Nationalism, especially in the context of the Indian Army’s surgical strikes on terrorist launching pads in Pakistan-administered Kashmir, came up for debate on the second day of the Kumaon Literature Festival (KLF).
“The debate is pertinent as after the surgical strikes (September 28), this (nationalism and patriotism) has become a divisionary point to talk on social media and primetime debates,” said journalist-cum-author Rana Ayyub.
The strikes have become a yardstick to measure one’s patriotism, she added.
Ayyub, the author of “Gujarat Files: Anatomy of a Cover Up” on the 2002 Gujarat communal riots and their aftermath, clarified that she was not against the surgical strikes, but that “if somebody questions Prime Minister Narendra Modi on the surgical strike, he or she is not a patriot enough and is anti-nationalist”.
Another journalist-cum-author, Hindol Sengupta, objected to the opposition’s demand that the government tender proof of the strikes.
“Asking for the evidence of surgical strike is the most moronic thing ever,” he said.
On the issue of banning Pakistani artistes from the country, Sengupta was supportive of it.
He cited the example of Africa during the apartheid era, when that country’s cricket and Olympic teams were barred from playing internationally, especially by their neighbouring countries and then by the Western nations so as to pressurise the white African regime to renege on white supremacy and yield to multi-racialism.
“It is the only legitimate way to pressurise the citizens so that they are forced to question their government as a result of being ostracised by the world,” he said.
While participants agreed that nationalism is a concept with different interpretations, journalist and former Rajya Sabha member Shahid Siddiqui said that it has been used politically by various groups.
“Problem is not with Islam, or Hinduism or any other religion, the problem lies with extremism in any form,” he said, stressing that when nationalism takes an extreme form, its proponents use it to force other people to agree to their own view and then it becomes dangerous.