March 12, 2016

The Patriotism, Sedition and the State of Nationalism in India - Deepak Jha

Mahatma Gandhi had said: “My idea of nationalism is that my country may become free, that if need be, the whole of the country may die, so that the human race may live. There is no room for the race hatred there. Let that be our nationalism”.

Before independence, the entire idea of nationalism revolved around freedom from British oppression and to have an independent India ruled by Indians for the Indians. There were many sovereign routes to liberation separated by idea but united by a common goal - Independence. All courses practiced nationalism that was binding and universal. There were no different versions of it and rightly so, from Tagore, through Bhagat Singh, to Gandhi, we saw a sense of pride while liberating India from the clutches of British. One thing was noteworthy – No course raised any question about the Patriotism of the rival course. Moderates may have criticized the methods of extremists and vice versa, but there was no criticism of each other’s devotion towards attaining independence. Under the legacy sedition act of 1870 which still finds place in the Indian Penal code in 124A, many freedom fighters were jailed. India achieved independence through the patriotic endeavors of many, but the channel of nationalism diverged – the minority one craved for Pakistan while the majority one longed for undivided India. Though it was unfortunate which led to killing of a large number of people but India was born, lively and fresh.

What Nationalism is in today’s context when we do not have a foreign rule? Where does the sedition law of 1870 really fit in today? When India was born, it gave us a new constitution where the freedom was given a special place in the country’s landscape. In British regime, such freedom was restricted. Constitution ripped apart those restrictions and defined a new set of freedom in the form of fundamental rights. The most important being freedom of speech and expression talks about the freedom of free and independent thoughts. It should be noted that this freedom is not absolute but have qualifiers. The first amendment to the constitution made in 1951 states that “interests of the sovereignty and integrity of India, the security of the state, friendly relations with the foreign states, public order, decency or morality or in relation to contempt of court, defamation and incitement to an offence” will be overriding and the freedom will be conditional. But this has been never linked to sedition until the great emergency when many fundamental rights are not in affect. 

Today, the concept of nationalism is totally screwed up where each individual has their own version of defining it. The Patriotism has narrowed down heavily to a set of thoughts matching the establishment and anything in contrasts gets subjected to an act of treason. This is the story of recent months which has been testimony to this kind of nationalism. A person possessing a different set of thoughts is being seen as anti-national and treated like such. When there are so many versions of Nationalism, I assume a majority of Indians to be an anti-national. Democracy is all about having a say in each and every affairs of the country. Referring such says as treason is an insult to democratic set up of the country. Today, we may not have a foreign rule to show our bit of nationalism but we have myriads of opportunities to lend out a helping hand or raise voices against the oppressions done against poor farmers, hunger, price rise, corruption and other social evils. But the concept of sedition and nationalism is really in a bad shape and must be given a firm stance by the court of law essentially defining what these term means in the current state of affairs of India. It is unfortunate that nationalism is being seen from the narrow eyes and from the Hinduism perspective in the secular India. It is further unfortunate that the nationalism is being related to a particular political group/organization.

Does raising anti-India slogan accounts to sedition? Yes-it does, provided the gravity of the comments and considering the qualifiers in the freedom of speech.
Does debating Parliament terror attack convict Afzal Guru account to sedition? Not sedition but unfortunate, yes! How debating a convict’s sentence could amounts to sedition charges? But glorifying him through organizing a function is unfortunate and uncalled for. Similarly, glorifying the Gandhi’ killer is another unfortunate incident and must be acted upon in the similar way, which we haven’t seen.

