Better known for his study that almost nobody understood in his era and his famous equation of ‘energy equals mass times velocity square’, Albert Einstein has indeed left his mark in our history. However, apart from his well-known equations, one of his seldom recalled political quotes is just as telling of the man’s intelligence: ‘Nationalism is an infantile disease. It is the measles of mankind.’
Nationalism has become a source of pride for Indians in recent times– the wave of right-wing Hindutva politics that has swept the nation is one of the major reasons behind this uncontrolled spread of the nationalistic bug.
A recent survey conducted by the BBC found out that nationalism is driving force behind the surge of fake news in India: the research suggested that facts were less important to some people as compared to the emotional desire to bolster their national identity. Additionally, the research also found that right-wing networks were much more organised than the left-wing, propagating nationalistic fake stories. The study further goes on to state that digital platforms like WhatsApp, Twitter etc. are used extensively to propagate this fake news.
Irrespective of the study conducted by BBC, our nation has surely seen a surge in the nationalism sentiment among ordinary citizens. This is directly related to the digital outburst that occurred in India in 2016, which saw a large chunk of population have unprecedented access to smartphones and the internet.
For a country like India whose past is glorified with culture and religion, national identity plays a strong role in defining an Indian. Somewhere down the line, a sense of losing that identity after decades of globalisation and colonisation may have seeped through the minds of ordinary citizens, which was very strategically adopted by the right-wing.
The right-wing has always been firm on their agendas– BJP’s long-standing stance on the Ayodhya’s Ram Mandir issue is a prime example— which is even reflected in their conservative manifestos. For the Madhya Pradesh election, Congress went to the extent of including in their manifestos the building of Gaushaalas, and even a scheme for cow dung and cow urine (better known as gaumutra). This vividly depicts the surge in nationalistic values that overlap with the cultural significance of particular things.
This nationalism has shifted its focus from the Gandhi clan and Congress heroes like Mahatma Gandhi and Jawarlal Nehru,and is now commemorating freedom fighters like Sardar Vallabhai Patel and Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose.
The Statue of Unity is more than just an architectural marvel. It symbolises the unification of India in honour of the country’s first Home Minister—and gives the welder of modern Indian states his due place in history. A mega statue of Shivaji Maharaj in the Arabian Sea and the foundation of a massive emblem of Lord Ram in Ayodhya are also on their way. A few days ago, the government also decided to release a commemorative Rs. 75 coin on the 75th anniversary of Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose where he is shown hoisting the tricolour. The message here is quite explicit– the general elections in 2019 will rely heavily on the beliefs and faith of people and changing the symbols to things defining a different struggle.
People remain unaware of the difference between nationalism and patriotism; a debate that French President Emmanuel Macron recently sparked. Macron said that nationalism is the opposite of patriotism, and that the former is rising across Europe and the world.
Hindutva-driven politics will have different implications in India than its followers may be anticipating, as it will cause the country would lose its identity as a secular state. Nevertheless, nationalism among citizens is definitely on the rise, and both the major political parties—Congress and BJP have indicated that this indeed is the way to go. While relying on Hindutva politics was always the agenda for BJP, Congress seems to be playing a safe game of trial and error, trying everything before 2019 elections and attaching itself to anything can save its sinking ship.
Contributed by Sumedh Sengaonkar
Picture Credits : http://www.indianyouth.net