Tuesday, 24 May, 2022
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In case of both Article 370 and Brexit, right-wing nationalism is its own nemesis

Hindu nationalists resemble the English Brexiteers as they blithely smash up fragile constitutional arrangements — a lesson in how nationalists so often overplay their hand.

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Long on a roll, right-wing nationalists finally seem to be overreaching. Evidence came from two different sources this week: India and Britain.

Brexit, advocated and promoted by mostly English nationalists, always threatened the breakup of Great Britain. With new Prime Minister Boris Johnson now vowing to leave the European Union on Oct. 31 without a deal and regardless of the destructive consequences, Brexit has been clearly exposed as a reckless bet by nationalists against their own country.

Support for independence has achieved a majority in Scotland, according to an opinion poll this week. In Northern Ireland, the excesses of Tory Brexiteers have helped make the previously unthinkable prospect of a united Ireland mainstream. More people than ever — an estimated 41% — back independence even in Wales, which actually voted to leave the EU.

The nationalists’ more dramatic own-goal, however, occurred in India, where Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government moved to repeal Article 370 of the Indian Constitution, which sets out the special terms on which the independent princely state of Jammu and Kashmir acceded to India rather than Pakistan after the end of British rule.

Some other Indian states enjoy similar privileges of federalism. The reason why Modi’s government drastically demoted Kashmir to colonial-style vassalage as a “Union Territory” is primarily, even exclusively, ideological.

India’s only Muslim-majority state, Kashmir has hosted a long and relatively popular anti-India insurgency supported by Pakistan. Hindu nationalists have long campaigned to repeal Article 370 as part of a revanchist fantasy of “Akhand Bharat,” or Undivided India — a vision which includes reclaiming the part of Kashmir ruled by Pakistan.

Modi seems to have calculated that his successful electoral strategy of social-religious polarization can continue to curry favor from those who voted for him — and distract from his failure to turbocharge the economy or create jobs. Predictably, supporters loudly cheered his government’s apparent resolve to bring Kashmir to heel and to show the state’s Muslims their place.

This mode of politics can keep the base energized in the short run, as elected demagogues in Western democracies such as U.S. President Donald Trump have proved. As with Brexit, however, any radical expression of nationalism cannot but have radical long-term consequences which, ultimately, undermine its own cherished ends: consolidating territorial unity and sovereign power. Right-wing nationalism, in this sense, is its own nemesis.

The Brexiteers ignored unfavorable opinion in Scotland and Ireland until it was too late and the Pandora’s box of independence had opened. The Hindu nationalists are not so oblivious to the desires of Kashmiri Muslims. But they deliberately ignore Kashmiri opinion because they believe in full-spectrum dominance and in imposing it by awesome displays of force.

Also read: Boris Johnson to Priti Patel, Indians love a desi connect, but only if it’s the right kind

The government prepared for its bombshell on Monday with a massive infusion of security forces into Kashmir, which is already one the most militarized places on earth. It ordered the arrests of opposition leaders and evacuation of Indian students and tourists, an indefinite curfew, and the shutdown of all modes of communications, including telephone landlines.

Clearly, the Hindu nationalists are hardly detained by scruples about procedure in a context where they either control or influence all of India’s major institutions, including the Supreme Court. However, a ruling class that can so cavalierly dismiss the prospect of a permanently humiliated and resentful Muslim minority that numbers over 170 million citizens is in danger of being misled by its own culture of impunity.

Hindu nationalists have clearly not thought through the long-term consequences of repealing Article 370. These will, of course, be manifest in Kashmir itself, where Modi’s government has presided over a spike in militant disaffection. As the aerial skirmishes between India and Pakistan this February showed, the authorities’ failure to check terrorist violence in the state, and compensatory saber-rattling and blustering, can easily make an already volatile situation spiral out of control.

The other grave consequences of the Hindu nationalist assault on India’s federal principles are less perceptible now. They will nevertheless be played out in some of India’s richest states, where an assortment of sub-nationalisms have been simmering for years. The undreamed-of scenes witnessed in Hong Kong lately — of young professionals resisting the diktats of remote-controlling authoritarian nationalists — could one day become commonplace in Mumbai, Hyderabad, Bangalore and Chennai.

Drunk on power, the Hindu nationalists resemble the English Brexiteers as they blithely smash up fragile constitutional arrangements. History may record their actions now as another lesson in how nationalists so often overplay their hand — and self-destruct. – Bloomberg

Also read: Narendra Modi and Boris Johnson are linked by superpower fantasies


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  1. I think have the print agenda is to criticise modi and I feel that’s alright. But how on earth you can compare brexit to article 370 . Seriously the author of this need to develop common scence. Brexit was intended on economical ground. Seriously today’s journalism has just become your party vs my party kinda of thing .These journlist need to get a life.

  2. Does this author know anything and has he read any history?
    Dear Pankaj….please read history from 1935 onwards and then engage in journalism.

  3. And how exactly is Halal meat producing Islamic language (Hindi/Urdu) limited party BJP representing ‘Hindu’ ‘nationalism’??? BJP is just an Islamic party “doing business” in the name of Hinduism. Will these authors please research the origin of the Islamic invaders language masqueraded in Davanagiri script know known as “Hindi” and explain if it has ANYTHING TO DO with Hinduism. Original Hinduism is in the Southern states. This is the same party which has caused demolishing of a few temples including a 1000 year old temple in Namakkal.

    It will be in the best of journalism to stop calling this party as a ‘Hindu’ party. They are clearly NOT.

    If BJP is a Hindu party, they will start by declaring the original Hindu contributed languages including Dravidian languages as Official languages in the central government and not limit that privileged to the language of Islamic origin.

  4. Mr Vij, don’t tell truth as you will be painted as anti national and stooge of Congress which is already clueless on how handle its own problems leave alone Kashmir. If you simply say what a great move by Modi and Shah, you will get all praise.

  5. I pity Pankaj Mishra. It seems this rootless wonder has been kicked out from such ‘high standard’ anti-India US publications such as NYT, Newyorker etc.
    He always needs someone to compare his evergreen favourites Modi, BJP & RSS. Sometimes it is Hitler; some other times it has been Trump; now it is Brexiteers.
    You can say, he is ‘Rahul in exile’. Both are similar in that both attribute their innate negativity, hatred and jealousy to others!
    On the occasion of Modi’s much earned victory in 2019, please gave this gem in NYT.
    ‘How Narendra Modi Seduced India With Envy and Hate’, dated 25.05.2019
    Judge yourself!!

  6. From where does the Print unearth such rootless wonder to write articles that they clearly have no knowledge about?

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