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Your Republic Day issue was a classic, one of the most balanced collections of articles on the idea of patriotism. You should bring it out as a book.
Meghnad Desai, London
With reference to your Republic Day special, it is impossible to keep a pluralistic society unified over the long term by creating and sustaining the fear of a common enemy or problem. Nor, in a world where resources are scarce and wants are infinite, can we endlessly keep the people content by appeasing them with bread and circuses. Thus, only transparent and ethical government will be able to engender a love for one’s country in the hearts of a diverse people.
G.L. Karkal, Pune
This refers to A Nation Within 4 Temples. I do agree with the author’s view that the American nation is not organic, for absence of a monolithic culture. However, the same goes for Israel since Jerusalem, the capital, is not just the birthplace of Judaism but also of Christianity and significant to Islam, so like America, it is also a land of many cultures. In India’s case, ‘Hindu’ was an umbrella term for a diverse pool of cultures and faiths living on that side of the Sindhu river. Everything within this place shares a common heritage. This holds true for those who embraced Judaism, Buddhism, Jainism, Christianity, Islam, Sikhism, etc in this land.
Nazar Khan, On E-Mail
Yes, the significance of the old ‘Bharat’ has faded with time. There are no second thoughts on the fact that India’s spiritual identity is losing its charm in recent times. But hyper patriotism is not an option. It confuses people about their identity. India is such a diverse country! Rather than delving into its rich history, the focus is being shifted to inane yet dangerous issues. Our freedom fighters and luminaries aimed for peace and the enrichment of life through engaging with our culture. Alas, little did they know that rifts would be created on communal and political lines in the name of this culture.
Ramachandran Nair, Muscat
S. Gurumurthy has made an extensive analysis of Hinduism. The memorable speech made by Swami Vivekananda is relevant even today. “The Christian has not to become Hindu or Buddhist, nor a Hindu or Buddhist to become Christian,” said Vivekananda. “But each must assimilate the spirit of the other, and yet preserve his individuality and grow according to his own law of growth. Every religion has produced men and women of most exalted character. If in the face of this evidence, anybody dreams of the exclusive survival of his own religion and the destruction of the others, I pity him from the bottom of my heart.” Let the Hindu religious fundamentalists realise that atrocities perpetrated in the name of ‘ghar wapasi’ and cow protection are incompatible with Vivekananda’s views.
C. Chandrasekaran, On E-Mail
This country has paid a great price for the pseudo-secular Jawaharlal Nehru’s desire to continue in power and put his dynasty above the nation. Even 70 years after independence, the masses are still struggling to cope with day-to-day life, and it is agrarian people who have suffered the most.
K.P. Manilal, On E-Mail
This temple explanation is wrong. What is there in the west? Also, these temples are not visited by every Hindu in the land. However you explain it, Hinduism is not a unifying idea as it formalises the separation of people based on descent through the caste system.
Vijay Kartheek Meruga, On E-Mail
Tagore was Cassandra; we’ve fallen into the European-style nationalism he warned against.
Truin Clandes, On E-Mail
Apropos Patriotism Vs Jingoism (Feb 5). Hindutva is not a symbol of Indian patriotism by any measure. This, the BJP needs to understand. The Indian Army is the true symbol of Indian patriotism. But it needs to be given teeth, and also food, in harsh terrain in order to defend the country. Tej Bahadur Yadav, a BSF jawan, had raised an issue over being served bad, insufficient food in the forces. But his plea was totally rubbished by the political class, controlling the forces from the fortress of South Block. They whisked him away, locked him up, and claimed that he was an alcoholic, with an unstable mind. Yadav pointed fingers at his superiors, alleging they were stealing soldiers’ rations and he was labelled ‘anti-national’ for this act. The big patriotic question that the present establishment needs to answer is: Will proper daal be served to our soldiers or there will forever be some ‘daal mein kaala’ in the system?
Rajiv Boolchand Jain, New Delhi
While I fully agree with Ramachandra Guha that today patriotism has been reduced to a false and dangerous pride about all misconceived notions of our nation, the very opposite of the concept of India—a plural, composite and all-accepting culture—I disagree with him when he extols our Constitution and finds it the greatest in the world, I find it to be a mediocre document that is not the world’s best, although it is the lengthiest indeed—which makes it a lawyers’ paradise. In terms of references, our Constitution has borrowed the best from the world. But all this has made it bulky and exhausting, and thus that much harder to implement.
