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Nationalism and Intellectual Priesthood- The JNU Fallout


Nationalism is a fragile idea, which as the Roman Emperor, the philosopher-kind would allude to, in his dying day, when he asks his General Maximus, “What is Rome?” and then answers himself, explaining that, “One can only whisper her name, anything more than a whisper, and it will fade away.
Nation is a delicate thing, therein lies its strength. It joins the patches of varied lands, groups of varied people. Intellectuals have tried defining it in earnest. Some have succeeded. Some were really intellectuals, who searched for truth. Others were pretending to be intellectuals, their intent, to use it as a tool to propagate their idea. Their wish to propagate their own ideas was not driven as much by their conviction with truth being on their side, rather on their own interests.

Truth is not the stagnant water of a muddy pond. Truth is the running river. A running river is certain of its existence but changes in its form. True intellect will always search for the truth. We have, of late, started mistaking language for intellect. It is not. A great intellect needs great language, there is no dispute. But the vice-versa is not always true. Sometimes great language, repetitive clich├ęs are used to strengthen the arguments, when they were pathetically weak and had not foot to stand on. The priesthood of an elitist writer emerges from there.

There was interesting speech by venerable Dr. Gopichand Narang at Jashn-e-Rekhta, the Urdu festival on Ghalib. He spoke very eloquently how Ghalib, the great poet stood away from other poets of his times like Daagh or Meer. It was a long, charming speech, but the crux of it was that Ghalib did not use language as a tool to play on the surface of the ocean, and dug deeper than the most to search the truth. A study of Ghalib shows us some hallmarks of true intellect. One, it is always in search, it is never wrapped in delusional sense of self-importance (Duboya mujhko hone ne, naa hota main to kya hota- I have lost everything in cherishing myself, nothing would have been lost if I weren’t there), it is mostly charred by the disinterest of the state, the politicians and it knows when it depends on the powerful for survival and is neither intimated by it nor apologetic about it and therefore open about it (Hua hai shah kaa naukar, fire hai itraata, vagarna Shahar mein Ghalib ki Aabru kya hai- He is now the servant to the king and is so proud of it, otherwise what is the honour of ghalib in the city).

We are the people in hurry and slowly the onslaught of media on public conscience caught the fancy of the powerful. The governments, and the politicians of Lutyen’s Delhi understood that the people haven’t much time to ponder, and got to the people who had the control over the space of public debate, written or otherwise, like Newspapers, television. The journalists walked away from the Fanishvar Nath Renu mold and moved into the large bungalows, five star parties and political lobbying. Since the printed and television media was controlled, they weren’t much worried about things. The world of ideas fractured and the elite, lobbyist, intellectual journalist, emerged. This is what Arnab Goswami calls the Cabal of intellectuals and this is the cabal which runs the campaign to boycott his channel today. While in the backdrop of the affair at the Jawaharlal Nehru University, where students making anti-national speeches were arrested by the state for, well, anti-national activities, the Channel Arnab represents, stood largely on the side of the state, it is probably accidental or better reading of public mind (TRP).

Other channels, paraded intellectuals who were no more than fanatics with support of greater language to take a contrarian or in some cases ambivalent position. The whole debate of JNU smacks of how it offends the elitist pride and the fallout of it is the testimony of how the rise of social media, the democratization of the thinking space, slowly eroded into the happy priesthood of intellectual world, with Rajdeep, Sagarika and Barkha Dutt and the cronies from political class. The whole argument of JNU protester is flawed and one is horrified at the notion that soon these people, after spending the most of their productive lives under subsidized state education running well into their middle age, will find place in the pretentious liberal intellectual space. Also that by absolute control over the public space of debate, they will overwhelm the people with their idea of the world, which seemingly is based less in logic, and more in the allegiance to the political parties.

First let us look at their arguments. It is largely flawed, and in portion moronic. They say that India is an occupier in Kashmir. They forget that the state ceded to India in 48 under attack from Pakistan. They call from liberation of Kashmir, which is an odd thought. Even the people who thanked them from the valley during the protests yesterday, aren’t deluded enough to truly believe in independence, a small land-locked space in mountains, without any help from the large countries which surrounds it. The arguments of the protestors rests on columns of Arundhati Roy, who is a fiction novelist. Writers seldom make great politicians. Most of the slogan shouting, stone throwing friends which JNU students claim to represent do not even delude themselves. For them secession is not into Azaadi as these students want to believe, but into Pakistan, the theocratic state, where Omar Khalid might be welcome, but not Kanhaiya Kumar or Komal Mohite. I cannot remember and Hindu intellectual of public position and following from the other side of the border. Even for Omar Khalid, he would do well to remember, during partition, Jinnah had refused to accept the Muslims from India beyond a point, citing lack of resources and those who supported formation Pakistan had to remain stuck here (not suggesting that all Muslims who stayed back supported Pakistan). So the world they were fighting for does not exist, and the people they are fighting for aren’t fighting for that world which does not exist. Second they say, India to be destroyed. The nation, they speak about. They aren’t talking about the state, or the government. There is a distinction here.

