The recent JNU controversy has engulfed nationwide interest with everyone having a point of view, to the extent that ruffian lumpenism too is being played out at Patiala House court premises. If at all JNU campus was used for anti-national activity, who were its protagonists etc are an issue to be decided by the courts now as the judiciary has been invoked. Since the whole episode was played out in the open, with video evidences galore, the courts will, not before long punish the real perpetrators. If at all seditious activities were taking place in plain view, it is anybody's guess as to the monumental intelligence failure of authorities who let it ripe it under their nose.
The strange thing is that in this melee, jingoists are preaching patriotism. ABVP, as one of central figures in this episode, and its parent organization, the RSS are dictating the debate's agenda. There is a flurry of debates for and against the Sangh. In this din, there is a need to dispassionately see similar occurrences across history around the world, their objectives and their behavioural pattern - for readers to arrive at a logical conclusion.
Sangh-like establishments around the world by their very nature are communal organizations. Communal here being an ideology which overtly stresses on liturgy (particular way of worship) Organization here meaning a confederation of homogeneous people who openly advocate gaining political power to achieve the purpose.
A critical difference between an organization and an institution is that heterogeneous people constitute an institution and they are more concerned about rendering social service driven by duty consciousness - whereas organizations are more concerned about attaining power/dominance.
The second yet very important characteristic of any communal organization is when it is out of power, it demands equality/privileges for itself but when in power, it imposes its own supremacy over others.
Another irrefutable trait of organizations is that during times of social emergencies, when the majority population is immersed in dealing with such an emergency - these organizations propagate and indulge in cultural activities. However, once the social emergency phase is over, they declare their own monopoly over patriotism.
Once in power, communal organizations, to enhance their popularity & perpetuate their dominance, present a perverted version of patriotism to the people, to serve their vested parochial purpose. Because once patriotism as an idea is invoked, anyone who challenges, argues or suggests refinements to the idea can easily be painted black as an anti-national.
Classic examples of such uncanny behavioural pattern are galore. Especially National Socialist German Workers Party's role of indulging in cultural activities in the 1920's when majority Germans were trying to rebuild their nation after its defeat in WW 1. The same party declared its monopoly over patriotism in 1940's in a resurgent Germany. Once in power, expansionism, pogrom on dissenters was presented as patriotism.
Or the actions of Italian Socialists during 1910's when Italians were going through an economic crisis whence Socialists initiated cultural programs. But by 1920's with the crisis over, the Socialists anointed themselves with supreme nationalism. Their definition of nationalism too altered overnight to invasions on neighbours.
Such examples are found aplenty in the Arab world, esp Iran. While Iranians were demonstrating against the western crony Shah in 1970's, Basij Mostazafan propounded cultural activities. But the moment the Shah was overthrown in 1979, the BM claimed ownership over patriotism and is till date in power in Iran. In the case of Afganistan, in 1991, While ordinary Afgans were struggling to get rid of Soviet Backed crony regime and the resultant chaos after Soviet withdrawal, The Talib propounded cultural activities by opening religious schools. But by 1994, when an interim government was in place in relatively calmer times, Talibs claimed sovereign ownership over their queer brand of religious patriotism and went on to usurp power too. Their brand of nationalism after coming into absolute power was employing terror tactics worldwide.
Sangh's historical behavioural trajectory reflects that although it existed during pre-independence era, its primary activity then was to promote cultural programs (including the times during freedom struggle). However, post 1947, it changed track swiftly to promote, propagate as well as claim nationalism as its USP which it continues to do unto this day.
Patriotism in its true sense is pride on the value systems being followed by a society, its people, notwithstanding its geographical boundaries. We eulogize Bhagat Singh as a true patriot although he lived & died in present day Pakistan. A person born in 1945 is still an Indian although the map of India has been redrawn subsequently (1947 Pakistan partition, !962 China occupying Aksaichin) Similarly, we also take pride in the Indian diaspora living in, say Silicon Valley or England to the extent that we give them voting rights, although they live outside the Indian map.
It clearly proves that patriotism transcends geographical boundaries. A person's actions cut a clear distinction in being an anti-establishment or an anti national. Anti-establishment is an idea which is propagated via "free expression" enshrined in our constitution, whereas anti-nationalism is an "activity" which physically damages life or property of Indians, like Mumbai 26/11.
Which of these two occurred in JNU will become clear soon. In the interim let us not get carried away by cacophony.
The objective of this piece is not to be critical of any organization. This narrative is just a juxtaposition of similar organizations around the world, more so now, because an eminent institution is mired in such a controversy.