Where The Mind Is With Fear
Tanaya Sahoo | Aug 19, 2019
When the sun set on the last day of the nineteenth century, in the year 1899, Tagore wrote,
The last sun of the century sets amidst the blood-red clouds of the West and the whirlwind of hatred.
The naked passion of the self-love of Nations, in its drunken delirium of greed, is dancing to the clash of steel and howling verses of vengeance.
The hungry self of the Nation shall burst in the violence of fury from its shameless feeding.
For it has made the world its food.
It isn’t a great deal of discernment on the part of Indian and Anglo historians and readers alike to identify Tagore’s antipathy towards the burgeoning ideology of nationalism, the naked passion of self-love of nations. It was rather fascinating that he would term nationalism as “a cruel epidemic of evil . . . sweeping over the human world of the present age and eating into its moral fibre” while remaining the quintessential modernist of renascent India. His conviction crossed swords with the Gandhian ideal of nationalism that happened to be at the soul of India’s boycott movement and yet he himself remained at a political affinity with Gandhi by embracing humility and non-aggression as antitheses of nationalism (that he believed was more of a political/economic union that didn’t bridge progressive cultures of west and east and only served a mechanical purpose rather than humanitarian) leading to a kind of “othering” that incites hatred and even war, somewhat paralleling imperialism.
Tagore was a proud Indian, writing several odes to his motherland, wilfully embracing its glorious heritage that encompassed diversity and socially vital values like truth, conscience and love above specialized people with organised power and self-idolatry nation worship who belittle fractions of society in the name of national pride, a land where the mind is without fear and not a linguistic racial or authoritarian region where people elbowed each other for self-aggrandisement to achieve authority. His alternative framework of a ‘nation’ emerged from a belief of universalism, a nation that scorned over dehumanization of power and formed a humanitarian co-operation for political and social goals. 15th August 1947, forty-eight years hence, a ‘nation’ rose at midnight hour from the soiled shackles of colonial yoke or the blood-red clouds of the West. As the first Prime Minister of ‘independent’ India, Jawaharlal Nehru delivered his ‘Tryst with destiny’ to the Indian Constituent Assembly in the parliament that promised India awaking to ‘life and freedom’, there was also a resounding promise of responsibility that came with power, the responsibility of being a sovereign democracy.
The philosophical connotations around making a nation arise from how it became a ‘nation’. India as a nation fared miraculously since 1947. In the words of Ramachandra Guha, the modern historian,
Had the country been a start-up in 1947, not even the most venturesome of venture capitalists would have invested in it.
Reason- India was carved out of potentially many nations that could have possibly divided the subcontinent. The Sikh province of Punjab and Sindh, the tribes of Nagaland and Assam, the ethnic princely states of Awadh and Utkal, the Parsis of west and Kashmir sitting on foundational fault lines. With that great an extent of pluralistic bandwidth, India defied the predictions of western observers that it cannot survive as a single nation. We did; the universality of Tagore resounding again in its true essence. It might as well be discerned that Nehru and Sardar Patel were at the heart of this great consolidation with Dr B.R Ambedkar becoming the advocate of a unifying constitution. Nehru preserved his statesmanship approach to international and bilateral issues surrounding India vowing not to let India become a ‘Hindu Pakistan’ and deal with minorities in a ‘civilized manner’, to give security and rights of citizens in a ‘democratic state’.
WHERE DOES INDIA STAND NOW?
