Aakar Patel: Is the BJP anti-national?

We use the word ‘anti-national’ as a smear. Anti-national behaviour is meant here to represent expression of a sentiment that threatens or questions the ‘unity and integrity of India’

PTI Photo
PTI Photo

Aakar Patel

As the battle for Rajasthan heats up, opinion polls say the Congress will win it. The response of the BJP has been predictably to go back to its one and only card and that is communal politics. One way in which this manifests itself is ticket distribution. BJP MLA Habiur Rahman was quoted as saying: “I resigned from the BJP yesterday. Now, this must be the policy of the party to not give tickets to Muslim candidates…What can we say about it? I didn’t do anything wrong to not get a ticket…”

The fact is that he did do something wrong in the eyes of the BJP and that is that he was born Muslim. But the behaviour of the party produces the question: Is the Bharatiya Janata Party anti-national? This is a serious accusation and we should examine it as fair and balanced individuals.

First, we must look at what the term means. What is anti-national? It is not a crime defined in our penal code. It is an Indian construct (like the word ‘non-veg’) that the rest of the world doesn’t use or recognise.

The world is familiar with the sentiment of individuals aspiring to being above their nation, in the positive sense, as Tagore was, without any malice or hate.
The internet tells us that “anti-nationalism denotes the sentiments associated with an opposition to nationalism. Some anti-nationalists are humanitarians or humanists who pursue an idealist view of world community, and self-identify as world citizens. They often oppose chauvinism, jingoism and militarism, and desire peace rather than perpetual conflict, which they claim can be rooted in nationalism”.

Europe had an awful experience with nationalism in the 20th century and began to demilitarise and pull down borders to form their economic and political Union. The word ‘nationalism’ carries menace in their languages and doesn’t carry the warmth that ‘rashtrawad’ does in ours. That is one reason why even some of our liberal political parties have names like ‘rashtrawadi’ but European parties do not, and the ones that do are the loony type.

The sentiment against nationalism in the description above is unexceptionable and as I said Tagore was anti nationalism in this sense. That is not what is meant by the word the way it is used in India. We use the word as a smear. Anti-national behaviour is meant here to represent expression of a sentiment that threatens or questions the ‘unity and integrity of India’. This phrase being in quotes because it is formulaic.
Let’s return to our question. Jinnah referred to the great scholar and nationalist Maulana Abul Kalam Azad as the ‘show boy’ of Congress. He meant that Azad was the token Muslim in an otherwise Hindu party that pretended, to be above religion. It is comical today to think of the Congress as representing Hindu majoritarianism, given how close to the extreme our polity has shifted in recent years.

What would Jinnah think of India’s biggest party today? Indeed, what do we imagine the rest of the world thinks of the leaders running our nation deliberately excluding 180 million people from politics? No ticket to a single Muslim in Uttar Pradesh, and just like in the glorious years of Narendra Modi as chief minister, none was given in Gujarat either.

This is political apartheid: deliberate segregation of Indians who pray differently. Remember: this is the community of Premji and Khorakiwala- One of the most productive groups in South Asia.

How much harm has been done to our nation’s economy by deliberately segregating and persecuting Gujarati Muslims? There has been no analysis of this and I will be surprised if the BJP has even thought of this or of it as constituting damage to Bharat. But it is real damage and it is deliberate. Modi’s genius lies in making it acceptable, and forcing us to accept it as legitimate.
Again, how do we imagine the rest of the world views this? Our empty boast of having the second largest Muslim population in the world must be juxtaposed with the fact that we have more or less politically disenfranchised them, as that fine BJP intellectual Subramanian Swamy has long sought. Question is: is this what Hindus want? I certainly don’t want my faith and nation to be blackened as is being done. There must be some resistance to this bullying of other Indians.

By the way, this is not about politics and parties. One could be opposed to majoritarianism and vote for any party from DMK to TMC to PDP to AAP. But if one is inclined towards segregation and division, there is only one option. Minus its divisive character, I find the BJP no different from any of the others and indeed they also have some things to be admired. Alas, all that is made irrelevant by their prejudice against other Indian citizens.

Our great civilisation is reduced to being associated with a paranoid and petty majoritarian state, like Turkey and Pakistan and the Arab states we hate so much. We are looking like them: do we want to be?

Those who smear others with the label anti-national do so over slogans and words.
Meanwhile their actions, wilful and malicious, inflict real damage on real Indians. They are going about shredding the fabric of India’s society, causing it permanent harm and celebrating it as some great victory. That it is won against their own people escapes them. They threaten ‘the unity and integrity of India’ by going after Indians.

This behaviour borders on treason. Of course it is anti-national, by their own definition.

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