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Patriotism is Not Petty Parochialism

Archbp Thomas Menamparampil Archbp Thomas Menamparampil
01 Mar 2021

Are Socially Concerned People, A Threat to the Nation?

Today in India, it is unclear how to define a patriot, a true nationalist. Are they those who love the country, contribute to its growth, and have compassion for the weak and the suffering among fellow citizens? The present Administration does not seem to think so. A twenty-two year old climate activist, Disha Ravi, was arrested in Bangalore and lifted to Delhi because she had expressed solidarity with the protesting farmers. She was considered a threat to the nation!! Is not Compassion, Karuna, a core value in Indian tradition? On what else did Buddha insist more? It was not only the Authorities that went after the fragile girl, but an entire range of fellow citizens, the social media calling her a Khalistani and a Christian. She is in fact a Lingayat. She loves fellow Indians. That is her crime.

The farmers ask, “Why link a harmless South Indian girl with Khalistan?” It makes no meaning. But the “anti-nationalists hunting” goes on. Lawyer Nikita Joseph from Mumbai is arrested for shared toolkit. Lawyer Shantanu Muluk is taken. Mohua Moitra MP from Bengal, a critic of the present order,  is under “surveillance”. Five have been arrested in Assam for criticizing minister Himanta Biswa Sarma. Into every corner of India the witch hunt reaches out. Mother Teresa’s sisters are on the defensive, their charities curtailed, resources cut. Documents are planted into the computers of activists. An 83-year old Stan Swamy, a defender of tribal land, pines away in prison for the fourth month. Yes, Priyanka Gandhi gives credit to the Prime Minister for his  56-inch chest, but grieves that he has only a small heart in dealing the protesting farmers. Who would have the insensitivity to call labouring farmers ‘parasites’?

The Present Impression: Those Who Spread Hatred Qualify Best to Be Called Patriots

In Mahabharata, Bhishma cautions Yudhishtira “Nations have been destroyed only because of internal divisions among their people” (Shantiparva 107/108.14).  Have you noticed the planned strategy for dividing farmers along religious lines? Has anyone criticized such anti-social activities as anti-national?   Tiruvalluvar, a Tamil savant, says, “A prosperous nation will not have warring sects and destructive internal strife. Nor murderous offences that disturb the king’s peace” (Tirukkural 74.5). But what happens when inter-community hatred is consciously and systematically cultivated? The majority community and populous castes are flattered before the elections, but the lower castes of the same community are dumped soon after victory. The Home Minister seems past master in this game. These tactics threaten the future of the nation.    

In the prevailing atmosphere, those who spread hatred against fellow-Indians and neighbouring nations seem to qualify best to be hailed as patriots, genuine nationalists! Anti-minority rioters and mob-lynchers are garlanded and lionized, anti-Pakistan allegations are hailed as solemn truths. Similarly, men who can teach a hard lesson to Dalits and tribals are acclaimed as heroes…in UP, MP and Gujarat. Minority groups are expected to shout “Bharata Mata ki Jai” to prove their national loyalty when any thug from the majority community demands it, and to sing reverently the Vande Mataram. 

Is Shouting “Jai Shri Ram” the Final Test of National Loyalty?

During the elections in Bihar and Bengal the Prime Minister went further. Shouting “Jai Shri Ram” alone established your genuineness, your loyalty. This way of making political use of religious symbolisms is what Mamata Banerjee thought sheer “insolence”. But the BJP bosses are intensely allergic to criticism. For them, spreading “disaffection against the lawfully elected government” is crime of the first rank…not acting against the Constitution, not going beyond the electors’ mandate, not presiding at religious functions like the “Bhumi Pujan” at Ayodhya as the head of a secular state, not selling off painfully constructed national assets like railways and airports to promote temple-constructions and patronize pujaris. Who is anti-national? 

Is “Cow Science” India’s Supreme Wisdom?  Does Patriotism Consist in Excelling in that Science?

