Living in times of Nationalism

In 1995, the interview board of Asian College of Journalism, asked me whether I thought nationalism was dead as a political force. At 24, I just saw Soviet Union and Cold War being buried under the Siberian snow. Berlin Wall had fallen and the promise of universalism was gaining hold of our lives.

My reply that nationalism was alive and kicking met with guffaws but won attention. I can’t recollect the immediate trigger for that answer in favour of nationalism.

The Balkans and Central Asia in the post Soviet era had become playground for identity politics and gruesome ethnic wars. The ‘rogue’ states and its leaders — playing on etnic, religious and cultural identities — wouldn’t take the world to an utopian village. Two decades later, and tired of journalism, I am swamped by some riveting talk on nationalism now.

Right wing politics is running guilt free again. Economic slump and badly managed free world ideals have pushed societies to an uncertain setting. The antediluvian forces are roaring back.

Nationalism, in dark places, is a bad construct. It’s an immersive belief taking swathes of ordinary folks to the brink of history.

Are we entering a phase of unbridled nationalism in India, seeking glory at any cost? When political marketing holds the joy of patriotism under seige.

The fervour is self consuming and the varied mind is fast becoming a misfit. Then I am calling it depravity, a national disease.

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