Patriotism: A vote-catcher
Songs of patriotism have been incessantly sung concealing a heap of unpatriotic actions
The immortal song of Lata Mangeshkar, 'Mere Vatan..', always makes us nostalgic and invokes patriotic fervour. Recently, when she contributed Rs 1 crore to the Soldiers' Welfare Fund, it has happened again. In fact, after the Pulwama attack and the surgical strike on the terror camp at Balakot, the atmosphere of the country has been surcharged with words such as enemy, terrorists, and patriotism, which are being kept afloat for long by the ruling party at the Centre. However, since many of their actions do not conform to the principles of our Constitution, questions crop up about their intentions and their self-proclaimed patriotism. Barring the communal aspect, similar are also the actions of many other political forces.
Patriotism and nationalism of people are normally linked only to the issue of territorial integrity, terrorism, war, and enemy. But, patriotism is much larger than this. When sportspersons win glory, or when the ratings of the country go up in the fields of economy, industry, science, culture, etc., we all swell with pride. Patriotism is primarily performing one's duty for the nation in tune with the principles of the sacred text of our democracy – the Constitution – the Preamble of which emphasises, '..to secure to all its citizens JUSTICE, social, economic and political; LIBERTY of thought, expression, belief, faith and worship; EQUALITY of status and of opportunity; and to promote among them all FRATERNITY assuring the dignity of the individual and the unity and integrity of the Nation." Whether it is individuals or institutions, any deviation would only amount to working against the nation; and is unpatriotic. Yet, there are blatant deviations. And, it is graver, when people violate the provisions even after taking an oath to uphold them. Since, strangely, those who indulge in violations often point out a finger at the others as being anti-national and unpatriotic, it becomes necessary to examine some of their actions to find whether they are right in hogging the glory of patriotism.
For the past five years, there have been no serious debates or discussions in Parliament as required in a democracy. Instead, dissent was intolerable. In their attempt to saffronise the country by winning state-on-state, Opposition was pulverised with the aggressive actions of the central agencies on a leash – CBI, ED, IT, etc. As a result, some leaders of the opposition, like Jagan Reddy in AP and others, began directly or indirectly toeing their line. Others, who were vocal, like Kejriwal, have mellowed down, at least for the time being. Cooperative federalism that was promised has given place to Big Brother attitude as in George Orwell's 'Nineteen Eighty-Four'. Matters have drifted to such an extent that the Centre wants to snoop freely on its citizens through total surveillance, in the name of acquiring legitimate powers in the national interest of combating terrorism, drugs, and arms-running. In the notification of December 20, 2018, several agencies were authorised to 'intercept, monitor and decrypt any information generated, transmitted, received or stored on any computer' in the country, implying that they could be used to spy on political opponents and to protect the image of the rulers when it comes to social media posts. Fortunately, the matter is presently resting with the Supreme Court.
Institutions are being abused, and the story is all the same in the states and at the Centre. The Constitution expects that bureaucracy would stay on the course of law and guide the political executive to follow it. But, inducing with posts of power and pelf, and intimidating with the use of weapons of transfers, postings and disciplinary actions, the triggers of which are in the hands of the political executive, the powers of bureaucracy have been usurped and the systems are used to meet their political ends. Even the so-called autonomous CAG is influenced to protect BJP in the Rafale deal through a wishy-washy report by suppressing several important issues and matters. Doesn't the destruction of the integrity of the carefully created institutions militate against the very principles of the Constitution? How can they, then, call themselves patriots?
Equality of status and opportunity is what the Preamble says. 'Vikas for all' is the rhetoric. But, only a pittance is given to poor farmers; and nothing to the landless labourers and tenant farmers as well as workers of unorganised sectors, while pots of gold and diamonds are given to the rich. The fugitive diamond merchant, Nirav Modi, was allowed to slip off from the country and now, even when the UK wants the documents to nab him, as he is traced with his appearance changed, there is no response from this pro-rich government of the self-proclaimed patriotic party.
