I am a patriot, I love my country and I believe in “Bharat Mata ki Jai”. However, if I am forced to chant those words, I will defend, with my life, my Liberty not to succumb to such force. The cold-blooded murder of Gauri Lankesh raises the question, that are the basic tenets of Democracy alive and well in our country?
The constitution guarantees certain basic rights to Indian citizens which includes right to equality, justice and liberty. Nationalism is not defined by how high the flag is at the border. It’s defined by how strong the society is within those borders. And that strength can only be ensured through each and every citizen having basic rights and liberties.
Free expression of thought, and the intellectual culture of critical dissent, helps a nation evolve. Diversity of ideas are as critical to human progress as diversity of species are to biological evolution. Like a biological ecosystem withers in the absence of diversity, so does a nation when civil liberties are strangulated.
Had Ishwarchandra Vidyasagar or Raja Ram Mohan Roy not expressed their revolutionary views on Sati, or women’s education, against huge social resistance, half the people of today’s India would have been confined to their homes. Thoughts that grow on the soil of liberty bring progress to civilization.
During the freedom struggle ideologies of leaders and social groups were fiercely debated in public life. However, patriotism of any of these leaders- despite their massive differences- was never questioned.
Nationalism is like the thread of commonality which binds the beads of the diversity of the nation without destroying their colour, or individuality, however the form of nationalism prevalent today is hyper nationalism. Just like the thread is of no use without the beads, Nationalism can never flourish without the flourishing beads of individuality which only civil liberties protect.
It takes all seven colours to make a rainbow. Nationalism can never be, the monopoly of any one class, community, religion or ideology.
The form of love being practiced these days is not nationalism. It is extremism which promotes intolerance. This was not the ‘tryst with destiny’ that Nehru envisioned for India. Patriotism is loving your country for what it is. The Hyper-Nationalism in practice today, on the other hand, is loving your country blindly, regardless of what it is.
70 long years after independence, if dissent is to be stifled in a manner similar to the colonial rule, or if the poor and marginalized members of the country are to be ignored, the ideals of freedom and the idea of India will be endangered. Tagore had said, “Where the mind is without fear and the head is held high, into that heaven of freedom, my father, let my country awake.”
Ultimately, everything comes down to this, a caged India is not India. The State or Government is not the nation, WE THE PEOPLE are.
- The Exhibition of Patriotism and the Indian Anthem - November 5, 2017
- The Assassination of Critical Dissent: Long Live, Gauri Lankesh - September 6, 2017