The word has often given me a lot of trouble.
But before I go on to dissect it, I would like to clarify a few points so that we are on the same page (I love that phrase – Hey, are we on the same page? Yes, but it’s a different book. Oh, shit!)
What does the term ‘Nationalist’ really mean?
The dictionary defines it as an unwavering, unfaltering devotion to the nation’s cause, a firm belief in the fortunes of the nation. But here, I’d like to raise a question. Does believing that ‘India is the best country’ constitute nationalism?
Also, how does one go about this loyalty? Are we all by default expected to believe that the nation we were born in is the best nation in the world? By that logic, people in Syria must also believe that theirs is the best nation in the world. As must people in Burundi, Niger, and Malawi.
My second question is this – how is a nationalist supposed to view the nation’s faults? In the event of a nationalist being displeased with an aspect of the nation, how does he/she express it? Is a nationalist allowed to criticise the nation? Or does one’s nationalism blind one to the faults of the nation?
Is a Nationalist expected to only speak of the nation’s positives? If at all a negative aspect was mentioned, does one cease to be a Nationalist? For eg, two people who have lived all their lives in Dubai, are asked about their opinion on the place.
The first person, a man, says that he loves Dubai as it has the best hotels, swanky cars, and the glitziest malls in the entire world. The second person, a woman, says it’s all good, but she hates the fact that she isn’t allowed to drive a car or go for a walk by herself.
Is the man the Nationalist? Or the woman Anti-nationalist?
Why is it that when a doctor points out a problem with our bodies, we pay the person respect and money. But if someone points out a problem with the nation, he/she is automatically anti-national? Is the doctor considered anti-human??
If I ask myself the above questions in a completely objective manner, I don’t think I qualify as a Nationalist.
For one, it was a matter of chance that I was born in India.
I mean, I didn’t choose to be born here. It wasn’t destiny or any of the bullshit that films and songs make us believe. The fact is, I was born in India without my choice. Does that mean I am forced to believe that my nation is the greatest? So people in Bangladesh must believe that there’s is the greatest nation in the world as well, right?
So is this Nationalism a ritualistic phenomenon? Is it religious in nature?
Do I feel proud of being born in India? I am not very sure.
I am proud of things I did, I achieved, I created. How can I be proud of something I had NO role to play in? I was born on a Friday, and I’m not really proud of it; it just happened.
I feel a sense of silent pride that we as a nation haven’t descended into chaos. Look at all our neighbours, and you get the sense of chaos that we could have descended into. I am proud of the fact that India managed to uphold its basic constitutional principles for so long. It gives me great satisfaction that we have (in most ways) managed to live with each other in spite of our differences and diversity, that we have kept refueling the engine of democracy that keeps our nation chugging along.
But I’m not proud of EVERYTHING about our nation – that would be lying. I hate the fact that we as a nation still believe in the caste system. In spite of all our Ekta and Shobha, behind the curt smiles and folded hands, our parents still shamelessly subscribe to the system.
I hate the fact that in most parts of the nation, women can’t walk around freely. That as an average citizen of India, you’re given shitty government amenities, and your entire life is a race to earn enough to bypass the need for government services like education, food, water, housing, and healthcare.
I like a few things about my country, and a few things make my blood boil. So where does that place me?
Am I a nationalist? Am I an anti-national? Or semi-national?
Which brings me to the issue of Kanhaiya Kumar in recent times. When he was branded an anti-national and asked to leave the nation. It’s been a trend of sorts. Chipmunks with access to internet and a keyboard, asking people to leave the nation – whether it is Kanhaiya Kumar, or Aamir Khan, or Javed Akhtar.
Firstly, WHO THE FUCK are you to ask someone to leave the nation?
Did you do a tapasya for a thousand years to gain the rare privilege of being in India? Nope!
Your parents had sex, some random sperms traveled from Point A to Point B, and you were born here. So shut the fuck up! You can’t ask everybody with a different opinion to leave!
This is a nation we are talking about, not fucking Bansal’s Chemistry Coaching Classes!!
I don’t believe India is the greatest nation in the world. If you believe it is, you’re either supremely dumb, or you blindly consume the stuff that fat politicians and psychotic journalists peddle on television everyday. A few things about our nation are awesome, and a few things suck donkey balls. That’s just the way it is, and my loyalty to my nation doesn’t change those basic facts.
If I look at where I stand in terms of the above questions, I realise I am certainly no nationalist.
And neither are you, dear orangutan with a keyboard and an internet connection. You have absolutely no right to ask someone else to leave the nation, because you’ve done ZILCH to earn the right in the first place. A few thousand kilometres this way or that, and you could’ve been born in Pakistan or Bangladesh. So shut the fuck up about your patriotism already!
You didn’t choose to be born in India. Neither did Mahatma Gandhi, or Narendra Damodardas Modi. It just happened that they were born here, that’s all.
I’m sorry, but blindly believing that your country is the greatest in the world doesn’t amount to nationalism.
There’s a term for it – Jingoism.
North Korea tells its citizens that they live in the greatest nation in the world, and they all firmly believe it. At one point, a certain someone worked on the same principle – that Germany is the greatest country in the entire world.
The fact is, every great movement in the world was at some point anti-nationalist. The fight for civil liberties in the USA, the fight to end slavery, the fight for equal rights, they were all concepts seen as being ‘against the nation’s interest’ at some point.
Every single political hero in the world – be it Gandhi, or Mandela, or Che, or Malcolm X, or Ambedkar – they were all hawking ideas that were seen as ‘dangerous’ to the nation’s ‘fabric’ at some point of time. But shutting them off because they dared to question the status quo would have been foolish, wouldn’t it?
Should we follow Nationalism as a religion, then? Should it be sacrosanct, unquestionable, unshakable, like
Isl the world’s favourite religion?
I have mixed feelings about being an Indian.
I have some hope, and some despair. And frankly, active citizenry is not about chest-thumping and sharing shady links on Facebook. It is about raising uncomfortable questions, and trying to find solutions for them. To blindly believe ki hum best hai, no matter what – is not nationalism. It is a flavour of religious fanaticism.
If you ask me to shut up and leave the country for criticizing India, you need to go enroll yourself in Bansal’s Chemistry Coaching classes.
They need people like you there!