Fifth column: Anti-national nationalism

In India our political leaders have in 70 years of glorious independence not been able to provide the vast majority of our citizens with the most basic public services.

Written by Tavleen Singh | Updated: March 5, 2017 12:49 am
 nationalism, anti-nationalism, BJP, Narendra Modi, Delhi University, JNU, Ramjas row, India news, Indian Express New Delhi: Students and teachers of Delhi University, JNU and Jamia during their protest march against ABVP at North Campus in New Delhi on Tuesday. The students held placards with messages like “Save the varsities from the onslaught of ABVP” and “Your nationalism is not above our democracy”. (PTI Photo)

Nationalism can never be imposed by fiat. This should be obvious. But, for some reason, it is becoming increasingly obvious that it is not. Since Narendra Modi became Prime Minister, the idea of imposing nationalism by force appears to have gripped too many BJP political leaders. Ministers in particular should refrain from labelling people, but almost daily we hear them warning ‘anti-nationals’ that there will be dire consequences for those who speak against India. A particularly foolish statement came from a minister in the Haryana government last week. It is unworthy of being repeated here.

Unfortunately, he is not the only BJP leader to have offered his opinion on the brawl in Delhi University between students who believe they are nationalists and those they have labelled ‘anti-national’. It is my view that nobody has the right to decide who is a nationalist and who is not, but the two can play the game. So let me make it clear that I believe anyone who seeks to crush dissent and free speech on university campuses is anti-national. They sully India’s image with their hysteria. And they have breathed new life into aged Leftists who have been mercifully inactive for a while. To see them lead a student march last week bearing placards saying ‘their’ democracy was more important than ‘your’ nationalism, made me laugh, because nobody is more allergic to democracy than those of the Communist persuasion. Besides, nationalism and democracy are not antonyms.

The idea of imposing nationalism by fiat has spread not just across university campuses but even to our courts of law. Or why would the Supreme Court have taken it upon itself to order cinemas to play the national anthem in every show? Is this something judges should concern themselves with? At the risk of inviting your ire dear judges, may I remind you yet again that your primary duty should be to fix our broken justice system. It shames all Indians that rapists, murderers and terrorists remain unpunished for decades because the law takes so long to punish them.

To return, though, to the subject of nationalism, may I say that most Indians today are very proud of being Indian. What is very sad is that most Indians have no idea what being Indian means. In the history books they read in school, they read a version of history written by our colonial masters. If this government is serious about infusing nationalism, then why has it done so little to improve school curriculums? In our universities, why is there such disdain for research that seeks to unearth the mysteries of our ancient past? Why do we still teach Sanskrit in a way that can only produce priests? If even without knowing what being Indian means the vast majority of Indians are so proud of being Indian, think of how much prouder they would be if they understood more deeply the origins of the idea of India?

There are other ways of inspiring spontaneous nationalism. Countries that have built beautiful cities, fine universities and given ordinary citizens the ingredients to live with dignity, do not need to impose nationalism by executive fiat. In India our political leaders have in 70 years of glorious independence not been able to provide the vast majority of our citizens with the most basic public services. So they live in squalor so wretched that it is surprising that there are not millions more ‘anti-nationals’ being bred in the slums of our big cities.

In rural India, people struggle daily to stay alive without clean water, electricity, healthcare and jobs. So painful
is this struggle that it is astonishing there is not anti-nationalism of huge proportions.

So political leaders giving lectures on nationalism should desist forthwith and spend more time mulling over the failures of politics and governance that have created the need for nationalism to be imposed. More worrying still is the very narrow idea of nationalism that is at the moment in vogue. It is an idea so narrow and flimsy that singing the national anthem is considered nationalism and attacking someone who does not stand for it in a cinema hall is considered an act of nationalistic passion.

On a personal level, I found the slogans shouted in JNU last year very offensive, but I do not believe that the students who participated in this were anti-national. They were just students. It was a mistake to make arrests and sedition charges because the end result has been to make heroes out of people with some very defunct ideas. Only in India do we have university campuses populated by students who have not noticed what happened to Marxist countries in the past 20 years. Listening to their slogans and speeches makes you wonder if they have noticed yet that China is no longer Marxist and the Soviet Union no longer exists.

