We miss you, Rabindranath Tagore
It is becoming increasingly difficult to write on Indian politics these days because the same thing is happening again and again. Instead of learning from its foolish mistakes, the BJP is repeating them with greater enthusiasm. So from Hyderabad University we move to JNU, where once again the ABVP (the BJP’s youth wing) is tattling to party leaders (charming people, aren’t they?) about fellow students. To add fat to the fire, videotapes have apparently been doctored to paint their political rivals as anti-nationals and charge them with sedition.
I would yawn if this trend wasn’t so dangerous.
India has changed for the worse since 2014 despite what BJP loyalist and Bollywood actor Anupam Kher says. Indeed, I would take Kher’s hyper-nationalism with a gigantic sack of salt. But why only him – most Bollywood actors care more about money than the nation. Here’s a little story from way back. Kargil had happened, a modest sum of money for war widows was collected and an event featuring Bollywood actors, singers and musicians was organised in Delhi.
On the morning of the event, they demanded a few crores – or else they wouldn’t perform in the evening. The money was organised with great difficulty and perform they did, with tears rolling down their cheeks. No money was left in the kitty to hand over to the war widows, sigh. So, yeah, Bollywood – bah! Oh, and by the way, a little message for pest control companies in India. Anupam Kher would be willing to advertise your products (not for free, of course) if you allow him to spray a little poison on ‘anti-national’ human beings. This is his most fervent desire these days.
I expect to see pavement hawkers hollering, “Get your patriotism certificates here! Two for `100!” in the near future. Me, I’ll never buy one
Oh, well. We knew that India would become polarised if Modi came to power – but we didn’t realise just how deep the chasm would be. Since we’re a nation of enterprising people, I expect to see pavement hawkers hollering, “Get your patriotism certificates here! Two for `100!” in the near future. Me, I’ll never buy one. I don’t need the RSS, BJP, Anupam Kher or Arnab Goswami to vouch for my patriotism, thank you. And while on the subject of Arnab Goswami, these days you can tell a hyper-nationalist from an ‘anti-national’ by just finding out which news channels they watch.
It’s scary, this new India. You get rape threats if you post a tweet announcing a protest march against attacks on journalists. You are harassed by the police if you went to college with someone the powers that be deem anti-national, you can be beaten up if you don’t stand up for the national anthem in cinema halls (even though it’s not a crime), if you express a desire to eat beef chilli fry or celebrate a mythical demon, you’re branded with the anti-national stamp again, lawyers beat up allegedly anti-national students with impunity while policemen watch, and members of the ruling party swear that they will shoot their own children if they chant anti-national slogans (as if!). Oh, the list is endless.
Not surprisingly, Rabindranath Tagore is the most quoted poet in the country again (not by the RSS, BJP, Anupam Kher and Arnab Goswami, of course). I loved this poem when I studied it in school and I find it even more inspirational now.
‘Where the mind is without fear and the head is held high
Where knowledge is free
Where the world has not been broken up into fragments
By narrow domestic walls
Where words come out from the depth of truth
Where tireless striving stretches its arms towards perfection
Where the clear stream of reason has not lost its way
Into the dreary desert sand of dead habit
Where the mind is led forward by thee
Into ever-widening thought and action
Into that heaven of freedom, my Father, let my country awake.’