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Tag Archives | nationalism

How Media is Feeding the Jingo Nationalism

By Dr. Suma Singh

India @70 – as a nation we are celebrating the various facets of the historic seventy years of life as an independent nation. The story however is a mixed bag of hits and misses, tales of indomitable spirit and success which have brought smiles on our faces and tears in times of adversity. But in these seventy years we have also managed to create a media industry which seems to believe it is omniscient, omnipresent and omnipotent. Primetime on leading channels has become more of agenda warfare and propaganda. Interspersed with nationalistic jingo, our television anchors have taken up the cause of being the first on the line of control and seem to display raw patriotism more than our defence forces.

Post Uri tragedy, electronic media seems to have decided that war is the best form of revenge and the entire media machinery is devoted to the cause of whipping war frenzy, what with talk of a war-room in South Block. The few sane voices which have appeared on the various shows have been muzzled by the vocal power of the anchors and warmongers. Call for a military reply to the dastardly attack is not taking into consideration the ground reality. We may have one of the largest armed forces in the world but they are bogged down by the chinks in the armour like the outdated and poorly maintained weaponry and a large number of fighter planes and ships that are not serviceable, according to a report in 2014 by IHS Jane, a defence publication. The larger issue is how war may take us back by a couple of years and derail the economic achievements of the last twenty five years.

Another exasperating story on primetime in leading English news channels was the issue of banning Pakistani artists from Indian entertainment industry. The argument was taken to ridiculous extents when a prominent news anchor wondered why the heartthrob of millions across both sides of the border, Fawad Khan, would not tweet to condemn the dastardly attack on the army camp in Uri when he made crores in India. Firstly, can you imagine a Tendulkar or Bachchan Sr. tweeting and condemning any action of the government and defence forces on the ground of humanism?! The backlash they will face will be led by the same electronic media and anchors. Secondly, people to people contact is the need of the hour, more so as it makes us appreciate the common roots the two nations share. If a jihadi factory has emerged in Pakistan it is largely to be blamed at the educational system which has painted all Indians as kafirs and nurtured generations of youth on anti-India propaganda. India should not fall into the same trap and become a nurturing ground for hatred as this will backfire on us given our large minority population.

As Indians, a Uri and Pathankot hurts us but we cannot be swayed by pure emotions and allow media to set the agenda for Government responses and decisions. To quote Albert Einstein “Nationalism is nothing more than an idealistic rationalization for militarism and aggression” and this seems so apt for the nationalism which electronic media is whipping up today. War makes for good TRPs but at what cost? Electronic Media must behave in a more constrained responsible manner and reasonable voices must be heard out.

Dr. Suma Singh is an Associate Professor at the Department of Economics, Mount Carmel College, Bengaluru

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Danger of Militarism over Nationalism in current times

The use of military veterans to portray nationalism for achieving political objectives has dangerous ramifications for civil-military relations in a liberal democratic society like India and must be avoided at any cost  

The use of military symbols to project nationalism by the present government has dangerous ramifications. In trying to portray Kanhaiya Kumar, Umar Khalid (the case is still sub judice) and some other students as anti-national, the government, aided by a section of the TV news networks, unfortunately used Lance Naik Hanumanthappa’s heroic death due to avalanche in Siachen glacier. The obvious aim was to steer the discourse in a binary framework: national versus anti-national or simply, us versus them. Ex servicemen have been commandeered to be the torchbearers of patriotism and nationalism by inviting them to meetings at the JNU. Prima facie, there seems to be nothing wrong with inviting veterans to the JNU. What is wrong is the brand of competitive nationalism that is being imposed and exploiting our soldiers to do the dirty job. The social media has been actively used for trolls and counter trolls. In an event held in JNU by ABVP on February 24, senior veterans were invited  to speak to the university administration. Reportedly, they asked for a memorial to be built in the campus and also volunteered to donate a tank.  The latest to join the fray is a 2 minute video titled ‘Freedom of Action?’ directed by Vivek Joshi.

