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Sunday, April 05, 2020

Call me by any other name

Mohan Bhagwat’s advice to people to refrain from using the term nationalism has TV channels in a fix, while in China, collateral damage of coronavirus claims the entire staff of a newspaper

Written by Pratik Kanjilal | Published: February 22, 2020 1:39:44 am
Mohan Bhagwat, nationalism, indian media, coronavirus, indian express In Ranchi, RSS sarsanghchalak Mohan Bhagwat has also been pondering power and superpower. (File)

Preoccupied as we are with domestic questions of nation, nationality and nationalism, we have little time for international events like the annual Munich Security Conference. Following the UN special envoy to Libya terming the arms embargo on the nation’s warring groups as a “joke”, the international community at the meet focused on it. Amidst the wearying intricacies of summiteering, there was something of interest, even to us: European foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said that the EU must develop “an appetite for power”, “learn to use the language of power”, and abandon the principle of unanimity, according to which all 27 member states must agree to military intervention. In the case of a naval mission to Libya, Euronews reports, 26 members had agreed.

Apart from digital issues, on which they have been unfailingly sharp, the institutions of the EU generally limit themselves to issuing pious resolutions and denunciations on international crises, in the manner of the UN, and leave it to member nations to take (or not take) military action. Borrell’s statement reveals a Europe that is no longer content with being influential, but is in pursuit of muscular power.

In Ranchi, RSS sarsanghchalak Mohan Bhagwat has also been pondering power and superpower. After addressing the phenomenon of rising divorce rates among the educated and affluent classes — which are apparently crucibles of arrogance — he has now turned his attention to the core matter of nationalism. His last intervention had drawn sharp reactions, and since one of them proceeded from Sonam Kapoor, the TV channels had sucked it up like joy juice. Kapoor had termed Bhagwat’s observations on divorce “regressive and foolish”. And Abhishek Manu Singhvi had advised him to be more careful in his statements.

That was quite straightforward. Now, at a rally in Ranchi, Bhagwat has confused his flock by advising them against using the term ‘nationalism’, for fear of being misunderstood. Some guy in the UK has informed him that in the West, the word is associated with “Hitler, Nazivad, Fascivad”. “Aap nation kaho chalega, national chalega, nationality chalega, nationalism mat kaho.” It’s not clear why they had to wait for this guy in distant parts to enlighten them, since anyone with a passing acquaintance with mass media, anywhere in the world, knows this. Indian social media highlights the connection on an hourly basis. Republic World really had to get creative to present this story. Solution: “RSS Chief Mohan Bhagwat spoke about what the true meaning of ‘nationalism’ was and how it was severely misunderstood.” The appraisal season is upon the press. Chalega.

The collateral damage of coronavirus has claimed the entire staff of the Wall Street Journal in mainland China. The whole bureau has been sent packing after the organisation published an opinion article headlined ‘China is the Real Sick Man of Asia’, which the authorities denounced as racist and anti-national. Al Jazeera reports that this is the first time that “multiple members of a foreign media organisation were simultaneously ordered to leave.” The Foreign Correspondents’ Club of China has stated that this was an “extreme and obvious attempt by the Chinese authorities to intimidate foreign news organisations by taking retribution against their China-based correspondents.” Since last week, there has been speculation that mishandling of the virus outbreak threatens perceptions of Xi Jinping, just a year after he was awarded a term for life everlasting.

A clip from Seven News, Australia’s top channel, raises a serious legal question: can a volunteer member of an organisation be fired, since no employment contract exists? It arose when a news video was shared showing volunteer fireman Paul Parker of fire-ravaged Nelligen, New South Wales, stopping his fire engine by a camera crew and asking: “Are you from the media? Tell the prime minister to go and get (expletive) from Nelligen. We really enjoy doing this (expletive), (expletive).” It even made NBC’s The Today Show, and Parker was reported to believe that he had been sacked by the local unit. This week, thanks to all the publicity, the fire department is investigating what really happened, since its people cannot be dismissed summarily for hooting the PM.

But just to let us know that all is well with the world, CNN provided the story of Californian cabbie Rajbir Singh, who has prevented a 92-year-old passenger from being Nigerian-scammed by a person claiming to be an official of the US Internal Revenue Service. Singh tried every possible means to prevent his passenger from withdrawing $25,000 to pay up, and when he failed, he took her to the police. Singh is reported to have been given a citizen award for his intervention. So much more satisfying than the “alert citizen award” that a BJP leader recently gave to an Uber cabbie for taking to the Mumbai Police a passenger who spoke about communists and Shaheen Bagh, carried a dafli, and was a poet and activist, all deeply suspicious activities.

pratik.kanjilal@expressindia.com

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