By Vijay Darda | 11-04-2016
It is a given that every Indian is a patriotic citizen. No one has to pass any test of patriotism. That is simply an anathema. It is like being asked to prove your loyalty to your parents. Of course, there are ways and means prescribed in the law and also by the unwritten rules of the society for the delinquents. But the delinquents are not our concern. We are worried that we are getting increasingly bogged down by sterile debates that do not take us anywhere in the cause of development or national advancement, and rupture the harmonious construct of our unity in diversity.
We must realise that any nation that puts its own citizens through a test of patriotism is unsure of its core asset-its people. When someone is asked to prove his/her patriotism it is implicit that the person who is asking this question has doubts about it. The question which the ideological mentors of this government must ask themselves is whether they can build a stronger nation/state/ country by doubting everyone’s patriotism. Doesn’t this very act create deep divisions? Withina few days of this controversy erupting, we have seen the negative consequences in a very disturbing manner.
The angst over this morass has been poignantly expressed by president Pranab Mukherjee, vice-president Hamid Ansari, senior jurist Fali Nariman, and now more recently by the historian Sunil Khilnani who has rightly observed that this is not the India that has been promised to investors. These are not partisan voices that stand to gain politically or otherwise by raising such concerns. Their pain at the situation Is real, and shared by a vast silent majority. Moreover, the urgent serious question to be asked is whether this debate really serves the prime minister Narendra Modi’s development agenda? Do foreign investors want to come to a land where the mere rumour of ‘beef eating’ is enough to trigger lynching by a mob? Is this what 21st century India all about? Can such an India really compete with China in a tough global environment?
When it comes to the sensitive issue of beef, it is a mistaken notion that the Muslims-the minority community prefers it. As demonstrated by Razzaq Jabbar Khan Pathan of Loni, Pune who was honoured with the Maharashtrian of the Year Award by Lokmat in the public and social service category they are significant ‘cow protectors,” as well. Even in Kashmir, beef eating is not the usual practice, but the MLA Engineer Rashid had taken it up as an ‘act of defiance’ to assert his individual freedom.
Come to think of it what is the big crime committed by students from the FTII in Pune, the Hyderabad Central University or the Jawaharlal Nehru University in Delhi or for that matter at the National Institute of technology in Srinagar or the Allahabad University that these have to be transformed in police cantonments and the students treated like criminals? Why is the police being called in to manage situations that should be dealt by local administrators with tact, patience and sensitivity? Why are young minds being treated as traitors? Moreover, through generations it has been proven that you do not win against your children. Even the legendary all conquering Lord Rama lost to his sons Luv and Kush. In the ultimate analysis, the students are the children of this nation, and no government can win against them with a heavy hand. They have to be persuaded with love, care and affection. It is time for the union HRD minister Smriti Irani to imbibe this lesson and direct that the student unrest across campuses is defused without delay, and more importantly normalcy is restored.
It is also time to ask as to why are we being carried away by mere slogans? Then whether it is Bharat Mata Ki Jai (reduced to an acronym BMKJ like the one used for a movie like DDLJ on the social media websites) or Azaadi or something else? What sort of logic is this that those who do not say BMKJ are not citizens of India, as if the refugees from Syria desperately trying to seek asylum in Europe can become Indian citizens by shouting BMKJ? Will Sushma Swaraj open registration counters for such refuges? If this sounds ridiculous, then the point is proven. We need not argue further on BMKJ. All of us remain very much Indians, whether we say Bharat Mata Ki Jai or Jai Hind or Saare Jahan se Accha Hindustan Hamara or any other variant of the same sentiment. Anyone who reduces this issue to a binary between either this or you are not an Indian citizen is cutting at the root of India’s multi-cultural, multi-religious and multi-lingual heritage.
The core of the issue is individual freedom under the rule of democracy. That the individual freedoms are well defined, and their restrictions are deeply enshrined in the laws need not be overstated, but the question of anyone putting restrictive limitations on these freedoms simply does not arise. The unease of the conscience keepers of the nation-the president, the vice-president or the senior jurists and other commentators is growing simply because in the guise of these debates there is a concerted attack on individual freedoms. There is a not so subtle attempt to define nationalism through some crude simplifications without going into the wider ramifications of these attempts.
These attempts overlook that the Indian civilisation has withstood such onslaughts in the past as the poet Iqbal rightly put it “kuch baat hai ki hasti mit ti nahin hamari, sadiyon raha hai dushman daure zaman hamara (there is something in us that our entity cannot be erased, even as the rest of the world has been our enemy for centuries). The lines did come from a poet who ultimately sided with the idea of Pakistan but this does not mean that we can gloss over the ‘essence” of the ‘kuch baat’ that he rightly emphasised when India was a united country. The diversity of seven religions, 122 languages and 1600 dialects is that ‘kuch baat’ that has also been referred to by president Pranab Mukherjee recently. How can such rich diversity be reduced to be binary overtones that make you eat, dress and talk in a singular defined way? Or brought into the domain of complicity by shouting a few ordained slogans?
Before I conclude…
I would urge the finance minister Arun Jaitley to spare a thought for the agitating jewellers. This is one community that has been supported by both the Gandhis-Rahul and Varun and this should be enough of a reason for the finance minister to accept the jewellers demand. After all when was the last time when the two branches of the Gandhi family agreed on an issue? Besides, the excise duty on gold is not the only way in which the finance minister can raise revenues. Why let the purity of gold be disturbed by a levy? At another level, these traders have always provided the backbone of support to be JS/BJP why let them down?