An Indian view on history, current affairs and politics

March 18, 2018

The last refuge

In 1774, Samuel Johnson made this famous statement, “Patriotism is the last refuge of the scoundrel.” He wasn’t talking about patriotism in general but show of false patriotism. He was a proud British patriot and in those glory days of the mighty British empire, Patriotism was the best rallying point to get people behind one’s cause. It still is in most countries.

How about India? Is patriotic fervor the best way to get popular support in
India? You’d be sorely mistaken if you thought yes. In this age of single
agenda parties mushrooming on regional and national scene, except BJP and its affiliates, it’s hard to find a party that has a patriotic outlook in its talks, policies or actions. Curiously, display of patriotism in India invites a dictionary full of unpleasant adjectives like war monger, bigot and sure enough, communal !

Death of soldiers goes unreported while an actor’s back pain and tennis
elbow gets month long coverage. Politicians say,”People go into armed forces to die, what’s the big deal !”. Entire government machinery is mobilized to prevent a Shahrukh Khan from getting frisked at a US airport but the same government acts comatose when it comes to saving Sarabjit or Indian POWs in Pakistan since 1971. A morose government watches meekly as enemies regularly cross its borders. Maoists and terrorists butcher soldiers and citizens with inhuman brutality and the government seems scared to act. The examples are numerous and the message is amply clear, patriotism is not a refuge for anyone in India.

For an observer of Indian history and politics, this last refuge has been
changing with time. For a major part of post independence India, it was
poor. By a twisted logic poverty was glorified in movies while politicians
claimed to be the real well wisher of poor. Poverty alleviation seemed to be
rallying point for politicians. Indira Gandhi even won a parliamentary
election riding slogans of “Garibi Hatao”. The poor remained poor while
those claiming to be their well wishers prospered.

The next cycle brought caste politics in shape of dalit reservations,
Harijan laws and a mascot in form of Dr. Ambedkar effectively became the
rallying point. Several politicians and parties owe their rise to dalit
politics. Dalit identity became a refuge when anyone was under fire. A
recent example is when BSP supremo said Devyani Khobragade was harassed because she is a dalit. BSP is an example of a party that owes its existence to caste politics. Electorate was divided and crystallized into caste vote banks. Social engineering resulted in atidalit and mahadalits identities. A broken society suits the politicians nevermind the national interest.

The newage refuge is secularism. Parties seem to be falling over each other
to prove themselves more secular than others. Unfortunately as with all
previous rallying points, the obsession to own and hide behind the refuge
has ensured its meaning has been twisted beyond comprehension. The new
meaning of minority is Muslim and secularism is Muslim appeasement.
Kashmiri Pandits were a minority in Kashmir and yet they remain ignored as
they don’t fit in political definition of a minority. Same case with Sikhs,
Parsis, Buddhists, Jains, Jews and others. The lure of secular votes is such
that politicians do not mind visiting arch rival Pakistan. Terrorists are
being eulogized, freed of charges because no one wants to antagonize Muslim votes. The competitive secular politics has led to invention of imaginary saffron terror and demands of religion based reservation. This form of secularism is now threatening the entire fabric of this country and yet the politicians refuse to learn.

An even more deceptive rallying point is now appearing on the horizon that
reminds of an old Chinese adage, “In order to beat the bad, ally with the worse”.Bedridden communism has got a fresh lease of life in Aam Aadmi party. Their monotonous chants of aam admi (common man), reminds how communists name every thing after people, people’s republic, people’s army to what not. The party while masking behind common man has conveniently engaged religious extremists, supported maoists and secessionists, questioned courts and dithered away from the promise of fighting corruption.

It’s unfortunate that Indians have never been as passionate to the call of
patriotism as expected. As a society, we’ve remain as fractured as ever.As a
country we failed to rise up despite being blessed both geographically and
demographically. For long we’ve been termed a functioning anarchy. It’s time we rise up above all the narrow definitions and heed the call of development and progress to make India a superpower.

  • jagdish chandra

    Past the Anna’s mass movement on lokpal, do we ever bothered to review AK and his team’s efforts ? One can recollect their salvos at vadra, Reliance. On vadra, even before aap raked it up BJP spoke against damads’ misdeeds in parliament session. Khemka brought out the DLF doling out to Vadra. so whats the contribution of aap in that issue ? Nil
    Next on Reliance, the seemingly aspersions of aap are very much in public domain by then. BJP and left questioned the timing of easing out anti Reliance Jaipal reddy to bring in Moily. But Bhushan, Kejri were done with their vanishing act after shoot and scoot. If they stand for truly honestly, why couldnt Bhushan, who otherwise supporting cobrapost now, not filed PIL against Vadra, Reliance ?

    • Herman

      AAP did start with the anti-corruption agenda, which I too find very narrow but during the Delhi elections the theme that really won them all those votes was on the issue of cutting power bills by half and supplying a minimum amount of free water in the poorer areas. Some of the constituents of AAP in Delhi have done work against privatisation of power for a long time. Overall, the point is that by focusing on delivery of basic services that all citizens deserve and focusing tangible civic issues within the framework of the Indian Constitution AAP is bringing politics within the reach ordinary folk who are beginning to participate enthusiastically. Where all this will lead to depends on how people with equally good intentions but probably better political understanding and experience join the movement to fulfill its potential. A critical engagement with AAP is very important at this juncture instead of rejection on purely theoretical grounds I think.

  • ratnesh

    If you go throurgh the poem of author mirror mirror kejriwal you will understood …

  • reddy

    Manmohan Singh is absolutely right. Modi is a mass murderer. That’s his only strength. Corruption and Murder are two very different things !!

    Also, Gujarat does not lead in developmental indices. Even Bihar and Tamil Nadu and Chattisgarh have similar growth rates. There is nothing that makes Modi special except divisive politics.

    Mixing religion and poilitics has proven to be very lucrative for fascist parties like the BJP-RSS combine.

    • Nanjunda

      How is Modi a mass murderer? You seem completely out of sync with reality.

  • Kanishka

    Modi is an Indian who has the strong conviction and confidence that India can find answers to all its problems within Indian culture, tradition, religion, language, philosophy, history and thinking. This is in stark contrast to the Congress party which believes that all solutions must come from foreigners.
    It’s a battle between desi and vilayati. It’s about time that desi wins, since desi has proved that for hundreds of years it was superior to videshi and that only failure to be alert made the invaders get the upper hand.

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