Ananya S Guha
If people today in our country are upholding a Nationalism which is at variance with some others, this is so because this is a secular Nationalism based on what the freedom fighters safeguarded and which later on was enabled by the Constitution of the country. One can be a staunch Hindu as well as the secularist at the same time. However, to promote what may be called a Hindu Nationalism which is self-purification is also to ignore that others: Christians, Muslims, Parsis and Jains have an equal Nationalist or patriotic fervour. And then, again to rope in this notion of ‘culture’ is obfuscating to say the least and, is an ominous intermingling of religion, the body politic of a Nation and socio-ethnic politics. The progenitors of the RSS, the Hindu Mahasabha etc were never really true to the nationalist urge during the freedom movement pandering to and leaning towards British hegemony. The British did not want both: them, and the nationalist or those fighting for the cause of freedom of a country. This has been pointed out very interestingly by Ashok V. Desai in his column in The Telegraph Calcutta dated.15.3.016. Such assumption has a broad basis but the proscription of the RSS later points to the fact that historical dimensions in India were going two ways: pro and anti secularist ideologies.
The present crisis, if one may call it is a fall back and a reaction to such historical antecedents. The clash between a secular nationalism and a Hindu Nationalism, as Prof. Romila Thapar would call it, is an inevitable outcome of present political currents and incumbencies. Student strife in the JNU dates back to the eighties, and the University has always sown the seeds of anti-establishment feelings. The recent imbroglio has, in my opinion a lot to do with uncharitable remarks passed against the University from time to time, such as being a hot bed of drug addiction and Naxalism. Fighting for human rights is anathema in a country which desperately needs alleviation of the needs of the poorest of the poor. Simply declaring that a budget is pro-poor and pro-farmer may assuage political feelings, but not socio-economic ones. The identification of supporters of ‘pro-poor’ with ‘anti nationalist causes’ or random slogan shouting has to do with a deeper malaise of wounds inflicted in a country over the years: dialectics of haves and have nots, education of the poor, the orphaned and street children. The budget allocation to Education this year is again low, making cries such as “Educating The Girl Child” sound hollow.
What the authorities and the powers-that-be need to note is that the present scenario of student and teacher unrest is symptomatic of the rottenness within, which has been a result of a long past, poverty, a burgeoning and insensitive middle class, socio-political and ethnic trauma. Further situations in conflict zones such as that in North East India, where children are studying, students researching and pursuing their degrees are taken for granted – so also the common man caught in the vicious net of militarism and militancy. That there is an upsurge of superb creative writing in North East India is consequent of debilitating issues and a history of war and conflict, where the wounds of embattled forces have not been healed.
Those at the helm of power must consider the historical construct of a Nation of diversities, the shaping of events which led to them and their causalities. The shaping of historical situations are amoral and we cannot re-invent them.
Let us not re-invent history, but try to relentlessly combat dark forces within. And this ‘ darkness ‘ is poverty, abysmal lack of education, problems of drop outs, alienation from the so called mainstream, superstitious beliefs, dominance of male advocacy and relegation of women to domestic work only. If we take a total picture of this the ills of a country despite it’s strong sense of past is the evil force we must relentlessly combating, priding at the same time in a rich legacy of the past, and looking towards a futuristic economically strong India, where backwaters of poverty, are ameliorated.
Ananya S Guha lives in Shillong where he has been raised. He has over thirty four years of teaching and administrative experience. He has seven collections of poetry in English and his poems have been widely anthologized and published both in India and abroad.