As the debate on Nationalism goes on, Outlook hands over the baton to Frontline. Here the author takes forward the debate on Nationalism against the backdrop of The Frontline rendition of the ‘Nation for Naysayers’
Prasanna A Deshpande
Refuse to buy their ideas and you see them ‘red’ faced. The queen descends to respond to the calls of a herald. The Frontline rendition of the ‘Nation for Naysayers’ article published recently in Organiser is a classic specimen of the weakness of the Leftist media’s character. The Frontline article is actually a commentary on and a transcript of Romila Thapar’s interview on the Organiser article. It reveals how a common man’s unyielding position over her authoritative intellectualism has stirred the hornet’s nest. The Organiser article is a mere pronouncement of a view most unattended by the mainstream academics and intellectuals. It barely tries to make space for the reasoning in support of an atypical theorisation by questioning some views expressed in the Outlook article. The attitudinally provincial tone of the Frontline article is a clear guarantee and yet a disappointing fact of the growing intolerance of opinionated intellectuals against the ideas which the glittering literati loves to litter.
The charge that the Organiser article is a failure of ‘younger proponents of Hindutva’, because it does not revere and reverberate the ‘nuances’ of the Outlook article, is the red brigade’s habitual gesture of arbitrary closure. They often try to gag you when you question their deterministic posture. The clichéd closure of such an enquiry will often tag the status of your questioning as ‘a generalisation’, ‘an oversimplification’, ‘a digression’ and so on. You need not be a member of the Communist party to qualify this calling. Your derisive and divisive intellectual pitching against Hindu consciousness and the people of the country gauges that. Your exclusivist definition of Nationalism is actually a scholastic determinism which counts out what people of the nation are known after, their culture. It is the inherent and behavioural form of Hindutva, its social manifestation is the motivation to general population of Bharat which regards it as one nation. The identity of India is not devoid of the identities of Hindu, Muslim, Christian and the rest. It is the unifying principle of cultural consciousness as lived out by the people in their everyday life. This unifying principle is not formulated by any individual or community. Its bedrock is not a scripture or religion or a manifesto. It is the very character of us, the people of India. There can be no complete idea of India through an indifferent and antagonistic approach to these identities; the idea of India is complete only through the realisation of an integration of these identities into one nation. A nation is its people, a cohesive mass of varied identities, not an incoherent mess of fragmented individualities. A decentralised, regionalised observance of Hindutva has nurtured its nascent cohesive character. This is the ethos of our life as India. Its reverential expression is Hindutva.
Queen Bee Stings Back
The Frontline article is a self-defeating exercise. The seen- better- days mischaracterisation of the general life of the people of Bharat has formed an attitudinal fallacy into these ‘eminent (the other word for credible for scholars) intellectuals’. Look at the following quotes from the article and also the transcript.
1) “Nationalism was not something problematic. It was an identity with the nation and its society. The identity and consciousness of being Indian did not need to be defined. We understood nationalism to be Indian nationalism, and not Hindu or Muslim or any other kind of religious or other nationalism,” she told Frontline.
2) This inclusive definition of nationalism has now attracted fierce criticism………….
3) In the book, she talks of division of nationalism into two: secular nationalism, which was essentially anti-colonial in nature, and religious nationalism (Hindu, Muslim and Sikh), which was, for all pretensions, largely communal in nature.
4) ……….But Romila Thapar begs to differ: “Nationalism cannot be segregated into political, cultural, economic, and so on. Nationalism is one basic concept that has to do with giving citizenship to all the people living in a country and who are its nationals.
5) ……..Politics, economics, cultures are aspects of the one nationalism.
This whole clan of illiberalist intellectuals misses out common sense while delving into combative erudition. An average reader can point out the clarity of chaos in the above quotes from the Frontline piece. The foremost incongruity is in the definition itself. The definition problematises nationalism. Barring the surrealistic ideals of utopian socialism from this analysis and adhering to the principle of common sense how could one even in least terms separate “Indian” from the cultural selves of the people of India? How could one ever even think of India’s identity by separating it from what the people hold as their identity? How could this definition be ‘received’ by anyone as the so-called ‘inclusive’ definition if its counts out the people’s identity? The cascading of sensibility reaches abysmal limits when you read, “In the books she talks of division of nationalism into two……” If nationalism is ‘inclusive’ how can one justify its division into two or whatever and if the division of nationalism is justifiable how does it still remain ‘inclusive’, or is it some goof up between ‘inclusive’ in the definition and ‘exclusive’ in practice? Or is it that ‘inclusive’ in this sense is ‘selectively inclusive’ or ‘judgementally inclusive barring people’s identities’? The climax of this illogicality is when you read something like, “Nationalism cannot be separated into political, cultural…..and so on. How do you divide it between Secular nationalism and Hindutva Nationalism and later revert yourself and say something like, ‘nationalism cannot be separated….?’ The tragedy of these ideas reaches catastrophe when you read, “……..politics, economics, cultures are aspects of the one nationalism…..” If nationalism is ‘one’ how do you divide it into two? If nationalism is one how do you amputate it from what the people are known after, their culture? Or is it that the book on Nationalism is, “full of sound and fury signifying nothing?”
