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God is one—the slogan on a bus in Karnataka. Photo: Priya Ramani
God is one—the slogan on a bus in Karnataka. Photo: Priya Ramani

Opinion: When you know you’re anti-national

  • You know you’re anti-national if you believe that the targeted harassment of Kashmiri students across the country should end immediately
  • Those who love this country and believe in peace, love and harmony are labelled anti-national

You know you are anti-national (AN, adjective: critical of the establishment, one who is opposed to New India) if you not only mourn the deaths of our soldiers but ask why and how they died in the first place. You are definitely AN if you highlight the intelligence failure as Mumbai Mirror did on its front page. Suicide bomber Adil Ahmad Dar, 20—who murdered 40 Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) soldiers in Pulwama on 14 February—had been detained by the state six times between September 2016 and March 2018 for “stone-pelting and on suspicion of aiding activities of Pakistani terror outfit Lashkar-e-Taiba", the newspaper reported.

Any patriot knows not to discuss the horrible working conditions and the crisis of stress in our paramilitary forces. Last year, the Union home ministry told a parliamentary panel that nearly 700 personnel of the Central armed police forces (CAPF)—the CRPF is one of seven paramilitary forces and the country’s most decorated police force—had committed suicide in the last six years, more than those killed in action.

But you’re AN if you are not demanding war.

Right now there are two key petitions on Change.org. The more popular one is an impassioned plea by Abhijeet Narwal requesting Prime Minister Narendra Modi to avenge Pulwama with “a full-scale war" that would “finish this problem forever".

“I understand there will be casualties both in terms of men and the economy of our nation but it will be worth than suffering losses every now. Every soldier in our armed forces is ready for it and every citizen is ready for it," Narwal writes. “Each citizen is ready to sacrifice and live a few days with only one meal a day if our brave martyred brothers are avenged."

His petition says he’s from Panipat but according to his LinkedIn profile, Narwal is a CAD design engineer with Ford Motor Co. who lives in Orange County, California. He sounds patriotic; I’m sure he’s already booked his ticket to India to join the war effort. As this column went to press, Change.org pulled down 20 such petitions that called for war and violence because they violated the website’s community guidelines. By then Narwal had already signed on more than 200,000 patriotic online warriors.

The other, newer petition is by a group of activists from Mumbai who condemn Pulwama and appeal for unity. They want you to hold peace meetings to maintain communal harmony. How dated, how AN. All of us (especially those who debate the day’s issues vigorously on Quora) know that in New India, human rights activists are the biggest anti-national citizens. They, along with all assorted anti-national dissenters, should be charged with sedition.

You know you’re anti-national if you believe that the targeted harassment of Kashmiri students across the country should end immediately. Or if you were appalled when the Kashmiri dean of a Dehradun college was asked to leave because the mob demanded it. He was later asked to return after the tension defuses—clearly an AN move.

You seem like the type who still hasn’t done your national duty by posting a what-else-do-you-expect-they-asked-for-it rant on your family group. Have you or have you not done your country proud by demanding at least half a dozen times that your neighbours and other assorted fellow citizens prove their patriotism by shouting Bharat Mata ki jai? Have you issued a clarion call to ban all family holidays to Kashmir and sent a notice to your housing society to stop renting to Kashmiris—or were you too busy mocking the Vande Bharat Express as it developed a technical snag on its maiden journey? Such mockery will be punished, the prime minister warned AN citizens this week. Anyway, nobody’s targeting Kashmiris, that’s fake news.

Talking of fake news, you are certainly AN if you didn’t amplify the flood of fake news stories after Pulwama: Priyanka Gandhi laughing at a press conference about Pulwama, photographic “proof" of Rahul Gandhi standing with the suicide bomber, and scores of old graphic military videos repurposed and released with the helpful tag after-Pulwama. In fact, only an anti-national would call the above fake news.

A senior CRPF official told Boom Live, a digital fact-checking journalism initiative, that there was so much fake news in the aftermath of the Pulwama attack, they had to form a fact-checking team. “While we were busy with the last rites of our colleagues and friends and arranging help for the injured, we noticed that many wrong and fake posts were being circulated on WhatsApp."

“Some of the posts were being spread by miscreants wanting to create a sense of communal unrest. Some posts were demeaning and filled with hatred. We started collecting and monitoring all of them," the officer told Boom Live. Then they used their own soldiers to disseminate correct posts.

In a white paper released this month, Google described “disinformation" as “deliberate efforts to deceive and mislead using the speed, scale, and technologies of the open web" and said it is trying in various ways to fight this and ensure, for example, fair play in two of the world’s largest forthcoming elections in Europe and India.

You know you’re AN if you believe that the everyday hate you’ve been tracking in recent years is headed for a frenzied, rage-filled climax on and off social media platforms before the 2019 general election because in India, this has always been one assured way to get votes. Almost overnight, every last bigot in your family has been empowered to come out of the closet. Note: AN Indians can’t even tell the difference between hate and patriotism.

As former Guardian editor Alan Rusbridger writes in Breaking News: The Remaking Of Journalism And Why It Matters Now, it was when we found ourselves in the age of US President Donald Trump, who had no qualms using the term fake news indiscriminately to describe traditional journalism, that the term lost its meaning. “Truth was fake; fake was true," says Rusbridger. In this topsy-turvy world, it seems only fair that those who love this country and believe in peace, love and harmony are labelled anti-national.

Priya Ramani shares what’s making her feel angsty/agreeable.

She tweets at @priyaramani

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