A colleague and I were once arguing about nationalism. A point came up, “What would be the nationality of the child of a couple from Azad Kashmir and Tibet”? Pakistani or Chinese? Does nationality flow from the father or the mother or the country one is born in? Is it like ‘mother’ tongue? Why do we say Tibetan refugees or Tibetan Government in Exile, when according to the Government of India the Dalai Lama should be Chinese? There was no clear answer.
We then talked about caste, the defining and ultimate arbiter of ‘who are you?”, at least in India. If an American Muslim and a Rajput woman had a son, what would his caste be? Since the father has no caste, the son would have to be a Rajput, especially if he was considering ‘Ghar Wapsi’. It sounded quite absurd.
Is India an ethno-nation or a state of many nations? I am sure historians would have one hell of a time debating that! So when I tell another Indian in England that I am from India, he is sure to ask ten more questions to be able to figure out where (in the country) I am from. When Nehru wrote The Discovery of India, there was neither Pakistan nor Bangladesh. Yet nationalism and its more vicious brother Patriotism have the three of us siblings at each other’s throats for the last half a century.
With globalization the idea of ‘nation’ becomes pretty ‘liquid’. Dual passports are an example. What nationality are Green Card holders? So for millions remitting dollars and dinars every month to Kerala or wherever, shouting “Bharat Mata ki Jai” out of nationalistic fervor in ‘nations’ where they earn their mullah, won’t be a very bright idea; no matter how strongly the BJP feels about it.
Our unemployed youth, millions of them, are paying through their parent’s (usually father’s) nose (and sometimes their life) to get smuggled into the ‘West’ or West Asia, by boat or raft or on camels. Are they clever, daring entrepreneurs or foolhardy economic refugees faced with a dead end in their own country? At the other end of our nationalistic continuum, are those whose next generation must be anchored well in the US or Europe and preferably with access to good moolah in Swiss banks, which came in the first place from not paying taxes. This pervasive mindset of the somewhat poor and the rich alike, to somehow clear out of the country, quite old now, earlier called ‘brain drain’ till the blue collars overtook the white collars, somewhere belies our pride in genuine nationalism. For most emigrants from India, it would be interesting to know their thinking and feeling about ‘nationalism’? Now lakhs of our students are going abroad with the hope of never coming back.
Are ‘country’ and ‘nation’ the same thing? I would suspect that people are attached to their ‘country’, like someone from Gujarat would not miss the North East in willful exile. The land, the people, specific cultures, the history, they come from and belong to. Like ‘Watan’. To mix up ‘country’ with ‘nation’ seems to be at the bottom of our violent patriotism; the sort of feeling that prompts one to claim that you are either with us or against us. Hence everyone needs to think like a ‘patriot’. And what is patriotism, is for the RSS to define and its various cultural organizations (like the Bajrang Dal and the ABVP) to implement. The way nationalism is being interpreted, it would not be surprising if people start getting beaten up for speaking in English. JNU-ites, watch out!
What is the difference between Nationalism and Patriotism? The dictionary seems to use both words interchangeably. Both are invoked justifiably maybe in a state of war. But we have been at war amongst ourselves for centuries now. It is difficult to believe that the Brahmanic idea and content of nationalism will have much in common with that of a lower castes and minorities, unless it is viewed through Western precepts.
The latest benchmark to qualify as an Indian one must uninhibitedly be able to shout, “Bharat Mata ki Jai”. Otherwise you can get kicked out even as an MLA for being anti-national. Is this the idea of nationalism, we are screaming about so much? Or have we now begun to equate nationalism with one’s religion?
Mera ilhaad* to ek lanat tha so hai ab tak (*apostasy, atheism)
Magar is aalam-e-vahshat men imanon pe kya guzri
Meanwhile, what happens to the Idea of India? It is becoming clear (and dangerous) that the ongoing, ill informed pseudo-nationalistic rhetoric diminishes the Idea of India even though it suits the ruling elites and their electoral prospects.