The nation has been gradually sliding towards various levels of irrationality, seeking to specialize in puranic sciences, astrology and archaic wizardries. Of late, the UGC has offered a “Cow Science” course to students: Rashtriya Kamadhenu Aayog, Gau Vigyan Prachar-Prasar, profound research into the miraculous powers of cow-products: milk, urine, excreta! Nothing is excluded. Meanwhile China marches ahead in every science, leaving India trailing behind… losing men at the borders. India is satisfied with internal self-importance.

Arousing interest in deeper thinking on the Vedanta, medieval spiritualities, psychological and sociological reflections of reformers of various eras is considered irrelevant. Indian alertness seems to be under permanent anesthesia. Amartya Sen contends in his “The Argumentative Indian” that intelligent questioning is inbuilt in the Indian cultural heritage. The RSS thinktank is perfectly innocent of this science.

Rousing Thought Yields to Stirring Emotions  

But in India today, laments Anup Sinha, “The world of ideas and opinions in academics is under threat…What is being demanded is absolute loyalty to one particular way of thinking and believing”. Any citizen who refuses to do so is under threat. He may lose his job, get cases against him, face trumped-up charges, have his accounts scrutinized or his computer hacked, or be declared anti-national. The heads of educational institutions are selectively appointed. What they attempt doing is to control “thoughts and feelings” through the new technologies. What they are busy with is the “political promotion of myths and superstitions”. 

Clear thinking and logical links are to be renounced in favour of emotional loyalty. When Amit Shah says that a decision will be made about the CAA after vaccination, no one asks what the connection is. Absurd logical sequences are presented as clever strategy: will Kashmir regain its statehood after the Ayodhya temple is completed, will NRC be imposed if this year’s crops go bad? Once intelligent thinking is formally renounced, senselessness takes over. Emotions alone guide issues. Blind following is supreme wisdom. 

“Lead me from the unreal to the real” (Brihadaranyaka Upanishads 1.III.28)

So it happens that our national boasts, claims, reports, and growth statistics have lost credibility except within the ‘loyalty circles’ of the Ruling Party. Markandey Katju in his “The Shape of Things to Come” says that Reuters called India’s GDP growth during the first term of the BJP a “statistical mirage” (Harper Collins, Noida, 2019), “statistical artifact” (Ibid 53-54). Ruchir Sharma calls it a “bad joke”… making India the laughing stalk of the world (Ibid 57). They turned out to be self-deceptions that took the Indian economy down in a single year 23.9% and 7.5%. While the ancient Indian prayed “Lead me from the unreal to the real” (Brihadaranyaka Upanishads 1.III.28), India moved fast into the world of the “unreal” and is on the verge of total collapse. 

Consequences have been terrible. A party that came to power to fight to corruption have been buying MPs and MLAs, purchasing voters, diverting citizens’ taxes for restoration of temples and organizing pilgrimages to Hindu shrines. Patriotism is in the hands of “criminal” MPs, who divert money to foreign banks (Ibid 28). Was Anna Hazare movement an artificially created frenzy merely to distract the public? (Ibid 123). Where is he now? Was his drama anything more than “A tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing”? (Macbeth) (Ibid 194). We are moving further into unrealities with the media marginalizing real issues, e.g.  critical analysis of social anxieties.  Corporates own the media (Ibid 124). We can come to know little beyond what they are willing to tell us. To defend “their Government” is their single programme. “Satyam Eva Jayate” is their least concern.

One-sided History Writing

This norm applies also to the re-writing of history that the present Administration has undertaken.  If during the brief period of Islamic expansion Hindu temples were destroyed, stable Islamic regimes patronised and sustained the Hindu social order: Brahmins were honoured, shrines were supported. The Nawab of Awadh sponsored Ramlila, Holi and Diwali. Tipu gave grants to 156 Hindu temples and appointed Punaiya as his Prime Minister and Krishna Rao as his Commander-in-Chief. He paid his respects to the Shankaracharya of Sringeri. These things are never admitted, though well known (Katju 13-14). 