The limitations of lmitation
There seems to be a sort of an attitude developed by the highbrow intellectuals that the Western brand of liberalism is something of a panacea for the entire world’s cultural problems. Hence, the cultural subjugation of the Third World was legitimised under the pretext of rationalism, liberalism, modernity, scientific temperament, universalising and centralised Human Rights and Eurocentric education. The colonial narratives about the South Asian people largely hovered around the West’s supremacy in cultural, social and political institutions. This sense of superiority seems to have developed due to the West’s ability to communicate its strengths through military and industrial means. The accreditation and validation of western liberalism as the cradle of western industrial, scientific and economic growth and rendering to this relation the status of ‘knowledge’ to be learnt by the third world people ,are the narratives rooted in the colonial mindset of ‘us versus others’. It was this attitude which prompted the western intellectuals to perceive the non-west as essentially regressive and degenerating which needed to be ‘reformed’ and to be brought at par with the west. So, the Third World countries did not consume merely the industrial products of the west but they also believed that the western cultural values were instrumental in fulfilling the west’s civilisational dreams. So, it became quite obligatory for the Third World countries to look up to the west as the spearhead of cultural as well as industrial merit. The fascination of the west came as the obvious response that the Third World could engage itself with the west. What followed is the imitation of the western values by the non-western world. The achievements of the Western military and industry have by no means resulted from the Western world practising certain mode of liberalism. The masses lived with certain cultural values in the Western world and the industrial, imperial, colonial, political and intellectual emissaries who engaged themselves in the pursuit of ‘reforming’ the world, transferred those values as universally recognisable and tangible in all times, at all places and to all the people(s). A connection was built that the West’s strength was due to liberalism as the foundation stone of its cultural institution. This knowledge was made so imperative that the rest of the world acknowledged the western liberalism as an obvious prerequisite for getting at par with the Western world in terms of development and culture.
The mimetic research of such intellectuals aims to produce its conjectural knowledge as conclusions and it pitches for normalising this knowledge as the gospel truth. As for the ‘Mughal Rule as Age of Synthesis’ doctrine of her provincial historiography, one can see through her politics. Banking on the New Historicism theory of Stephen Greenblatt she cites the references from the tradition of devotional poetry written on Hindu gods by Muslim poets. These exceptional instances of literary creations are held as evidences by her to substantiate her conjecture that the Hindus were not victimised during Mughal rule. To speak on Hew Historicism, serious academics know this well that the theory of New Historicism adopts a casual approach to Historiography and that its conjectures are only perceptive. As a method, New Historicists aim simultaneously to understand a literary work through its cultural context and to understand intellectual history through literature. This methodology provides ground for her conclusive research that the creation of devotional literature on Hindu gods written by Muslims vouches for the so called ‘Age of Synthesis’ and also that the Hindus were not victimised by their Muslim rulers during the Mughal rule. This is an alienating relativity of a New Historicist intellectual. By foregrounding the fringe property of literary works she tries to veil the truth of persecution of Hindus carried out through forceful conversions, massacres, demolitions and desecration of temples and destruction of schools and universities. The history of persecution spans from the rule of Muslim ruler Mahmud of Ghazni, through the Delhi Sultanate to Haidar Ali and Tipu sultan. The persecution of Hindus under these rulers is the biggest holocaust in world history which the self-proclaimed historians have whitewashed. The most significant resistance against the prolonged Islamic rule was exercised during the Maratha Empire of the great King Shivaji. It was the Maratha Empire which marked the ‘synthesis’ of culture under the rule of King Shivaji by laying the foundation of Hindu rule. Shivaji’s kindness to the daughter in law of the Subhedar of Kalyan, an enemy of the Maratha Empire, is a more plausible proof of King Shivaji’s rule as the real ‘Age of Synthesis’. But the supporters of ‘socialist fascism’ and the distortionist intellectuals will admit no place for truth, especially when the truth builds Hindu consciousness.
Finally, as an humble response to her charging the Organiser article as, “logic has never been their strong point,” a quote by Romila Thapar will form an apt rounding up of this breakthrough. Hope she finds the attitudinal means to practise what she has preached in her own quote:
“You cannot eliminate or silence people. Everybody has a right to opinion. You cannot set them aside just because you do not agree with them. Everybody has a right to see things in a unique perspective. You have to respect that.”
(The writer teaches English at Furgusson College, Pune)