The ultimate political righteous response that a strange species of imperial creature called the Delhi liberal can muster against open Hindu communalism is basically pointing fingers at what it thinks are slightly more unwashed co-citizens, and try faux-shaming them by asking: “Do you want India to turn into a Hindu Pakistan?”
There are certain assumptions in that question. They are India, Hindu, and Pakistan. If this species believes that whatever this “Hindu” thing is, is not what constitutes India, then from 1947 to now, it has singularly failed to supply an alternative theory of unity except infantile geography -- the “natural barrier” of the Himalayas in the North (across which Bengal and China had multiple diplomatic missions as far back as the 15th century and across which six trans-Himalayan highways are being built between China and Nepal as I type) and the Ocean in the South (whose only real dominators from the sub-continent have been the Tamils whose concerns have now long been sidelined by Delhi when it deals with Colombo, even in case of the Tamil Eelam genocide).
It dare not say that the British rule is the alternative theory. Neither does Pakistan admit it as such, and prefers a curious fantasy theory of itself of a spatially and temporally displaced Mughal Empire without the Mughals, but with some flatulent descendants of their hanger-ons and free-loaders in some charge.
Some of the quasi-geographical Indus-centric theories that some PPP intelligentsia love in an off-hand way have not cut much ice beyond their own circles.
The reasons that haven’t worked are numerous -- Sindhis may “own” the name, but they have long lost the game and in any case, this Western South Asia smelling idea doesn’t sit well with Eastern Middle East type of ideas, which have only gained currency, surely and steadily.
The British have not tried to hide much -- that is precisely what it thinks and is well contained in the real characterization of the administrative events of August 1947. It’s called “Transfer of Power.” Neither does Pakistan have a theory as such -- it has been flogging Sunni Islam to provide it, but with limited success at a very, very high human cost.
The problem in both these cases is that they both are in perpetual anxious denial mode, trying to work out theories of identity by working around the commonest, the most natural, and the most obvious marker of nationhood.
It is called language. It is that which undoes the projected unity of Hinduism and Islam. It is due to identity largely defined by language that the modern-day “Hindu” emperor of Delhi is vegetarian, and won’t touch the prasad
(food blessed by gods) of Goddess of Kali of my Bengal -- in our case prasad
being mutton curry from a freshly sacrificed goat.
The minuscule to the point of non-existent percentage of Hindu Marwaris living in Bengal who gave their daughter in marriage to Hindu Bengalis or vice versa in the 85% Bengali state of West Bengal will give you the reality of linguistic national unity running much deeper than this Hindu-unity business.
Delhi and Islamabad dare not discuss the implications of the continued existence of Bangladesh to their respective self-identities. I can understand why
So much for the make-believe mid-19th century Westernized concept of “Hindu unity.” And even when one looks at so-called “Hindu unity,” best exemplified by the swathe of territory that the BJP won in 2014 under Narendra Modi’s leadership, what emerges is language.
More than 70% of the seats that BJP won in the 2014 parliamentary elections of the Indian Union came from states where Hindi is the primary official language. Hindi is the mother tongue of less than 30% of the population of the Indian Union. I think you get the picture.
No wonder the “Hindu nationalist” forces understand that too, and hence their slogan Hindi-Hindu-Hindustan, for they believe that Hindi can deliver by forceful imposition the “unity” that “Hinduism” can’t, precisely because of its confederation religious system status with the characteristics and concerns of the parts largely determined by language.
Thus the glib and rootless Delhi liberal scare technique of warning that India might become a “Hindu Pakistan” is a projection of its self-anxiety. It wants its own Hindi linguistic Hindu-ness but doesn’t want to stress it beyond a point because it is not the natural party of Hindi nationalism but that of the Anglicized client-patron network nationalism of the brown class to whom the Whites transferred power.
It has always been on thin ice. Having Pakistan as a bogey helps their rhetoric -- it gives an impression of “rootedness” based on shared Pakistan hate with more unwashed Hindi-Hindu nationalists. Now, even that card is slipping, as the recent conniving-with-Pakistan type of canard by the BJP against the Congress top brass (the grand old Anglo-Delhi club).
Incredible as it may seem from a distance away from Delhi media, in the narrative generated by “national” media that is Delhi ideology Anglo-Hindi media, it stuck. If the theory of unity of a state is so dependent on attitudes towards a “foreign” state (though a greater percentage of Pakistani citizens understand Modi’s Hindi speeches compared to the percentage of Indian Union citizens who do), it should concern everyone.
This typically is a prelude to fascism, or, as some say, the signs of actually existing fascism now making itself known in the BJP ruled states. Thankfully, I don’t live in one. I live in West Bengal. The other and bigger eastern part of the Bengali linguistic homeland got liberated in 1971.
As it did so, it disproved the two-nation theory (much to Delhi’s glee) but didn’t confirm the one-nation theory either (something that Delhi evades). It demonstrated the power of the poly-national theory, something that was all but buried with the collapse of the 1946 Cabinet Mission plan.
Delhi and Islamabad dare not discuss the implications of the continued existence of Bangladesh to their respective self-identities. I can understand why. I would have kept mum too and acted as if Bangladesh was simply a reaction to oppression, not an action towards self-actualization.
When theories of self-identity are so fragile and speech so dangerous, is it any surprising that the names of both Mumtaz Qadri and Shambhulal Regar might outlive the names of the people they killed?
This slide towards fascism never ends well, never has.
Garga Chatterjee is a political and cultural commentator.