This land is our land: Why ‘shame’ weighs me down

I am not proud of what Indian government is doing to a section of its own citizens. And I am not proud of people who condone it

 This land is our land: Why ‘shame’ weighs me down
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Sanjukta Basu

At the Indo-Pak border at Wagah, every evening Indian and Pakistani troops put up a ‘Beating the Retreat’ ceremony, which is attended by hundreds of spectators on both sides of the border. While they are at it, on both sides patriotic hy isslogans are raised. During my visit, I heard the Indian side shout “Pakistan Murdabad” and Pakistanis shouting “Hindustan or India Murdabad”.

Is this patriotism? Why should I wish death upon the other country and its people when I do not even know them? As American comedian Doug Stanhope once said, “Nationalism does nothing but teach you to hate people you never met, and to take pride in accomplishments you had no part in.” Rabindranath Tagore too had famously said, “I will never allow patriotism to triumph over humanity as long as I live.” But in BJP ruled India patriotism and nationalism seem to triumph over humanity most of the time. I see two major flaws in the nationalism preached by BJP-RSS combine.

First, just because some great things happened in the past in this land, I should believe that my country is better and superior than others. Every civilization, every culture, every country is unique and has a lot to be proud of and a lot to be ashamed of. I therefore see no reason why national ‘pride’ should be a default position. Secondly, there is no reason to feel any shame, guilt or anger about our past, especially when it goes back to several centuries. Revenge for historical wrongs like colonisation, slavery invasions and genocide is not just counter-productive but as Mahatma Gandhi had said, an eyefor-an eye will make the whole world blind. Standards of nation states in our times are democracy, human rights, liberty and fraternity, Constitutional values and rule of law. By these standards, demolition of Babri Masjid was a criminal, uncivilised act. Why should I feel proud about it?

Are Chinese citizens proud of the treatment meted out to Uighur Muslims and violation of their human rights? Are citizens of Myanmar expected to be proud of genocide of Rohingyas? Are Germans proud of the holocaust?

I am not proud of what Indian government is doing to a section of its own citizens. And I am not proud of people who condone it. Action, behaviour and achievements of its citizens are what make a nation great. When Indians win a Nobel prize or an Olympic Gold, they make us proud. But when mobs lynch fellow human beings, we hang our heads in shame.

I am ashamed of fellow Indians who condone deviations from our Constitutional vision. I am ashamed when I hear fellow citizens say ‘secularism’ is a bad word; I am ashamed when truth is turned into lies and lies into truth, when institutions are attacked and destroyed, when educational policies, history and even statistics are rewritten to serve solely the interests of those in power.

I love my nation and am committed to protect her. I am proud of the national flag. When the National Song is played, I stand up even when I am alone in a room. But the basis of my patriotism is not the land or the place I was born in, but the vision held out by our Constitution of equality and justice for all.

With that thought, happy Independence Day

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