Perils of Triumphalism By Nandita Haksar

Volume 16, Issue 2  | 
Published 30/10/2019
Nandita Haksar

A human rights lawyer and author, most recently, of The Flavours of Nationalism.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi came to power in 2014 with a promise of    Sabka Saath, SabkaVikas: Collective Efforts Inclusive Growth. Modi spelled out his vision of governance:

Government has only one religion - India first!

Government has one holy book - the Constitution.

It was a slogan that had an appeal, especially to the 2.31 crore first time voters who came out in large numbers and enthusiastically brought Modi to power in 2014.  According to the Election Commission (EC), the number of first time voters had risen to around 8.4 crore by the time of the 2019 elections.

Millions of youth find themselves facing a life time of unemployment and those who have jobs are greatly under employed. There is some controversy over the actual figures of unemployment but at least 31 million Indians are officially unemployed (with 10.1 million children aged 5 and 14).  

Indian TV journalist, Ravish Kumar, anchored a series of explosive episodes on prime time TV with reports of   unemployment across the country making him an icon of the youth and winning him the Ramon Magsaysay award; but this did not result in a sustained youth movement against the State even though unemployment was a major issue in the 2019 elections.

This youth does not know the pain of the partition or the suffering and struggles of the freedom movement against colonialism and imperialism. For this generation freedom songs have no meaning and do not resonate with them.  They have grown up in time when the global markets have integrated and a song like: Door Hato Aye Duniyawalon Hindustan Hamara Hai  (Move out you colonialists, Hindustan is ours) has little appeal when they look at the entry of foreign branded consumer groups as a sign of  economic development, not neo-colonialism.

The Hindu nationalists’ vision of India has seen cultural diversity as an impediment to unity of the nation.  And for them the path to unity is to promote one culture, one religion, one language.  They have always opposed the special status for Kashmir which gave Constitutional protection to the identities of permanent residents of Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh by banning the sale of land to non-residents; also no law could be extended to the State without permission of the State Legislature, and the State of Jammu and Kashmir had its own Flag and Constitution.

It is important to point out there are special provisions for autonomy and protection of identity and land in tribal areas in many parts of India as well as in Northeast India.

By abolishing the special protection for Jammu and Kashmir the Prime Minister has broken a Constitutional promise given to the people of Jammu and Kashmir.  A friend from Jammu told me that people in Jammu who celebrated the gutting of Article 370 now are worried because they know people will not dare enter the Valley but they will buy land in Jammu; the rents will go up and now they are worried about their future.

Who is interested in buying land in Kashmir Valley? It is the multinational corporations who have been eyeing Gulmarg and other places where they will build resorts for foreign tourists.  

The Prime Minister says that there will be more development in the state but the economic indicators show that the state of the economy is doing well and much better than in many parts of India.

It is not the youth who are to be blamed. The opposition parties too have supported the Government move to repeal Article 370 of the Indian Constitution. And Western intelligence agencies have played their part in promoting the idea of trifurcation of the state of Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh.  

In one stroke the Government has alienated the people of Kashmir and fanned a triumphalism never seen in India.  TV anchors announced that now Indian citizens could buy land in the Kashmir Valley, the crudest reflection of this triumphalism is the songs put on the social media taunting the Kashmiris saying that now land and women of Kashmir will be available.

We will see the perils of triumphalism in the days to come.  But this Independence Day I just feel an overwhelming sadness that has settled on my heart and the utter helplessness as I watch every brick of the foundation of a secular, socialist India being smashed to smithereens.

My country does not feel like mine any more.

 My thoughts are with the Kashmiris in the  Valley;  locked inside their  homes, those who mourn for the dead, those who cannot go out to get medicines, those who could not celebrate Eid with their families, those who are in jail, and those who have fought all their lives so that India could belong equally to all of us.

Pakistan is observing their Independence Day as Kashmir solidarity day. But their solidarity to the Kashmir cause all these years has a political agenda which even many militant Kashmiris have sharply criticized.  

Kashmir has always been a pawn in the hands of international politics. A Kashmiri poet cried out in the 1940’s

From all sided I am assaulted,

The English, the Indians, the Pakistanis,

To whom should I complain, to whom should I tell my fate?

Capitalists, tyrants, oppressors, and friends, all want me

To become an accomplice,

With whom should I agree , with whom should I disagree?

To whom should I complain, to whom should I tell my fate?

India is witnessing unprecedented triumphalism; Hindu majoritarianism is shining bright.   The perils of triumphalism will lead to greater tension between India and Pakistan, both nuclear powers.  There may or may not be a war but at the moment India is at war with itself, with the values enshrined in the Indian Constitution versus those who wish to re-interpret the provisions to subvert it with the help of state power .

In a skewed interpretation of nationalism and development Prime Minister Modi has subverted the possibility of national unity, deepened the abyss dividing Hindus and Muslims, Kashmiris and the rest of the Indians, and in a brilliant stroke taken away national attention from the collapsing economy, the crisis of the banks and the poverty of our people.

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