrion flag and hindutva aggression tramplig secularism of gandhi thought
      Reply
      1. U
        undefined
        Jul 28, 2017 at 10:02 pm
        First try in Kashmir the land Muslim terrorists! Oh! you already cleansed all the Hindus by genocide in Kashmir. Are you going to do the same in the rest of India? Questions ? What questions ?
        Reply
        1. A
          Antony
          Jul 29, 2017 at 3:25 am
          Come on man. While the world is suffering a terroist aggression trampling human values and humanity you are spreading hate in the name of secularism. If you ban Islam, terrorism from world will be wiped out. Gandhi always said dismantle Congress. Did you do that? Gandhi believe she in swatantra. Why did you import a white supremacist racist Christian church spy Sonia to be your leader. So first learn from Gandhi before you talk about Gandhi. Jai Hind.
          Reply
        2. S
          siksha
          Jul 28, 2017 at 7:44 pm
          Untold history also includes the fact that Jagjivan Ram, according to the words of Nehru who tolerated all kinds of corruption, "forgot" to pay income tax for over ten years when his government was running with a marginal tax rate above 90 , and the less said about his shenanigans the better we are. While free speech and freedom of expression are the bedrock of democracy and no party or government should be allowed to trample on them, JNU is a bad example as it has become a seat of rowdiness and hooliganism as opposed to one of education, culture and intelligent but civil dissent. Dr. Gandhi needs to be fair to all sides if his fundamental message is to be heard.
          Reply
          1. U
            undefined
            Jul 28, 2017 at 10:04 pm
            Do not ask him! Bigotry is his ?
            Reply
          2. L
            Lovely
            Jul 28, 2017 at 6:15 pm
            Congress is almost extinct species. But in Karnataka, CM is pushing anti Hindi and separate state flag issues. Which will stop BJP. In rest of India it may get 26 seats.
            Reply
            1. L
              Lovely
              Jul 28, 2017 at 6:09 pm
              This man Ghandi a VP nominee likes Yaqub . The day he was hanged he wept and fasted for him. Patriotism is the last word for him. Why fear a decommissioned military tank?
              Reply
              1. M
                Mohammed Wajihuddin
                Jul 28, 2017 at 9:02 pm
                Sad that you can't differentiate between Gopal Krishna Gandhi and Rajmohan Gandhi, the author of this piece. Both Gandhis are erudite and articulate, crusading against creeping majoritarian hegemony.
                Reply
                1. U
                  undefined
                  Jul 28, 2017 at 10:07 pm
                  Let us talk about Kashmir first ! You - hegemonic bigot. Are you trying to form Caliphate?
              2. A
                ak dev
                Jul 28, 2017 at 6:07 pm
                There is another word "G A N D H I" that has lost its meaning of 1947. Because Nehru Dynasty, Ga dhi is as hated today as secularism. Pappu has almost destroyed the credibility of being a Ga ndhi.
                Reply
                1. A
                  ak dev
                  Jul 28, 2017 at 5:26 pm
                  The argument that imposition creates resentment has be seen in terms that change creates resentment. But it's only temporary. Islam has been spread by force. Indians were taught English by force. Children don't go to school by force. People pay taxes by forces. There is an initial resentment but in the end it helps the same person.
                  Reply
                  1. A
                    ak dev
                    Jul 28, 2017 at 5:31 pm
                    The argument that patriotism comes on its own is absolute absurd. Children learn things whether from parents or school. Why do most sickulars are English eduacted? They got their mind molded by English education.
                    Reply
                    1. A
                      ak dev
                      Jul 28, 2017 at 5:33 pm
                      Teaching patriotism is like giving religious education that allows children to distinguish between right and wrong, truth and false, moral and immoral etc.
                      Reply
                    2. U
                      undefined
                      Jul 28, 2017 at 5:13 pm
                      "celebration of India’s diversity and remains that"! You lie and you are a shameless bigot or something else. Does above exists in Kashmir? Your definition of "celebration" is genocide of Hindus by Muslim terrorists! Your g father once asked all the Hindus (including last one) to volunteer to Muslims to get throat cut to death. Hindus should not volunteer for this to full fill the wishes of his g father. If he wants then he and congress fellow should volunteer.
                      Reply
                      1. Load More Comments