Come on man, be clear, what comes first—Nation, or Democracy? Bodhisattva Kar translated by Ahona Panda

Guest Post by Bodhisattva Kar and Ahona Panda

(Written by Bodhisattva Kar in Bengali, First published in on 18 February 2016 by the Ei Samay newspaper.Translated into English by Ahona Panda)

“To you I confess today—what you all call a patriot, I am not of that kind.” After this confession of sparkling clarity, should we not catch hold of that man as an anti-national? So what if he is dead? If the dead can be rewarded with the Bharat Ratna, why can’t we frame the dead with a few charges of sedition? For God’s sake, all you good people, how did you make a song written by this man the national anthem? The man who—without any obfuscation—speaks through the mouth of the protagonist of Char Adhyaya—“They who do not take cognizance of that which is greater than patriotism, their patriotism is like crossing on a crocodile’s back.” Where did he get the audacity to dream of something greater than patriotism? And, he did not even study at JNU. “By killing the very soul of the country, the country’s life can be resuscitated: this terrible untruth is being announced in beastly roars by nationalists around the world and it makes my heart revolt with intolerable intensity.” How can you not burn the books produced by such a treacherous son of Mother India, who said such terribly instigatory things? Why do you worship him instead? Can anyone put their hand on their hearts and say that he wasn’t a Pakistani spy, just because of the niggling detail that Pakistan did not exist at the time he was writing? Did we not shoot Dabholkar or Pansare for agonizing quite a bit less than he did?What did you just say? These are mere dialogues in fiction and there is no need to take them seriously? Then why not turn a few pages of his English  lectures on Nationalism? If you are truly a mother (India)’s boy, your blood will boil. The man writes, “Nationalism is a great menace!” Can he say whatever he wants just because we have allowed him to keep his mind without fear and hold his head  high? Look at what he says in Atmashakti (in Bengali): “Nations are not eternal. They had a beginning, and they will have an end.” An end to the immutable land of Bharat! Is this not clear and obvious instigation, stirring up separatist sentiments? Compared to this, the Kanhaiya lad really said nothing. He just said that he only had faith in the constitution and not in (Manu)Smriti Irani. Now, there’s this whole thing called the constitution. People just keep throwing out words like “constitution”, “rights” and “law” at every possible instance. What’s wrong with you man, how can one work if you keep bringing up “law” all the time? Especially if it’s work for the nation? The patriotic lawyers at Patiala Court beat up students, reporters and teachers the other day, before donning their elegant black robes. You have to understand the spirit of democracy; you really just cannot keep citing all these dry and pedantic laws.

First you have nation, then democracy

You know what the problem with democracy is? We have to tolerate things we do not really like. There is always some nagging, bickering, arguing and all in all, an utter lack of reverence. It becomes difficult to even watch the favourite family soaps in peace and quiet. The most advantageous thing about nationalism is that you can just raise that finger and say “Get out!’ if you disagree. (Whether you have a silk dressing gown or not, you can always feel like playing a Kamal Mitra character when you command that nasty anti-national to take his ass to Pakistan.) Your pseudo-seculars have continued far too long with trying to ride two horses at once – the nationalist and the democratic. They will have their cake and eat it too. Eh! Now, at JNU, we have compelled them to make up their mind: Oh, come on man, out with it, does the nation come first, or does democracy? What? Why do you now hesitate and mumble such redundant points and hairsplitting arguments that the nation is not the same as the state, that the state does not equal to government, and that if some individuals do not agree with the opinions of the government it does not make them traitors or anti-nationals?

Stop intellectualizing the issue. Cease the affectation of subtle critiques. Mix it all up. Blur the distinctions . It is easier that way. It is more efficient. The state is the country. The national is the social. Nationalism is Democracy. Can’t you see how everyone rushes out to prove themselves “good nationalists” at the first indication of violence? First nation, then democracy. First obedience, then rights. Mob lynching first, then the lawyers’ endless niggling.

Now in these pigheaded places like JNU, people are not even accepting this simple truth with ease. They say that the greatest hallmark of higher education is the right to argue. So who is saying, don’t argue? Salman or Shahrukh, Kohli or Dhoni, Apple or Samsung: kindly debate on these matters of vital and pressing importance. And no, what do you debate on? Kashmir, Afzal Guru, Manipur, Palestine, Article 377, release of political prisoners: jabbering on endlessly night and day over such rubbish. Is it good for the nation to argue about such controversial matters? Is the nation a theatre or a debating club? Giving democracy precedence over the nation results in such sheer anarchy.