The title is quite provocative and asks probing question from the audience. Two soldiers are on guard with their guns trained at the enemy across the border when they hear some anti-national slogans coming from own side. At this, one of them turns around and aims his gun in the direction of sloganeering (although, no one is visible). The other soldier laconically tells his comrade that killing them is useless, as  he would be killing only the men and not the ideology. To which, the second one replies that a man who has broken his relationship with his mother has broken all his relationships. And then, goes on to take aim. The message is very clear. Army can be the symbol of extreme form of nationalism and it will be used to eliminate whoever is deemed anti-national.  Getting the veterans involved in student politics that is within the ambit of state is nothing short of absurdity.  This rings an ominous warning and brings us to the complex debate of civil-military relations.

The Indian armed forces are modeled on the British system. The civilian control and oversight over the military is taken for granted in such a set-up. The military in a liberal democratic society must remain strictly apolitical for it to remain professional. Towards this, the officer corps plays an important role, for they are the decision makers of an arm of the state which is capable of utmost violence.  Huntington, a highly acknowledged American political scientist terms this as the ‘objective civilian control’ which is the most desirable for effective civil-military balance of power. This maximises military professionalism, and hence security of the state. The military’s and as a corollary, the officers’ role in politics is non-existent. The civilian control is the independent variable to the dependent variable of military effectiveness. This is in stark to contrast to ‘subjective control’ where the civilian assertion has dangerous portends of deprofessionalising the military which might ultimately result in a coup.

One doesn’t need to go far in the subcontinent. Pakistan is a standing example where intrusive interference by Jinnah involved military in politics immediately after independence.  Within a decade, the military overthrew the civilian government. There has been no looking back since then. Bangladesh too has had an uneasy relationship with the military wherein the founding father, Sheikh Mujibur Rehman was assassinated in a bloody military coup within a few years of its independence.  Myanmar has been ruled by its military for the better part of its existence. The complex of civil-military relations becomes a dangerous cocktail when mixed with religion. A benign flirting with religion at the beginning, subsequently leads to massive inroads into the vitals of military effectiveness and competence.

From its inception, military has been associated with masculinity, valour,  and defending the territorial integrity at any cost. The trouble starts when these values get mixed with symbols of religious identity masquerading as nationalism in a politically charged atmosphere with passions running high. A large standing army can be a beast— it can be extremely powerful and strong enough in thwarting an external aggression.  By the same token, it is also used to quell internal strife and insurgencies by remaining purely apolitical and non-partisan.  At the same time, it should be subservient enough to the civil authority and not become a frankenstein monster. Till now, by all available evidence, only a minuscule section of retired personnel have visibly showed signs of aligning with the ideology of Hindutva and Hindu Rashtra.  In contrast, the police in uniform has demonstrated its partisanship by looking the other way when violence broke out in the Delhi High Court premises. It must be borne in mind by the political masters in charge that the military has an almost paternal relationship with its veteran community. The politicians are only playing with fire by involving the veterans to realise before long that the serving officer corps too is afflicted with this. To achieve their ends, the stormtroopers in the form of foot soldiers of ABVP are being released as trial balloons. Once this genie of ‘military in politics’ is out of the bottle, it will be dangerous to control.


Guru Aiyar is a research scholar with Takshashila Institution and tweets @guruaiyar 

Featured Image : Military unit in training by Elizabeth Anderson, licensed by creativecommons.org




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Linguistic States in India

In an otherwise uneventful journey, recently, I had the pleasure of talking to a bus driver who was plying between Indian states A and  B. He was ruing about how commercial and other state transport vehicles(from the ‘other’ states) do not let you overtake based on the letter code on your number plate.

Anecdotes are the lowest forms of data, that is if it can be considered data at all. That said, the story about overtaking(or the lack of it) is an excellent example of how linguistic sub-nationalism surfaces in India.

The movement for linguistic states in India existed much before Independence, but became a reality due to the unfortunate death of Potti Sriramulu who fast unto death for the creation of a separate Andhra Pradesh. Linguistic states are a now reality and have, depending upon the situation, been a matter of great elation and/or chaos.

Language cloud

Creation of linguistic states has had many advantages but it has also had several negative effects. First, boundary tensions exist between several states. Second, water-sharing agreements between higher and lower riparian regions are still not sorted. Third, multilingual scholarship has been a serious casualty  —  it has become the job of another state to promote their own language.

It is undeniable that strong sentiments are attached to languages. The sub-continent itself has witnessed civil wars and creation of an independent nation on the basis of a language. Therefore, it is important to be cognisant about this sentiment, but it is also important to ensure that sentiments do not get the better of us.

