The litmus test for “Patriotism and Nationalism” has not been established yet. But, we have made several presumptive interpretations about it. These words have found differing meaning with the moving cycle of time. But, the current state of the nation has made it the centre of all controversy often turning into violence. Due to the growing hypersensitivity, the internal affairs of the country have turned into a battleground and a rat race has been witnessed on who is more patriotic or nationalist. The deeds of the citizens are required to be in accordance with the law of the land, and in our case one must have total allegiance to the Constitution of India. The same Constitution that empowers us with basic Fundamental Rights important for the growth of a healthy democracy, does not lay down any definition or test or any such ground upon which the patriotism or nationalism of a person can be judged. It is disheartening to see that in the current state when a person exercises the right to dissent in terms of freedom of speech and expression in any way is badly crushed and more likely to be branded as anti-national or enemy of the state.
The freedom from tyranny and oppression was likely to make us more considerate about the freedom of each individual. The makers of the Constitution too envisaged upon this perspective and guaranteed each individual with equal rights and freedom to express oneself. The democratic institution functions on the “ifs and buts”, the working of the institution does not depend upon the blind following of the certain class of people. But, its success majorly depends upon the dissenting opinions of the masses which are carefully deliberated and changes are made accordingly. Such had been seen on many instances such as in the dark days of emergency. But, the passing of time which expectedly required us to have a broader perspective towards the critical issues and to have an open-minded thought which simultaneously welcomes the differing opinion have unfortunately doomed. Before we discuss it further let us take the example of the Indian Parliament. The Parliament is the most suitable example for the citizens, which gives the platform to the elected representatives to deliberate and debate upon the critical issues. We need to learn from the Parliament that India is not a country where a selected few have a say, but it is a country where the freedom to have an opinion and to express it freely without any fear is the Fundamental Right of every citizen. Often, it is used as shield that Freedom of Speech and Expression is not an absolute right and restricted to certain limitations. But, do these restrictions should be used as a weapon to crush dissenting opinion or to be used as a weapon to tag a person as an anti-national? I believe not.
Educational institutions in India have majorly played a vital role in the growth and development of the students. The students are required to learn and form their opinions based upon the vast pool of information. Educational institutions are the most sacred institutions that mould the young minds into a pool of talent. Complete freedom to these institutions is most important because these are growing minds often vulnerable to be influenced by propaganda, and a free platform should be provided for conducting healthy debates so that students are better informed and make sound judgments. Freedom to discuss and debate not only make the student informed, but also make them more appreciative of others opinion. The open-ended debates likely to make one more sympathetic towards the sufferings and hardships of the other people, and many issues absent from public discourse can be brought into mainstream. Many leaders, academicians, scholars referred the youth of India as the strength of the country and as the holders of democracy. But, the spirit of the democracy is depleting in recent times. The educational institutions have become the breeding ground for political propaganda and rising insensitivity of ideological differences. Beginning with JNU to Ramjas, a war has evoked between Left and Right wing students union. Violence is any way condemned and unjustified. The Ramjas debacle caused due to the violence erupted between two factions over the conduct of an event not only failed the principles of democracy and is an alert to the rising intolerance in the country. The issue like in JNU again took the turn towards nationalism. It is difficult to understand how raising an opinion not pleasing one group determines one as an anti-national. To this I would like to put forward a distinction on whether nationalism is important or democratic principles?
Nationalism in my opinion is the feeling of devotion towards the motherland. Unfortunately, the sacred meaning of it has been contaminated. The political class has used this as a weapon to inflict an ideological difference between the masses and to hide their failures. Nationalism has been interpreted as per the convenience of the people, and often been the reason behind violent incidents. The mandatory singing of National Anthem further exaggerated the problem. The order of the court received manifold interpretations and people were forced to stand and their resistance led to violent clashes. Is India moving in the direction of Hitler’s Germany where forced nationalism was the norm? Where dissenters branded as enemy of the state and executed. India was founded on the democratic principles, and its diversity is the strength. The hate-mongers are not the holders of the country, but only are the self-proclaimed nationalists who are ignorantly defeating the tenets of democracy and free society. The framers of the Constitution envisioned a country where religious tolerance, free speech and like norms should be exercised and adequate remedy shall be provided for any violation of these norms. But, nowadays, frequent violence and political justification to it has become the new trend. This only accelerates the worsening situation. So, the question comes what is important democracy or nationalism? In my opinion, nationalism is only used to divert the mind from other important issues, and by further politicking the armed forces as an excuse for every justification. It is hard to analyze on how does free speech (dissenting speech) affects the integrity of the army or disrespecting the army. And, who authorized the so called torch bearers (nationalists) of the army to inflict violence upon the people having a free opinion. In a democratic society, no institution is free from criticism, and active criticism only brings forward the shortcomings into the mainstream which can be corrected for better administration. And, I find no relevance on how any criticism defeats the morale of the armed forces or maybe we are too vulnerable to criticism that we intentionally show a blind eye. I strongly advocate in favour of free speech even if it highlights the deteriorating situation in Kashmir or struggle with the Naxalites and any such situation in the country. The students must be provided with a platform to know their country so that they can better contribute. The growth of the student’s mind should not be restricted and open debates should be the norm of the day even if it does not please a particular sect whether on triple talaq or growing intolerance or Kashmir.