The patriots like to respond to protests, marches, and sit-ins by pointing out that this would be impossible in Pakistan or China.
Take the Shaheen Bagh protest. Hordes of Muslim families have been sitting on the Noida-Kalindi Kunj highway, protesting against the Citizenship Amendment Act and the proposed National Population Register. They have told media their demand is for the CAA and NPR to be revoked, because they are afraid those are the first steps to their being asked to leave the country. What sort of fear must it take for hundreds of people to camp for weeks in the winter cold of Delhi, knowing that not too far away, people are being arrested, allegedly tortured, and having their personal assets seized to compensate for the damage of public property?
The government and police action in Uttar Pradesh is a warning to some of how the country could be run in the near future; it is an example to others of how the country ought to be run.
If that does happen, India would fit right into the neighbourhood, and seventy-two years of democracy and secularism would come to an end.
This week, two Pakistani cricketers went viral for their testimonies of bigotry.
Shoaib Akhtar has become something of a hero on the internet for saying Danish Kaneria had faced discrimination in the dressing room and selection meetings for being the only Hindu in the Pakistani cricket team. Kaneria backed this claim.
A couple of days later, a clip emerged of Shahid Afridi from a television show which is hosted by a giggly anchor and has an invited studio audience of matrons, and said he had once broken the television set in his house after seeing his daughter mime an aarti, which he presumed she had picked up from serials his wife watched on Star TV. The matrons in the studio audience applauded him, as the anchor shrieked with laughter.
It’s hard to imagine this happening in India – at least, it used to be. Just over a decade ago, Irfan Pathan bowled India to a win in Pakistan, and said to the media with seeming naïveté, “Today, Allah was on our side and we won.”
In a country that thinks of India as Hindu, a Muslim Indian cricketer who had caused a loss for Pakistan invoking the name of Allah must have been a jolt.
Back then, it seemed so normal to the Indian viewer that one did not really think of the impact of Pathan speaking of Allah taking sides until the Pakistani media brought it up.
However, reading through tweets from the likes of Virender Sehwag and Gautam Gambhir in recent years, it is easier to imagine them acting like Shahid Afridi than like Shoaib Akhtar.
Let’s take a look at our other friendly neighbour, China, were Uighur ethnic Muslims are being sent to detention camps, and their children to state schools far away from their parents, thanks to the state’s ambitions of indoctrinating them with communism and patriotism.
When footage of protesters defying government orders against assembly and sitting in at Shaheen Bagh is shared, the self-proclaimed patriots in India are fond of asking whether such a thing would be possible in Pakistan or China.
We all know what happened in Tiananmen Square.
We wouldn’t be surprised to see that happening in Pakistan.
But until now, one would have been surprised to see such an occurrence in India.
This is not a country that has behaved like a police state, except during the Emergency, and that remains a black mark against the Congress nearly half a century later.
If the UP model spreads to the rest of India, we would fit right into the neighbourhood.
The number of states in which the BJP is actually in power has lessened since the last elections, but we must remember that this is not necessarily illustrative of the states in which the BJP has influence.
A case in point is the AIADMK in Tamil Nadu, without the aid of which the BJP could not have got the CAA passed.
And for as long as the parties put their vested interests ahead of the public’s, ahead of the nation’s, we will have more in common with our neighbours than we might like to believe.
More Columns by Nandini Krishnan:Nobel for economist, tailspin for economy
Why the Diaspora has so much love to give
Hindi debate: We are all obsessed with homogeneity
We are choking the earth
When Kamal Haasan endorsed harassment
The Dalai Lama and the death of humour
The delusionary Indian intellectual
India's culture of worship has to end
Nandini is the author of Invisible Men: Inside India's Transmasculine Networks (2018) and Hitched: The Modern Woman and Arranged Marriage (2013). She tweets @k_nandini. Her website is: www.nandinikrishnan.com