Can patriotism be stuffed down people's throats through prime-time news debates?

Patriotisms soft targets what it really demands
Voices #JingoSpeak Thursday, October 20, 2016 - 15:36

Patriotism – the word immediately evokes the image of the Armed Forces in me. This may have more to do with my stint as a short-service commissioned officer in the Indian Army, more than anything else.

But I cannot but help notice that these days, the word seems to be bandied about in just about every context of our lives – from how we eat (or, should I say, what we eat!) to how we talk, sit, stand, dress, dance, mingle, and make movies.

The last one seems to occupy much news-space these days, thanks to Karan Johar’s impending Diwali release “Ae Dil Hai Mushkil” being targeted for the ‘unpardonable’ crime of featuring a Pakistani actor -Fawad Khan.

Till just the other day, everyone was swooning over Fawad’s drop-dead good looks and his acting chops (though I am yet to become a fan of that part of him). And overnight, the chap seems to have transformed into Osama Bin Laden and Burhan Wani rolled into one!

We now have the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) baying for Karan’s blood, as well as that of Anurag Kashyap who committed the faux pas of coming out in his defence on social media.

Even Karan’s video statement on how he would not engage with talent from the neighbouring country has been rejected outright by the MNS, which is determined to stall the release of his movie at any cost.

All this in the name of patriotism! Just when did indulging in Arnabesque -I mean- jingoistic talk, or not letting a single note of dissent be heard in public become synonymous with nationalistic fervour, I wonder.

I thought being part of a democratic set-up gave me the freedom to begin where the other man’s nose ends, and not bash it in, only because I can’t stand its crookedness.

As someone who has done a stint in the Armed Forces, I can tell you that in an era of rising unemployment, many youngsters queue up for recruitment rallies only because they are in dire need of a job, and not due to any patriotic surge in them to serve the nation.

But once they become part of the Indian Armed Forces, and get the chance to work shoulder-to-shoulder with fellow-soldiers of all castes and creeds from all over the country, only then do they actually understand what 'Being Indian' is all about.

What the nation needs to understand is that patriotism cannot be stuffed down people’s throats through prime-time news debates everyday. 

Our ‘Indian’ or ‘Bharatiya’ tag should be something we wear proudly on our sleeves, but not at the cost of mowing down individual liberty. It comes from understanding the religious and cultural diversity of the nation, and being proud of the same.

Our forefathers chose to constitute India into a Sovereign, Socialist, Secular, Democratic Republic to ensure that the fundamental rights of every citizen are secured.

Karan Johar has every right to make the movie of his choice with the actors he wishes to work with. The audience also reserves the right to accept or reject his movie at the box-office. But to have that choice pre-decided for the public, by a handful of political thugs in the name of nationalism, is nothing but mobocracy.

Terrorism cannot be identified with any particular nationality. Anyone who spreads terror in the name of religion, caste, creed, sex, gender and nation is a terrorist. 

What could possibly be the cure for such a surfeit of ‘patriotism’? Make conscription mandatory for all able-bodied young adults in the country, the moment they turn 21. Let them serve the nation at its border outposts for a mandatory period of two years. 

This will ensure they get an actual taste of what patriotism is all about, which presently seems all about tearing apart the country’s secular fabric, in the name of pseudo-nationalism.

It should also help the ‘patriotic’ news anchors tone down their undiluted cheering for war. After all, just how many of the current generation of talking heads have lived through a war? No one who has survived a war, will easily wish for another. 

The Indian Armed Forces will do what it has to do for the country’s defence, and the entire nation will stand by them, when the occasion arises. But to go about creating an almost psychotic national hysteria over what exactly constitutes patriotism is unwise, to say the least.

Become a TNM Member for just Rs 999!

You can also support us with a one-time payment.

Rs 200Rs 500Rs 1500Custom