“There is nothing indigenous about Hindutva.” With these words, Ramachandra Guha delineated aspects of patriotism and jingoism as he came down heavily on the homogenisation and criminalisation of dissent in India.
“Hindutva’s origins, can be traced partly to 19th Century European Nationalism. It has roots in the medieval middle east where Christians and Jews were considered second class citizens in Muslim majority states,” said the noted historian who was speaking at the Bangalore Literature Festival delivering a talk on ‘Jingoism vs Patriotism’ in the city on Saturday.
Dr. Guha lamented that constitutional patriotism was in tatters today as jingoism, where one religion – Hinduism, one language – Hindi, and a common enemy – Pakistan, was the basis of defining an Indian identity. “Our founders built our nation on the basis of shared ideals of diversity, democracy, economic self-reliance and equality before law. It’s fascinating that the Indian nation did not even hate the British,” he said. He listed out the traits of a constitutional patriot, which he proposed to be the best antidote to jingoism.
First, acknowledge and appreciate the inherited diversity of the land, by extension of which no type of Indian by his religion or language is superior to the other. Two, patriotism operates at many levels; just as charity it begins at home, patriotism is concern for one’s neighbourhood, city, State and the country. Each is complementary to the other. Three, recognition that no State, religion, culture or leader is perfect and flawless. Dr. Guha said fundamentalists in every religion suffered from a superiority complex with the belief that they had all the answers — an illusion.
He presented the case for how this rationale extended to politics and cited B.R. Ambedkar’s view that while Bhakti was the route to salvation in religion, Bhakti in politics was the way to dictatorship. This, he said, did not apply to just Narendra Modi and Indira Gandhi, but also to several other leaders. “An unpatriotic Left that looks up to another country than to tradition, the corruption of Congress from the party of freedom movement to being restricted to a single family; and the rise of Islamic fundamentalism in the country’s backyard, are major contributors to rise of jingoism in the country,” he said.
“While we have a party representing jingoism in BJP, we don’t yet have a modern party representing constitutional patriotism. Constitutional patriotism is an everyday affair, which we need to fight for,” he signed off.