Nation is the new religion

April 9, 2016

by Shatakshi Asthana

Trust me, when I say that I’m certainly not saying that people have moved on from the identities they got by the accident of birth. Some are not allowed to transcend and are ‘reduced to their immediate identities’ at every step. Others take so much pride in these identities that they do not want to move on. Even when they have done literally nothing to acheive it.

So, by nation becoming the new religion I mean that this whole new narrative of nationalism is serving every purpose which needed religion in earlier times.

For example, people preaching culture, traditions on the basis of different Holy books selected the text out of those as per their own convenience, interpreted it in their own way and then passed judgements over people whom they can’t bear.This is how religion has been used. Be it the use of the term ‘Lakshman-Rekha ‘ as a moral limit or ignoring the respect shown by Lord Rama towards the lower caste ‘Shabri‘, the modern ‘saviours of religion’ have filtered out things and propagated them in ways beneficial to their business. The importance of idols and stones prevails while the greatness of love borne by Hanuman in his heart for Lord Rama is forgotten. Afterall, love that can’t be seen, can’t be sold as lockets or threads.

Exactly the same game of convenience is being played in the name of nationalism.

Sloganeering,waving flags and such symbolic, materialistic masks are being projected as the proof of ultimate love towards the nation. Ironically, this is done by the same people who turn a blind eye to their role towards the society-society which is comprised of people, people who make up the nation.

And that is what convenience is all about.

Why be loyal to the nation by carrying out small things, like abiding by traffic rules, being a little ecofriendly, not littering around , treating everyone around equally, when having the ‘tiranga‘ on the car dashboard or sharing patriotic posts on social media and abusing those who do not fit into this definition of nationalism, is enough to show off one’s love towards the motherland?

Not only nationalism has become like religion in terms of the way it is perceived and is supposed to be followed but it also has become a ‘brahmastra‘-the ultimate weapon-for those who want to rule the country. Earlier they used religion to pit the blindfolded, unaware,less informed or ill informed people against each other. Eventually, they started realizing that as people are getting educated religion is taking a backseat for a number of people as a criterion for discrimination. So,they came up with this brilliant binary of ‘national’ and ‘anti-national’ which has not only influenced the unaware, uneducated mass but has gotten huge support from the well educated classes. After all, who doesn’t love their motherland?

For once the divide that has been created does not depend on one’s immediate identity as people from all the religious affiliations are in it! I do not know whether to be happy about the fact that we are not fighting over religion or panic that the newer battle is way more dangerous.

The angst caused amongst the people after the JNU issue due to the sensationalist news reports , could have died down after the videos were found to have been doctored. But before it could happen , chanting ‘Bharat mata ki Jai‘ became the ‘only definition of nationalism and the rest an escape route’.

Everyone jumped into the debate; leaders spewed verbal venom while play acting their roles out of a script, beat up people for not complying with this ‘ultimate’ idea of nationalism.

While it made the social media a virtual battleground, University of Hyderabad became a real battle ground. Brutal police assault against students continued for days, in and outside the campus.The media blackout in the university and the rising rage over the sloganeering as a proof of nationalism kept the public unaware of the suppression of the students.

But the latest added to the list is the pseudo-nationalisism over the NIT Srinagar issue.

With many versions of the story, the saddest thing that has come out of it is that the students protesting with the national flag ,chanting ‘Bharat mata ki Jai’were lathicharged by the police,leaving many severely injured.

After the questionable role played by the police in JNU and then in HCU , this was another instance of police going out of its way in the name of restoring peace. In all these cases it was the students on the losing side. It was the students against the state machinery being used to opress them. It was the same scene.

But the most disappointing and difficult thing to understand is that the NIT incident is being pit against the JNU incident; while students of both are the victims of the state opression!

Posts and tweets kept circulating over social media questioning the double standards of the media for having made ‘those who chanted anti-India slogans into heroes’ while completely ignoring the NIT incident. While the later is absolutely true, I cannot understand the former.

Now,forget the authenticity of the sources which had claimed that JNU students had raised anti-India slogans, I fail to understand how media had made them heroes! In fact, as far as I remember media had left no stones unturned to profile the students as terrorists. It was the doctored videos run by the news channels which had gotten Kanhaiyya arrested and then beaten up in the Patiala House Court. It was those dummy debates on the channels which created fear for the accused students of getting lynched. No matter how many articles, news reports were being written trying to prove them innocent, the abuses in the comments section in those news reports were definitely not for heroes. It is for the false portrayal by the channels that the students have been getting continuous threats to their lives.

In fact, they became ‘heroes’ (if they did) because media’s actions backfired.
Kanhaiyya getting assaulted earned him support. The shattering of the well fabricated profiling of Umar Khalid got him support. Them being allowed to speak made them ‘heroes’. It was not the media. News channels went later for their interviews because they were the victim of a media trial, not beacuse they had allegedly spoken against the nation.Media was wrong then,it is wrong now.

JNU was specifically in the media radar and I don’t believe that it was for any good reasons. Had it just been for nationalism, HCU should also have been given similar attention. It was also declared a ‘den of anti-national’ activities. The events following Rohith Vemula’s suicide brought it to light, though that memory is fading away soon. Today, the turmoil at HCU is not known to many.

And if the media is skewed towards JNU, why don’t I see media channels covering HCU issue which JNU is continuously fighting for?

On the other hand, public figures, politicians and other enthusiasts fuelling this online jihad by slamming media for covering the ‘anti-nationals’ of JNU extensively while forgetting those who chanted ‘Bharat mata ki Jai’, have forgotten that the government in J&K is their favourite one.Why were the ‘evidently patriotic’ students still lathicharged? Instead of dividing the student community, propagating the ‘anti-national’ JNU vs ‘patriotic’ NIT, why don’t they question the government?

It seems the whole idea was to curb the voices of these protests alongwith many other outbursts. JNU has been made into a villian and ,thus, everything they talk about is now necessarily ‘anti-national’. The’Bharat mata ki Jai’ brigade wanted to give the ‘nationalism’ debate a whole new dimension and intensify the divide on that basis. Minor clashes here and there didn’t serve the purpose the way the violence at NIT has. Everyone has turned towards it and is completely unaware of the turmoil in the HCU.

When all other campuses are burning in the fire of discrimination against students on various grounds , NIT-Srinagar- the most suitable place to put on fire over the question of nationalism – is burning with flames of suspiscious colours.