Further, we must not forget that Hindu kings robbed the temples of their Hindu rivals and plundered the wealth of the conquered people. Remember also that Brahmins and Banias served as tax collectors, financial advisers, notaries, accountants for the Muslim and British Administration, Kshatriyas as military personnel. They exploited the poorer sections of their own community without any mercy passing on the responsibility to aliens, a fact that Hindutva spokespersons refuse to acknowledge.  This is the exploitation they wish to reintroduce under the BJP rule with the lifting of labour laws and lowering of minimum wages and prices. The stubborn raising of petrol prices is a proof. “Where is Raj Dharma?” asks Sonia Gandhi.

The Cutest Strategy: Keep Communities Divided

Further, the present regime wishes to make use of the British stratagem of keeping people divided in order to ride roughshod over them.  Charles Wood, Secretary of State for India wrote to Viceroy Elgin in 1862 “We have maintained our power in India by playing off one community against the other and we must continue to do so. Do all you can, therefore, to prevent all having a common feeling” (Ibid 66). And BJP says, “We fully agree!” 

While they show themselves concerned about Muslim women and have abolished the Triple Talaq, they seem least bothered about social evils within their own society like domestic violence, dowry deaths, and honour killings (Ibid 20-21). Cases of infant marriages and Sati are still reported. 

Indian Billionaires Migrate with their Money

Arundhati Roy says that the upper and middle class Indians, the core supporters of Modiji, are like an uprooted lot. They don’t belong. They want to belong to the “global elite” of money-makers and are least worried about national anxieties. Nearly 7000 very wealthy Indians left India in 2019, taking their assets with them. These are just a few of the very many who have done so. 

If the British drained India, rootless Indians do even more. The latter, in compensation for their betrayal of the nation, promote the Ayodhya cause, defend religious fanaticisms, and become patriots par excellence! 

Indians Look Back and Lament, Chinese Look Forward and Plan

The Hindutva ideologues press people to look back to past glory and live on unrealities. They lament. The Chinese live in the “present” and look to the “future” with a planned vision. They achieve. In Mahabharata, Dhritarashtra tells Vidura “People like you who have a sense of values, what you do today will make a sacred place more sacred, and not what happened a long time back” (Ibid 45). The saffron brigade has forgotten their own great teachings.  For, they have given up on their thinking power. 

“Feudals have hijacked our democracy”, says Katju (Ibid 34). Merit has been given the back seat, intellectual alertness demoted. Consequently, Indian institutions have become “totally dilapidated” (Ibid 31). Ranjan Gogoi is the first to attest that. He calls the Indian judiciary a “ramshackle institution”.  His Ayodhya decision confirms it, his joining politics soon after that proves that he merely wants to benefit from it.  “Fake encounter killings” of Yogi is just a part of our dilapidated ‘justice system’.

“To be one with the World is Wisdom”  (Tirukkural)

George Hamilton, Secretary of State for India, wrote to Curzon, “I think the real danger to our rule in India… is the gradual adoption and extension of Western ideas” (Ibid 67). What Hamilton meant by western ideas were “modern concepts of freedom” and openness to global wisdom. As he felt threatened by the Indian mind opening to world thinking, the Modi regime feels threatened today. It is clear, they do not wish to yield an inch to the farmers, but are ready to hand over the entire country to the corporates. Rousseau says in his “Discourse on Inequality” “Nothing can be farther from the law of nature, however we define it, than that a handful of people be gorged with luxuries, while the starving multitude lacks the necessities of life” (Ibid 52).  The official position of the Government seems to be: Food-producers must be squeezed in order to allow the corporates to prosper.

The arrests of Disha, Nikita and Shantanu are most eloquent. These recent developments have won international attention. Seventy-five organizations in the US and elsewhere have come in support of the farmers’ movement of late. Cruelty to the weak cannot be a mere “internal” matter. It is the entire world that groans, and the cosmic order that reverberates in protest. Meena Harris, the niece of Kamala Harris cries, “What is happening in India is terrifying. Please pay attention”. World opinion is important. Patriotism is not mere Parochialism. I will quote Tirukkural once again, as Modiji did during his election campaigns in Tamilnadu, “To be one with the world is Wisdom”. May he listen to Tirukkural whose Wisdom he was seeking to share with the electorate.

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