By Kalvakuntla Kavitha
After taking part in the recently concluded 1st half of the Budget Session of the Parliament, where the members of the house were subjected to lectures on Nationalism from my esteemed colleagues from the BJP coupled with the diatribe of “ In your Face” nationalism as espoused by mainstream news anchors, It suddenly made me ponder, as to whether even a normal person like me is a ‘national’ or an ‘anti-national’. The specific narrative of Nationalism as being played out by the ruling party and glorified and promoted as the nationalistic line by primetime news anchors, to me signals a disturbing trend. The older generation would do well to recall the Mc Carthyist era in the United States or in recent times Former US President George Bush’s quote “ If you are not with us, you are against us” during the heydays of the War on Terror where attempts were made in the public consciousness to determine on whose side a person was. In similar ways, the nationalists have decided that chanting ‘Bharat Mata Ki Jai’ or ‘Jai Hind’ as the benchmark of patriotism now. The recent Parliament session reminded me of our typical school days where a bully would taunt the lesser mortals to praise him or say something like ‘Jai Hind’ , and one person gathers the courage to say that come what may, he won’t say it and then the entire bully’s gang would gang up against the lone errant boy and start a vitriolic rant. Imagine this being played out day in and day out in the great portals of our democracy that is ,in the Parliament itself. It is only when we witness instances like these that we feel how true was Albert Einstein when he said “Nationalism is an infantile thing. It is the measles of mankind.”
I certainly believe that we are witnessing dissent being labeled as anti-national and as former US President Eisenhower had once remarked ‘honest dissent being characterized as disloyal subversion’. The problem is compounded, when leaders like Arun Jaitley who is also known to be one of the saner voices in the BJP had remarked that in the ideological war, the BJP has won the first round as people who raised anti-India slogans till now have been forced to say “Jai Hind, if not Bharat Mata ki jai”.
I strongly feel that the Government, instead of thrusting it’s own version of nationalism should take concrete steps to dispel the typical stereotyped notions that are prevalent even now in this day and age also. For example, anything and everything down south are clubbed together as a Madrasi, or the entire North East termed as Nepali etc without realizing that there are far too many variations of ethnicities and cultures amongst them.
In this regard, the Prime Minister’s repeated visits to the North Eastern Region and especially taking part in the Annual Hornbill Festival in Nagaland is a welcome and refreshing move. However, with regard to the North East, apart from the symbolisms, the Central Government has to look into the status of various projects that had been announced since 2014 and their current stages of implementation at the ground level. I firmly believe that 3 most important issues need to be addressed concretely so that our brothers and sister’s from the North Eastern Region feel at home in their own country.
First, a lot of emphasis should be given on promoting greater awareness and respect for the diversities in the cultures that are currently there within the seven north eastern states and people in other parts of India, should be made aware of that also. Secondly, the Centre and the North Eastern States should work in unision and harmony to bring all round development in the region. Infrastructure development be it the roads, railways and airports are urgently required so that tourism potential and trade potential of the region can be enhanced. For example, the projected requirement for the North Eastern Industrial Investment and Promotion Policy scheme for 2016-17 was estimated to be 632 crores but only 172 crores have been allocated which is not enough for the 7 states at all.
Thirdly more should be done at the political level to make the respective State Governments and elected representatives feel that they are an integral part of this country too. The decision to sign the peace accord with the insurgent groups in Nagaland, without consulting the Chief Minister of that state or for that matter the CM’s of the neighbouring states, or the unwillingness of the Finance Ministry to allocate the Rs 15,000 crore of unspent money from the Consolidated Fund of India to the DoNER Ministry for development in the North Eastern states are examples to show that with regard to co-operative federalism there is a lot of difference between preaching and practicing in reality.
Having had the personal example of playing a crucial part in leading the peaceful struggle for the formation of our State of Telangana and having personally been branded a dissident at some stage in my life, I am reminded of former Czechoslovakian President Vaclav Havel who was a writer, a philosopher and a former dissident too when he said, ‘You do not become a ”dissident” just because you decide one day to take up this most unusual career. You are thrown into it by your personal sense of responsibility, combined with a complex set of external circumstances. You are cast out of the existing structures and placed in a position of conflict with them. It begins as an attempt to do your work well, and ends with being branded an enemy of the society”
I hope that the government of the day would listen to the genuine voices and aspirations of the people from all parts of the country and instead of thrusting the BJP’s views on nationalism on all sections they should attempt, to carry along the people and make them feel genuinely welcome and wanted in our diverse nation as per the rights enshrined in our great Constitution and as Sarojini Naidu had mentioned “ We want deeper sincerity of motive, a greater courage in speech and earnestness in action” and I truly look forward to that day when it happens.