No attack against Nation and Nationalism shall leave unchallenged as today’s propaganda and half truths can be the history of tomorrow. The writer critically analyses the pitfalls made by intellectuals, like AG Noorani and Sadanand Menon in the book On Nationalism, in the contemporary discourse
The infamous JNU episode targeting unity and integrity of Bharat, reignited the debate on nationalism. Some people who decided to defend anti-national sloganeering in the name of freedom of speech and expression suddenly found they have to reinterpret ‘nation’ and ‘nationalism’ to suit their versions. The essays in the book On Nationalism by A G Noorani and Sadanand Menon follow the same path which needs to be questioned. Interestingly, Mr Noorani is very eloquent about Nehru’s opposition to Law of Sedition – Section 124A in his essay, “Nationalism and its contemporary Discontents in India” which is incluced in the book On Nationalism. But, the way he goes on and on with circuitous arguments, one cannot make out whether this law is in statute or not. He quotes Nehru’s dissatisfaction with Sedition law but he doesn’t clearly tell that he spoke about it when he was actually moving the first amendment to the constitution that amended this law and made it more draconian and flexible to put nearly any kind of dissenter into jail.
“The word (sedition) did indeed disappear from the constitution when it was adopted on 26 November 1949, but section 124A stayed in the Indian Penal Code. Then, in 1950, two Supreme Court judgements led the government to introduce the much-maligned first amendment. The first case involved objectionable material in Organiser, a magazine run by the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (sic). In both the cases, the Supreme Court sided with the government. It asked the editor of Organiser to clear provocative content with a regulating authority, and banned Cross Roads. In light of these judgements, Jawaharlal Nehru brought in the first amendment.” (Atul Dev, Caravan, Feb 2016)
Noorani notes – “It is deeply worrying that in 2016 the BJP government headed by Narendra Modi should use section 124A to imprison student leaders and prosecute political leaders.” He conveniently forgets that in September 2012, authorities in Mumbai arrested political cartoonist Aseem Trivedi on sedition charges after a complaint that his cartoons mocked the Constitution and national emblem.
In his lengthy essay, he quotes laws, Constitution and court judgements on sedition from across the globe. For a person who belongs to that progressive liberal group that criticises people for talking about the nature of Islam that one cannot have any religious rights in Islamic countries but demands all religious facilities in other countries; and says that we are India with our own constitution – quoting international precedents about sedition is laughable.
It is interesting how Dr Jitendra Kumar (now Minister of State, PMO) looks at Noorani, “AG Noorani belongs to a class of so-called thinkers/writers who thrive through pervert intellectualism and seek to stay relevant through outrageous postulations from time to time….This is not the first time Noorani has expressed such views viz-a-viz Jammu and Kashmir but has in fact been doing so for the last over three decades. This indulgence of his has endeared him to the separatist constituency in Kashmir valley as well as to the India baiters abroad.”
In spite of his provocative statements he has never faced a sedition charge. It is notable that no offence under these laws was registered in 2014, while Kerala alone had seven such cases, of which five are of sedition. Remember Kerala had Congress-led government at that time.
As long as this law is there, is upheld at various times in courts, a government can use it wherever it feels the national interest is under threat. I hope somebody like Mr Noorani goes to courts to challenge the very law to get it struck down.
Mr Noorani asks rhetorically, “Will one who burns the Manusmriti be indicted? What of Mayawati’s attack on manuwadis?” He needs to be reminded that any person criticising Hindu scriptures or Hindu practices will not be hauled under this law in India, but a Hindu questioning a Muslim belief will be prosecuted, nay arrested under draconian NSA. Remember, a person called Kamlesh Tiwari is in jail for challenging Muslim ulema about Prophet Muhammad’s life. Meanwhile, the leaders like Azam Khan never faced any charges or any attack.
