It is ironical that assault on thought which threatens to undermine the independence of the nation is being justified in the name of “nationalism.” This glorification of “nationalism” after all has the backing of the corporate-financial oligarchy, which is integrated with international finance capital and hence complicit with imperialism in opposing any threat to such capital.
With the victory of BJP in Uttar Pradesh the fusion of neo-liberalism and Hindutva has got further cemented. The Hindu communal consolidation combined with a wide ranging caste coalition which was cemented with a communal national appeal has emboldened BJP to take a more aggressive posture in the country’s politics. But, it certainly looks strange that why only US President Donald Trump phoned up PM Modi to congratulate him on the BJP’s grand victory in the state elections?
And further, with an appointment of unapologetic Hindutva face Yogi Adityanath as the UP Chief Minister India’s international image is taking a severe beating today. The influential British daily Financial Times captioned its editorial, ‘Beware the other side of India’s prime minister’. It estimated that bereft of any substantive achievement to show so far after three years in power, the BJP took to a virulently anti-Muslim plank in the election campaign, which, having paid off, is now certain to be its talisman in the 2019 parliamentary poll as well.
The editorial sees dark days ahead for India and it fears that if India tears itself apart in Hindu-Muslim violence, it should be a matter of concern to the international community. Similarly, The New York Times said in an editorial that PM Modi ‘sees no contradiction between economic development and a muscular Hindu nationalism that feeds on stoking anti-Muslim passions.’
But, there isn’t going to be any ban put on India by the world community, because India’s market is phenomenally big and that alone becomes an alluring prospect for foreign countries looking for export opportunities. Yes, in reality, its ‘muscular diplomacy’ won’t work.
Patriotism—a cloak for self-interest
The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP) and the rest—proclaim their brand of patriotism. It connotes a perverted concept of nationalism and intolerance of dissent. Its aim is to erase the national consensus that sustained the freedom movement and prevailed in India for decades after its independence.
Due to their peculiar brand of nationalism, it took the BJP long to accept Mahatma Gandhi as Father of the Nation. Further, just to gain respectability, it adopted icons namely B.R. Ambedkar and Shaheed Bhagat Singh. After Partition, they sought to ride to power on the wave of communal fury. Gandhi opposed it and paid for it with his life. A portrait of Vinayak Savarkar, the man who conspired Gandhi’s assassination, was put in the Central Hall of Parliament.
Now, in the aftermath of the BJP’s victory in the elections to the Uttar Pradesh Assembly, its president Amit Shah proclaimed on March 11, that Narendra Modi was the tallest leader since Independence. What it reveals is a determination to wipe out Jawaharlal Lal Nehru’s vision of India and replace it with that of Narinder Modi. The RSS has sought to recast our polity radically, discarding secularism in favour of Hindu Raj. Since its pracharak Modi became Prime Minister in 2014, he has been trying to promote Hindutva in educational and cultural institutions, in appointments to public posts (as Chief Ministers and Governors etc.) and in willful indifference to outrages against the minorities—Muslims and Christians—and Dalits.
Today, the BJP as a party is a mere tool in Modi’s hands. Modi has reduced Cabinet Ministers to stooges. That is one aspect of the rise of totalitarianism. The other is more dangerous. It is the spread of the Hindutva, through official encouragement. The RSS and its political fronts never accepted the national consensus with secularism as its vital component. “The BJP rejects the concept of a composite culture. It believes in one nation, one people, and one culture. That ‘one culture’ which it flaunts is the heart of its ‘cultural nationalism’. It is Hindu nationalism. The 1998 manifesto is more explicit in the section on ‘Our National Identify, Cultural Nationalism’. It says, plainly enough, that the cultural nationalism of India… is the core of Hindutva.” That “one culture” which it flaunts is the heart of its “cultural nationalism”. It is Hindu nationalism.
In this context, statements of Yogi Adityanath further glorify BJP’s muscular face of nationalism. Calling Kairana in West UP another Kashmir; promoting the poison politics of Love Jihad- basically a discouragement of Hindu-Muslim romance, comparing Shah Rukh Khan’s words with that of Hafiz Saeed, asking those who don’t do the Surya Namaskar to leave India, calling Mother Teresa part of the conspiracy to Christianize India – these are all documented statements of Yogi.
