Vocalizing nationalism is in vogue these days; spelling out dos’ and don’ts for being a good Indian being the new normal. Going by the belief that way of living should resonate with one’s culture and heritage, some self proclaimed patriots have gone to the extent of deciding what their countrymen should or should not eat, wear, celebrate, etc. The problem starts when one is castigated as anti-national on refusing to subscribe to an ideology.
My love for Urdu shayeri surpasses literature of all other Indian languages as my wife prefers Western dresses over any other attire. My children wait for Diwali and Valentine’s Day with same enthusiasm as they have celebrated Holi or Halloween. Given these ‘sacrilegious activities’ which could well be construed as seditious, I feel I have failed to demonstrate my patriotism in this era of ‘Hyper Nationalism’. Spending three decades in Army defending the nation against fanatic enemies in world’s most inhospitable terrains is perhaps little consolation.
As per dictionary, People united by common descent, history, culture or language inhabiting a particular territory constitutes a Nation. Given its diversity I wonder where does a country as assorted as India fit into this definition? Home to major religions of world, this is a land where people differ in language, dialect, habits, customs and traditions every hundred miles.
Does religion define a nation? If that was so, Bangladesh would not have separated from Pakistan in less than 25 years of validation of ‘Two Nation Theory’. If language and history decided your nationality, then Punjab and Bengal would have resisted its partition. Inspite of a common descent and culture we still have numerous regional entities and nations in the sub-continent. So does a nation go by ‘majority is authority’ concept relegating minorities to a corner? But then in India everybody is a minority in some sense or the other.
Or are we confusing nationalism for patriotism? Nationalism is linked to an identity emphasizing allegiance to a state anchored in loud symbolism. Patriotism on the other hand is unconditional love for the country just like a mother. A patriot is prepared to die for his country whereas a nationalist is ready to kill for his country. It won’t be wrong to say that nationalism is patriotism gone wrong.
My profession has taught me to place my country above everything else disregarding heterogeneity of religion, language, caste or region. It won’t be easy to allow ‘Talbanisation’ of my consciousness by debunking something learnt over a lifetime. If Nationalism is devoid of inclusiveness, pluralism and tolerance, then quoting Tagore – “It is a very poor substitute for Humanity”.
The Bharat I was born in has been a happy home to populace of all hues for centuries, not necessarily in majority or in sync with any particular ideology. I reproach the silence of the rational but irresponsible majority for alloying this cultural degeneration by a toxic troll army that views everything through a prism of militant nationalism. I dread another Radcliffe scissoring the map of India once again, thereby depriving more Waris Shahs and Frontier Gandhis’ from tasting the holy waters of Ganga.
Col HP Singh