An Open Letter To The Self-Professed Nationalists Of India

Parijata Bhardwaj

Dear self-professed nationalists,

Of late I seem to be bumping into several of you either during protest meets or on the social media or when a few of you, the chosen ones, decide to enter shouting matches under the impression that decibel levels determine intellect. On all these occasions you seem to take immense pleasure in teaching me the meaning of true ‘nationalism’ and when I question the truth of it, you resort to labeling me as an unfit citizen. Let me through this letter address the several weaknesses in your argument which you refuse to hear in person.

The most favoured argument on your part seems to go along the lines that I have been gifted this right to free speech by the government and thus, I cannot use it to criticize the government. Let me correct you at the very beginning, my right to express is inherent to me and not a concession given by the state. People have fought long and hard battles not for the state to confer these freedoms but for the state to ‘recognise’ these freedoms. It is this very right which I exercise when I question the government.

Yes that is my next point and I will try my best to explain this to you, so here goes, India, the country and the Government of India are two different entities. When I criticize the government’s policy on education, health or the manner in which it goes about its counter-insurgency /terrorism operations, I do not necessarily criticize the land I was born in. I criticize because I believe these policies to be detrimental to this very land and the people it inhabits. In any democracy a healthy critique of the government is essential to ensure that the government remains accountable to it’s people. The term nationalism is tricky in itself and eludes any straight jacket definition, but one thing is very clear that it does not imply blind subservience to the government. For if that be the case then how are we any different from an authoritarian regime which you shout hoarse to distinguish yourself from because as you vehemently tell me ‘We are the largest democracy’.

That is the next point I come to, in all my protests without me even verbalizing my political stance, I am either painted as a ‘leftist’ (the meaning of which I am still not clear) or a terrorist supporter. Now with this ascribed identity I am told, do you know if I do this i.e. voice my dissent in China (which apparently is a haven for leftists) or in any Arab country (which is a haven for terrorists it seems) I would either be jailed or physically assaulted or even killed and how lucky am I to be in India where I do not need to face these consequences. While your very understanding of China and the Arab world reeks of prejudice and a lack of basic information, I shall not go into that in this letter, perhaps I shall pen another letter for that later. But what this clearly implies that despite your loud claims of being tolerant and civilized, your views reflect something else. By following democratic principles enshrined in the constitution you are not doing any favours but actually working towards being a civilized nation and lets face it if in 2016 being a civilized nation becomes a mark of pride and not a given, we have far greater problems. By constantly providing barbaric alternatives and then saying look we are not indulging in it you do not prove yourself to be great but just show how much affinity you have to those barbaric views which are still what you think at some corner in your being to be the just reaction or what one deserves. And it is not as if you or your friends are not indulging into acts of violence to suppress contrary views.

Now if this is not clear, let me give you an example, as a human being you are expected to behave with a modicum of rationality and justice, does that mean you go around the town claiming, “Look at me I am so great I have not murdered/enslaved anyone.” No because by not murdering anyone you are just establishing that you are human and not a brute with no control over his/her impulses. The moment we enter this rabbit hole of adjudging goodness only on the criteria of absence of evil, we are demeaning ourselves as humans and vehemently affirming all that is inhuman and barbaric in us. And the same is the case with the nation. Further, implementing your views on the back-bone of violence does not project them to be correct but show how weak they are that they need force and not reason for their acceptance.

In the end, my only appeal to you is that please go read the Constitution, the actual text of it, not a commentary, and see for yourself what this country stands for and also that ‘nationalism’ is not a term which features in it.

Thank you,
Yours truly,
A believer of the Constitution