Noorani’s contempt for BJP and Hindutva, like all so-called progressives, is apparent so are his assumptions. Look at this, for example, “Involved here are two values: free speech and the autonomy of universities. These are values that neither Rajnath Singh, the home minister, nor Smriti Irani, the HRD minister and least of all Amit Shah, the BJP president, care for.”
He goes on to assert, “Many in this country including this writer, have legitimate questions regarding Afzal Guru. These would include the following: Was an innocent man framed? Did he receive a fair trial? Was SC’s emotive approach the proper judicial way to proceed?”
It is strange that a supposedly highly learned lawyer doubts the legal process of India that gave all the chances to the accused including appeal to the President over years. What a court could do to satisfy these liberals was that it opened in the dead of night to hear the ultimate appeal to stop the hanging of Yakub Memon, another showpiece of liberal lobby to doubt Indian judiciary’s sense of justice.
His presumptive attitude towards nationalist people is amazing. He goes on to claim that VD Savarkar is a BJP ideologue. I do not recall one place where BJP has named Savarkar as their ideologue! In course of his long drawn essay, Mr Noorani sticks to his pet secular theories by wrongly quoting RSS ‘Supremo’, Guruji Golwalkar again from 1939 pamphlet that he disowned later. He elaborated at length that all citizens have right to stay in this land. How come in his 33 year career as RSS Sarsanghchalak, none of has detractors have found anything worth quoting to expose him? He spoke for years wherein he says caste system is outdated, where he proclaimed on platform of VHP that no Hindu is fallen or sinful, all are offsprings of same mother, so brothers –(sahodara).
From National Culture to Cultural Nationalism – Sadanand Menon
This essay is an exhibition of extremely rabid supposedly liberal intellectualism. His language is vituperative not just combative. Like all Marxists masquerading as liberals, he has nothing but contempt for nationalists and people propagating cultural nationalism. Like all leftists, he too lumps the two into one group. I must say that he is honest enough to put the blame of rising of nationalist forces to inactivity of the left.
His sense of frustration shows as he says, “A nation that, at some point, lets its political primacy be eroded and overrun by cultural nationalism can be construed to be on the verge of implosion……What is visible today is a new hatred for the idea of democracy as we know it and for the rights as guaranteed in the Constitution. This is quite in keeping with the agenda of cultural nationalism, which strives–through generating a climate of intolerance and intimidation – to keep civil society in a state of constant agitation by subjecting it to constant attack.”
Interestingly those who know the history of left domination of all institutions of the state, academia for seven decades would vouch that these outpourings could be turned around on the Marxist—Leftist groups calling themselves liberals. They have shut out people like Ramswaroop, Sitaram Goel and other lesser mortals in humanities who took an independent line in academics. Even scholars like Koenraad Elst never got a chance of a look in. Dr Subramanian Swamy was removed from IIT. He fought his battle for nearly 25 years. One cannot overlook how new found ‘eminent historians’ removed all books and references of actually eminent historians who did original work, like RC Majumdar. Eminent archaeologist like BB Lal was disgraced and pilloried because he produced evidence of Ramayana not being a myth but a real story based on archaeological evidence. Current historians like Meenakshi Jain and Shrikant Telegari have not been recognised much inspite of groundbreaking work because they don’t fit into Marxist world view.
Honestly Sadanand says, “In history, nothing stays ‘pure’ Or as Salman Rushdie would have it, it’s all subject to ‘mongrelization’.”
It is funny that he quotes Salman Rushdie approvingly but he pulls the cover over ban of Salman Rushdie’s book Satanic Verses under pressure from Mullah lobby and not protecting him when he was invited but was threatened by Islamist goons. Where does Freedom of Opinion reside?
I agree to some extent when he says, “In the Indian context, the RSSs effort has been to construct a ‘national identity’ which is anterior to and elides over the colonial as well as Islamic periods of recent times to reach out to an ‘authentic’ India of hoary past. ..” But, one cannot agree fully because it doesn’t ‘slides over’ colonial and Islamic past. It, in fact, takes lessons from this history and accepts it. RSS uses these lessons to tell people what went wrong in Indian past and why and how they shouldn’t be repeated.