If you speak too much, you are bound to make some off-the-cuff remarks. You always run the risk of doing that in a democracy. And because we know that, we are smart enough not to allow people to speak at all. And these judges are also like that. As it is, the Delhi High Court did not allow this to go to the National Investigation Agency. On the other hand, since 1962 the Supreme Court has been repeating the same thing like a goddamned broken record—just mere sloganeering does not amount to sedition if it does not lead to imminent violence. This is all the conspiracy of these pseudo-seculars. I mean consider this Nehru guy. Not even four years after the British had gracefully sailed out of the country and he says that the law on sedition is “highly objectionable and obnoxious”—that free India does not even need this law! “The sooner we get rid of it the better!”

To think people like this had charge of this beautiful land—doesn’t it make your hot nationalist blood freeze in horror? It is not in vain that Mahatma Subramanian Swamy averred that the name of the university needed to be changed first. If only he had become Vice Chancellor, then we would have shown much sooner how to play skittle with the heads of these antinationals.

Beat Black and Blue On Sight

Therefore, stop saying that this is a state attack on an institute of higher education. If you think that we have no more or better ammunition in our hands other than the police, then you really haven’t figured out the game yet. We got in the police on the 12th of February and got them out on the 13th (oh alright, I know there are some plainclothes police walking about, fine!) The main task at hand is, as we demonstrated in 1992, janjagaran –the awakening of the masses. This thing called janta, or people, is trickily recalcitrant — we have to really work hard on them to make them patriotic. So we have been organizing small meetings and gatherings in the neighbourhoods near JNU like Munirka, Katwaria Sarai, and Ber Sarai. We can rely on the head of the khap panchayat here, the leader of the Resident Welfare Association there, in making the local people realize how just near their houses, beyond a fragile boundary wall, are assembled a whole host of Lashkar-e-Taiba and Maoist militants. These  girls in skirts and trousers and these boys with unkempt hair and beards speak English far too glibly, hail down autos at whatever time they please, light disrespectful cigarettes. Of course there is a fundamental disconnect between these kids and their surroundings. We are capitalizing on this unfamiliarity and mobilizing the masses—sometimes by stoking sexual envy, sometimes by inciting the fear of moral collapse and terrorism. Just that very day, Sadhvi Prachi tried to enter the JNU campus with such an awakened section of the populace. It did not work out that day. But surely it will. If not inside JNU, then outside.

Beat them black and blue. Beat them before handing them to the courts of law! What can be more democratic than mob-lynching? It is direct democracy, man, served hot and fresh. Didn’t you see how our elected representative beat up these anti-nationals and then lamented that he didn’t have a gun, thus could not shoot them? Now the masses are awakening. Awakening means the birth of suspicion. Didn’t the Parliament Street police station people pick up some clumsily bearded boys from Janpath merely on the hunch that they looked like they could be from JNU? Now you tell me, isn’t security better than rights? Even despite repeated requests, these militants will not wear uniforms and how else can we identify them if not by their beards, jholas, glasses, and cigarettes? Was it not exclusively for the safety of our mothers and sisters that we had to lift dhotis and lungis to tell Hindu from Muslim during riots? Has not that great and beloved friend-of-the-nation repeatedly insisted, “The nation wants to know?” We do want to know what happens inside that vast campus with those green trees and red buildings. Canvassing for Pakistan? Debauchery and depravity at the expense of taxpayers’ money?

Antinational and Multinational

Had we not made it clear in the beginning that we will only subsidize multinationals and not antinationals? Did we hide our government’s great commitment to the privatization of education? These double-crossers are enjoying our financial support and giving political support to the foreign powers.  If we – you and me and dear Swamy – can only establish this—not perhaps in court—but in the consciousness of people, then it will be so much easier to lift governmental subsidies from higher education. We are opening so many private universities: just throw in a few lakhs and taste the Ivy League experience; and here, paying less than 500 rupees annually for tuition fee, even the children of poorest families from different parts of the country can join the upper- and middle-class kids, read with some of the most eminent professors, and learn to ask uncomfortable questions: is this healthy or acceptable? No wonder we have kept most of the new places out of the troubles of political unions. They boast of their baking clubs, vipassana centres, and even social service committees. Come on man, build the nation. Do not try to practise democracy.

Did I bring up Rabindranath’s name in vain? The Home Secretary of the august British government was rather convinced that this anti-national’s school was the “breeding place” of sedition. At any rate, just wait till we file sedition charges against Tagore to immediate effect.

Bodhisattva Kar is a Senior Lecturer in the Department of History at the University of Cape Town, South Africa, he studied history at Jawaharlal Nehru University, Delhi

Ahona Panda is a graduate student at the Department of South Asian Languages and Civilizations, University of Chicago

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