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The Spirit of India Is Dying – Save It

“A parochial, selfish, narrow-minded nationalism has caused so much misfortune and misery to the world. A mad and exaggerated form of this cult of nationalism is today running rampant… “, said Justice A P Shah, former Chief justice of Delhi High court, quoting M.N. Roy.

I am not a regular writer neither I pretend to be a learned man but I know there’s something wrong in the way some people think and behave in our country today. Though it’s not a recent phenomenon in any way but such instances have most likely shown a spike. As I mentioned earlier, I don’t pretend to know everything. So much of what I will describe now will be the things I see with my own eyes. I may be wrong and willing to accept and rectify my mistakes.

Some 70 years ago, when we finally “awake to life and freedom”, much had changed and much remained to be changed. Our freedom fighters realized it and so did our first policy makers. They sat down together; discussed, deliberated and debated the future of our country and what came out of it was the Indian constitution which remains till date one of the most dynamic and progressive ones. Now I don’t want to pester you with what it contains because one, you don’t really care and two, if you would have really cared, I would not have written this article. But intricacies aside, what it really represented was the notion and vision of new India that our forefathers had for us. They gave us a country, high on hope, energy and compassion. It’s rather ironic that two of the most debated (or derided based on your inclinations) terms – Secularism and Nationalism didn’t even find mention in the original version of the constitution.

But a lot has changed and changed for the worse.

A man is butchered in his home and a youth is pulled out of the train and murdered. A student is issued rape threats for saying that war is not the solution. An academic institution of repute, one which has produced gems is dubbed Anti-national and its students labelled traitors (By the way one of the politician was also able to count the number of condoms in their dustbins). A soon to be nominated CJI dictates us to sing national anthem at the theatre because it will enhance patriotism. The voices of civil societies are muzzled and their dissent silenced. A part of country burns in perpetual fire and its inhabitants termed, yes you guessed it right – Anti-national. You criticize the government and the trolls rampage. The surprising part – many of these anti-social elements are followed on social media by people in higher echelons of power. The farmers die and crops fail, as media, dubbed the fourth pillar of democracy sings paean to the emperor. This and many others. All this happening while the economic status of country enters into doldrums and political characteristic of the nation reaches abyss.

The list is long and non-exhaustive. But there is a pattern to it. The rulers of the day don’t really fear the commoners. They know very well that it doesn’t matter what you do for them, at the end of the day its “gai” and “gobar“, is all that costs to get back in power. The spirit of India is dying, its social fabric withering. The imminent need of the hour is to sew those fabrics together. Social cohesion is important not just because it makes us appear civilized, its important also because it is imperative for growth and development. A wound left unattended attracts many flies and few doctors but it’s going to infect us all. At the end there will be no one but only flies to fly around. And believe me their number is increasing. A broken society is vulnerable to all sorts of extremities, many ending with disastrous consequences.

The belief in ourselves is what holds us together… still.

I am not particularly optimistic when it comes to our leader’s future. But I am optimistic about the nature of my countrymen. I know that they are the ones who fought together sometime in the past to grant us freedom. The circumstances as they exist today give us excellent opportunity to showcase our real characters. Let us not vitiate the atmosphere further by giving the reins of our discourse in the hands of few self-proclaimed guardians of Indian tradition. Let us not turn every issue into one of chest-thumping and brow-beating, a moment of castigating those not inclined to a particular view. Rather let us come together to spread a word to the world about what India stands for – Freedom, Pluralism and Inclusiveness. Let’s portray to the world an image of a nation growing rapidly yet rooted firmly to its roots of unity in diversity. Because that’s what our constitutional forefathers had envisioned for us.

And always remember what Abraham Lincoln said, “We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained, it must not break our bonds of affection. The mystic chords of memory will swell when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature.”