Nationalism has curiously been the staple of many or most political discussions during the past several years. While a healthy debate on the subject is always welcome, we invariably find such discussion spinning out of control and degenerate into a slanging match, abuses, rants and people who look like adults but behave like people suffering from arrested adolescence.
Many such discussions also end in a free-for-all blame game with the ‘nationalists’ accusing the critics of hyper-nationalism, Hindutva or the Modi Government of being ‘anti-nationals’, corrupt, weak-kneed and unpatriotic. Such hysterical discussions certainly do not bode well for the nation or society.
Nationalism ought to bind and unite the nation, not divide it. It should promote fellow feeling and strong bonds among citizens. It is strange, therefore, to find nationalism creating violent rifts in society. The nation has helplessly witnessed nationalism creating social, cultural, religious and even economic divisions affecting communities.
Chanakya held that “the key to happiness is prosperity”. He maintained that it’s the duty of the ruler to ensure prosperity of citizens. But can prosperity be ensured by rulers demeaning a large section of the people and demonising each other?
In fact, Chanakya laid down four duties of the state. The foremost was to expand facilities, wealth and resources. The state, he said, should guard the gains obtained, to increase/expand what has been obtained/achieved and to equally distribute the resources and wealth among the citizens.
It’s incumbent therefore upon the country’s leaders to provide better services and infrastructure to the citizens. The leaders must work for more equitable distribution of resources.
The citizen should be left free to follow traditions, custom, lifestyle, language, religion etc. This freedom to choose is the fundamental cornerstone of a conflict free society.
The current profusion of aggressive slogans and the naked display of might to enforce uniformity are damaging the nation. The idea of one special and superior race or religion dominating everyone else has brought nothing but disaster to societies unfortunate enough to follow such belief for howsoever short a time.
It is therefore imperative that citizens be left free to decide the slogan of their choice, i.e. whether it should be Bharat Mata ki Jai, Vande Mataram, Jai Hind, Jai Bharat or Hindustan Zindabad. Eventually they all convey the same sentiment. A citizen serving the nation by adhering to the principles of the Constitution deserves the freedom to decide how to express love and respect for the nation.
If a citizen has been responsibly fulfilling his duties towards the nation, then he has the right to expect that political parties and their leaders shall fulfil their obligations towards the citizens and the nation to the best of their abilities. Good governance means welfare of the citizens. Good governance certainly does not mean misleading the citizens and complicating core issues and deficiencies with aggressive slogans.
The test of true nationalism for leaders, one might argue, lies in providing employment to the youth, ensuring a better MSP to the farmers, creating a simplified tax regime for the traders, ensuring safety to women, promoting communal harmony, ensuring freedom of press, securing and safeguarding the borders of the nation and most importantly, respecting the tenets of the Constitution. Political parties and leaders should be judged and evaluated by these guiding principles of nationalism.
During the freedom struggle different people and parties took different paths but no one branded the other anti-national. Even those who did not participate in this noble cause were not criticised. Sadly, in today’s India there is a mad rush to certify nationalists and nationalism. It is not enough to be a nationalist, one has to be a certified nationalist.
Freedom fighters never wore their nationalism on their sleeves. They were men and women of character and never marketed their nationalism. For them serving the nation was a privilege and not a tool to grab power.
P.S.: Those who agree with my thoughts are as nationalist as those who disagree!