With each passing year, as I grew up into a concerned citizen, on many occasions, I find myself introspecting to co-relate the various real facets of my great nation India with that of the nationalistic ideals that I had the privilege to learn in school and further down the years.
On many such occasions, I have felt fortunate enough in having my heart filled with pride and honor while expressing that I belong to a land that has shown the world an ideal way of living life, united as one family, embracing the moral principles of tolerance and universal acceptance.
Students expressing dissent are labelled anti-nationals and arrested under draconian laws.
However, at the same time, in many instances, my nationalistic beliefs struggle to coincide with the ongoing Indian realities. And this is when my introspection turns into contemplation. This is when I am compelled to ask questions like; Will India, as a nation as well as a civilization, be able to hold onto its identity and values in the long run?
Does every common Indian, like me, feel a transitional shift undergoing in India within its democratic processes and discourses as far as India’s politics is concerned? Is there any threat, real and worrisome, challenging India’s constitutional credentials and the very idea behind the formation of the Indian republic? Where would the emergence of the cultural nationalists in India’s mainstream politics lead the nation in the years to come?
As, in today’s India, I often get to witness a section of Indians, who believe themselves to be the ‘true’ nationalists, commemorate and popularize the assassinator of Mahatma Gandhi, while at the same time, Indians expressing their dissent against a government bill or policy are labelled as ‘anti-nationals’, I am, hence, compelled to introspect my nationalism.
I find my nationalistic beliefs failing to substantiate the present Indian realities when genuine students, who march in protests demanding their deprived rights, are being beaten and put behind the bars charged with numerous laws, whereas, the ones who take part in violent activities roam freely with impunity because they hold subscriptions to the ruling dispensation.
These apart, I am more concerned now more than ever about myself on what I eat, how I dress, which faith I follow, which language I speak, and even whom I love, when I hear cases like mob-lynching and day-light murders upsurging in today’s India.
Born in the Northeastern region of India, Assam, I grew up here in such an environment that contrasts present India. When I recall the past, I feel fortunate enough to have grown up in a place that catered to a distinct one-ness that the people of Assam have continued to cherish. You would see people over here celebrating brotherhood irrespective of one’s faith, culture, and belief. One can witness people of both Hindu and Islam faiths as well as others, offering prayers under the same roof in many sacred destinations.
Even though I am a Buddhist by birth, I feel blessed every time while I take part in these distinct cultural syncretisms which the composite Assamese society has upheld for centuries. Gradually, I learned that such a harmonious co-existence is not confined only to this region. This, in fact, prevails in other parts of India as well.
We were taught, in school, about the diversity that Indians enjoy throughout the country. As children, we were given to realize how Indians live unitedly despite the vast differences in culture, tradition, language, ethnicity, faiths, and so on. I can never feel less proud to recall that Indian-ness but soon, seeing the growing intolerance in the country, I am compelled to introspect if those Indian features are still relevant in today’s India.
Today, I see my country going through severe challenges both on the political front and against its civilizational values. I never fail to concede with the view that India’s civilization encompasses further from being a mere political or a geographical entity. That along, ‘Hinduism’ stands high above the concept of religion. As I mentioned earlier, India has indeed imparted the world indefinite invaluable ideals through its great literature, culture, and practices. It wouldn’t be remiss to say that India, by its civilizational values, has made a huge contribution to the progress of humanity.
However, today, I see these values being diluted and misinterpreted. I fail to see this part of the world, which holds the belief of ‘One World, One Family’, and who imparted the world the principles of tolerance and universal acceptance is suffering its own death in today’s India.
The condition of the protesting farmers makes me introspect and contemplate my nationalism.
Furthermore, as a nation or a geopolitical entity, modern India is facing a tough time today. One can observe a transitional shift undergoing within its democratic procedures and institutions. The clash of ideologies in the political landscape of India has overshadowed the concerns of today’s democracy. The rise of cultural nationalism in India’s political governance has led to constant attempts in homogenising the diversity that the country upholds.
One can observe them being reflected in many actions of the present ruling dispensation. India’s constitutional credentials can be seen coming under threat from India’s own lawmakers of the present time. We can even see some self-proclaimed ‘true’ nationalists attempting to erase the ‘secular’, ‘socialist’ fabric of this constitutional republic. Such divisive attempts run by the ruling ideology are well-perceivable which, in a way, also goes against India’s civilizational values.
Today as my countrymen gear up to celebrate the 72nd Republic Day ahead, I join them in recalling and cherishing the Indianness we share among each other as Indians. However, seeing the distressed farmers on the streets and the borders of the national capital for over months now, I am, yet again, compelled to raise my questions. And it is now, again, when my introspection turns into an inevitable contemplation!