We live in troubled and troubling times. Not a day passes without some fresh outrage being reported in the media or being talked about in our neighbourhoods. We live, as we have for the last couple of centuries now, in a country that is poor, violent, corrupt, over populated, misogynistic, unequal, prone to sectarian violence, just to name a few to cope up with. What we do have, imperfect though people who have the freedom to express, liberalism in some pockets, inclusiveness, cultural vibrancy, the right to practice faith without hindrance and so on – the fundamental rights bequeathed to us by our founding fathers.
It could be said that Nationalism is subtly threaded into our DNA; it doesn’t intrude upon our daily lives but makes itself manifest on demand, often when it is under threat in some way. Some people confuse ”Nationalism“ with “Patriotism”, both the words are so vaguely used normally that any of its definitions is liable to be challenged, but one must draw a distinction between them since two different and every opposing idea are involved in this. By “Patriotism” it usually means devotion to a particular way of life, which one believes to be the best in the world but has no wish to enforce it on other people while on the other counterpart “Nationalism” can’t be separable from the desire for power. The abiding purpose of every nationalist is to secure more power and prestige, not for himself but for the nation or another unit in which he thinks has chosen to sink his individuality. Others have defined nationalism a little differently but basically, it was why I decided to stick with the passport with the glit-embossed Ashoka Chakra.
Well, this country has lived through the defeat of Indira Gandhi’s death after the dark days of the Emergency; the sadness that enveloped us when we heard of the demolition of Babri Masjid; the exhilaration we felt when M.S.Dhoni hit the winning Six to seal India’s victory in the World Cup; the sense of satisfaction when I read Vikram Seth’s A Suitable Boy; the awe I felt when I returned back to my Home city after living in other cities; the sweet smile of your beloved ones. No other country could provide that sense of belonging. This is my Nationalism; it was the sense of belonging which no other country could provide. It was a concept which one gets attached which no one could take away from us, which is a tangible reality which includes every Indian who wants to go abroad knows it knowingly or unknowingly, in the best possible way.
It is the Nationalism that certain extremely motivated people are seeking to make exclusionary and cast in the mould of their own discriminatory making that will segregate is all to different classes. As Nationalism goes deep into the concept of historical, legal, or cultural. Dr Ambedkar made a statement that answers these questions. He said ‘… I do not believe there is any place in this country for any particular culture, whether it is a Hindu culture or Muslim culture or Kanarese culture or Gujarati culture. Nationalism has, had, much to do with the understanding one’s society and finding one’s identity as a member of the society. It cannot be merely reduced to waving flags and shouting slogans and penalising people who do not shout slogans like ‘Bharat Mata Ki Jai ’. This smacks lack of confidence among those making for slogans. Nationalism requires a far greater commitment to attending the needs of the society rather than sloganeering, and that too with slogans focusing on territory or ones that have a limited acceptability. As recently said, it is indeed ironic that an Indian refuses to shout this slogan is immediately declared as Anti National but an Indian who has deliberately not paid his taxes or stashed away black money is not declared as such. The question of what is national and what is anti-national does depend on what is understood by nationalism. Certain questions were even raised that why not ‘Why not Bharat Ami Ki Jai ’, a mother is mother whether its ‘maa’ or ‘ami’.
We have to decide today whether as citizens our commitment to the nations is to shout trite slogans required of us by people whose concern is largely that of acquiring power through current politics, and to dismiss as anti-national those current politics and to dismiss an anti-national those that do not shout these slogans? Or whether we should reaffirm our faith in the nation by looking at how we can make it a society that is viable for every citizen, a society that stands by secular democratic values, that ensures a livelihood for everyone, and that defends and protects the rights of every citizen to social justice. Pray that We choose the Latter!
The choice is Ours.
‘Budding Lawyer who takes on the world with a Pen and Smile’
Christ University, Bangalore