There is a serious debate underway about Patriotism in India and its definition. Anyone who does not agree with the views of the majority is being branded as a traitor; anyone who points out flaws in the nation and its decisions is being attacked in an inhumane manner. People often forget the fact the nation is composed of diverse set of individuals, individuals who are victims of human nature and are susceptible to mistakes. There is a widespread propaganda of militant patriotic principles that stand against the very core of the principles of democracy.
The right to dissent is being challenged by people who claim themselves to be the white knights of patriotism. We are forgetting that when M K Gandhi, Bhagat Singh or any other revolutionary stood up against the state, they were also committing treason. How can we call a fight for freedom and democratic rights of a class of people as treason? The Supreme Court of India has clearly specified that fighting against the state in a peaceful manner cannot be termed as ‘sedition’ and that there is nothing unconstitutional about it. It only becomes a crime when violence or an intention to cause violence is behind it.
This brings us to the elephant in the room – ‘Patriotism’. Most of us get a shot of patriotism during a India-Pakistan cricket match, or when our soldiers are martyred or whenever the subject of Kashmir comes up. But should we limit our definition of patriotism to these topics? Shouldn’t other topics that concern the development of the nation also be upheld?
People in India are still struggling with poverty, discrimination, injustice and other social evils that make everyday life unbearable. I am ashamed of the fact that ‘casteism’ and religious intolerance are still deeply embedded in our society. Social status is being determined not on the basis of human development but on the basis of caste or religion. Individuals born into certain sections of the society are born with a shield that protects them from their deeds and are given respect however weak their moral state is. These issues remain a major hurdle in the path of our nation’s development. Isn’t it our duty as patriots to struggle for the eradication of these social evils?
Instead what are we focusing on? A few students raising slogans inside their college campus that are anti-national in nature? Knock! Knock! Does anyone remember the murder of our Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi by LTTE terrorists? Some organizations in Tamil Nadu are advocating for the release of these culprits. Banners are put up supporting the LTTE; even the birthday of its leader Velupillai Prabhakaran is being celebrated by organizations. Similarly, there are organizations celebrating of the birthday of Nathuram Godse, the murderer of Mahatma Gandhi. While national leaders ask certain intellectuals to leave the country, no one is branding these actions as anti-national!
So why is the mere issue of some sloganeering by some miscreants being highlighted? Is India’s democracy so weak that it will fall apart due to sloganeering by a few people? The recent Jat and Patel caste agitations caused widespread violence and death. There was no call to brand this violence as anti-national or anti-constitutional when it clearly was.
We Indians should be proud of the freedom of speech and critical thinking that we enjoy and such childish acts of anti-national sloganeering shouldn’t be used as a tool to oppress this freedom of speech. Any idea should be open to criticism, any form of peaceful protest should be allowed and any mistake committed by the state or its leaders should be rectified if that is the will of the people. We should not forget the fact that the nation is not a person or a symbol to be objectified, since the nation is the collective conscience of its entire people and everyone’s voices should be given prime importance. Other ideas should be confined to the personal sphere and should not interfere with the principles of the Indian constitution.
Patriotism is a virtue and it should not be denigrated by using it to serve personal ends. I am reminded of the famous quote by Charles De Gaulle “Patriotism is when love of your own people comes first; nationalism, when hate for people other than your own comes first”. Many of us do not know the difference that define patriotism and nationalism, and think both are the same. Here is a list of points that highlight the differences between Patriotism and Nationalism:
|Affection towards the nation||Rooted in rivalry and resentment|
|Equally best among other nations||Superior to all other nations|
|Equal respect for foreigners||Only our citizens are considered equal|
|Listens to complaints||Cannot tolerate any criticism|
|Values responsibilities equally||Values only citizen rights|
|Reconciles with past shortcomings and historical problems||Buries the past and highlights only historical achievements|
|Softly highlights Indian culture and earn respect||Aggressively promotes Indian culture and economic superiority|