Shutting down any debate through inciting the shoulders fighting and dying on the border is another nastiest analogy. There is no point and happiness in invoking a shoulder’s death to counter an argument. Happiness is glorifying them when they are alive and fighting, respecting them when they retire which we have unfortunately, failed to do. We have seen what happened to the retired shoulders when they protested for the ‘one rank one pension’, how their uniforms were torn apart and medals snatched. A shoulder’s death today is all about invoking it among unrelated topics and deriving maximum political benefits out of it. This is what the cost of our shoulder's life today. The plight of the shoulders who retire after serving the motherland is bad. They face difficulty in settling and have to seek for the jobs which they don't find easily. A shoulder who once used to stand at border protecting the nation has to stand at the gates of the mall. Do we expect that shoulder to say it aloud – “Bharat Mata Ki jai”? Do we expect a poor farmer on the verge to suicide, to say - "Bharat Mata Ki jai"? If they don't, can we blindly call him anti-national?

Today, those who calls for freedom from poverty and hunger, criticize the government for its dismal say in grassroots issues, speak against the government continuous grip on the expressing lips, and is termed anti-national. I think they are patriotic and every human should raise voice against any such atrocities, convey the message and fight till the goal is reached. 
Nationalism, then and now are nowhere comparative, incidentally and unfortunately.

*These are author's personal thoughts and does not express the views of the community as a whole.

About the Author:

Deepak Jha is a software professional from Hyderabad. In his free time, he likes to read and write about social causes and expresses his views. 


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March 3, 2016

A City and a Sigh - Arinjoy Sur

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Afternoons are the best part of a Hyderabad day. Like a light blanket worn softly in a not-so-cold night, it hides the sun rays for the time giving residents an opportunity to walk out and enjoy a stroll. Moments such as these also give us the much needed time for some soul searching.

Migration from Calcutta has become so widespread that no one questions it anymore. Lack of opportunity, better infrastructure and so much else. But still, if you pore over the internet, you will find hundreds of writings waxing lyrical about the Calcutta experience. They get away from the city but they always carry a part of it with them. For staying in a city which has seen you in the days when you were young and foolish, is not easy. The city has seen you when you lacked confidence but never let that bother you when somebody needed help. For that city taught you somewhere that nice guys have their own place in this system. Probably that city will refuse to recognize the confident man in his office armour dictating terms to the world. Probably the city will look for the confused soul searching the meaning in all the wrong places but still searching nonetheless. Lack of that spirit will bother her and the confidence that borderlines arrogance will surely not make up for it.

Hyderabad is not a heartless city. It most certainly is not impersonal. But somewhere I believe that in your  lifetime, there can be only one city which you can call your own. It does not matter whether you spent enough time there or whether you are investing in a matchbox in Rajarhat (for investment purposes). It matters that when you see something nice in any city of the world, you wish something similar for that city you call home. Seeing the political and social conditions, you understand that probably the dream will remain only so, but some part still hopes against all odds. For it’s not only the city that owns you, you also own a part of the city. Like the child who believes that her mother will take her to office along with her. Neither history, nor logic offers any credibility, but we do the same for our city.  

And then we start setting our old city up in the new city that we have arrived at. With the pieces that we have carried over, we put them together and try building a city out of it. A bit of vernacular chitchat, shared passions of literature and sports and an overarching sense of shared destiny provide the adhesives for creating a community. But it never becomes the old one. For to become old, you need history. You need that lane which will remind you of a certain someone, you need that shop from where you have purchased things you are not old enough to purchase, you need that old school teacher who still remembers  you along with your roll number. These stories stay wherever they are, pristine and smiling. They never followed you. They will never do. In boardrooms and meetings and in pointless small talks when you feel exasperated they will probably peep from a corner of your mind and will bring a wry smile on your face. For though the old city has not moved in the new city,  she has unselfishly given a part to you to be carried over and remembered.

The tap on the shoulder suddenly wakes you up from the reverie. The 20-something from the tea stall next to you is nudging you to finish the tea and offering you your customary round of smoke. In an earlier conversation he told me about his house in the outskirts of Patna, of his younger brother who is now a proud government employee, of his kids who read only in English. He was happy that he took the decision to come to Hyderabad.

Cities give, cities take away too :)

Author - Arinjoy Sur is a banker by profession presently posted in Hyderabad. A chemistry graduate his passion for writing bank exams landed him to this job. in his leisure time he loves to read, travel around the country & experiment with his taste buds.

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