In the past seventy-five years of the modern Indian nation’s existence, moments of freedom have been fleeting and far between. A nation is not des or naadu. These ideas encompass an ecology, an inner landscape, unencumbered by sovereignty and space. They are truly liberating. These timeless ideas respect no borders; nor are they marked by anniversaries. They embrace people, not just citizens. Kabir gives us a sense of it when he sings of unfurling the flag of emptiness, the sunn-dhwaja:
Just look at Kabir, hoist on the flag of victory
Shaping the flag shaping the wind, unfurling a mystery
Fearless formless songness stillness
Even as he oversaw the document that renders us all equal in one stroke, Babasaheb Ambedkar realised that as a nation we were entering a ‘life of contradictions’, where, socially, we shall ‘continue to deny the principle of one man one value’. Untiring, he wondered, ‘How long shall we continue to live this life of contradictions?’ On the eve of this toxic ‘Amrit Mahotsav’, we must turn to Kabir’s prescription of poison:
Discard the pursuit of nectar, imbibe the poison of truth
See the noose hang itself, hear the hush descend
Inhale this pale silence—just listen
Here’s Navayana’s antidote to help you overcome the sickness of nationalism:
- Annihilation of Caste by B.R. Ambedkar: The seminal text by the greatest thinker of equality in India, this manifesto lays bare the contradictions of caste society and shows a way forward
- I Could Not Be Hindu by Bhanwar Meghwanshi: The memoir of a dalit who was a karsevak in the RSS; this book shows how the Hindu right captures young minds and how one can effectively oppose the ideology.
- Republic of Caste by Anand Teltumbde: a distillation of the thought of India’s most important political thinker, this book charts a new map of post-Independence India. With the author wrongfully imprisoned for more than two years now, but his ideas will unfurl the flag of liberty, equality and fraternity inside you.
- A Stake in the Nation by B.R. Ambedkar: A collection of some of the most important speeches given by Dr Ambedkar in his lifetime, this book asks crucial questions about what it means to be an Indian, to be a nationalist and to be antinational.
- Land, Guns, Caste, Woman by Gita Ramaswamy: The memoir of a lapsed revolutionary who joined the Naxalites as a college student, faced the emergency, rebelled against her brahminical family and participated in the struggles led by landless labourers in Telangana against tyrannical landlords. A story of people who took their freedom into their own hands and struggled to create a better society.
- The Greater India Experiment by Arkotong Longkumer: With the tentacles of Hindutva enveloping the mostly Christian Northeast India, Longkumer excavates how it is that they capture power where they should be a minority. Here is a study of how the RSS persists in regions that are considered to be at a distance from the frontiers of a singular national identity.
We will leave you now, at the stroke of the midday hour, when this part of the world is awake, with midnight child Salman Rushdie’s idea of an idea from The Satanic Verses:
“What kind of idea are you? Are you the kind that compromises, does deals, accommodates itself to society, aims to find a niche, to survive; or are you the cussed, bloody-minded, ramrod-backed type of damnfool notion that would rather break than sway with the breeze? — The kind that will almost certainly, ninety-nine times out of hundred, be smashed to bits; but, the hundredth time, will change the world.”
C’mon, let us be damnfools than be damned!