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The Cult of “Jingoism Zindabad”

By Parthiv N. Parekh Email By Parthiv N. Parekh
October 2023
The Cult of “Jingoism Zindabad”

I admit “jingoism” was not a part of my vocabul- ary all through my school and even college years. Despite my innate, lifelong interest in reading and writing, this is not a word that had crossed my path until recent decades.

The reason is that the collective vocabulary of any society is said to evolve to serve the needs of the times. Words like “email,” “Internet,” and “Google” (as a verb) were non-existent just a little over a couple of decades back. With “jingoism,” it is only slightly different. I’m sure the trait or behavior defined by the word—“chauvinist nationalism marked by belligerence towards other nations”—has likely existed in pockets of society throughout the ages. Yet, the word has become more common only in recent times because we have seen a marked increase in jingoism spurred on by hypernationalism and xenophobia. Two glaring examples of this regressive streak are the extreme right-wingers in the U.S. and India: the MAGA cult and the Modi bhakts respectively.

The rise of jingoism in India is particularly troublesome because it is overshadowing and corrupting the genuine patriotism that has been such an important part of a young nation. As someone belonging to a generation that came of age in a relatively newly independent India, patriotism was deeply interwoven in our collective psyches. We had grown up frequently shedding tears on deeply moving patriotic songs like “Aye Mere Watan Ke Logon,” “Saare Jahaan Se Achchha,” “Mere Desh Ki Dharti,” “Yeh Desh Hai Veer Jawaanon Ka,” “Bharat Ka Rahnewala Hoon,” and many others.

No trishul-carrying, bhagwa-wearing, tilak- sporting andh bhakt can hold a candle to the genuine patriotism in the hearts of those generations that grew up before the recent decades in which so-called love of nation has become corrupted, politicized, and weaponized.

These avowed nationalistic showmen have managed to make a vice of a virtue. Their brand of uber nationalism is not just about simple, healthy, love of nation, but is fused with chauvinism and a superiority complex (which, in reality, seems like a cover for a deep-seated inferiority complex). Their nationalism comes saddled with hating Pakistan, one-upping China, and painting all of the West, especially the U.S. and England, with a broad brush—as still being actively colonial in their mindsets towards India.

Even more troubling still is the fact that an alarming and increasing number of the so-called educated Indian middle class are either actively jingoistic themselves or are, at the least, supportive of the social, cultural, and political forces that are so. One indicator of this uptick is the popularity of unabashedly jingoistic movies in recent decades. “There is a crisis. India is searching for a cause. A reason to exist. A reason to hate. ‘We will not be quiet anymore,’ roars Tinnu Verma, stunt director of Gadar, the monster jingoistic box office hit of 2001, for no reason in particular,” writes Manu Joseph in a 2022 article in the prominent Outlook magazine.

The sequel of that film, the recently released Gadar 2, has become a box office hit. Going by the trailer that I saw, as well as reviews from credible writers, it takes the jingoism of the original to even higher decibels. “Pakistan is second-class, India is noble, and Hindus are fair while Muslims are misguided”—this is how one writer describes the prominent narratives peddled in Gadar 2. Yet another calls it “borderline propaganda” for “chest-thumping nationalists.”

“Why such a lousy inferiority complex?” is a question I would love to ask these rabid nationalists. The only reason Hindus or Bharatiyas would need to stoop to maligning other cultures, religions, and nations to feel good about their own is if they are truly blind to the sublime beauty and greatness of that land and its unparalleled spiritual heritage. Objectively, without a hint of chauvinism, I believe Indians are particularly blessed to have inherited a legacy that the world has come to recognize as enviable. It’s a treasure that can stand on its own without us indulging in insecurity or one-upmanship towards others.

This is not to say that at the right time and place or in any private moment, one can’t tear up from one’s love for the nation. I can’t help but get sentimental every single time I listen to “Jana Gana Mana” or songs like A. R. Rahman’s “Maa Tujhe Salaam.” It is the shadow side of this healthy emotion, one that converts blessed patriotism to an ugly nationalism, that is the problem. Jiddu Krishnamurthy, the revered philosopher, while calling it “an act of great stupidity,” had described nationalism as “glorified tribalism: my country, my space, my people, my tradition, my God.”

It is quite conceivable that those freedom fighters who died chanting “Inquilab Zindabad” would hang their heads in shame seeing today’s chest thumpers who seem to be operating under the spell of “Jingoism Zindabad!”

Parthiv N. Parekh is the Editor-in-Chief of Khabar magazine.

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