This discussion took place many years ago. I was living in USA then. A German girl who had recently moved to US said, ‘If you don’t like this country then you should just leave this country’, as a part of the ongoing debate where many international people were discussing the US foreign policies. The person to whom this was directed at said, ‘I don’t think you need to love the country you live in’.
What followed next was my own investigation into this. As a young boy, I always thought I was patriotic. Even now, when the national anthem is sung, I go very sentimental. It never fails to move me. In reality it reminds me of my childhood. I realize that it is nothing to do with a song or to do with patriotism. I had the same emotions running through me when I watched Taare Zamee Par. I think most of us love our homelands. It is more to do with nostalgia than anything else.
But does that mean I should love my country to be living in a country? Can I not love my country and still live in that country? These are interesting but serious questions because this is one of the reasons cited by many Hindus of Hyderabad to discredit the Muslims of Hyderabad, stating that some of Muslims of Hyderabad support Pakistan during a cricket match. They ask why these Muslims do not go to Pakistan since they love it so much.
Is it a prerequisite to love a country to live in that country? Should this love be tested?
I ask myself, am I patriotic? When I was a kid I didn’t have these questions. I always believed I was an ardent patriot. There was something glorious in supporting one’s nations and defending it against all its enemies. Those enemies were everywhere. Every foreign nation that invaded us or intended to invade us, all those people who looked down upon us calling a ‘third world’ country, all those who put USA and UK stickers on their motorbikes. There were many enemies living within who constantly cited ills in this nation- they constantly criticized this nation.
But then I grew into a boy and then into an adult. One of the sad outcomes of that growth is that there is a good chance that you mature up, start seeing things in a broader perspective. I started assuming that everyone around me outgrew the childish notions. I thought by now, everyone around me, the people of my age and older, had outgrown the belief in Santa Claus. To my amusement and to eventual dismay, I realized that most adults around me continued to believe in Santa Claus. They stopped learning and growing long ago and they don’t even realize that. What more, they were even ready to die and kill to defend their Santa Claus against all detractors. To say ‘Santa Claus doesn’t exist’ has become a traitorous act.
I realized that I was not a patriot in the ‘conventional’ sense as defined by most of my fellow Indians. I did not accept everything my country did was right. I was rea
What does it mean to criticize a country, berate it, talk ill of it? Why is burning one’s flag punishable by death? Why so much hullabaloo when someone doesn’t sing a National Anthem or when someone keeps their foot next to a flag in a picture, or when someone floats it upside down by accident?
Why should Muslims be forced into singing Vande Mataram? Why can’t people fight for a separate state? Why is it important to support India’s military action in Kashmir? What is so patriotic about all these things?
Why don’t I have a choice to sing or not sing Vande Mataram? Why can’t I criticize my nation’s military action on its own people? Why can’t I defend someone in the court of law even if he is an alleged terrorist?
Who are you to tell me that I am unpatriotic Indian? Who are you to tell me that I should leave this country? Did you take test on patriotism? Who decides what patriotism is?
A nation has certain duties towards its citizens whether those citizens like, love, hate or abhor that nation. No preferential treatment should be given to those who love the nation more than the other. No discrimination can be meted out to those who have expressed hatred, anger, or downright ill for the nation.
This nation is not built for housing patriots. And there is no prerequisite to be a patriot to live in this nation.