How to Qualify as an Anti-National: A Dummies’ Guide
Here’s what Amruta Chimote faced at a movie theatre, and these are her reflections thereafter.
(This is a personal blog and the views expressed above are the author’s own. The Quint neither endorses nor is responsible for the same.)
I went to watch a movie with a friend recently. After sitting down in the second-last row of the theatre, I heard a group of young men, seated behind us, indulging in loud, vulgar chatter.
Seated beside me were a couple of young men – one of them was loudly talking on his cell phone, which continued at constant intervals before the movie started and kept disturbing the audience. This is when I realised and accepted that I would simply have to put up with this nuisance at the theatre.
No Place for Gandhi in Nationalist ‘Bharat’
As the national anthem played before the film started, in an attempt to induce nationalism (quite odd for a movie theatre), I stood up with the others, but in complete indifference and with the involuntary fear of being jeered at for the lack of so-called patriotism.
I had read stories of how movie-goers were abused and trampled by angry mobs for not standing up for the anthem, and I didn’t want to be another casualty. Such was my dread.
A nationalistic fervour ran across the exhilarated crowd, among them were these young men seated around us. They fervently started chanting “Bharat Mata Ki Jai” and “Vande Mataram”, as though invoking the spirit of the days of India’s freedom struggle.
Minutes after we settled down and the title credits started rolling, the film started with a thought-provoking quote by Gandhi. Without wasting a minute and totally unmindful of the quote, they started ridiculing the man. One of them yelled, “Iss buddhe ko dekhne nahi aye hum” (we haven’t come all the way to watch this old-timer), and the others responded with grotesque laughter.
Willful misinformation and other propaganda glorifying jingoism have been regularly fed to the populace for long now for obvious political reasons. I have myself come across quite a lot of such misleading material about several respected figures. I
wonder how in our everyday life we don’t even think before uttering pejoratives like “Majburi ka naam Mahatma Gandhi” — it is this propaganda at work.
Coming back to the story — I couldn’t sit still and grew restless with the increasing heckling and loathsome behaviour of these people, but my friend and I kept quiet out of fear, in order to avoid getting into any kind of brawl (judging from the kind of crowd it was).
The ultra-nationalism and the contempt towards figures like Gandhi coming from ignorant minds was so despicable it made me wonder if these are the very people who constitute the lynch mobs that beat up people amidst the chants of Bharat Mata or is it that I was over-analyzing?
What Tagore Said About Nationalism
When I say “I stood up for the national anthem in complete indifference,” I don’t mean I am not a patriot. But more than the forced symbolism and deification, I believe in bigger actions. I am quite aware of the rickety education system of our country and the poverty that enables the robbing of childhood from children, who are forced into manual labour. I have witnessed the contempt of fellow Indians towards minorities and the hatred of some towards the asylum being offered to the persecuted Rohingya.
I am well aware of the slander and witch-hunting of social activists, honest journalists, and of those who fight against the political machinery. For me, more than symbolism, a genuine effort towards my people’s well-being is what matters. For me the development and advancement of the populace as human beings makes up patriotism. And if “nationalism” is the new brand of ‘patriotism,’ I am better off without it.
This very feeling can be credibly expressed in the words Rabindranath Tagore:
“Even though from childhood I had been taught that the idolatry of Nation is almost better than reverence for God and humanity, I believe I have outgrown that teaching, and it is my conviction that my countrymen will gain truly by fighting against that education which teaches them that a country is greater than the ideals of humanity.”
(The author is a freelancer who writes on social issues with the intention of bringing about a positive change in society.)
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