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Brexit and CAA: India as phantomlimb of the Commonwealth

Brexit and CAA: India as phantomlimb of the Commonwealth

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Umar Nizar

Umar Nizar

The timing of Brexit in the United Kingdom and the CAA in India is uncanny. Both have been perfectly choreographed to a summit in a unified crescendo. The phantom limb has been acting up. India, the erstwhile jewel in the crown experiences palpitations that resonate with the heartbeats of the imperial locus, even before the hasty Brexit was a twinkle in Boris Johnson’s eye. In 1957, there even existed a plan G to include other European nations within the fold of the Commonwealth. With the EU in decline following the Greek debacle etc, the Commonwealth is supposed to be on the ascendant.

With the collapse of Soviet Marxism, the only remaining activation of Indian imperial roots lie entangled with the imperial centre in London. (The local lore was that Indian comrades unfurled their umbrellas when it rained in the USSR). India continues not just as the servile-in-chief protagonist in the Commonwealth on Nations, but also draws feudal pride and prestige in the global arena of once having been at the heart of global European expansionism, and contributor to the imperial war chest as well as the imperial war efforts, including WWI and WWII. The partition of the imperial core from the maternal body of Europe, in the form of Brexit, can have far-reaching repercussions and the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) is just such an instance of the stigmata bleeding.

Stigmata, the figure of the bleeding Christ King is Christendom’s closest analogue to a tantric counterpart. The stigmata of partition are still alive in the Indian subcontinent. The mirror neurons of the empire have been set to salivate mode by Boris Johnson’s intemperate move to secede from the EU and to sever the United Kingdom’s already tenuous ties with Brussels bureaucracy. From cricket to the English language to Lutyens Delhi, the anglophone influence on contemporary India has been immense to be ignored, recent cynicism and distrust towards the latter category notwithstanding. A nostalgia for the non-aligned days (of NAM ) when the bipartisan politics of Nehru-Nasser-Tito wielded power incommensurate to their respective military muscle vis-à-vis Suez Canal nationalisation etc, prowls beyond the Romantic utopia of the erstwhile Soviet Russia (despite Putin’s heavyweight antics) and attempts to land on the shores of cool Brittania, to climb the stalactite cliffs of Dover, crawl across Trafalgar and get in bed with Queen Victoria, a necrophiliac act with negative outcomes. The emergence of the strong state has to be juxtaposed with the digital state, which also is a spectral entity. The ontological status of the state as a postcolonial circumstance espoused by the like of Frantz Fanon is under threat from resurgent imperialism, that peaked with the unprovoked invasion of Iraq in 2003. Neo-imperialism is so pervasive and molecular that an English royal with slightly darker skin tone has had to relinquish her rights to lead a free life.

English language and the linguistic antics that if affords the empire’s `perineum’ (as Ambarish Sattwik posits it) have been at the forefront of the emergence of India in the Information Technology (IT) and Information Technology Enabled Services (ITES). Thus the ties are still live yet raw, despite performing Southern gadflies like Shashi Tharoor venting caste frustration at the imperialists of Niall Ferguson’s ilk and prognosticating the demise of the UK with the Scottish referendum unleashing forces leading to the implosion of Anglican Imperium.

The Scottish referendum has set off a series of sympathetic and para-sympathetic movements in Catalonia and elsewhere. The centripetal forces of capital, religion, history, culture and politics have held the country together. The partition of 1947 remains a festering wound that exacerbates with the polemical rhetoric that follows the course of electoral exigencies. Thus, every election in South Asia leads to an exchange of vitriolic invective across the border, directed at the `enemy’. The role of the British Government in this enterprise of Divide et Imperia has been dubious at best. The cancer of infinite partitions has been scattered across the globe, from North and South Koreas, Sudan, Indonesia, Balkans, Yemen, Ireland and Sri Lanka. The role of Imperial Britain has always been one of supporting secessionist tendencies in its erstwhile colonies. Even now, the royal crown will not be averse to performing a colonoscopy for the benefit of the erstwhile feudatories. The CAA is an act in that direction of gaping and genuflection. It is ultimately a mimetic act of imperial mimicry and can only lead to boosting further the proclivity towards secessionist tendencies.

The sympathetic overtures of the oriental colon towards the imperial core have seldom been sympathetically perceived.

India’s entry into the global regime of Liberalisation-Globalisation-Privatisation (LPG) has divested it of whatever moral worth had been accrued during the freedom movement, Bhakti movement, Gandhism and Indic spiritualism. These gains have been frittered away for the sake of material affluence. The spiritual richness had for long contrasted rather too harshly with the abject material poverty. This has been sought to be reversed. The mimetic recursive partitions of the subcontinent and perpetuation of communal divisions will only serve to further imperial agendas, that have followed a deceptive trajectory of centripetal and centrifugal loops since August 15, 1947. The healing faultlines of the cracked subcontinent are once again sought to be reopened, this time by an event such as Brexit, occurring at the erstwhile imperial centre. Despite resurgent hindutva’s attempts to forge ties with Pax Americanum, the umbilical ties with England are too primordial and constitutive to be just wished away. The relative success of the European secular state, collapse of the religious monarchy in Nepal and the eviction of royals from the Narayanhity palace and the rise of Sino-US domination are factors that complicate matters.

The complex intermeshing of the forces of globalization and Western capital means that the exit of Polish, Czech, Hungarian, Balkan workers from the UK following its withdrawal from the EU, is not to be mirrored exactly in the categorisation of citizenship with religious bias. Here the notion of secular polity is at conflict with a religious state. The primordial religiosity of India has never formed a compact with the Anglican church of England and it is frankly baffled by the secular nature of Brexit. But Brexit’s Indic iteration by default has to take religious colour. Therein lies the long reach of neo-imperialism as it once again throws its jabs and attempts to deliver a knockout punch.



Umar Nizar is a Research Scholar at JNU, Delhi.