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The Phenomenon of Kanhaiya

M C Raj

We have the Kanhaiya incarceration immediately after Rohit’s suicide. Or are the events in Hyderabad and in JNU related to each other? In a way yes, somewhat blatantly! In the case of Rohit, there was the denial of Dalit rights by the right wing ruling gang that professes a particular brand of nationalism. In the case of Kanhaiya, the right wing gang gathered more legitimacy and strength, also through thug power to falsely frame him as an antinational. What is very encouraging is the type and level of global solidarity that has emerged in the case of JNU. It clearly indicates that nationalism is a matter of global concern and cannot be easily appropriated by right-wing thugs. What stands in contrast to the right-wing thuggery in the discourse of nationalism is not a left-wing nationalism but a sensible nationalism espoused largely by sections that do not belong to the left wing school of thought. The two students in question are stirring a hornet’s nest both through death as well as in the jail.

Nation and nationalism are nothing new in the world of politics and philosophy. The era of monarchy developed a particular brand of nationalism wherein the subjects were made into objects of the designs of the monarch. The monarch was the supreme thug in the order of monarchy. Every subject had to subscribe to the type of nationalism that this supreme thug desired from his subjects. By now we understand that it was an accumulation of limitless capital in the hands of one thug in the name of nationalism. We must realize that there were always some subsidiary benefits to the subjects to keep peace in the kingdom.

The next phase was marked by feudalism and wealth went into the hands of more than one thug. In India, we still have remnants of feudalism alive and kicking as we have similar remnants of a monarchy in England and some countries of Europe. It is an irony that despite developing a strong nationalism in Europe, sections of society recognize the legitimacy of kings and queens.

And finally, we arrived at the era of nationalism and the nation-state. Both these were necessitated by the fast development of capitalism, profit and accumulation of wealth and power in only some sections of society. It is an irony that nationalism and democracy went hand in hand in the modern and postmodern era. What the common citizen did not and still does not realize is that democracy lost its sheen during this phase of the development of nationalism. In fact, democracy as the power of the people was quite consciously subverted in nationalist discourses. Nationalism ultimately came to serve the best interests of those who wanted to steal power and wealth from the people.

What Rohit and Kanhaiya represent is that power and resources should remain in the hands of the people. The power of the people should not go into the hands of those sections of society that want power precisely because they have a design to make people powerless. This is the essence of their articulation and actions, be it suicide or be it to be incarcerated in Tihar jail. That a genuine nationalism is at stake is the subconscious realization of the global solidarity.

The right wing forces have systematically worked on multipronged strategies to subvert nationalist discourses so that on the one hand the common people/intellectuals will develop a deep love for nationalism and democracy and on the other hand, the right wing can plunder wealth and power without any resistance. Global solidarity for these two young students has come in the very same name of nationalism. This is a misfortune as there is no development of an alternative discourse on what constitutes the essence of nationalism. The Hindutva forces actually have stuffed the minds of young people with venom largely in the name of nationalism. The opponents of such Hindutva nationalism are almost failing because their discourse of nationalism presupposes many tenets that belong to the modern era of nationalism that has its origin in capitalism. Thus, Hindutva nationalism is not much different from the ‘global’ nationalism if we may call it so. Both are twin brothers. That speaks volumes of the failure of those who are trying to resist Hindutva nationalism in India. Such nationalism is also subversive as it was developed in the context of capitalism, which once again is right wing.

The reaction to Hindutva nationalism is taking a jingoistic trajectory. No one achieves anything by saying that he/she is anti-national. Such voices will be ignored as they do not match the tempo of Hindutva nationalism.

I stand with those who proactively assert that a nation is an anathema. There should be no nation. Human beings should be able to live their lives they like. Human communities can live well and govern themselves without borders of the nation state. My guess is that those who say they are anti-national mean this.

There is a need for strong proactive assertion of something that can match nationalism. According to me, that something is governance and democracy. Democracy must once again be defined as the power of the people. Governance brings to the fore a strong cultural dimension of distribution of material and spiritual resources. India being a multicultural society will call for many types of governance at many locations. Nation-state belongs to only one phase of history and it is bound to face decadence. Rohit and Kanhaiya are the latest symbols of such indicators towards decadence. This must happen. The sooner the better!

JNU and the global universities that stand in solidarity with JNU are the best ground for the development of an alternative vision. In this decadence of the nation will lie the disappearance of Hindutva nationalism and the rise of the people without a nation and without caste.

I am aware that this is highly idealistic. But the work has to start now and soon we shall be able to reach an achievable goal on this line.