Comically muscular jingoism has been the one of things the Bharatiya Janata Party has delivered on strongly. Since it came to power, the party has targetted students from Hyderabad and Delhi, suggested that citizenship should be made contingent on sloganeering abilities and misinterpreted the history of freedom fighter Bhagat Singh. Friday morning bought the latest installment of the saga: a proposed law to punish incorrect depictions of India’s borders on a map with seven years in jail and a fine that must be equal to the annual income of a small Indian city: Rs 100 crore.
The nub of the issue is that the government of India claims a lot more land than it actually holds. The Jammu and Kashmir that you see on India maps is a fine thing – but it doesn’t really exist on the ground. Pakistan controls large parts of the western half of Jammu and Kashmir and China, the Aksai Chin region in the north-east. If you actually show this ground situation on a map, though, you can be prosecuted by the government under a 1961 act that now carries a jail term of six months. If Narendra Modi has his way, that will become seven years.
What about Akhand Bharat?
The interesting thing here is that there is one rather powerful group for which incorrectly depicting India’s borders is almost at article of faith. The Sangh Parivar believes in what is know as Akhand Bharat or undivided India. At its smallest, Akhand Bharat includes present-day India, Pakistan and Bangladesh: basically, the dominions of the British Raj. Other versions also have Afghanistan, Myanmar, Nepal, Sri Lanka and sometimes even Tibet sidling into the map.
Hindutva’s irredentist fantasies might not square up to history or logic but they are core to its philosophy. Leaders of the Rashtrya Swamaysevak Sangh are frequently seen declaiming against the backdrop of an Akhand Bharat map and just in December, 2015 Ram Madhav, the general secretary of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party, made it clear that an Akhand Bharat was a goal of his.
What will happen after this law? Akhand Bharat is also an incorrect depiction of India’s borders, after all. Will RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat be punished? Will the BJP have to give up its Akhand Bharat dreams?