Nationalism is a viral fever which has gripped the rich and those who badly desire to be rich in this country. Jingoism is after all the favorite pastime of the idiots. The good news is that Priety Zinta too has joined the long list of self-proclaimed patriots who teach people on subjects like patriotism and nationalism albeit without any learning worth speaking about. Just a week ago, I too had visited a mall to watch Haider. And then just before the movie started the entire crowd composed of middle-class and rich people got up when Jana Gana Mana was being played. I squarely refused to stand with the crowd; the whole incidence reminded me of the opening scene from Orwell’s 1984. I experienced the same sense of isolation that I had felt while reading the opening pages from 1984. A good friend asked me to stand up claiming that, “you should stand up all the more as you are a lawyer.” To which I politely replied that, “Exactly. I am not standing because I am a lawyer.” Unlike most of these demented people I knew the law of the land better than anybody here. I kept telling myself that, “they keep disciplining your body and your mind and they keep repeating it until every issue evokes a semi-automatic response.”
The latest incidence where Priety Zinta got a student of philosophy evicted from the Mall is not merely condemnable but is also an offence as the same violates the student’s right to free speech and personal dignity [And I believe the student should drag her and the management of the Mall to Court and claim compensation for mental harassment]. Not standing while national anthem is being played is no offence. This issue was squarely settled by Supreme Court in Bijoe Emmanuel’s case, 1987 AIR 748 [popularly known as National Anthem Case]. And here is what the Court had stated in its outstanding judgment, “proper respect is shown to the National Anthem by standing up when the National Anthem is sung. It will not be right to say that disrespect is shown by not joining in the singing.” And it is needles to add that such a refusal does not attract the provisions of Prevention of Insults to National Honour Act, 1971. The judgment went out to remind everybody that, “our tradition teaches tolerance; our philosophy preaches tolerance; our constitution practices tolerance; let us not dilute it.” This should effectively settle the legal position as enunciated by the Apex Court. The Supreme Court again in Karan Johar v. Union of India retaliated that “the national anthem which is exhibited in the course of exhibition of newsreel or documentary or in a film, the audience is not expected to stand as the same interrupts the exhibition of the film and would create disorder and confusion, rather than add to the dignity of the national anthem.” [(2004) 5 SCC 127]
Nationalism is the best way to divert people’s attention from day to day reality. It remains till this day the most toxic chemical with which one can poison a young mind and metamorphose him/her into a proverbial frog of the well. It is this sort of understanding of nationalism that compels people say; to reject English education, feminist critique of society or modern science. These are the most logical outcome of xenophobia which goes under the respectable name of nationalism. Time and again writers, poets, philosophers and preachers in all languages have warned people against the inherent dangers of blind patriotism. Love for one’s country is great thing, it is treasure. How can you not love your language, your culture, your food, your music? Aren’t these the very components of one’s identity? But it can also become self-reactive if the same cannot be accomplished without hating the imagined “other” which all Orwell readers know well is largely a fictive creation of media and state instrumentality. By this definition you cannot love India if you don’t hate Pakistan or China or some gaga land. This isn’t nationalism but a trap that effectively barricades people-to-people contact.
Given the depth of “training” that most youngsters are subjected to, thanks to their schooling and higher education, it is not at all surprising to see that these people get angry at petty issues while remaining perfectly calm and quite while their Prime Minister sports expensive designer suit and goes around comparing himself to Gandhi; a man who just wore just a piece of cloth to cover his own body.
Let us remind these self-proclaimed patriots what idiocy they are heaping upon the nation. While they are perfectly within their rights to remain the frog of well, let us ensure that these morons don’t stand up and preach us what constitutes patriotism and what doesn’t.
Toward the end of Tagore’s novel Gora, this is what he had to say to his mother, “you have no caste, you do not discriminate against people, you do not hate-you are the image of benediction. You are my Bharatvarsha.” [pp.477, Translated by Sujit Mukherjee, Sahitya Academy, first published 1997] Having read this passage we now know for sure where do Priety Zintas and her likes stand.
We owe allegiance not to the cowardice of nationalism preached by Preity Zintas and her likes but to spirit of internationalism emanating from works of Tagore, Llosa, Fanon and Marx. The world would truly be a better place to live in if only people like Preity Zinta did not exist in it. Xenophobia isn’t cool Preity. At a time when India and Pakistan are busy killing their people in the on–going border clash, one expects saner voices from artists and film stars who could use their influence to direct the course of history toward a new horizon. But instead what we find is display of aggressive nationalism that can only benefit the arms suppliers from America and elsewhere. If Preity and her likes are reading this, than all I can say as a younger brother is that we all want to live in a world which exudes a spirit of cosmopolitanism. Human history after all is history of collective contribution. The same thing has been so well expressed by the great Martiniqean poet Amie Cesaire:
but the work of man is only just beginning
and it remains to man to conquer all
the violence entrenched in the recesses of his passion
And no race possesses the monopoly of beauty,
of intelligence, of force, and there
is a place for all at the rendezvous of victory.