The concept of nationalism can be defined in many ways but in short it is a sense that requires oneness, feeling the goodness of the nation and its people, unity in diversity and respect, love and pride towards the nation by its citizens. Tara Chand describes it in his book ‘History of the Freedom Movement in India’ as a state of mind in which the supreme loyalty of the individual is due to the nation-state. (Vol ii page 552)
This conflict between a nationalist and a traitor gained a topical relevance on a large scale following the clash between BJP supporters, including lawyers, and JNU students on the university campus and subsequently at a Delhi courthouse in 2016. The politics of self-styled patriotism smartly attempted to eradicate the very real difference between nation and government, or state and government.
The government is just the name of elected representatives of the people, who posses office for a specific period and can be vacated from office after the next election, but the nation or state is the entirety of the entity called India as outlined by the Constitution. It includes the whole of the Indian people, the territorial space they occupy, the various organs of the state such as the judiciary, the defence forces and media, which includes social media. The government is always subsumed within the nation not the nation itself.
The Prime Minister Modi-led government and his supporters including top BJP leaders cleverly mixed up both the two concept and misled the masses in the name of patriotism. They tried to convey a sense that whoever stands against the government and its policies is ‘deshdrohi’ – anti-nation because the government can never go against the country’s welfare. To accomplish their agenda, they coined some particular phrases to show their oppositionist as a threat for nation such as “tukde tukde gang”, Urban Naxals”, “Jihadis”, and “pesecs” (pseudo secularists) even PM Modi himself happened to give these titles to those who opposed his policies.
Also they presented those who blindly supported the government as heroes of the nation and forwarded their messages at large considering their official posts.
A misconception was attempted to spread few decades ago during Indira regime and a slogan was coined that “Indira was India and India was Indira” which Indian people strongly rejected at that time. The same tendency is binge established all over the country in a very systematic way giving a clear message for nodding to every government policy without ifs and buts.
The ongoing protests against the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) and the National Register of Citizens (NRC), and the government reaction about protesters demonstrate the same trend as of Indira rule. What the BJP-run state governments have recently done to the Anti-CAA protesters is really concerning for the very spirit of Indian democracy.
People are being brainwashed about the concept that in a true democracy it is not only citizen’s right but also their duty to criticize and protest against the government and its various policies to safeguard the country and its constitution against every step taken not in the favour of the nation.
To attempt to stifle this right of dissent to the government –not the nation, in the name of so-called patriotism of anything else is indeed to stifle democracy, which means stifling the very breath of the Indian nation.
So the big challenge even duty of every individual Indian citizen for the coming decade is to ensure political rights and freedom of expression aren’t smothered in the world’s largest democracy. People will have to understand that the real ‘deshdrohi’ is not the legitimate dissenter who raises his voice against government actions rather real ‘deshdrohi’ is the one who offers violence against such dissent in the name of a spurious nationalism and in doing so grievously destabilize the living spirit of what he claims to protect.
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