Sub-nationalism: How many of you remember the row that broke out between Bollywood star Ajay Devgn and Kannada actor Kichcha Sudeep? They had locked horns over language. Devgn had then spoken fiercely for his identity, culture, and language without allowing any political correctness to subside. He did not hold back, and the message was all clear: downplaying Hindi would not be tolerated. But, here is a catch. What did the major political establishments down south choose to do? They stood by the Kannada actor. Basically, they agreed that Hindi is not a national language.
What happened here?
Why did a language spoken by almost the entire nation, especially the North, have no one to fend for it?
It is because people from many states, ranging from Uttar Pradesh to Rajasthan, Maharashtra to Bihar, and from Delhi to Jammu, use Hindi for daily conversation. No one lays claim to it, or it can be said that Hindi doesn’t evoke the same sub-nationalistic sentiments as other regional languages do. Now, here comes a new term, “sub-nationalistic sentiments,” and upon it rests the platform of major political parties down south. How? Let me explain.
The Bengaluru video points out a larger problem
For the past two days, a video has been going viral. In the 26-second video clip, a heated exchange can be heard over the language.
Here’s the exchange between the two:
Driver: Why should I speak in Hindi?
Woman: “Okay, okay, okay.”
Driver: This is Karnataka. You have to speak Kannada. You people are North Indian beggars.
Woman: Why. We will not speak in Kannada.
Driver: This is our land, not your land. You have to speak Kannada. Why should I speak Hindi?
Dear Non-Kannada People living in Karnataka,
Please behave like educated & matured. Try to understand what is right what is wrong.
Hindi is not our National Language 🙏#Kannada #ಕನ್ನಡಭಾಷೆಗೆಕಡ್ಡಾಯವಾಗಿಮೊದಲಆದ್ಯತೆನೀಡಿ#ಸರೋಜಿನಿಮಹಷಿವರದಿಯನ್ನುಜಾರಿಮಾಡಿ#LearnKannadatoliveinKarnataka pic.twitter.com/KMgpDoPK0q
— ಬೆಂಕಿಬೆಳಕು – FireLight (@Somanath_C) March 12, 2023
This incident stands in testament to the growing sub-nationalism in the state of Karnataka just before the state elections. And the phenomenon does not limit itself to the state of Karnataka but extends to more states in southern India.
There have been instances of people advocating for the same. Be it the harassment of north-Indian migrant labourers in Tamil Nadu and why a migrant worker cannot work peacefully in another state. Or, why a language, the responsibility to propagate which rests on the shoulders of the Union Government as per Article 351 of the Indian Constitution, cannot be spoken in any of the Indian states?
Read More : Bihari migrants are paying for Tejashwi’s politics with their lives
Karnataka: A comfortable win for the saffron party
Karnataka is no longer a hard nut to crack for the BJP. With the grand old Congress party marred by internal conflicts, there remains no viable opposition fighting for the chair in Karnataka. The BJP is gradually winning over the votes of not only the Vokkaligas, once a loyal vote bank of Kumaraswamy’s JD(S), but has also secured the Lingayats by making former chief minister BS Yediyurappa as the star campaigner for the party.
With factionalism and a shifting voter base, all that the opposition is left with in Karnataka is sub-nationalism. The South has seen enough, even Kerala Chief Minister Pinnaryi Vijayan wishing Xi Jingping on his re-election to the top post in Communist China, Well, it was hard to understand what was revolutionary about Jinping’s re-election even when China posing threat to India on LAC.
This has put the opposition parties in a tight spot, thus forcing them to get back to their all-time full-proof agenda: subnationalism.
Subnationalism is when someone or some state places aggressive emphasis on its regional identity, thus endangering the sensitive thread through which the entire country of India is bound as a nation. Karnataka has for very long nurtured sub-nationalism, with a particular community demanding a separate flag (red and yellow in colour) to be raised apart from the national flag to express their identity.
Read More : Cornered Mamata goes full right wing, invokes “pride” and “sub-nationalism”
Sub-nationalism is a menace that needs urgent tackling
You must have often heard about sub-nationalism growing in the southern states. MLAs and MPs are often heard talking about how great their region, linguistics, and culture are. After taking the solemn oath in legislature or Parliament, they are frequently heard proclaiming the greatness of their state, language, or historical state icons.
India is no doubt a federal union of states, but a high level of sub-nationalism can threaten the sovereignty of the nation. Critics often say that without southern states, India would have been a nation referred to as Hindustan with Hindi as its national language back in 1947 itself. However, India has been carved out with two emotions together: sovereignty and federalism, and it is necessary to hold on to the same. This can only be done by ending the menace of sub-nationalism and this can be achieved by ending the pro-sub-nationalism brigade.
Something like this is already visible in the North-East, where the BJP has not only successfully returned to power but also curbed insurgency.
Sub-nationalism is set to return as India progresses into general elections next year, but the number tally suggests that the anti-Modi brigade is set to feel the heat.
BJP: The reckoning force in entire India
At present, there are several forces trying to halt the Modi-Shah duo in different states: Nitish Kumar and Tejashwi Yadav in Bihar; Mamata Banerjee in West Bengal; Naveen Patnaik in Odisha; Hemant Soren and a bit of a Congress in Jharkhand; Ashok Gehlot clubbed with Sachin Pilot’s ground work in Rajasthan; the Kejriwal-Mann duo in the Delhi-Himachal-Punjab belt, KCR in Telangana, Stalin and YS JaganMohan Reddy in Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh respectively.
Why are these counterforces important to neutralise? The answer to this question lies in the tally of numbers. West Bengal single-handedly contributes 42 seats to the Lok Sabha after Maharashtra with 42 seats, Bihar with 40, 39 seats from Tamil Nadu, 20 from Kerala, Andhra Pradesh, and Rajasthan with 25 seats each. Among these, BJP has an upper hand in many of the states, be it Maharashtra, where BJP is in government along with Shiv Sena with Eknath Shinde and Fandavis as the CM and deputy CM respectively. Despite this, the effect of Sharad Pawar’s NCP and Congress in Maharashtra and Rajasthan cannot be ruled out.
Currently, the saffron party holds power in large states such as Uttar Pradesh, which has 80 Lok Sabha seats, Karnataka, which has 28 seats, Madhya Pradesh, which has 29 seats, Gujarat, which has 26 seats, and Assam, which has 14 seats. Other than this, the BJP has a satisfactory support base in Haryana, which amounts to 10 seats, and in Uttarakhand and Himachal, with 5 and 4 seats, respectively. This suggests that the BJP may have a comfortable victory in over 195 seats.
Sub-nationalism is a cancer that has long affected India and claimed thousands of lives. The treatment for this cancer can only be political.
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