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Debates put nation in disarray

Debates put nation in disarray
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Even as the debate on nationalism continues to grow and engulf more people, institutions and States, the confusion is only growing as to what exactly...

A JNU incident could be seen as a nationalistic act or an anti-national move depending on a person’s experience. Kanhaiya Kumar has been variously interpreted. Why are people arriving at such different perceptions regarding him. Or even on a slogan like Bharat Mata Ki Jai?

Even as the debate on nationalism continues to grow and engulf more people, institutions and States, the confusion is only growing as to what exactly one is talking about when they are referring to nationalism. Please note that it is not the purpose or the intent of nationalism that is being debated.

This is not even about the general perception that the world has about it. Just consider the incidents that gave room to the present debate – as it is loosely being termed - to arise. Earlier, Ram Mandir was centric to it. Later, a cricket match where not supporting the Indian team had become anti-national. Some MPs of the BJP believe that the size of the family should be the yardstick of one's nationalism.

Beef eating too became an item in this semantics menu soon. A slogan like Vande Mataram has always been in the news. But, the present dispensation seems to like Bharat Mata Ki Jai more than any and is busy exploring ways to impose it subtly as well overtly.

Meanwhile, one of the Constitutional guarantees' itself has become anti-national soon if resorted to. The ongoing controversy at the NIT in Srinagar which is slowly stoking unrest throughout has seen the Centre adopt a double standard as Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar rightly pointed out. “If students and people elsewhere are trolled for their refusal to chant Bharat Mata Ki Jai, those in the campus of NIT, Srinagar, were brutally lathicharged by the local police for doing the same.

That is why I am worried. I am more worried now. I am not worried about the correctness of the grammar of those doing this nationalism talk or worried about the elegance of their pronunciation.”One's language must be adequate to map the territory of experience being talked about, as semantics explains. A JNU incident could be seen as a nationalistic act or an anti-national move depending on a person’s experience. Kanhaiya Kumar has been variously interpreted. Why are people arriving at such different perceptions regarding him. Or even on a slogan like Bharat Mata Ki Jai?

Let me recall this following example from some old records. A child was playing in a room. One observer said, "what a lovely child". Another person who was more concerned about the furniture around exclaimed "what a nuisance of a child". Semantics tells us that both could be wrong because they don't tell us anything about the child itself. If it is the child that is the subject, then it leads to a dispute.

If it is more about their own state of minds, then it becomes something else. Bharat Mata Ki Jai is also similar. If it is the person that is being considered then it is a dispute. Whether there should be a controversy over the issue or not and whether there should be a further conversation or a disconnect depends on not only on what some people are saying but also on their attitude towards the slogan.

In essence, before we discuss Bharat Mata Ki Jai, it should be borne in mind that our language habits be understood by one and all. Unless this happens, it would be difficult to understand why someone is saying something or what forces him to say it. Be it Asaduddin or Phadnavis or the Kashmiri students on the campus of NIT, Srinagar or Baba Ramdev on his campus near Haridwar, this rule of language habit applies to all.

The meaning of Bharat Mata Ki Jai does not change at all whether one likes it or not. What matters is whether all those in question are using a language that is specific, general, judgemental or inferential when they talk. It is how they talk about it that matters.

Secondly, their attitude towards it also matters. Or they dogmatic, open-minded or rigid? Are they flexible and amenable to reason? Do they accept the other's view point at all? Are they ready to discuss or debate or have closed their options already?
When these guys are talking these issues, I sometimes wonder whether these are mere words. For me they sound like evaluations. Because how they think and evaluate is invariably linked to the words they use.

We have heard politicians talking what is perceived as nonsense and also have seen some others advising them not to talk in haste or without thinking. Though we might say that someone acted without thinking, it is not really so. How we act is always determined by how we think. Even if we do not think before acting, it should be kept in mind that there is always a pattern laid out by the thoughts. It is not something inadvertent. Unless it is inside, it won’t come out.

A person's thinking and his words are not two independent entities. Hence, let us not look for answers elsewhere. What these guys are saying tells us what they are basically. So, let us not simply dismiss these utterances as naivety to say "let us ignore it". All this is necessary to understand the pattern of our national discourse too to know how serious the discourse is in the first place.

To understand the players involved in it. Alfred Korzybski, the founder of general semantics maintained that the structural assumptions implicit in language are of necessity reflected in behaviour: "A language, any language, has at its bottom certain metaphysics, which ascribe, consciously or unconsciously, some sort of structure to the world... Now these structural assumptions are inside our skin when we accept a language, any language.

We do not realise what tremendous power the structure of an habitual language has. It is not an exaggeration to say that it enslaves us through the mechanism of semantic reactions and that the structure which a language exhibits, and impresses on us unconsciously, is automatically projected upon the world around us".

Now, what do you say to the utterances of our politicians? These are not mere political utterances. Deeper inside them there is a certain design. The design is imbibed in their culture under their skins. Both groups - the ones that are being called nationalistic and the other being dubbed anti-national - are just using certain issues to further their deep rooted fallacies.

Rather, they are playing it up (these issues) in their own interest. However, in the process they are trying to establish a new order...a bellicose chauvinism...only to call it their own jingoistic order. This has the potential to divide the country further. The NIT situation mentioned above is no different from these. But, here is where the real danger is. One's nationalism does not diminish if he does not say Bharat Mata Ki Jai. It also does not multiply if we treat even the outcome of a cricket match on nationalistic lines.

Back home both the local Kashmiri students and the non-local outsiders have the same problems. A Kashmiri student faces more problems in his alienation, perennial unemployment and security related issues elsewhere in India.But, on his home turf, he feels safe in numbers and hence reacts to everything else happening outside Kashmir in the only way he knows... by raising anti-India slogans.

We must also remember that this younger generation post-1991 in Kashmir has been raised in the background of militancy. Any over reaction to the NIT issue would lead to immense damage to his psyche further as anti-Kashmiri attitude elsewhere would only make him feel that his misplaced concerns are right.

Campus intervention is a new tool in the hands of the Centre nowadays. It is getting involved in everything related to campus on one pretext or the other. Let us hope it treads cautiously and not allow an anti-Kashmir flare up elsewhere in the country in the campuses. That would be disastrous for the country.

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