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Hindu nationalism has mangled the inclusive spirit of Indian nationalism

Indian nationalism must be reinvigorated by stressing on three pillars: Constitutionalism (respect for the Constitution, due process, and rule of law), pluralism (respect and preservation of India’s diversity, for the ethos of Bharata, the idea of India) and humanism (respect and promotion of insaaniyat).

opinion Updated: Dec 15, 2017 12:47 IST
Hindu nationalism,RSS,BJP
The positive spirit of patriotism is now truly being misused. A government’s job should not be to distribute certificates of anti-nationalism selectively to thinking and questioning citizens, irrespective of their ideologies.(Hindustan Times)

Seventy-two years ago in 1945, Delhi’s winter air was pierced by the cries of ‘Lal Qile se aaee awaz, Sahgal Dhillon Shah Nawaz, Teenon ki ho umar daraz’. The three Indian National Army (INA) officers from three religions ---- Shahnawaz Khan, Prem Sahgal and Gurbaksh Dhillon ---- were part of the 1945 INA trials. They were tried for treason by the British government and defended by four legal luminaries: Bhulabhai Desai, Tej Bahadur Sapru, Kailash Nath Katju and Jawaharlal Nehru. The INA trial united the nation and ignited the spirit of Indian nationalism, a rare breed of nationalism that is inclusive and liberal. It draws inspiration from Ashoka’s dharma, Akbar’s syncretism, Rabindranath Tagore’s humanism. Above all, it is shaped by the Mahatma’s political leadership and his strong moral force.

The major proponents of Indian nationalism were: Bal Gangadhar Tilak, Bhagat Singh, Mahatma Gandhi, Jawaharlal Nehru, Netaji Subhas Bose, Maulana Azad and Sardar Patel. Each had their own point of view on the issue, but all of them acknowledged and practised broad-spectrum nationalism. This was rare in a world that is littered with examples of nationalism gone astray: Germany, Italy, North Korea and Yugoslavia. Adolf Hitler owed his rise in Germany to the exploitation of distorted nationalism and Benito Mussolini to its misguided version. Yugoslavia’s breakup into six republics and the pogroms that followed can be traced to the same disease.

Indian nationalism survived the divisive acts of the proponents of the two-nation theory. The British created a fertile ground for the rise of Hindu and Muslim nationalism to counter Indian nationalism, through their ‘divide and rule’ policy. Pakistan is a byproduct of Muslim nationalism. India’s success in comparison to Pakistan is a reflection of the moral and political superiority of Indian nationalism. The spirit of Indian nationalism was embodied in the Indian freedom movement, led by the Indian National Congress (INC). This brand of nationalism triumphed over the Muslim League (ML) as represented by MA Jinnah, and Hindutva, as shaped by MS Gowalkar and V Savarkar, the ideological founders of the sangh parivar.

Today, India’s nationalism is under threat again from within. The rise of Hindu nationalism has muddied the waters and mangled the inclusive spirit of nationalism in India. One wonders how Indian nationalism became associated with superficial concerns for the cow, enforcement of the national song and anthem as a demonstration of patriotism. Will quality of governance improve by invoking the national song twice a day? Will academic and infrastructure standards of the Dyal Singh College (evening) improve by renaming it Vande Mataram College?

The positive spirit of patriotism is now truly being misused. Soldiers at the border are invoked as a shield for any legitimate inquiry into NDA government’s governance record. A government’s job should not be to distribute certificates of anti-nationalism selectively to thinking and questioning citizens, irrespective of their ideologies.

To highlight the Centre’s failures (for example, the failure of our security apparatus in Pathankot and Uri) is to be anti-national. These distortions are having a snow-ball effect. The reciprocal rise of Muslim extremism is an inevitable consequence. A taunt for taunt, a provocation for a provocation and, in Gandhian idiom, an eye for an eye, will soon leave India blind. The judiciary has not helped matters. The Prevention of Insults to National Honour Act, 1971, has been in existence for many years. Yet arbitrary orders on the national anthem have only created confusion. Parliamentary action reflecting the only constitutionally ordained will of the people has been enfeebled if not nullified.

Indian nationalism must be reinvigorated by stressing on three pillars: Constitutionalism (respect for the Constitution, due process, and rule of law), pluralism (respect and preservation of India’s diversity, for the ethos of Bharata, the idea of India) and humanism (respect and promotion of insaaniyat).

The choice is clear: Either we build India of our dreams as envisioned by our founding fathers by reclaiming and reinterpreting Indian nationalism or we risk turning into a theocratic State.

It was Tagore who warned us: “I will never buy glass for the price of diamonds, and I will never allow patriotism to triumph over humanity.”

Abhishek Singhvi is an MP and the national spokesperson of the Congress

The views expressed are personal

First Published: Dec 15, 2017 12:47 IST