Jingoism, Patriotism, Nationalism

I remember a Nepali political leader delivering a fiery speech in Kathmandu. He was accusing the government of selling the country to India. I almost chuckled at, what I felt, the absurd suggestion. But wasn’t it an old tried and tested method to rouse the crowds? It was out of the playbook certain parties in India. They have grown by accusing the government of selling the country to the imperial West. When visitors from those dark evil empires hear those rants did they chuckle like me?

Is that why the Indian government’s statements on cross border terrorism are often greeted with a “here we go again” attitude? Also, it is not just India and the West. We can also list situations when the shoe is on the other foot. Remember the range of perspectives on the boot camp President Bush went to?

A range of emotions – outrage, shame, grief, vows for vengeance – were expressed after and during the terror attacks at Mumbai during the US Thanksgiving weekend of 2008. When one of the terrorists was caught India had proof of cross border terrorism. At the same time it was crystal clear to a lot of people in the neighboring state, on the other side of that same border, that this was part of a grand conspiracy to fragment and balkanize that country.

After all, the last acknowledged Indo-Pak war in 1971 did result in the independence of a part of the country. I, like most of my fellow citizens, believe that this attack was planned and organized. Such organizations need infrastructure and sponsorship.  I find it difficult to believe that it is not possible to find the money trail and trace it back to the players involved. However that is not the subject of this write up.
I suspect that a lot the same fellow citizens of mine will have the same gut reaction that I had when I read the conspiracy theory on the net – “are you nuts?”

But then are they? To the believers of that possibility it is as true as the fact that there is gravity. Living thousands of miles away from either country gives one the luxury of considering a perspective at odds to the generally accepted one in my homeland. It reminds me of an incident in Nepal and my thoughts at that time.

Ratna Park is a very interesting place in Kathmandu, or was when I was last there in ’94. There were professional carom players lined up against the fence on the south west corner who you could play against for stakes or watch on your way to or from the New Road. There were these parades that you could go to, dust you could kick up, buses that were lined up or rallies that you could attend.

A bit like the Hyde Park, you could also try to hold one yourself. In one of those small gatherings a young opposition firebrand was exposing the government. He was accusing the government of selling the country to India.

No offense to the ancient land that gave us the Buddha, but I found the notion of India wanting to buy Nepal hilarious. Yes, Nepal was a buffer between China and India; but wanting to buy Nepal? What a ridiculous idea. I almost chuckled at the absurdity of the suggestion. But how far fetched was the idea?

Wasn’t the opposition in my country too making a career for years accusing the government of selling the country to the evil imperialist empires headed by America? So were their raves and rants equally stupid to the visitors from those dark evil empires.

Some passersby looked at me with concern as I started giggling to myself at the realization. Perspectives do interesting things to, well, perspectives. Perspectives: use it or lose it.

That does not for a moment dilute the need to roar “enough” in protest to the lack of action on the part of our government. My submission is that it does, however, provide clues to why the western world dismisses the knee jerk reactions of the Indian government with a “here we go again” attitude.

Speaking of the “western world” and perspectives, the point was driven home by the responses around the world to the boot camp the President got trapped into.