The last few days out here have been rather strange. Strange enough that I actually paid attention to what was happening around me instead of just going on under the oblivious haze I call my eyesight. It so seems everyone is very concerned about ‘India’ these past three weeks — concerned only in the worst possible of ways — and more specifically about how is the ‘image’ of India being represented. This isn’t to say there aren’t such tower guards employed by the Government to make sure we’re represented as a footstool of human civilisation and or as a growing super-power (as per your specifications and the amount of money you can loan us!¹) but rather the whole country now wants to openly engage in this ‘patriotism’. For a while I thought it was because of the Gandhi anniversary on the 2nd of this month that has swept the nation into wholesale CountryLove but then I remembered all we do on Gandhi Jayanti is stay at home, drink the stocked up alcohol and try to look interested in the latest GandhiFlick that Bollywood spurned this year. And it turns out the real reason for this mass-ejaculation of patriotism are two entirely different polarised debates.
For the uninitiated, Delhi is the host of this year’s Commonwealth Games and garnered a lot of justified negative reputation when ceilings and bridges began to collapse two weeks before the event. Of course the media had a field day supposedly ‘exaggerating everything out of proportion’ (frankly I don’t blame them. I’d take the Government to task every turn I could too) while the politicians in charge started paling and gave out silly and inane replies providing the weekly quota of entertainment. In the light of these events, a lot of people were ashamed to think of what would happen to the image of India now? “THEY WILL ALWAYS SEE US AS A BACKWATER SEWAGE DUMP NOW” has become the chief concern. Not the gang rapes of Dalit women a few kilometers out of the national capital, or the fact that someone set another Dalit woman on fire after raping her but what will people (read: other countries) think of our sanitary practices. We’re quite placid about massive groups of Delhi beggars who have been shipped out of the city since the past four months² just so the city can look like poverty never touched it but the fact that international candidates are opting out of the game makes us cringe wholeheartedly, collectively and uniformly. So the poorly constructed stadiums and terrible lodging arrangements are the source of national shame but the thousands displaced by floods last week in Delhi hardly make it to two centimeter notes in the paper. When I raise such questions, often I’m berated for being a ‘bad’ Indian; for don’t you know good Indians don’t critique the Government — especially in events like this one — but instead make groups to encourage positive environment? I didn’t know either till fifteen different people sent me the same e-mail coaxing me to join the group that will magically pump me up with Optimism! and Happy Feelings! about the Commonwealth Games (without any drugs they say!). Which is the exact same time, co-incidentally, I burst a blood-vessel in there somewhere.
Repeatedly ritually and routinely we’re encouraged to participate in this ‘nationalistic fervor’ to promote India while easily turning a blind eye towards the internal problems that plague us such as the Olde Woman Problem where silly feminist bitches want to destigmatise abortion and abolish female feticide, the Dalit Question where those ruthless buggers are still demanding equal rights — Didn’t we give them three seats in buses and trains? people can’t stop asking–, The Army Question where the army is engaged in ‘encounters’ every other day in Jammu and Kashmir as countless rapes, thefts and forced entries go unreported to name a few. To top this, the Babri Masjid verdict came out yesterday which sanctioned that Lord Ram was indeed born in Ayodhya and the Hindus were always right and the Muslim buggers need a swift kick you-know-where. Or at least that’s how it sounded like in my head as many people from my community set out to celebrate Hindu domination and force out into the streets. In fact, I even heard many people saying, “Even if we will shame ourselves in Delhi, we at least showed those Muslim devils their place” as we once again croon how great Hinduism is while completely forgetting to mention the fascist leanings of Hindu Supremacy groups (one of them being the B.J.P which is the national freaking opposition). Why does our nationalism have to be so ruthlessly set on Othering and marginalising minority groups?
As I’ve said before, nationalism isn’t for me where I’d be required to let go of my humanity, build up this ‘love’ for my country on the basis of hating someone else’s homeland. Somehow boxing and labeling people isn’t something I’d like to do, even if my life depended on it , despite how much ‘fun’ it may seem like (it’s just like doing origami! Only you fold people to your imagination instead of coloured paper they say). What disgusts me here is the CollectiveReprimandTone almost everyone — from my parents to the woman who dusts my house — has so easily internalised. “What do you mean you don’t feel a thing about the Babri Masjid verdict?” or “How can you even call yourself Indian?” are common questions as well as sickeningly popular opinions. Whenever I manage to steer the conversation to letting go of personal biases and evaluating the situation critically, the easiest remedy is to say “But don’t you think we deserve to win the court case?” or say “scrounge up your two-inch deep respect for the country, will you?”. Apparently these statements don’t hamper common sense in other people. Supposedly. But I digress.
This is a particularly sore topic for me and many others to discuss because so much is wound up with both of these events. Not ‘national pride’ people of the Olde Interwebes but the massive effort it takes to come to terms with such nationwide brutality. The fact that so many people were exploited as they worked the last few weeks to make the National Capital ‘seem’ worthy of International press or the fact that the same city espouses currently thousands of displaced people who lost everything in the floods or the communal riots that can take place soon considering the verdict was more legally unfair than believable and so many things I may not even be aware of.
These bouts of nationalism that we seek and encourage epidemically just turn us into perpetrators of violence, inhuman as we are so ready to marginalise and exploit anyone we can in the social, cultural and economic ladder as long as we can look like the country people see on our coins and notes. All I know is, these surges of nationalism just need to be shoved up capitalism, cultural imperialism and neo-colonisation’s respective hindquarters — after nationalism needs to be reunited with its parent ideologies. Don’t believe me? Google Gramsci. He’ll explain everything.
1. Seriously, ask P. Sainath. He has all the answers you need.
2. Observation of a police officer in Delhi who wishes to remain anonymous.