India is in the middle of a debate on nationalism which doesn't comfort every member of this nation. The ruling BJP and its saffron supporters have been found escalating the nationalist feelings through a series of projects---be it by attacking students and faculty of a university or by asking central universities to hoist the Tricolour atop or by asking people to chant 'Bharat Mata Ki Jai'.
Voices in the BJP said in its national executive that they are not going to compromise on the question of nationalism with Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley saying clearly that nationalism is the ideology that guides his party's beliefs and philosophy.
On the question of chanting 'Bharat Mata Ki Jai', Jaitley said the BJP believed it is an issue that deserves no debate and mentioned how people were chanting the same after India defeated Pakistan in the T20 World Cup at Kolkata on Saturday (March 19).
The pictures of megastar Amitabh Bachchan singing the National Anthem and national icon like Sachin Tendulkar flying the Tricolour to celebrate the Indian victory have done this country's nationalist sentiments a world of good, feels the BJP. It also wants to replay this instance in the future to keep on generating the 'goosebumps'.
The Eden match has given the BJP's nationalism a big boost and the party must thank Pakistani cricket captain Shahid Afridi for this 'gift'. For those who still feel that cricket can better the bilateral ties between India and Pakistan, this very perception of a cricket match victory as a culmination of a hyper-nationalism should convince them that even the game is unable to improve the situation as long as the saffron camp continues to fuel sentiments.
The nationalism which the BJP and its like-minded outfits are preaching is nothing but a narrow and destructive concept. This nationalism, which is being imposed on everybody residing in this hugely diverse country, basically lives by gobbling up somebody else's nationalism. In the Eden match, the Indian nationalism prevailed over the Pakistani nationalism, thanks to Virat Kohli's heroic knock, but the story ends there with the conclusion of the match.
To say now that we will rewind Bachchan's baritone singing the National Anthem and Tendulkar proudly flying the Tricolour in future so that our adrenaline keeps on rushing is an action that is not only hollow but potentially dangerous too. Through these actions that are completely out of sync with the idea of India, we are even turning positive options like cricket into a vehicle of a negative force which is called nationalism/hyper-nationalism.
Taking a cue from Benedict Anderson's idea of "imagined communities", it will be apt to say here that the idea of nationalism as preached and practised by post-colonial states like us who have otherwise tough problems to deal with everyday, is nothing but a waste of human intellect.
Afridi's Pakistan lost the match at Eden because the captain misread the wicket, fielded a wrong combination of bowlers and also failed to inspire his team's batting despite coming out at three. That hasn't made India's national life a notch better. Even the Bachchans abnd Tendulkars have forgotten by now the victory as it is now a routine affair against Pakistan in World Cups---longer or shorter format.
The saffron camp is wasting no time to cling on to these moments because nationalism is essentially a political tool for it. It has felt encouraged to see people chanting in favour of India in a place like Kolkata where the BJP is a weak political player. It is hoping that this nationalistic emotion will help its in the upcoming West Bengal polls through polarisation.
But that strategy is unlikely to work in those parts of the country where cultural fanaticism is not a valid currency. We saw the same in Bihar last year where the BJP's project to polarise failed pathetically even though the party is not yet ready to accept it.
But whether it accepts it or not, the socio-cultural realities of India do not start and end with a 'Bharat Mata Ki Jai' slogan. The earlier it understands it, the better it is for Prime Minister Narendra Modi.