Sadanand cites an example about efforts at ‘saffronisation’ of history. He tells us that during earlier NDA government how history was ‘saffronised’. “…. Above this (National Museum, The Harappan Gallery). This was saffron band proudly proclaiming ‘Indian civilization 7000 BC’ which went all the way across the wall, dwarfing every other and. The figure, which is a figment of imagination, has been floating around in the Indian national consciousness since the time B G Tilak in his essay The Arctic Home in the Vedas had somehow configured the Vedic period to be of around this antiquity.”
Writing in 2016, Sadanand refuses to acknowledge archeological findings from across Indian sub-continent, even outside the continent in Europe, Russia and South East Asia, the antiquity of Hindu religion and civilisation. These so called humanities scholars refuse to recognise submerged Dwarka’s dating.
“… mispresenting historic facts, fabricating evidence, inventing origin stories from popular mythologies and using violence and force on moderate Hindus as well as other minorities.”
How can evidence be manufactured? Perhaps Marixists know it better the way they have fabricated history to sweep horrific killings of Sikh Gurus by Mughals and other Muslim rules, the way they have negated holocaust of Hindus by Mughals, specially Aurangzeb, the way they transformed Tipu Sultan from a tyrant to a freedom fighter. They refused to accept scientific findings by ASI scholars using latest scientific tools that clearly said a big Hindu temple existed below the Babri structure. They refuse to go by oral traditions and also historical documents of Mughal period writers who boldly claim the destruction of thousands of temples to build mosques.
Most of the Marxist scholars very easily replace ‘majority’ Hindus with ‘majoritarian’ Hindus, hoping their interplay of words will not be detected and they will score well with international funding agencies. Calling the entire Hindu population as majoritarian is shameful. The same writer will never speak of Islamist majoritarianism where Muslims are in power and refuse to give other religion followers any quarter forget rights. In his own Southern regions, Hindus have been denied human rights wherever Islamists have come to power in local bodies. Two year ago some reports suggested us how school children in Muslim majority districts were not provided with mid-day meals during Ramzan. This year, many schools changed timing to avoid giving mid-day meals.
“.. aggressive reformers called for reform within the Hindu religion and build defences against erosion by other religions through elaborate purity and restitution…. The frenzied ‘gharwapasi’ of today is not all that original idea.”
I find nothing wrong with what ‘aggressive reformers’ did to reform Hinduism. He also admits that gharwapasi is not an RSS idea. But, he doesn’t mention anything about the forceful conversions by Church. Does he condone these conversions, one wonders.
His comment, “Sheer ecstasy and rapture into which Hindutva hacks went when A R Rehman performed in a virtuoso track of Vande Mataram a decade ago was never repeated for any of his other works,” betrays his closed mind. All nation loving people loved AR Rehman’s Vande Mataram. Does it mean even non filmy people should keep on going in orgasmic pleasure for all his songs? Are his other songs like Jai Ho or songs from Roja not equally loved?
Poison pours forth from Sadanand’s frustrated pen as he writes, “Extreme mother-love is a camouflage for extreme misogyny.” He gives no psychological reason for making such a statement. Has he been following Wendy Doniger or some Freud disciple? With this, he goes ahead to put the blame of all violence against women (including, I believe misbehaviour and molestation of women in the Marxist bastion of Jadavpur University) since independence at the doors of nationalist groups. He even accuses of Army of ‘incessant mass rapes’! This uneducated neo-psychiatrist quotes Dr Reich from his 1993 book that analyses Nazi Germany and superimposes it on Hindus – “Religion, thus, leads to negation of sexual desire. Sexual disability results in lowering of self-confidence.”