Corruption and compromise, and unethical practices shake every principle of our Constitution; lead to lop-sided development; and flourishing of a parallel economy. Isn't swindling society's wealth, be it in laying of roads, construction of bridges and buildings, not anti-social? Isn't swallowing a nation's wealth, be it in illegal mining activities, plundering forests and degrading environment, not anti-national? Even in medicines in hospitals, or computers in educational institutions, etc., anti-social and anti-national activity is strikingly seen. Aren't those who join hands and protect such mafias also anti-national and unpatriotic? Unfortunately, people like Lalu Yadav are still being consulted in garnering support to Opposition. Their children inherit the political legacy as well as ill-gotten wealth, as in the case of Lalu Yadav and the opposition leader in AP. Yeddyurappa and BJP are no exceptions. Freeing India from corruption is only empty rhetoric. Isn't the protection of Ambani brothers, Nirav Modi, and others unpatriotic?
Promoting divisiveness on communal and religious lines, and unabated cow-vigilantism are not only serious blots on our country's image, but they also work against the very principle of national integration emphasised by our Constitution. It, thus, disrespects our Constitution and is unpatriotic. But the tragedy is that the BJP leadership is tacitly supporting them. So is the case of irrational harassment of students and traders from Kashmir, treating everyone as a terrorist. When the governor of Meghalaya himself supports such action and the Central leadership does not speak a word against it, what can be expected from their foot-soldiers? Their sense of patriotism appears skewed for the rest of the country.
Patriotism cannot be claimed as copyright of any individual, any party, or their supporters. It cannot be limited to matters of territorial integrity alone. It is primarily the concern for the nation's well-being. A spark of patriotism is in everyone all the time whenever they make a contribution to the nation – be it a brave soldier on the front, be it the humble farmer producing food, be it the teacher working for character-building of his wards, be it a man from any profession, or be it a police officer maintaining order as per the call of his duty. It is all in one's heart; not in carrying flags, not in displaying on their sleeves, wearing armbands and caps; not in singing National Anthem standing in cinema halls alone. It is there in all those who stand by the Constitution in following it in letter and spirit.
A judge who ensures the rule of law as per the Constitution is also patriotic. Isn't the action of Justice KM Joseph in quashing the President's rule in Uttarakhand to uphold the principles of democracy, which is in tune with the Constitution, an act of unwavering patriotism? Then, aren't the kind of hassles created for his elevation to the Supreme Court unpatriotic acts? Similarly, in spite of the public cry of CJI Thakur for help to provide expedited justice in the country, isn't inaction on the part of Modi and his government unpatriotic? Everyone knows that delayed justice is causing disrespect to law and the Constitution.
The failure of government's intelligence agencies in the attack on the CRPF convoy at Pulwama or on the army camp at Uri will haunt the government when they seek glory from the success of armed forces in the surgical strike. The country only views such incidents as experiences that enrich our armed forces and intelligence agencies to get prepared for the future. Then, why the politicisation of 'patriotism'?
There appears to be desperation in clinging to power. Illusions of false promises made in 2014 stand exposed. People, in general, have been put only to hardships through demonetisation, loss of millions of jobs, etc. Freeing India of corruption is only a cacophony. Initial euphoria and the hype of Modi brand generated have waned; the balloon of invincibility in elections punctured in KTK and in three Hindi-states. Their grandeur 10-D Vision to create a $10 trillion economy in a decade may not cut any ice. Even Ram Mandir issue has been referred for mediation by the SC. Further, it is likely that hunting the opposition aggressively with overconfidence would boomerang if they do not retain power. Rafale deal issue favouring Anil Ambani is snowballing; Sahara-diary and Loya's death matters, etc., could be reopened. In this scenario, they are apparently seeking refuge in 'patriotism'.
But, people are aware that opposition leaders who are trying to combine to dislodge Modi are not saints. They are also known for their abuse of bureaucracy, selective amnesia, and corruption, which are all anti-national in character. It is, therefore, time that people think of such representatives who have uncompromising integrity and would stand by the Constitution. 'Patriotism' is too precious a matter to be allowed to be used as a vote-catcher.
(Dr. N Dilip Kumar is a retired IPS officer and a former member of Public Grievances Commission, Delhi. The views expressed are strictly personal)