BENGALURU: Historian Ramachandra Guha at the Bangalore Literature Festival said Narendra Modi has dictatorial qualities and urged people to support leaders who did not have such traits.
Guha was speaking on the topic "Jingoism versus Patriotism" at the Bangalore Literature Festival here on Saturday. In a fiery and strongly-worded speech, laced with the occasional witty remark, Guha attacked both the Indian left and the right factions and blamed them for the rise in jingoism in the country. He characteristically did not shy away from taking potshots at national leaders and political parties.
"There is a rule with Literature fests in India - more glamorous the fest, more shady are the corporates funding it, " Guha commented on the literature festivals in the country.
The historian said both patriotism and jingoism were derived from a 19th century European model of nationalism, which proclaimed one religion, language and culture to be superior to others. He termed Pakistan leader Mohammed Ali Jinnah's model of Pakistan as an example.
"USA is allegedly the most patriotic country in the world," he said.
"The greatness of Indian leaders was the fact that they refused to identify Indian nationalism with any religion or language, and even refused to hate the British," he said.
Guha said the Indian model of nationalism was based on a set of values which were enshrined in the constitution.
To make a point on the negatives of "worshipping" a political figure, he quoted from Dr B R Ambedkar's final speech to the Constituent Assembly. "Bhakti in religion is the route to God, bhakti in politics is the route to dictatorship. Mamata Banerjee and Narendra Modi have that (dictatorial qualities), make sure your leader doesn't have them," he said to rousing applause.
He said this model of patriotism was now in tatters and was being replaced by a new model of jingoism. He outlined four features of this jingoism - being an Indian was equated to being a Hindu, Hindi being considered the national language with everyone expected to speak it, considering Pakistan as a common enemy, and branding critics of these ideas as "anti-national."
Referring to RSS founder Golwalkar's writings, he said, "Golwalkar's book identifies the internal threats - Muslims, Christians and Communists. I'm none of these but have still become a threat. This is a paranoid and punitive form of nationalism."
"BJP and RSS claim to be authentic Indians, and I have been called a McAulay-putra by them."
"In a piece I had written in 2009, I had a wishlist - a BJP rid of RSS, a Congress rid of the Gandhi family, a modern Left and a new Party with constitutional patriotism. Almost 10 years later, none have come true, " Guha said.
Addressing the issue of why jingoism was on the ascendency in the country, he gave four reasons for the same. Firstly, the hypocrisy of the Indian left for being anti-patriotic. He claimed the left always loved another country more than India, which ranges from USSR to China, Vietnam, Cuba and then Albania. Lamenting on Hugo Chavez's popularity in Delhi University, he said, "If you think Modi is authoritarian, then Chavez is Modi on steroids, and he's worshipped in JNU."
The other reasons he gave were the corruption and cronyism of the Congress, the fact that jingoism was a global phenomenon and the rise of Islamic fundamentalism in India's neighbouring countries.
On Congress, he said, "It's a tragedy that a great freedom movement has been reduced to one party."
"Mahatma Gandhi himself admitted to a Himalayan blunder. I don't know a single Gandhi who made a blunder."
"My colleague Gopalakrishna Gandhi once said, 'Congress disowned (Vallabhbhai) Patel and BJP misowned Patel, " the veteran historian added.
Guha concluded by saying that those who are constitutional patriots should not take jingoism lying down, and should fight it.