Patriotism means defending and protecting one’s country, even if it means protecting it from its own government and its people
As the Supreme Court made its announcement, making it compulsory for cinema halls across the country to play the national anthem before screening the movie, I sat in absolute bewilderment about the enforcement of yet another mandate in the month of demonetisation that threatened the rights of an individual in this country.
People took to Twitter to voice their dissent but soon their voices died out because there was no other option. What was surprising was (or, probably not) there were voices that rose in favour of this new imposition that also made it mandatory for moviegoers to stand still as the anthem played on to prove their respect and patriotism.
The irony of this situation is unmatched. A lot has been said about different forms of patriotism and all of us have varied ideas of the kind of patriotism we want to exhibit.
Now, citizens (or not) are being forced to prove patriotism for a country that, in the same month, took away the right of the people to access their own property, threatened the freedom of speech, and took away a right to choose.
When I started writing this piece, in my head, it was little about our decision makers and more about us, the silent sufferers, the supporters of our decision makers, and largely, the ignorants.
Every time we suffer in silence, each time we choose to casually brush it under the mat, they rise to become stronger.
The biggest issue in recent times, demonetisation, could have seen the light of the day because he, he who should not be named, knew he is going to have more supporters than not. Whether it turns out to be a good decision or not, time will tell. But there’s very little doubt that it was not the perfectly executed decision. Not even close to perfect.
When I stood in the long ATM queues to be able to get partial access to what is mine, I managed to speak to a few others in the line and the common sentiment was that their little suffering is manageable as long as the suffering of the ones higher than them (financially, here) is exponential. What is saddening is that we let the government take our property but along with that, we also let them take away our sense of empathy. What brand of people are we becoming that we let the ones who we elected bring out the worst in us?
Again, this isn’t about them. It’s about us. We let the empathy get away, we let things of insignificance prevail before our sense of empathy, humanity if I may say. The government is banking on people like us who are losing our ability to empathise. That middle-class woman suffering in the ATM queue but rejoicing that her misery is not as big as the one’s not standing in the queue is exactly our rulers are thriving on. The support that a lot of us offered to the SC ruling on the forced display of patriotism and the silent treatment by news readers to the BJP head issuing a warning to journalists is what is going to see the downfall of India even further.
Far be it for someone like me to support the current regime, but maybe it’s time for us to internalise all the times we’ve kept quiet, all the times we’ve basked in our others’ misery, and for all the times we’ve defended the government. Maybe it is only in the better interests of everyone to rise. Rise, not against the government, but against the misinformation, disdain, the indifference, and the apathy.
Maybe, this process will make us more patriotic than any song ever can. Maybe, a common sense of empathy will help bring unity among Indians more than any leader trying to unite people on grounds of religion, caste, or region will. And maybe, in this process, we will realise what being patriotic can really mean.
Because, if we don’t take a moment to realise flaws like – how can the Supreme Court, which is supposed to be the guardian of the fundamental rights of citizens, devalue the notion of individual rights – we deserve this. We deserve this government that believes in segregation and not convergence, we deserve our leader who preaches discrimination and not tolerance, and we deserve this country that is propagating destruction and not preservation.
The choice, is ours. And this time, I choose to be patriotic.