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.