“A true patriot is someone who feels shame at the failure of his or her country. A true patriot feels depressed when his religion practices discrimination. As an upper caste Hindu, I must be ashamed as how some upper caste Hindus ill-treats Dalits. As a Muslim man must feel ashamed at how some Muslim clerics still treat their women. The ability to feel or say that my religion, my nation is not perfect and the desire to correct the failures and faultlines of your religion, nation is vital to patriotism,” said historian and author Ramachandra Guha.
Guha was speaking at a discussion titled 'Indian Pluralism: Past, Present and Future' in Bengaluru on Wednesday evening, in the wake of the nationwide protests against the recently passed Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) and the proposed National Register of Citizens (NRC). The event was organised by Civil Liberties Collective, a forum of progressive organisations including Darsana, Bengaluru Collective, Secular Forum, KMCC, MMA, Karnataka Pravasi Congress and Karnataka Malayali Congress. All these groups have been protesting against CAA and NRC as representing exclusive nationalism and curbing of basic Constitutional values and freedoms.
He continued, “A true patriot is someone who is ashamed of the crimes, his or her country commits. A true Hindu or a true Muslim or a true Christian is someone who feels aghast at the extraordinary discrimination and oppression practiced in the name of their faith. And the last aspect of patriotism as defined by Gandhi and Ambedkar was 'while you are rooted in your own culture, you must be willing to learn from other cultures and other countries’”
In his speech, which concentrated largely on the pluralist legacy of the country based on the ideals of the founding fathers of the nation, Guha also touched on the striking contrast of the present ruling dispensation with that.
Criticising the present discourse, Guha said, “The idea that a religion, a country or a leader is perfect, irrefutable and flawless is completely inconsistent to true patriotism,” adding the model of plural, outward looking, open-minded, enlightened, egalitarian patriotism is in tatters.
He said, “What we now have is a new model associated with Hindutva and Hindutva has three features — one, Hindus are superior as non-Hindus. Two, Hindi is superior to other Indian languages. Three, and if you are a true Indian you must hate Pakistan.”
Going back to history, Guha pointed out that present day India would seem like a 19th century European nation based on the idea of one language, one religion and a common enemy, while those European nations have now evolved with time. Incidentally he mentioned how Pakistan was formed on the same basis unlike India, which chose to be an inherently diverse.
“Hindutva's model of nationalism is narrow, impoverished and anti-plural. The other aspects of Hindutva are deeply anti-democratic. Crushing dissent, calling critics as anti-national or Urban Naxal or worse, murdering authors and intellectuals because they opposed Hindutva,” he said.
In an hour-long speech, Guha also said that he thought there was nothing Indian about Hindutva and its principles borrowed from 19th century Europe and medieval Islamic times.
Guha was also highly critical of the Left and the Congress, especially the Gandhi family whom he held responsible for the rise of the present-day BJP and its Hindutva stance.
“Modi would have not been not here where he is now if Rahul Gandhi was not here. Being a scholar on Nehru and a student of Indian political history, Nehru would have been appalled about how Rahul Gandhi is,” he said. He also slammed the Congress for their nepotism and corruption.
Taking about the Left in India, he said the “hypocritical” Left in India has always been anti-national, although it has always had great influence among artists, musicians and filmmakers despite being in power only in three states in the country. “The tragedy about the Indian communists have been they have always loved another country more than India,” Guha said.
While the protests in Jamia Milia Islamia and the Aligarh Muslim University have garnered attention of the nation and world due to alleged police excesses, there have been widescale protests in the north-eastern states as well. The governments has snapped internet services in some parts of the country.
In anticipation of wide-scale protests on Thursday in Bengaluru and other parts of Karnataka, the state government imposed Section 144 on the state for three days to prevent assembly of more than four persons. Similar steps have been taken in UP, parts of Tamil Nadu, including Chennai, and parts of the Delhi.
The critics and vocal opponents of both the NCR and the CAA say while the former is an exclusionary exercise for the poor, Dalits, Adivasis, landless labourers and other deprived sections of the society, the CAA makes it blatantly anti-Muslim.
The CAA seeks to simultaneously offer citizenship to illegal migrants -- Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, Jain, Parsi or Christian -- from the neighbouring three countries taking shelter in India on the presumed ground of persecution, while the NRC leaves Indian residents to prove their citizenship through legacy documents.