Patriotism manifests itself in various ways, and does not only imply the negative aggression most of the media reports on Mumbai are associating with that word. For India and South Asia, patriotism was an available means to freedom from perceived external rule and exploitation (let’s leave aside the fact that it was unable to rid us of internal colonization). The US, actor, interested party and source of major garrulity in the current tripartite blackmail, on the contrary, has never been colonized or occupied; its manifestations of patriotism are necessarily different and located offshore.The space known as ‘India’ is a region where the population was taught to disobey in order to win independence and become a country/nation not very long ago. After ‘winning’ independence, they were never re-taught to obey themselves or a higher authority. As Toni Morrison has it, gaining freedom is one thing, taking possession of it is another . What is needed now is a mobilization of public sentiment and action towards a single arrowing goal—defense of a nation’s essentials and a semblance of pride in what the people must fight for. Plurality has run amok in India to the extent that there are too many opinions, too many choices. Without a strong focal point for emotion and action, the energies of the people and the propulsive force for necessary action are lost.
There are differences between allegiances to different types of communities: religion vs. nations/regions. Yes, those allegiances have been mobilized by those whose modes of operation are the precision and ensuing ambiguous fear of ‘terror.’ And yes, those allegiances must be mobilized in return via what is known as ‘nationalism,’ which tends to cloak all religions and minorities in another stripe, another scale of value. If it is drummed into people’s minds enough, it will begin to become a priority and precondition for living off a nation’s soil.
Nationalism means remembering one’s civic duties, not only one’s civic rights. The mentality that tells an individual that he/she has a right to be cosseted by the state by virtue of citizenship must be ruthlessly stamped out. Nothing comes free; to have rights, one must serve the national community in a constructive fashion.
To that end I advocate two things— (1) a uniform civil code for India (no distinction or special law for any minority or majority, not any more, not unless they prove themselves on merit instead of birth); and (2) compulsory national service for all, for six months in their life every citizen must serve the country in some way, either through military service or social service, and they must be able to prove it.
I believe there is too much minority-pandering politics in India and I believe it is a worse form of casteism than the system we all love to blame Hindusim for. ‘Reservation’ is reverse casteism. One wins and loses by virtue of birth. It is fallacious to condemn a multicoloured religion on this count when its own shards use its perceived faults to exploit the goodie basket. More to the point, where there is too much infighting, the enemy gets a field day.
One must create a sense of belonging and allegiance in the community through active practice before expecting that community to know how to channel the plurality of options available to it in moments of crisis. There is too much misinterpreted freedom in India, and that’s the problem.
Regarding the press coverage (elsewhere) of ‘systemic failure seen in India’s response to attacks’:
What??! It’s a poor country, for god’s sake. My only answer is to turn to the Brits and French and Dutch and Portuguese and say: gimme back my jewels! After being systematically depleted by colonization for 150 years, colonizing nations have the gall to say that a poor country was not prepared? That the world is indeed flat? Can you blame the colonized for still saying ‘Let’s have some of the pie back’!
True, they may be back in Café Leopold sipping tea or coffee. And what are they to do? These invaders have been coming since the fourteenth century. One gets tired of beating back the wave, eh?
Advocacy of restraint is wonderfully reminiscent of the man Gandhi never was. These 200 odd lives are not the only ones lost to macabre religions in India. All the domestic incidents that never were reported (or Googled) because no one of significance was involved need to be added up. It is just that with 1.1 billion expendable (Third World, subaltern, poor, brown, infidel, pagan, impure, dead-burning, cow-worshipping) souls, no one notices.
In tired tolerance, in fear, in awe, one must survive, and subterraneously if needed.
True, some individuals of every nationality will never do much except to shake their heads and go on, some others will always privilege their own little cocoon (job, house, child’s education, retirement fund, money somewhere). Those are peacetime activities, appropriate to a part of the population some of the time. But this is not peacetime.
No, it is crisis for a place that has lost its best fighters. I do not mean the armed men. The brains and the money have all come to where the carrot of cornucopia dangles, where jobs shackle them into bonded labour, with no time to think and feel about the things that ravage the old places that made them.
As an Indian who has ‘left the shores’ I am guilty of taking all from a poor country and giving it all to a place which gives me more money. I am mercenary, and have forfeited the right to raise a finger against my old nation.
I, too, wish to rise above petty nationalism and devote my life to larger, more universal, humane causes—education, science, technology, trade. But where the ground beneath my feet is cut up by fire, should I retreat to my holy books in isolation?
I believe there are some among those who have departed who will be moved to action. It is for them that I look.
I believe India needs the two things we have taken from her—our minds and our money. Remittances will reach parity with debt when we realize our indebtedness to what we have left behind, each of us pious Dharmarajas on the way to a personal heaven.