In his excellent essay titled State Name and Linguism in  Public Affairs in 1972, the Kannada poet and intellectual D.V Gundappa, says the following

 Emphasising the linguistic element in the nomenclature of the Provincial states in India is a way of promoting separatism and disharmony. (…) The names of the Provincial States should not be such that they could be used as a handle by a fanatic of any kind. Language is emphatically such, as much as Religion. The name could no harm if it is based upon locality or town or upon a  historic dynasty now extinct and incapable of separatist or offensive sentiment — like Kadamba or Chola. If unprovocative is not found , the best course would be to assign a number to the State. The names of States given in Schedule I to the constitution may be rearranged in alphabetical order and numbered consecutively so that they will be known as State the Eighth, State the Fifteenth, State the Twentieth and so on. This may not be the most convenient nomenclature. It may put great strain on memory. But at whatever cost, our provincialism must be subordinated to our nationalism.

Although DVG’s suggestion about numbering the states is not too practical, it raised extremely valid points, especially at a time when the fervour for linguistic states was at its peak.  It is therefore important for us to now ask similarly important questions: Are linguistic states a ticking countdown for something bad? Will linguistic states continue to strengthen the Indian state with a sub-nationalist layer? Is the linguistic organisation of states truly successful both economically and culturally?

This topic deserves holistic analysis and should not be pushed into the realm of taboo.

Varun Ramachandra is a policy analyst at Takshashila Institution and tweets@_quale

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Remembering D V Gundappa

The literary genius of D. V Gundappa(1887 – 1975) is well known among Kannadigas. A cursory visit to any Kannada book shop will reveal DVG’s(as he was popularly known) works  in abundance. His scholarship extended from politics to poetics and he referenced the works of John Stuart Mill and Alexander Hamilton as easily as Kalidasa and Omar Khayyam. In total, he published more than fifty books consisting of 8,000 pages and another 1,500 pages of editorials, reports, speeches, statements and reviews.

Thanks to the great work done by the Gokhale Institute of Public Affairs, Bangalore (GIPA), an institute co-founded by DVG himself, all his editorials and articles that appeared in “Public Affairs”– the monthly journal of the GIPA started in  1949– are digitized.  (Note: You need to install Djvu pdf reader to read all the articles that are linked below).

An article titled Vox-Populi in Economics, written in February 1969, starts with a gem –“Cocksureness is an avoidable risk in every field of human life”– that rings true to this day. The article goes on to explain how cocksureness can be extremely disastrous in economics and how, thanks to socialist pressures, politicians across the world have resorted to pampering people rather than following sound economic principles. The article concludes with a plea to read the following immortal words of Prof. Alfred Marshall:

Students of social science must fear popular approval; evil is with them when all men speak well of them. If there is any set of opinions by the advocacy of which a newspaper can increase its sales, then the student, who wishes to leave the world in general and his country in particular better than it would be if he had not been born, is bound to dwell on the limitations and defects and errors, if any, in that set of opinions; and never to advocate them unconditionally even in an ad hoc discussion. It is almost impossible for a student to be a true patriot and have the reputation of being one at the same time”.

The spectrum of his works had brushes of almost everything related to public life. Examples include —  his scholarly criticism of Indira Gandhi, his nuanced view about religious conversions, about Nehru’s Failures, on linguistic states,  about party and government, the debate about provincialism vs. nationalism, on two Andhra states, the Secular State, of absolutism and tyranny, the philosophies of advaita and bhakti, on the Nationalisation of institutions, on Nehru the statesman, his moving obituary on Nehru among several others. These works are like  time-capsules of a bygone era. Several views that he expressed have stood the test of time; those that are now irrelevant do not seem outlandish as they express genuine scepticism rather than cynicism. His piece on space travel is a good illustration of this. Another noteworthy aspect about DVG was his ability to enrich prosaic topics such as citizenship by displaying the “services that poetry can  provide towards the cause of good citizenship”.

DVG the poet, the journalist, the public intellectual, the polymath is a perfect role-model for anyone who believes that civil criticism can achieve things that bile and vitriol seldom can; it is perhaps this quality of his that we must inculcate the most.

(Edit: All of his works from Public Affairs can be found here)





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