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Mainstream, VOL LIV No 12 New Delhi March 12, 2016

Real and True Nationalism

Saturday 12 March 2016

by P. C. Jain

The recent episode at JNU involving the student community has resurrected an old debate on Nationalism and Patriotism that had long been forgotten. What is Nationalism? and what is Patriotism? Are Kanhya Kumar and his comrades guilty of anti-nationalism? This brings to our mind the basic question: what is nationalism?

Nationalism is the product of the “Nation”. The Nation was earlier defined as a group or community of persons having common race, religion, language, culture, history and ethos. Allegiance and loyalty to this group or community came to be known as nationalism. It came into existence as the result of the Industrial Revolution in Europe. Community of language, culture, race also led to political unity in the form of state. One nation and one state became identical.

Where nationalism became deeply conservative, authoritarian and aggressive, it assumed the form of Nazism and Fascism as in the case of Italy, Germany and Japan in the mid-20th Century. What have been the results of the rise of Nazism and Fascism are well known to us. In Fascist and Nazi states it was anti-national and unpatriotic to criticise the government of the day having sole monopoly of the State as in this case the State and Government were considered identical and they were regarded supreme. Thousands of people were massacred simply on the assumed suspicion of being anti-national and unpatriotic. Freedom of speech and fundamental rights were absolutely denied.

However, in course of time, this definition of the nation was found to be too narrow. At a later stage the nation was understood to be a broad community or society consisting of different races, languages, religions, culture, customs and ethos. Thus emerged the concept of a multi-national state. A nation may now consist of different nationalities, different races, speaking different languages, practising different religions, having different cultures etc. Most of the big and powerful states in the modern era are now multi-national states such as the USA, UK, the erstwhile USSR and now in its place Russia, Germany, China, Indonesia, Australia and India etc.

In the new context, nationalism can be defined as the feeling or sentiment of political unity, that is, desire to live together as one political unit having independence and sovereignty. Any expression in violation of this desire, feeling or sentiment or thinking can only be described as anti-national or unpatriotic.

Any criticism of the policy of the government in power, state or country cannot be dubbed as anti-national by any stretch of imagination; for example, to say India is a backward country or corrupt country is not anti-national unless there is incitement or attempt to disintegrate or break up the state by violent means.

It is also evident that action and inaction of the Delhi Police under the leadership of its Commissioner, Mr Bassi, has been taken with the nod of the Central Government which is bent upon crushing all opposition and dissent by hook or crook. How could a top cop dare to interpret and apply Section 124 of IPC brazenly flouting its interpretation by the Supreme Court in its landmark decision in 1962 in the Kedarnath versus State of Bihar case? Moreover in Article 19 (2) of the Constitution giving permissible ground of restriction on freedom of speech and expression granted in Article 19 (1) (a) of the Constitution, there is no mention of ‘Sedition’ as the ground for restriction. Also, the IPC is an Act that was made by an alien government to suppress the freedom of speech and expression and it is not to be applied blindly. Freedom of speech and expression is a sacrosanct fundamental right of the citizens of free India and it can be restricted or suppressed only in exceptional circumstances. To acclaim any other country is also not unpatriotic unless we are at war with it or do not recognise it by not having any diplomatic relations with it.

Thus the involvement of the Modi Govern-ment in all this catastrophic tragedy is as clear as one can see. All this is a part of its general policy that it is mercilessly following. All this tends to throw us into the jaws of fascism. Therefore, to save the country it is imperative to oppose it tooth and nail by all concerned.

The concept of patriotism has also undergone a change. Now it is not sufficient to blindly follow one’s country and justify it regardless of whether it is right or wrong. It will be mere lunacy to call for the destruction of Pakistan or China as we are having hostile relations with them. It is in our interest that they should exist and exist peacefully and may also progress. Today our loyalty and allegiance is to a much bigger political entity called humanity.

The author is an Associate Professor (Retired), Department of Political Science, Bundelkhand College, Jhansi.

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