April 08, 2016

India: For Bharat Mata’s sake, BJP must sheath its patriot missile (Editorial, The Times of India, 8 April 2016)

The Times of India

Take it easy: For Bharat Mata’s sake, BJP must sheath its patriot missile
April 8, 2016 TOI Edit in TOI Editorials | Edit Page | TOI

BJP’s push towards wearing patriotism on one’s sleeve, which includes chanting slogans like ‘Bharat Mata ki jai’ as a test of one’s patriotism, is having consequences that were not anticipated when this strategy was evolved. India is still a nation in the making; moreover, it is too vast and diverse to expect everyone to accede to the same forms and gestures of patriotism. Trying to coerce people into doing so can generate its own backlash, signs of which are already evident in clashes at National Institute of Technology (NIT) in Srinagar.

By way of analogy, when the government tried to impose a uniform language, Hindi, on the country, riots broke out in Tamil Nadu and the government had to withdraw. Pakistan broke up on the language issue. Following the 1965 anti-Hindi riots the Indian government, on the other hand, adopted a more relaxed stance on language. That, along with patience, has paid off: Bollywood has done far more to popularise Hindi than the state ever could.

That lesson must be remembered in the context of today’s harsh crackdowns in the name of patriotism on central universities such as University of Hyderabad and JNU, which had a Kash mir angle and now seem to be playing themselves out in reverse at NIT. Stoking passions on the basis of demonstrative patriotism can be counterproductive. Minor issues, such as which side to support in a cricket match, should not be allowed to snowball into major confrontations.

When the focus should be on integration of Kashmir with the rest of the nation by providing better education, creating more jobs for youth and fostering more interaction between Kashmiris and non-Kashmiris, non-local students at NIT are now demanding that the institute be relocated outside Kashmir ­ which is exactly what separatists would want as well. The government cannot ignore the fact of political alienation in the Valley; the situation cannot be resolved, as home minister Rajnath Singh’s son suggests, by expecting chief minister Mehbooba Mufti to chant ‘Bharat Mata ki jai’. RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat has been thoughtful enough to say that we cannot impose our forms of patriotism on anyone. This is but common sense. If chanting slogans were to make a nation great, North Korea would be the greatest nation on earth today. Bharat Mata would counsel patience, governance, development, giving everyone a stake in the country.