Since Modi came to power, we have been treated to a profusion of such assertions on a host of matters. Sample these: On March 17, 2016, the RSS’ joint general secretary Dattatreya Hosabale declared that “anyone who refused to say ‘Bharat Mata Ki Jai’ is anti-national for us”. Two days later, Amit Shah said that the BJP “will not tolerate criticism of the country”, adding “anti-national activity cannot be justified on the plea of freedom of expression”. The ABVP’s general secretary Ankit Sangwar said on February 27, 2017: “If anyone raises a finger on this country that finger will be cut.” A day later its national media convener Saket Bahuguna laid down the line, “It is anti-national if somebody demands freedom of Kashmir [from India]. This is misuse of freedom of speech.”
These utterances have a background that suggests a planned effort to foist a saffron agenda. RSS-backed think tanks like India Policy Foundation have been particularly active. Modi himself was the first Prime Minister to chant “Jai Shri Ram, Jai Jai Shri Ram” at a Dussehra event in Lucknow last year (Asian Age; October 13, 2016). In this “nationalist” agenda fall ghar wapsi (conversion) and ban on sale of beef.
The RSS supremo Mohan Bhagwat declaimed with satisfaction in Jammu on November 13: “Our country is Hindu Rashtra and our ancestors are Hindus.… We are all sons of Bharat Mata.” The RSS has every reason to be satisfied. Its pracharak is the Prime Minister, after all. The implications of this relationship are obvious and grave. Modi’s victory in 2014 is owed to the “groundwork by over one lakh RSS group leaders and about six lakh swayamsevaks from the 50,000-odd shakhas”, he mentioned. Bhagwat and his aides had worked hard on the drawing board to plot a strategy for electoral success.
Planning has already begun not only for the 2019 Lok Sabha elections but for 2025, a year that will mark a century of the RSS’ birth. Meanwhile, the bandwagon of the RSS’ ideology will roll on. A new set of “national heroes” will be promoted. An interesting lot of “intellectuals” and operators have cropped up to push the agenda.
Indoctrination of students in this fascist breed of nationalism has begun. Students of Prof. Kausal Kishore Mishra of Banaras Hindu University “are writing papers on ‘Cultural nationalism of M.S. Golwalkar” (RSS boss) and “Relevance of Hindu Mahasabha leader Savarkar in political science”. Sonia Sarkar records: “More and more MPhil and PhD students are being encouraged by the faculty in various universities to explore Hindutva-related subjects” (The Telegraph; February 19, 2017).
The “nationalism” that is being propagated by the BJP government is not the inclusive nationalism of the anti-colonial struggle; on the contrary it invariably sees the “nation” as distinct from the people, who are required to make “sacrifices” for the “nation” but whose own conditions of life are not supposed to be relevant to the stature of the “nation”.
Such a notion of glorifying nationalism is obviously in the interests of the corporate-financial oligarchy and also in the interests of the communal elements, such as the Hindutva forces. Their entire agenda after all is centered around the concept of a Hindu Rashtra. It constitutes an ideological weapon to safeguard the neo-liberal regime against any challenge that democratic institutions may throw up. The damaging propagation of this “nationalism” is associated with a shift occurring in the nature of the State, whereby the neo-liberal state is consolidating itself by turning authoritarian, not by declaring an “Emergency” or mobilizing troops etc., but by mobilizing a bunch of communal and fascistic storm-troopers, of the likes of RSS, BJP and ABVP.
The propagation of this ideology of nationalism, where criticism of the ruling government comes to be characterized as “anti-national”, requires an assault on thought, and that too precisely in those institutions, which would necessarily be the front-ranking institutions of the country, where intellectual activity thrives. The fact that some of the finest institutions of the country, like Jawaharlal Nehru University, University of Hyderabad, Pune Film Institute, and the Fine Arts department of M.S. University, Baroda, are being systematically attacked by the Hindutva elements is no accident. It illustrates these elements’ hostility to thought, which they perceive as standing in the way of their project of diminishing democracy in the name of glorifying nationalism.
The attack on the premier academic institutions of the country to ensure that they are no longer sites where thought is practised, proceeds according to a certain script. Corporate media channels play up this “anti-nationalism” to defame teachers and students of these institutions. Fascistic mobs, supposedly “incensed” by all this “anti-nationalism”, are unleashed on the students of these institutions, threatening to lynch them. The objective of this entire project is to thrust down the throats of the students the worldview of the Hindutva elements.
This muscular Hindu “nationalism” and growing authoritarianism after all has the backing of the corporate-financial oligarchy, which is integrated with international finance capital and hence complicit with imperialism in opposing any threat to such capital. It has to be countered by secular and anti-imperialist movements in all socio-political spheres.