A fierce battle is on in India between nationalists and liberals since 2014 ever since BJP lead NDA came to power in 2014. Initially thought to be a passing phase in Indian social and political scene the idea of nationalism was taken with a mix of utter contempt and benign neglect. With a thumping win of BJP in 2019 general election, it appears that nationalism is here to say. So much so we are debating if it is time to revisit nationalism, patriotism, chauvinism and anti nationalism in the garb of free speech.
By definition, a nationalist is a person who identifies with his own nation and supports national interests, even to the exclusion or detriment of the interests of other nations.
A liberal, on the other hand, is a person who respects behaviour and opinions different from his own and in general open to new ideas.
Liberalism and national interest: From childhood many of us are told that we should be open minded and think of others before us. As we grew up, it became apparent that affaris of the world do not always run on liberal values and ideas. A person with liberal value may be a great individual level, such a person will be called a statesman and lauded by his enemies. In the world of realpolitik, everyone has to look after his own interest and a hard negotiator usually comes out a winner.
A great statesmen need not necessarily be a great negotiator. A case in point is how India gave up her opportunity to become a member of United Nations Security Council. Instead, India recommended the name of Peoples Republic of China. Today, as we make repeated attempts to become a member of the powerful group and Peoples Republic of China blocks our entry, we remember lack of foresight and down right incompetence on the part of our leaders. As usual they were thinking of others and not us. History of independent India is replete with many such instances where interest of nation and people were thrown aside for arriving at a decision that may not appear to be nations interest.
Selective liberalism: Liberals may be good at heart but they are selective. I guess the thinking of others above self has clouded their judgement. They want to impart egalatarian ideas imported from distant land and implant on in a unequal India. Fake and duplicitous agenda peddled by liberals can be held responsible for strong nationalistic sentiment in India.
- Liberal intellectuals encourage secession of Indian Kashmir, Indian North East, parts of central India. They would praise criticise armed forces of India and praise armed forces of Pakistan despite their terrible human rights record on East Pakistan, Balochistan, Khyber Pakhtokhwa and Gilgit Baltistan.
- When Indian forces were standing eye ball to eye ball in Dokalam, liberals wanted Indian forces to get out and let Chinese army continue its aggression.
- When Indian forces attacked terrorist bases in Pakistan, our liberals predicted nuclear war.
- Anarchists raised slogans supporting disintegration of India, liberals supported them in the name of freedom of expression.
Nationalism has its perils: Question, arises how far can we take our nationalism? History tells us that past record of nationalism has not been very good. Natioalist governments of Germany, Italy and Japan had formed the Axis power and precipitated world war II. Under a nationalist government, usually one group of people comes under attack. We have seen in Hitler’s Germany Jews were sent to gas chambers. How far can our nationalism go? Should someone have right to enter my home and check out food in my refrigerator? Or can someone beat me up for transporting cattle?
A balance needed: Can we not have a balance between nationalism and liberalism? I may be nationalistic about my countries border yet shudder at the thought of being lynched for eating beef? I may feel strongly about protecting cow, but I would express my protest using rule of law!
It is often argued that people that write articles against government policies are favoring our enemy nation. Politicians from our neighboring country pick up contrarian bits of news and embarrass us at international fora. Because we have a pesky neighbor, should we give up listening to contrary view points? I think that is the beauty of a free country when anyone can air their points of view without feeling afraid. Those who donot agree with the views can write their own articles and let people judge which article makes better sense.
It is true that in the name of freedom of expression many may spread news and information that may be fake and that may have potential to incite violence. Using old instrument like banning and jailing may not work any more. Government of the day has to adopt novel technology combined with education of citizens. A happy citizen will never resort to mischief.
Meanwhile, government of the day should go on with the business of governance without getting influenced, unless it so desires, about what is being said about its policies. More so when government has got a thumping majority in the elections, suggesting that voters in general agree with what the government is doing.
Embrace pluralism of India: India has a long continuous history. Indian pluralism is plurality of thoughts. Many apparent manifestations are unified by Advaita Vedanta, that says “Ekam Sat Vipra, Bahudha Vadanti.” In recent times, Sri Rama Krishna has taught us in a simple language the ancient vedic wisdom. Through his realisations, Sri Rama Krishna taughter “all paths lead to God”, and “once one reaches the rooftop, by taking whichever stair, everything looks identical.” Swami Vivekananda had advocated India must follow equality of Islam and pluralism of Hinduism, a Muslim body and a Hindu mind. That should be our nationalism and our freedom of expression.
The present post is written in response to Indispire prompt. More posts in response to the prompt may be found here.