Should Nationalism Be About Forcing People To Sing The National Anthem?

Posted by Mansi Jaswal in Politics
February 20, 2017

This morning gripped my mind and took me to my school days when all students in a blue uniform in a large assembly ground used to sing the National Anthem like a morning ritual. Standing up and singing the National Anthem was one of the criteria for making us righteous countrymen. To shape any discipline into a mind, it becomes necessary to introduce the mind with an objective, or else things become futile. The importance of the National Anthem and its meaning remained obscure in my mind until out of curiosity I found answers to my questions.

Our National Anthem was created by one of the greatest writers and poet, Rabindranath Tagore, who was also the biggest critic of nationalism. The significance of the anthem “Jana Gana Mana”, is undoubtedly accepted and respected by the Indian citizens. It makes us believe in the concept of unity in diversity. We know, how, after independence, all the princely states of India were united into one and to keep ourselves together and forever, nationalism and its byproducts like the National Anthem became the tool to fulfil this dream.

Such great intentions! So, where’s the problem? Nationalism also has fatal features. It does not allow the inadequacy of a nation to change. It gives a superficial reason to adhere to primitive and orthodox culture. It resists criticism as well. The practice and imposition of the National Anthem in schools develop banal nationalism. It diminishes the objective of nationalism. If nationalism remains untouched from coercive means, only then can it fortify the ethics of fraternity and equality.

It is true that Article 51 (a) of the Constitution makes it imperative for the citizen of India to abide by the Constitution and respect the National Flag and National Anthem. Also, Prevention of Insults to National Honor Act, 1971, prohibits insult to the country’s national symbols, Constitution and the National Anthem. Yet, what is infuriating is when the law tries to instil nationalistic feelings and monitor them vigilantly.

Constant measures by the authority to evoke the feeling of nationalism have blotted the credibility of its citizens. This time the lawmakers have planned to infuse nationalistic feelings in young kids. The government is planning to make singing the National Anthem compulsory in all schools. This raises scepticism about the psyche of the lawmakers. Do they believe that the citizens aren’t nationalists anymore? Do they think nationalism is the universal solution to rule authoritatively? Should nationalism only remains as a tool to wipe out dissenters? Shouldn’t school students be taught on nationalism and patriotism, apart from memorising the National Anthem and other national symbols?

The irrelevance of nationalistic products is omnipresent in our society. It’s the patriotic ideals that have sustained the sovereignty and behaviour of the country. They have also protected nationalism from a rational cover, figuratively. In a diverse India, different historical, cultural and sociological backgrounds have planted different sets of minds in regard to paying reverence to the country. Yet, what is common to us is our constitutional law, which is the fundamental duty of every citizen to follow. Hence, our duty to pay homage, to question when injustice happens, to protest democratically for rights, to question the legitimacy of any judgment, and to question authority are all the byproducts of being patriotic.

These days it’s appalling to see how the voices of defiance have swivelled into anti-nationalism. Thus, paving the way for the lawmakers to promulgate irrational laws and criminalise dissenting voices. It was evident in the recent order by the Supreme Court of India on compulsive national anthem in the theatres. It gave impunity to many hooligans who assaulted innocent ‘anti-nationalists’, for not abiding by the court’s order. It is unfortunate that nationalism is being forced in schools as well. How ‘nationalistic’ are these lawmakers? Instead of overhauling the education system, they focus on erecting a wall of nationalism through trivial measures.

Image source: Ajay Aggarwal/ Hindustan Times Via Getty Images