Nationalism Vs. Rationale: Where are we heading?

Rutuja Wakankar

Rutuja WakankarRutuja Deshmukh Wakankar is a former journalist with Indian Express. She has taught Cinema Studies at Allahabad University. She is an avid photographer and held exhibitions of her work in Pune. She is also a qualified Advanced Open Water SCUBA Diver.

Like so many other ‘isms’ and concepts, 20th century also brought us the concept of a Nation- State. Though Nationalism had started out in the 19th century with the unification of a fragmented Germany in to the German Empire in 1871, we can safely say that Nationalism is a comparatively recent phenomenon, perhaps born with the French Revolution, but irrespective of its brief history, it is a bonding cement of modern nations.

Our own Indian National-cultural project started with the freedom struggle and went on to simultaneously carve out a distinct cultural identity based on oneness, which was impossible without the assertion of its claim to modernity. With embracing modernity there were the traditionalist issues which had to be garbed by virtues and morals of brahminical society. So our quest for nationalism started!

Looking at present day scenario where one has to constantly wear her patriotism on her sleeves, it has become impossible to question anything that the Nation-state decrees on its citizens. Whether one is questioning the fact that India has fourth largest area planted under genetically modified (GM) crops, way ahead of China, its implications of food and human life in the future or Tribal Land rights and governments’ policies and industrialization taking away the land of the indigenous people or Indian States’ controversial involvement into the conflict zones whether it is in Sri Lanka in the past, North-eastern States or Kashmir; one is at the risk of being labeled anti-national and even a traitor may be!

Mind you I am neither an advocate of any kind of separatism whether Kashimiri or Bodo land nor am I the person who insists on thrusting my nationality on the other people. After all one has to realize that separatism also leads to a Nationalist movement which has the potential of turning into a hyper-nationalistic endeavor which undeniably has been the cause of the genocide of the twentieth century and has managed to spill over the dreams of twenty-first century.

We are living in the times of greatest inequalities and beginning of the collapse of corporate powers, the promise that falling wall in Berlin had made of equality and liberty through free markets stands fallen. If a state starts crushing the dissent it stands at the risk of falling apart. We the people of India and especially the Indian upper and middle-classes (emphasize mine) stands at the brink of evil and rational, I say rational because if I say good or even consider the side I am defending good, I too am at the risk of being a self goading patriot. We are increasingly becoming volatile towards dissent of any sorts. One of the Bhartiya Janta Party (BJP) leaders went on to claim that it is the duty of every citizen to spread the spirit of nationalism and no one who lives here has the right to speak against the country! For once I was appalled, if we do nothing and sedate ourselves with this false sense of nationalism, which is snatching away our right to question everything on humanitarian grounds, we will soon end up in a totalitarian state with no one to speak for us.

After all this very brand of nationalism has propogated imperialism in the past.
The greatest travesty has already happened when Kanhaiya Kumar the arrested JNUSU president, leaders and party workers of CPI (Marxist) and journalist were beaten up inside the court premise. Responsibility of this lynch-mob mentality lies with us, how long are we going to tolerate this or propagate it? The day is not far where you or me will be taken by this lynch mob for not dressing-up in tune with their nationalistic sentiments.

The Word University stands for a community of teachers and scholars, we would rise above the differences of race, gender and nationality to provide a rationale environment for learning. If in a healthy democracy dissent doesn’t arrive from here then where does it come from?