With tension doing the round, our writer tries to lay focus on the recent wave of anti-Pakistan sentiments in India, and how it is being misused by the authorities to propel a Hindutva-oriented brand of jingoistic nationalism.
This year, Dussehra was a far cry from the routine, hum-drum ‘effigy burning’ ritual that takes place every year. There was of course a familiar, colourful and gigantic Ravana’s head on fire in most parts of the country. It was set ablaze amidst peals of laughter from delighted children. Yet, some parts of India also chose to burn gigantic effigies representing Pakistan alongside Ravana, and burned them with equal (perhaps even exceeding) vigour. What had been built with such care, nurtured across the decades through ghazals and qawwalis, through numerous films and serials, versatile fashion and rich literature, all went into flames within seconds. This only proves how destructive firecrackers are. It is at times like these that cross-border peace efforts crumble like sandcastles.
Uri is a good enough reason to lash the neighbour. But why must Mumbai, Pathankot and the Parliament be forgotten? They did not stop us from differentiating between the bureaucracy and the civilians before. Almost as if in an instant, the gulf of anger has grown wider and deeper this time. Flags must be burnt and artistes banned in a display of ‘exceptional’ patriotism. News channels must engage in foul-mouthing a country which still maintains strong trade ties with India. In fact, Narayanan Madhavan recently pointed out this strange dichotomy in an interview with Al-Jazeera. His argument followed along the lines of why Pakistani artistes must be banned when trade across the borders continues as usual.
At this juncture, if the T.V. goes mute in the background and the newspapers lie unnoticed for a minute, we may get up from our seats and think about ‘who’ or ‘what’ have been constituting nationalism for us. Since when did Pakistan become an excuse for asserting a saffron clad, Hindutva-oriented, jingoistic brand of nationalism? In this close-knit definition, a filmmaker must apologise for working with Pakistani artistes. In turn, the artistes must explain their silence too. Every aspect of the questioning civilian is branded with a red, hot mark of sedition. News and media outlets, as if they were gagged and turned into an extension of the state machinery, must propel this brand of nationalism forward.
Dussehra marks the end of Durga Puja and Navratra celebrations. It marks the epic battle of good versus evil, in which good always wins. But if Pakistan’s effigy burns alongside Ravana’s on this occassion, what sort of ‘evil’ are we targeting? In fact, who defines this brand of patriotism as necessarily being ‘good’?