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Rampaging nationalism

Amulya Ganguli |


Barack Obama’s prediction of a “meaner, harsher, more troubled world” because of the rise of white supremacists is coming true. Both in the US and in Britain, there has been an uncommon spurt in recent months of hate crimes against immigrants following Donald Trump’s election as the US President and in post-Brexit Britain. According to the Southern Poverty Law Center in the US, “hate activity” after Trump’s ascent to power has been above pre-election levels. In Britain, the London metropolitan police noted a “horrible spike” in hate crimes following the referendum on Britain remaining in the European Union while there was a 41 per cent increase in England and Wales, according to official figures.

The targeting of “aliens” by the ultra-nationalists is the primary distinguishing feature of the present-day “troubled world” apart, of course, from the threat posed by radical Islamists. The  jihadis are responsible, however, for arousing the wrath of the white chauvinists in the US, Britain and other European countries against Muslims in general, and also against any person of “colour”, irrespective of his or her religion, along with even the white immigrants from Poland and elsewhere who take away the jobs of the locals.

“Get out of my country” is the war cry of the uber-nationalists against the outsiders. This was the dire threat uttered by the former US Navy employee against the Indian technologist, Srinivas Kuchibhotia, when shooting him dead in Kansas. The White House has refused to see any link between the crime and Trump’s anti-immigration rhetoric although the President has belatedly condemned the killing.

However, the disinclination to discern any connection between the hate crime and Trump’s speeches is understandable because the President’s success is almost totally based on whipping up such nativist sentiments among his supporters in the disaffected white communities whose employment prospects have been hurt by globalization. 

Insularity is currently the cornerstone of all Alt-Right parties in Europe, which are gaining ground by exploiting the resentment against and fear of Muslims. There is also apprehension about the immigrants eroding the local culture. Britain, too, is proving to be no different although 48 per cent of the people opposed Brexit. The reason is that hate has its own momentum. Even before the referendum, a promising politician of the Labour Party, Jo Cox, was killed by a man shouting “put Britain first”.

But it is not only the West which is experiencing the violent expression of parochialism. India, too, has seen campaigns by the BJP and its allied organizations, which have included the imposition of their fetishes about beef in their agenda. So passionate is their abhorrence of the consumption of beef that they killed a Muslim householder near Delhi on the suspicion that he and his family were eating the forbidden meat. Muslim transporters of cattle have also been beaten up or killed by saffron activists while a group of Dalits was lynched in Gujarat for skinning a cow.

One can also hear the angry warning, “get out of my country”, in the BJP minister, Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi’s threatening advice to beef-eaters to go to Pakistan; and in Maharashtra chief minister Devendra Fadnavis’s belief that those who do not chant, Bharat Mata ki Jai, have no place in India. The intimidatory tactics of the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP), the saffron brotherhood’s student body, against those it considers anti-nationals is another example of self-appointed and officially-sponsored patriots running amok.

The ABVP recently ensured the cancelling of a seminar in Delhi’s Ramjas College by clashing with Leftist student groups over the participation of two Left-leaning students from Jawaharlal Nehru University and compelled another college to call off a theatre festival because of the allegedly anti-national content of some of the plays. Now, finance minister Arun Jaitley, who started his political career in the ABVP, has muddied the waters by saying that the opponents of the saffron student body constitute an “alliance of subversion”. As is known, the Narendra Modi government has been using the British-era sedition law against the suspects of subversion.

However, the saving grace of democracy is its incompatibility with violence. Just as Modi has silenced the ghar wapsi and love jihad brigades and has stopped the attacks on churches, it is not impossible that he will send a discreet message to the saffron students to cool down. The RSS chief, Mohan Bhagwat’s rather surprising admonition of those who judge the patriotism of others doosre ki bhakti naapne ka adhikar kisiko nahin hai ~ is apparently a hint in the direction of restoring sanity.

In America and Britain, too, the “horrible spike” in violence against the fabled Other cannot but worry the Republicans and Conservatives. The death of the Indian techie in Kansas is also bound to induce second thoughts about Trump among the saffronites in India who were happy with his anti-Muslim outlook. Now, they will realize that hate cannot be channelled in one direction only.

The writer is a former Assistant Editor of The Statesman