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Redefining Patriotism

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By Devika Mittal:

Patriotism…think of the word and as a reflex you will have a typical list of songs being played in your mind. This will be followed by a series of images showing the ‘rich’ diversity in lifestyles, cultures and religious beliefs which will invoke a sense of great pride. You will feel elated. It is a much romanticised concept. What is patriotism? “To die for your motherland is patriotism”. If a country/person abuses India, an Indian is under the obligation to break his jaw.

Patriotism is a dose given to us twice a year, on Republic and Independence Day. During Wagha border, there is an overdose. But otherwise, it is a concept forced to rest along with the Pandora’s Box which is overflowing with social evils. Challenge the “maryada” and you have patriotism slapped across your face.

Patriotism literally means love for the country. One is proud of one’s country. But in India, patriotism is seen only in the cultural aspect. Respecting and restoring ‘our tradition’ is what is supposed to be Patriotism. The concept of ‘apna des and pardes’ are very popular. NRIs, particularly the elderly, are known for, craving for aloo ka parantha. If one has a problem with saree and lungi , one is termed as an angrez ki aulaad. If one prefers usage of English over their mother tongue, he/she is condemned. One who has any kind of issue with the ‘Indian Tradition’ is not patriotic. So challenge the discriminatory practices and you get the tag of being “westernised” and unpatriotic.

Talking of “tradition”, there is also a need to redefine ‘tradition’ as it is often (mostly) misinterpreted. The Indian tradition has mostly been “Hindu” tradition. It is nothing but a British legacy when they divided the history of India into Hindu and Muslim history. But we have continued it. Hindu fundamentalism has made it worse. The Hindutva crap about Hinduism being a native religion and Muslims as “invaders” is baseless. History has different stories to tell. Reconstruction of past is not only (and shall always be) incomplete but has also been politicised by different groups. So why not move on? Indian culture may be synonymous with Hindu culture because Hinduism is the religion of the majority. But then what about the spirit of India? The one thing that defines India is diversity. India is considered a subcontinent because of diverse faiths and practices. And this is not a recent image. In fact, even Hinduism, the major religion, doesn’t believe in exclusion. Hinduism is like an “umbrella” for diverse practices collectively termed as “Hindu”. So why do we try to make it exclusive? Why is “Indian” synonymous with “Hindu”? The Indian culture should ideally have elements from each and every religion. Indian Culture may still be seen with some patches of Islam, Jain, Sikh elements but it completely excludes the Christian elements. Christianity is still seen as ‘foreign’ to our culture. Christians may be a minority but they are as Indians as others are and so should be the religion. One should be loyal to the country and not to one’s religion.

Another sad reality of our “rich diversity” is the complete absence of north-eastern India in our “Indian culture”. Leave what foreigners think, we ourselves don’t have much knowledge about the North-East! Indian culture needs to be all-inclusive. Only then will it be truly the “Incredible India”.

Patriotism should ideally be seen in political and socio-economic terms. Democracy is patriotism. Democracy allows us to show our love and concern for our motherland. It is the right and duty of every adult citizen to vote. Democracy allows us to choose our leaders. Voting is a big responsibility. Just voting for the sake of it is not right. The future of the country is dependent on each vote. The agenda should be taken in account. In the agenda, it should be noted whether the party aims to follow the ideals given in the constitution or not. The Party should be secular. It should work for the development of all. Voting is not the end of the issue. Public opinion is most valued in a democracy. The Citizens should keep a check on the Government. It is the responsibility of the citizens to make sure that the party is abiding by the constitution and by its party agenda. This is true patriotism.

The Economic aspect of Patriotism is to ensure that development reaches every corner of the country. Gandhi’s Talisman has to be revised. We are moving away from a mixed economy approach. The definition of ‘Development’ is being misunderstood. For a layman/woman, development is associated with tall buildings, latest technology and a high cost of living. Villages are termed ‘under-developed’. But in reality, it is the villages which provide the base to development. Technology has to be used in rural areas to develop them and not to convert them into urban areas. Development should be for all. Dams are considered ‘temples of development’. But they have always proved to be an ecological disaster. More than that, they displace the poor and the helpless. Dams displace thousands of people at one go. The people are promised to be given employment but this can never happen. Industries and Dams required skilled labour. And there is no such thing as rehabilitation and compensation. Development, in these cases is for the rich and to some extent the middle class. Globalisation has also made the rich richer and the poor poorer. People are proud to say that India is the fastest growing economy…But in what sense? Capitalism leads to more poverty. The slogan of Capitalism is ‘those who can survive …let them survive. Those who can’t, Let them perish!” Globalisation has also meant a struggle for our domestic industries. The right to consume the best is not a bad tendency. But the blind faith on international companies and being dependent on them for things which can be produced efficiently by domestic industries is problematic. Consuming cosmetics meant for foreign skin and hair type is also harmful.

The Indian Society also poses several challenges. There is increasing religious intolerance in the society. Some oppressed groups have seen some hope. The status of women has increased to a significant extent but the struggle for an identity, equal opportunities and combating the stereotypes still has miles to go. It is also quite limited to the urban areas. But on one hand, we have ‘progressive’, feminist values in urban India but on the other, we also find increasing objectification of female body. Equal rights and a life of dignity is still a distant dream for alternate sexualities which is definitely not a “western” concept! With Globalisation and Capitalism, we also have “classism” to deal with. We are definitely facing social alienation wherein our family relations are changing. We are also adopting some western evils like obscenity, neglect of parents in old age and we must check this. Casteism is still widespread. If one believes in altering this social order to create a just society where the only religion is of humanity, one is a Patriot.

Thus, Patriotism is not love for a narrowly-defined culture but a service to the country to alter the existing socio-economic differences. Patriotism is love and respect for every Indian.

[box bg=”#fdf78c” color=”#000″]About the author:  Devika Mittal is pursuing her Masters from South Asian University, New Delhi. She is also at the forefront of Save Sharmila Campaign.[/box]


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