The Nation is a collective formed out of the willful coming together of variety of people to be treated as one. It is willful, it is therefore, just. There can be no debate about it. Being the wish of people, it takes into account the larger masses which believe in it. From there, it draws legitimacy. Once formed it is almost religiously sacred. No questions, unless the wishes of the people changes. Before 47, the wishes of most people did not matter, for few, who held the power, it was with princely states. Post-independence, larger masses wanted the nation to be a melting pot of smaller state, a large, powerful nation and thus it became. The nation derives its power from the number which supports its existence, takes pride in it, and wants it to exist, proper and grow. The nation wants worshiping respect.

The state is the structure which rules the state. It can be democratic, socialist, right and left leaning. This is open to debate. This is again largely decided either by military power of few of by moral support of many. In India, it was formed with the moral support of masses. We may however, say that the preamble of the constitution that was changed much later by congress, does not reflect the view of the masses, but that is another debate. The state is powerful, to an extent aloof and agnostic to the people once formed. This is in its nature and this is how it ought to be. State protects, state serves. It cannot do either, without being strong. It cannot be strong if it easily pays heed to a meagre dissenting voice which tends to interrupt or insult the foundation from where it derives power- the Nation. The nation wants trust and belief.The state wants subservience and discipline.

Third is the Government. This is the one subject to easier change and object of most attack and ridicule and rightly so. It represents the people who have been assigned by the state to run the affairs, based on the authority the state derives from the notion of a nation. It is perfectly fine to oppose, bad-mouth and criticize the government. The government wants mandate and support.

Unfortunately, the call in JNU seeking Balkanization of hits not at the government or the state. It hits the nation. Since nation is formed of the wishes of larger masses of people, it hits at its people. When it calls for a fight till India is destroyed, it is not seeking, destroying the state. The state is democratic, which they cite as the explanation, why their right to air outlandish notion is sacrosanct. The state is secular, these protestors agree that they are also secular. The state is socialist, and these students are nothing if not that. So they are not against the state. The rants which we see in some doctored and other un-doctored clippings do not talk about the BJP, the party in power, or the government. So it is not about government. It attacks the nation. The Nation is a benevolent and fragile idea and leans of state and government for its protection. The state and the government are bound to protect the nation for it represents the will of the people. The nation is the least transient of the three entities. They say Go back, India. Go back to where? India is the nation. They don’t say go back democracy, or go back BJP.
The media gets into overdrive. These protesters speak great English. They detest anyone who doesn’t. The media, especially television media is largely inundated by people who went into journalism post-Emergency. They do not understand the true depths of a vengeful state. They have not served as they term in government service, hardship areas except for Kargil coverage of Barkha Dutt or 2002 riot coverage of the Journalist duo, which live in poshest of the Delhi and who for some reason in the whole history of India found only one riot worth coverage. They are largely insulated to the people who read and watched them, simply because there was no other way. They are even insulated from their own co-professionals who write in Hindi and regional media, away from the limelight. They deal everyday with threats and violence which even ends in murder, without the SC or Press Club standing up for them. The state satraps deal with them with a very firm, and cruel hand. Journalists are killed, burnt alive, but the parties and lobbying continues unhindered in the capital among the elite. Then one day a scuffle or fist-fight happens, and hell breaks loose. We have much-applauded dark TV screen during the program of Ravish Kumar, whose idea of reporting is to begin with the inquiry of the caste and religion of the respondent. We have outraged righteousness of elite journalists which sounds much like- how dare they touch me? The efforts to change the narrative by replacing the nation by the state and then the state by the government is on, with a pretense to act as if the scuffle in Delhi is much worse than the killing of journalists, imprisoning the opposition. Journalists used to be people like us, common people who wrote. Now they are not. Any debate with them on social media turns into “We” against them, ‘them’ being the unwashed masses of India.  The media or the elite cabal, no longer comes from us, not longer represents us. They don’t even understand people, at most they even underestimates and detests their consumer, the readers, the audience, such is their moral pretentiousness and elitism. One journalist, when confronted by someone with no support for JNU protest, challenges people to come for a physical fight. Thankfully he doesn’t follow through when Olympic wrestler, Yogeshwar Dutt, and Olympian boxer, Vijendra Singh, takes a view opposing this protest in JNU which was nothing but anti-national.