Follow Tavleen Singh on Twitter@ tavleen_singh

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    Onkar Singh
    Mar 5, 2017 at 4:08 pm
    Modi has been accusing the Congress for misrule of the past seventy years forgetting that Atalji was in the saddle for five years,Janata party was also in power and he has been in power for the past two and half years,what good has he done.Now anyone questioning his decision can be dubbed anti-national!!! So if hundreds have died in trying to get their money exchanged,the PM is " Maun" !!!!And the print media is also silent!!!!! The Judiciary is saying it's unable to provide " amritdhara "!!!!!! Where are we heading for--- the kabristan or the shamshaan??
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      Bnm
      Mar 5, 2017 at 12:31 pm
      I am angry that pseudo seculars ,leftists,Congress ,media and etc taken advantage of goodness of many Hindus like myself, do not push any more ,I want all Indians to live harmoniously respecting each other like all common people of all backgrounds do every day.
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        Jim
        Mar 5, 2017 at 9:40 am
        You have lost your marbles lady. You are neither here nor there with this article.lt;br/gt;lt;br/gt;Listen, this is what has happened. lt;br/gt;lt;br/gt;(1) Most Indians are proud of being Indians. lt;br/gt;(2) Some people try playing mischiefs like the JNU pests, Gurmehar etclt;br/gt;(3) Majority feels very strongly on this subject and wants to be vocallt;br/gt;(4) They see mischief mongers as pests. From now on majority will crush these mischief in the arena of opinionslt;br/gt;(5) BJP leaders or any other party leaders have no option but to sing the same tune. lt;br/gt;(6) AAptards Jihadidi Dumbress can try to squeeze into some anti bjp space but they cannot upset the majoritylt;br/gt;(7) BJP has read It right and majority Is therefore with BJPlt;br/gt;lt;br/gt;Samajhi bawali. Teri ummar ho chuki hain
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          Krishna Bhagawan
          Mar 5, 2017 at 8:40 pm
          politicians don't provide public services because janta wants private bribes. Do you think if Akhilesh provides roads instead of laptops, or TVs instead of water connection he will win. Will anyone win ?
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            Harsh Wadhwa
            Mar 5, 2017 at 4:48 am
            I agree - we should not be commenting on slogan-shouting protests in Delhi campuses ! We should comment only if students are suspected or accused of attending cles in these campuses !
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              K SHESHU
              Mar 5, 2017 at 1:59 pm
              The ' nationalism' has attacked individual liberty
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                ABP
                Mar 5, 2017 at 5:53 pm
                This is Tavleen at her worst. Seems a few remaining honest columnists too have got sold. lt;br/gt; lt;br/gt;Without Nationalism (earlier preached by Congress too), India is nothing. How else she thinks the country remains united. Very idea of a integrated nation dreamt by Sardar Patel is hollow without Nationalism.
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                  Vidhu
                  Mar 5, 2017 at 10:35 am
                  Usually upto the mark
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                    Vidhu
                    Mar 5, 2017 at 10:39 am
                    But this time completely off the mark.
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                      Ajay G
                      Mar 5, 2017 at 6:39 pm
                      Nationalism can be inspired (as done by Sardar Patel and Shastrijilt;br/gt;It can not be imposed. lt;br/gt; lt;br/gt;Despite being hungry, people were inspired by simple life styles of even affluent leaders. Now there are only politicians, not leaders.
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                        ak dev
                        Mar 5, 2017 at 12:58 am
                        TS says that nobody has the right to decide who is anti-national. Of course nobody has the right to decide but all have the right of free speech to b someone as anti-national. She herself uses this right by saying " I believe anyone who seeks to crush dissent and free speech on university campuses is anti-national.". TS some times behaves like a left hypocrite.
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                          ak dev
                          Mar 5, 2017 at 4:01 am
                          What is Hindu cult? You are wrong that BJP nationalism is different from your nationalism. One thing looks sure that you are filled with hatred for Hindus.
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                            ak dev
                            Mar 5, 2017 at 3:58 am
                            Without nationalism solders won't defend the country from enemies. Why should they lay their life?
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                              Bhakt
                              Mar 5, 2017 at 9:09 am
                              Seems she drank a gallon of thick white Islamic chemical the previous night.
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                                Akram
                                Mar 5, 2017 at 9:32 am
                                Her comment - "So they live in squalor so wretched that it is surprising that there are not millions more ‘anti-nationals’ being bred in the slums of our big cities." - explains everything. lt;br/gt; lt;br/gt;I am not a big fan of Modi, but he alone or his tenure of little less than 3 years can not be expected to change the things. Change will come irrespective of that and gradually. lt;br/gt; lt;br/gt;Till then, Nationalism alone can keep country together.
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                                  K Abbas
                                  Mar 5, 2017 at 10:30 am
                                  Usually I do not agree with her views for being one sided. Now when she appears to come out, still I can not agree. lt;br/gt; lt;br/gt;With so many religions, regions and languages it is only nationalism that has kept India united and integrated. Sports, entertainment of course have contributed too. lt;br/gt; lt;br/gt;In her own words despite so many deprived people still India is one, is a surprise.
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                                    Virender
                                    Mar 5, 2017 at 10:50 am
                                    May be she changed partner last week.
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                                      ansuman
                                      Mar 4, 2017 at 9:32 pm
                                      Tavleen-- soon you will become ---VEELEEN(disappear) if you can not speak the truth.
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                                        ansuman
                                        Mar 6, 2017 at 6:01 am
                                        What is your truth?
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                                          Piara Singh
                                          Mar 5, 2017 at 3:56 pm
                                          Tavleen Singh mixed the good with the bad again.Between 2004 and 2014 the previous Govt.lifted 140 million people out of poverty and this one has abandon the poor.Sanskrit is not the language of science and technology.Students should be free to study any language they like to.No need for more research to find out as who we are and where we come from.Our scriptures are there and DNA too,to find out as what kind of blood is running in our bodies.That money should be used to remove the menace of poverty.The struggle between the left and right should always be there democratically.Ideas should flow freely.But that not acceptable to R S S.Hence violence.They want to intimidate the mes the way they did in Gujrat so that they can rule India for ever.
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                                            Piara Singh
                                            Mar 5, 2017 at 3:02 pm
                                            Tavleen Singh said a few good words but forgot to mention that we have fascism in India right now otherwise how can a R S S leader put bounty on a C M.Religion must be separated from politics for the good of the country and the mes.Religion is my personal thing so say the Mahatma.
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