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June 12, 2020

India: a prisoner of history – Part II

Opinion

June 12, 2020

In 1885, The Pall Mall Gazette wrote ''the essential infamy of Jingoism was its assertion as the first law of its being; might was right.”

A 2016 article in an Indian daily captioned 'Jhanda or danda?' noted: "When desh bhakts (nationalists) clash with deshdrohis (traitors – all minorities and anti-hindutva Indians) then Mogambo (a villainous character in the movie 'Mr India' who wanted to conquer India) khush hua. It’s becoming difficult to tell the difference between the national jhanda and the nationalist danda''.

Intellectuals living in the age of the World Wars thought that nationalism was synonymous with extremism, intolerance, aggression and ultimately served as a prelude to conflict and war. Hanbury Hankin, a naturalist who worked in India, defined nationalism as 'the caveman within us' whereas eminent historian Carlton Hayes defined this scourge as: “Nationalism promises not to unify, but to disintegrate the world; not to preserve and create but to destroy civilization”.

Nationalism was central to Hitler's destructive vision. It propelled him from being the National Socialist party's drummer boy to become the Fuhrer of Nazi Germany. This nationalist roller-coaster bears an eerie resemblance to Fuhrer Modi's ascent to power. Pulitzer Prize-winning historian John Toland writes in 'Adolph Hitler' (Hitler’s 1939 biography) that during a lecture, a lecturer told about her experience with a talking dog. The dog, she claimed, when asked “Who is Adolf Hitler?” replied, “Mein Fuhrer”; such are the vagaries of nationalism!

Under Narendra Modi, India has been enveloped by Hindutva, made all the more potent by being draped in the deceptive shroud of nationalism. This nationalism, not to be confused with patriotism, has taken over all important facets of Indian society including print and electronic media along with political and military offices.

Those who dare speak up against this implosive madness are branded 'deshdrohis' (traitors) and dealt with accordingly. Gauri Lankesh, a vocal anti-Hindutva journalist, was brutally gunned down at her home as were journalists MM Kalburgi, Govind Pansare, Narendra Dabholkar, Ranjan Rajdeo and Sai Reddy.

The extent of the RSS’s control over India is revealed in an article by New Delhi Third World Research Academy's Achin Vanaik, titled ‘The New Indian Right – Soldiers of Hindutva’. An excerpt reads: “Fascism in power had one key instrumentality – the state. Hindutva has two: the state and RSS as the skeleton and soul around which anatomy of the new India is to be built'”.

Just as Nazi Germany had to follow the Nazi dictums of Joseph Goebbels, head of the ‘Ministry of Public Enlightenment and Propaganda’, Indian media and film-stars have jumped on to the nationalist bandwagon. The likes of Ajay Devgan extoll “the new way forward is two eyes for one eye ... mess with the best, die like the rest'' and Apunam Kher, the Kashmiri who remains inhumanly unmoved by Indian atrocities in Occupied Kashmir and callously brands it as the 'Kashmir solution’ harking for a 'final solution with Pakistan'; sportsmen ape Gautham Ghambir antics as the cricket team dons military caps and political, military and media pundits whip up the worst kind of jingoism.

In modern history, the media has been central to our collective lives. Today, it more or less governs our thought processes. Nationalists in India today shrilly propagate hate and divisions without even an iota of remorse. They advocate war, a nuclear one at that, from the comfort of air-conditioned studios and rooms. Arnab Goswami, owner of Republic TV and a rabid war-mongering mouthpiece of the RSS/BJP, declares that ''an eye for an eye is out-dated wisdom; being a nationalist is a prerequisite to being a journalist''. In one of his shows he compared Pakistani ghazal singer Ghulam Ali and actor Fawad Khan to Osama bin Laden.

A 2018 expose by Cobrapost, an Indian news website, reveals the extent of the rot that has become the hallmark of Indian media and their 'bollywood stars'. The largest Indian media-houses and celebrated actors / singers / companies agreed to ''stoke communal disharmony, run BJP/RSS political campaigns and propagate Hindutva, in exchange for money''.

Cobrapost claimed that its investigation established that the ''RSS and as a corollary, its ideology of Hindutva have made deep inroads into the newsrooms and boardrooms of Indian media houses where media owners blatantly admit their allegiance to the party in power (BJP) and its parent organization (RSS)''.

The exposed e-commerce payment giant Paytm (worth $2.1 billion) and 25 media houses included big names like Times of India (videotaped conversation showed managing director Vineet Jain and the group’s executive president, Sanjeev Shah, discussing modalities after agreeing to be paid Rs500 crore), Hindustan Times, ZeeNews, Star India, New Indian Express, MVTV and India Voice. Jackie Shroff, Shakti Kapoor, Vivek Oberoi, Sonu Sood, Amisha Patel, Mahima Chaudhry, Rakhi Sawant, Sunny Leone, Rohit Roy and Kailash Kher were among the 36 actors/singers up for sale. The demanded "fee ranged from Rs2 to Rs50 lakh per message and some asked for Rs200 million for an eight-month contract".

Apart from this, retired military officers and media jingoes could be blamed for being out of sync with reality; to see the serving Indian army chief, generals and public office holders including Narendra Modi threatening Pakistan with 'the mother of nuclear bombs' simply befuddles the mind. The greatest deterrent between nuclear rivals is 'Mutually Assured Destruction"; these irresponsible statements prove that India's nuclear doctrine has shifted from ‘no first use’ and ‘massive retaliation’ to one of first-strike.

As though the mere thought of this horror was not repugnant enough, India, sitting on our head-waters, has threatened an aqua-war; starving Pakistan of water. BJP stalwarts continuously threaten to annul and abrogate the Indus Waters Treaty. In doing so and ratcheting up tensions with China, India conveniently forgets that its plains are watered by its rivers originating in Tibet.

Before the China-India 1962 war, sane voices (there were a few in those days) like Home Minister Sardar Patel, Army Chief General Thimmaya and Intelligence Bureau Chief Bhola Nath Mullick were cautioning Nehru to avoid conflict with China. However, Nehru overturned their advice and adopted the then Defense Minister Krishna Menon and Lt Gen BM Kaul’s jingoism leading to a war that ended in the rout at Bomdila and India's national humiliation when a broken Nehru wrote off Assam (India lost 3250 servicemen and 43000 square kilometers of its territory) and appealed to the US for military assistance which never materialized.

Indian military and political leaders boast that today India is not what it was in 1962. True, India might have progressed but China too is a world leader both in terms of economic and military might. India always uses the obsolete 1971 lens to view Pakistan; nothing could be so far removed from reality. Given the lingering ignominy of that bifurcation and surrender, 'never again whatever the cost' is a dictum ingrained in the genetic code of each Pakistani and its army.

To be continued

The writer is a freelance contributor.

Email: [email protected]