It is a high time. The annoyance is high. It is time for our media to re-discover its mooring. It cannot continue to play the pied piper of Hamelin and guide people like mice. We are thinking people. Do not take your readers and audiences for granted. Internet and social media has democratized the state. There won’t be Privy Purse any more, and public media will not be short anymore. People will remember the man thrown into Jail for FB comment on Karthi Chidambram, son of erstwhile Home minister, they will remember arrest of Cartoonist, Asim Trivedi under sedition, they will remember police action on protesting common people who watch your channels and read your Op-eds, which left a woman dead, while the mainstream media only made fun of Baba Ramdev who escaped in women’s attire, and soon got busy in erecting Arvind Kejriwal as a symbol of hope, the man never went beyond the noise is besides the point. With 500 Cr of advertisement budget, does not make commercial sense for media to chase him.

People are not stupid. They notice the desperate effort to change the narrative. They notice when you turn a call to arms into a debate, when a battery of top lawyers turn up at the Supreme court to argue for bail of a students. Is he the first student to be caught up by Police? Even the principle of the college would not support the bail, for crimes much lesser, mostly against the city administration, not even the government, or the state, let alone the nation. Wikipedia defines journalist as “A person who collects, writes, or distributes news or other current information.” There is a clear sense of neutrality here. This neutrality is missing today. Christopher Essex called it paradoxical that “scientists seek one truth but often voice many opinion; journalists often speak of many truths while voicing a uniform opinion.” A journalist must not judge and pre-judge. He must not judge if running the clipping about the cash for vote will be good for the nation, state or government and he must not mix the three up. People are watching. Their right to freedom of expression is no lesser than yours merely because their English is poor. While it is possible that there would be issues hitting closer to you, and you will be affected, but then drop the charade of neutrality and instead of chest-thumping as “I am Anti-National” on social media, makes more sense to do a disclosure on your leaning before presenting a program, or writing and Op-ed. Why not go after the teachers and faculty which act like propagandists and ideologues and use these hapless youngsters as tools in their political designs like the one professor from Jadavpur University claiming with a stupid smile that symbols of the nation in the university will constitute infringement to the autonomy of the institute. It is a pity that teachers with such narrow understanding are teaching the impressionable minds in so-called world class universities. You may be leftist, but aren't you an Indian leftist or like an ISIS Islamist you are a part of global Jihad with no sense of nation? 

You would realize that being anti-national is not such a good thing. Nationalist people with poor English make your TRP and help you earn your living. As an IT person, I should never make fun of a person who wants to opt for cloud computing merely because he cannot spell computing properly, since he is going to buy it, use it and help me make my living. Don’t bite the hand that feeds you, and it is the people who make the nation. It is not about being first and breaking news. It is about being honest. When scuffle is first page new and murder is page thirteen news, opinions are not getting doctored, people are watching you. This is not a new thing. Even Proust would say, “ The fault I find with our journalism is that it forces us to take an interest in some fresh triviality or other everyday..” and that was the time before Television. Be watchful. More than media, I would urge us to be watchful. For we own a mind, even if not that eloquent which has the capacity to decipher the truth and let us distrust anyone who tells us that he or she will discover our truth on our behalf. Never surrender the reason or the right to search for your own truth. 

Since there is massive trend since the efforts by the intellectuals disenchanted by current government to even convert a suicide into murder by citing a) freedom of speech and dissenting ideology and b) to quote Dr. Ambedkar as founding father of Indian constitution to substantiate imaginary accidents and imaginary positions, I will end with a quote by Dr. B. R. Ambedkar here, which clarifies where dissenting ideologies stop and the nationalism extends from. Dr. Ambedkar says, “I do not want that our loyalty as Indians should be in the slightest way affected by any competitive loyalty whether that loyalty arises out of our religion, out of our culture or out of our language. I want all people to be Indians first, Indian last and nothing else but Indians.” Our media, intellectuals and strangely, the leftists, love quoting Ambedkar, hope they agree with him. The nation is not about OP Sharma, the masculine fighter of BJP only to countered by Shiv Aroor of India Today, it is about the poor farmer who faces famines after sixty years of supposedly pro-poor, pro-farmer government, and still dreams to send his son to army, to defend not the government, or the state, but the Nation, which he bows before, muttering Vande Mataram in his parched lips. 
Courtesy : Getty Image

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