Sadanand’s hatred for all symbols typically Indian is apparent in these sentences, “Bharatnatyam is one among a few cultural objects today, like Ganesh Utsav or Raksha Bandan or the thickening sindoor that women across communities display or freshly minted greetings like ‘Jai shri Krishna’ or the bhajansandhyas which are being deployed on the side of majoritarian cultural nationalism.” (not forgetting to target majority community as majoritarian)
Sadanand, then goes on to lament, “One could, perhaps, speculate that some of this atleast could have been checked and countered if the
considerably large left and secular forces, which believed in cultural freedom, individual freedom and creativity had better opposed the incessant romanticization of the past, and the constantly parroted notion of Hindu culture being the basis of Indian culture.” This lament also tells us why Communists could never strike deep roots in India – their rootlessness and contempt for Indian culture.
Marxist obsessive contempt for Hindu view of multi-culturism and pluralism doesn’t leave even Gandhi alone, “Even those leaders (like Gandhi) who defended at every opportunity the fact that India was a multi-cultural,
multi-religious, liberal nation, inadvertently contributed to the building of the idea of a national culture as essentially Hindu.”
You realise that Marxists accept their failure and grudgingly accept patient work of RSS when he states, “Today, the reason RSS (and its affiliates) is on the ascendant is because of its long and patient work in constructing a national identity in its image. …. Forces of those who could oppose its spread are in disarray… All these assiduous creators of pseudo-Indian culture are interested in, for the most part, is the furthering of their own political power.”
A very incisive observation he makes, quoting renowned Chandralekha, is interesting, but for its conclusion, “It would seem that Indian women will eventually regain the idea of Sakambhari–the idea of free, autonomous woman….who are swadheenvallabha – free and subservient to none–as a permanent strategy of speaking back to Hindutva in a deeper conceptual language that it is scared of.” He slips up because Hindu organisations have empowered more women and brought them into national mainstream in politics and social activities than total membership of Communist parties. No Hindu organisation is scared of empowering women.
Talking about the allegations of intolerance, I won’t repeat myself but their treatment of people with alternative viewpoints is well known. Killing fields of Kannur in Kerala and Bengal, leaving aside their brothers-in-arms Naxals is known to all. He would be well advised to analyse these acts of violence and find the perpetrators. Data available tell us that biggest threat of violence to Indian democracy is Naxal movement followed by Islamic violence.
Marxist hate and contempt for aspirational middle class (once their mainstay for recruitment to the cause) is apparent, “social base in India at the moment, particularly of the rapidly expanding middle class, is demonstrably reactionary base.” So, middle class has become ‘reactionary’! It is similar to the shocked liberals calling all British who voted for Brexit reactionaries and ill-informed boors.
He does admit that right from the outset, the public sphere in the Indian nation state has been a stillborn baby. But, he doesn’t take the blame though the left controlled this space with Nehruvian romantics. He comes to the conclusion that, “We now come full circle to where we started. The journey from the initial attempts to construct a national culture which was not sufficiently contested with respect to its Hindutva flavour, has progressively delivered us into the courtyard of cultural nationalism.”
It took seven decades to understand, as he accepts that, “The ideology of cultural nationalism does not depend upon state power for its sustenance.” But, makes a false premise, “On the contrary, its influence arises from its ability to manipulate power through displacement of parliamentary processes with wilful harangue, intimidation and systematic violence”; though Marxists know fully well that this sentence fits their Naxal brethren more than on Hindutva proponents.
Sadanand ends his diatribe stating, without any evidence supporting this thesis, “Nationalism then is the trope that legitimizes its unrepentant aggression on every instrument of democracy. Nationalism will then also have to be a platform on which all such cynical battles are creatively resisted and unpacked.” We are confident that once Leftists choose platform of nationalism to fight this alleged virus, they too will be affected positively to identify themselves with Indian ethos and turn a new leaf for the good of this nation.
(The writer is Mumbai based columnist and author)