Popcorn patriotism

Dear Editor,
Kudos to Poonam I Kaushish for the article titled “Popcorn patriotism”(October 31).
Individuals who truly love India do respect each and every citizen of their country by rising above all narrow divisive credential of race, language, caste and religion; lead an honest life and carry on their respective jobs with utmost sincerity and dedication; work for the cause of the downtrodden and tortured lot by drawing inspiration from the greats like Kailash Satyarthi; care for the environment and protect nature and greenery. In the dictionary of true lovers of the nation; national flags or anthems are secondary items as they are nothing but mere symbols. The real nation lies in the hearts and human rights of common people. Instead of taking prompt “offence” whenever the flag or anthem gets “dishonoured”; they feel infinite times more pain when human rights of innumerable poor people, vulnerable children, women, minorities and refugees(displaced by riots or climate change) get mercilessly trampled under the marauding feet of vested interests. After all those unfortunate brothers and sisters of my land form the real India.
Do the zealous admirers of national flag and anthem cry when their fellow brothers like Mohammad Akhlaque or Junaid got killed by the brutes for his alleged “sin” of consuming beef? Why do the self-declared devotes of “Bharat Mata” remain mum when our Dalit cousins and those from the North-East get abused, assaulted or killed in the “progressive” cities from Delhi to Bangalore? Are they not sons or daughters of “Bharat Mata”? Who will enlighten the dark minds of these rabid zealots that switching off the lights and fans when not in use(be it in home or workplace) is a much greater patriotic task than playing to the gallery of chanting mere slogans in shrillest voice possible? Who will teach the “nationalists” about the basic fact that India gets truly assaulted when the Constitutional right of practicing any religion and the Constitutional guarantee of freedom of expression comes under the threat of extinction? Why don’t the “patriotism” of the slogan-shouters get assaulted when innumerable Rohith Vemulas of this land are forced to commit suicide following blatant casteism and numerous innocent couples get killed in the name of “honour” of the family? Why don’t the “nationalism” of the “patriots” get hurt when vitriolic attacks are launched against the Indians who dare to call a spade a spade and express their anguish over the deluge of intolerance being witnessed throughout the country. They are merely exercising their right of freedom of speech and expression as guaranteed by none other than the Constitution. By definition of which logic, can those “patriots” afford to beat their own trumpet of “nationalism” despite cold-bloodedly assaulting the very basis of the country ie democracy, tolerance and free speech? Actually those “nationalists” who force all to chant rhetorical slogans hold no moral right to live in this democratic country.
If killing of intellectuals and rationalists from M.M.Kalburgi to Gouri Lankesh for their “sin” of not succumbing to the diktats of the communal brigade do not amount to “anti-nationalism”; if infringing upon the dietary habits of certain communities and killing of innocents for their alleged “sin” of consuming beef do not get regarded as “anti-nationalism”; if cold-blooded attempt to murder the diversity of this heterogeneous democratic secular country by imposing a particular religion and language upon all get treated as matters of “nationalism” — then it is high time we revisit the dictionary and amend the definition of “nationalism” and “anti-nationalism”! If mere symbol of the nation like flag or anthem gets priority over the plight of millions of common Indians trampled under the marauding feet of demons like poverty, illiteracy, hunger, child as well as bonded labour and sex slavery in the name of “patriotism”; if “patriotism” means flaunting our “elitism” by attaining Mars orbit, never mind if millions of our very own are bereft of minimum basic right of potable water and toilets — then I refuse to call myself a “patriot! If “patriotism” “inspire” us to launch vitriolic racial sexist assault on Maria Sharapova for her “sin” of being ignorant about a certain “God” named Sachin Tendulkar; if “patriotism” “inspire” us to sweep all social ills of India under the “nationalist” carpet and malign that great humanitarian named Satyajit Ray for his “sin” of “selling poverty” in international forum; if “patriotism” “inspire” us to build world’s highest statue at the State’s expense so as to “mesmerize” the world and to display supreme indifference to another noble human being named Kailash Satyarthi as his yeoman’s service has exposed the bitter truth of existence of millions of vulnerable child labourers in this “elite” country before the entire world — then we should hang our heads in shame for our skewed inhuman definition of “patriotism” and “nationalism”.
No true Indian will chant rhetorical slogans so as to pass the litmus test of “patriotism” as defined by the communal “nationalist” brigade. Rather their all-embracing work, tolerant thoughts and democratic ideals will talk about their dedication towards India. And I desire to end with Rabindranath Tagore’s assertion “Never allow patriotism to triumph over humanity”. Remember this very person came up with number of swadeshi songs, including ‘Jana Gana Mana…’, reflecting his deep love for the country. But Tagore’s love for the country was not limited to mere flags or zealous chant of ‘Bharat Mata ki Jai’; but got extended to respect for values, humanity and an earnest yearning for an environment where the mind is without fear and the head held high.
Kajal Chatterjee,