Those who kill for partisan ends cannot be patriots

May 16, 2017
I love my country, right or wrong, is an attribute of nationalism. But is it patriotism to stand up and be counted when my country led by the government navigates a path which is inconsistent with our constitutional values. Was it unpatriotic to be a conscientious objector to the Vietnam War? Was the ‘Arab Spring’ at Tahrir Square unpatriotic? Was it patriotic for the RSS to have attempted to disrupt the national movement and support a colonial power? Was it patriotic for the Sangh not to have participated in the Satyagraha?
We must not confuse our love for the country in protecting her identity with our right to dissent. It is not unpatriotic to oppose the government when it is behaving dishonestly, foolishly or viciously.
Patriotism is an emotive response, which manifests itself in action to protect an identity of which we are an integral part. That identity is the result of cultural, ethnic, and linguistic affinity shared historically over a period of time. Within the contours of territory, shared experiences of people identifying with each other become the foundation of nationalism. The symbol of that identity, and every nation has one, is its national flag. When unfurled, people identify themselves with it. Their patriotism does not depend on externalities. People should not be forced to demonstrate that they love their country and respect their flag. I do not wear my patriotism on my sleeve. Others should also not be required to do so.
I am a patriot as long as I respect the rights and sensibilities of others, pay my taxes, inculcate the right values in my kids. I should not have to carry my mother’s photograph in my wallet to prove to her that I love her. Today, the flag has been made a logo – the “trademark of a monopoly on patriotism”. I do not doubt the patriotism of those in government; I only question their policies. Those who pin the national flag on their lapels are no greater patriots than those who don’t.
Now, our patriotism may be questioned if we do not stand up in a cinema hall when the national anthem is played. I wonder how many of us stand up in our homes watching the national anthem on television. If we don’t, are we to be regarded as unpatriotic?
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Hindustan Times, May 16, 2017

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