A short while after Nehru’s demise in 1964 however, Hindu-Muslim riots broke out episodically with the blossoming of hyper-nationalistic communities that aspired to establish pride at the expense of integrity. A little late into the 1980s, these communities formed extrapolated political affiliations based on a nationalistic ideology far from the universal acceptance of what Tagore envisioned; the political frame of the nation was distanced from the progression of the nation and now focussed on becoming majoritarian rulers. This might as well be the yawning gap in the fabrics of Indian democracy, the fine line of majoritarian becoming authoritarian wasn’t demarcated. The veils weren’t taken out until now. The Bhartiya Janata party’s landslide mandate to power since 2014 saw a radical shift of India’s objective. Nationalism was once again weighed but the scales took an extraordinarily tumultuous gradation because now the ‘voices of dissident’ were cornered by the charismatic ‘Modi narrative’
On the morning of 73rd Independence Day of India, the prime minister of India called on fellow citizens to build a ‘new India’. The previous weeks had seen the scrapping of Article 370, hailed as the unfinished business of Nehru in Kashmir and repressive volatility in the valley. The precedence of putting three former chief ministers of the state under house arrest and dismantling of network services garnered widespread debates on constitutional operations in the country. The waves of the joy of ‘being able to buy land in Kashmir’ resounded more than the wails of Kashmiris in the bereft and barricaded region. Indian nationalists cheered. Manohar Lal Khattar, chief minister of the state of Haryana, bordering Delhi, while speaking about the improvement he had brought about in the skewed gender ratio in his state joked: “Our Dhakarji used to say we will bring in girls from Bihar. Now they say Kashmir is open, we can bring girls from there.”
Joanna Slater for The Washington Post writes,
what’s more, the way Modi executed the decision on Kashmir indicates what his “new India” might look like. For his supporters, the step shows Modi to be a leader of courage and ambition, unfettered by precedent and guided by a direct understanding of the popular will. For his critics, Modi’s move on Kashmir is proof of his anti-democratic and majoritarian impulses.
“This is not just about Kashmir — it’s about the future of India,” said Sumantra Bose, a political scientist at the London School of Economics. Modi and his party are using Kashmir as a means by which to “advance their broader and ultimate agenda of turning India into a Hindu republic in all but name,” Bose said.
SO ARE WE JUST AN AGENDA DRIVEN NATION DEVIATING FROM TAGORE’S IDEA OF INDIA’S UNIVERSALISM?
The defiance above is clear as to what Mr Guha points out that India is in danger of becoming an ‘election only democracy’, unaccountable for its acts through 5 years. With a dysfunctional parliament, overburdened judiciary and an appraising media, loud bellowers of extreme ideology try to emanate it into politics and society by repression and garrison of dissent, unabashedly suppressing multi-opined voices just because they do not identify with ‘their ideology’, to strike a deal in whatever way possible. Passing national bills in 2 days without debate, lynching, the list goes as far as lobbying to usurp democratically elected government in broad daylight under the nose of a lame-duck media while pocketing the civil service. The slightest dissent is termed ‘anti-national’ and has to face liberal intimidation. Sardar Patel in his time as Home-Minister of India had set off to ‘to root out the forces of hate and violence that are at work in our country and imperil the freedom of the nation and darken her fair name’. However, the paradigm government today doesn’t even acknowledge the rise of hyper-nationalism stemming from ‘forces of hate’ claimed by Indian and western observers alike but the reality is apalling. The question is, ‘Who can question?’ in an atmosphere of repressed vigilantism and uncertainty; aptly, where the mind is with fear.
India still awaits ‘judgement’ on the Ayodhya land dispute case that the BJP is seen keenly optimistic about. Speculations about a new bill that registers minority migrants residing in India as citizens without proof of papers and not Muslim migrants (whom the hon’ble Home minister, Amit Shah terms as ‘termites’) is open-ended. The row on nationalism and whose ‘Indian-ness’ is credible or not credible has taken a hyper lapsing path. People with so-called ‘organised power’ seem to know the metrics of gauging it more than anyone. However, it cannot be denied the idea of a secular India is far from what her makers envisioned. It might as well be essential to commemorate wise words of that patriotic modernist of India where he warned against vengeance emanating from authoritarian power and pride and yet prayed glory to the ‘nation’,
Keep watch, India.
Bring your offerings of worship for that sacred sunrise.
Let the first hymn of its welcome sound in your voice, and sing,
'Come, Peace, thou daughter of God's own great suffering.
Come with thy treasure of contentment, the sword of fortitude,
And meekness crowning thy forehead.'
Be not ashamed, my brothers, to stand before the proud and the powerful
With your white robe of simpleness.
Let your crown be of humility, your freedom the freedom of the soul.
Build God's throne daily upon the ample bareness of your poverty
And know that what is huge is not great and pride is not everlasting.