In a society where inequality—be it social or economic—was inherent, thanks to the caste and varna system that forms its foundation, these constitutional declarations are nothing but distant utopias. The funny thing is, and I again agree with Guha on this one, that today, the right-wing doesn’t even want to adhere to this mediocre Constitution of ours. They’d rather refer to Manusmriti.
Rakesh Agrawal, Dehradun
Prominent English dictionaries define patriotism in many ways. The Outlook Republic Day special too carries a definition of patriotism as, “Love of and devotion to one’s country”. And that is also the popular perception of patriotism. However, Ramchandra Guha has coined a new term—constitutional patriotism, which he defines as, “The acknowledgement and appreciation of our inherited and shared diversity...the recognition that no State, no nation, no religion or no culture is perfect or flawless, ability to feel shame at the failures...” This is a distortion of the meaning of patriotism. As for jingoism, the ruling elite of post-independence India patronised the leftist intellectuals, who had an inherent disregard for Indian ethos, and allowed them to distort our history. This made the necessary space for jingoism.
M.C. Joshi, Lucknow
Unfortunately the term ‘patriotism’ has been usurped by the political and intellectual class who have distorted its meaning to suit themselves (Happy R-Day!, Feb 5). Love for the motherland should not be construed as love for the ruling regime. The term patriotism acquire a sinister meaning when it is used to silence critics by branding them as unpatriotic or, worse, enemies of the nation. Having said that, it is also true that nothing is achieved when the Opposition projects a victimised image with the ruse that its voice is being stifled. After all, the Opposition was once in power. If we do not shed our parochial attitude towards patriotism, we’ll simply prove that we subscribe to the view of English writer Samuel Johnson who had famously remarked, “Patriotism is the last refuge of the scoundrel”.
Vijai Pant, On E-Mail
I refer to Gandhi Smriti Diary (Feb 5). We celebrate October 2, Gandhi Jayanti, as a holiday and commemorate January 30 as his death anniversary. But do we take time out to think about why the Mahatma was killed by that man called Nathuram Godse? There’s no doubt that Godse pulled the trigger, but it was bigoted right-wing fanatics who gave him the gun, because they couldn’t stand the love that the Mahatma had for other communities, including Muslims. To overcome the atmosphere of growing intolerance that the current regime has been ushering in, the Mahatma’s secular dream should be our roadmap.
Lal Singh, Amritsar
The tragedy of post-Independent India is that the nation soon lost the Mahatma, edifice of truth, non-violence, brotherhood, equity and natural justice. Despite intellectual gatherings and public forums continuing to debate the relevance of Gandhian thought, it is distressing that his values and principles have given way to hate culture. On his 70th death anniversary, the best tribute to Mahatma is to emulate his ideals and resolve issues in a manner free of prejudices.
K.R. Srinivasan, Secunderabad
We now live in an India where patriotism is being used as a ‘discipline and punish’ model. The Supreme Court’s departure from its earlier order mandating that cinema halls play the national anthem before screening the movie is welcome. The apex court has left it to the Centre to decide if the anthem should be played in cinema halls. Some theatre owners say they will play it out of fear of being branded ‘anti-national’ on choosing otherwise, which might even invite violence from zealots. That’s a dangerous trend. Personal views continue to be forced on others. Patriotism should be in-built, which requires sincere efforts right from childhood—at schools and at home. One cannot force others to think or behave in a certain way, or challenge their love for the country. Widespread propaganda on singing and respecting the national anthem is a better option.
Mahesh Kapasi, New Delhi
This refers to From Amir Khusrau to Filthy Abuse (Feb 5) by Irfan Habib. India’s greatness lives in her diversity. Subhas Chandra Bose was perhaps the best example of a secular patriot of our times. Others like Jinnah, V.D. Savarkar and, to an extent, Ambedkar and Periyar, were under some influence of the British. Pakistan was a tragedy as Hindus and Muslims could have lived together as one nation. But here we are now, with both nations witnessing the Talibanisation of political culture while the lands’ rich resources are sucked dry by insatiably greedy corporations.
Kasiniventhan Muthuramalingam, On E-Mail
This refers to Don’t Foist Fear onto Nationalism (Feb 5) by C.K. Saji Narayanan. I believe that the writer’s opinions betray his lack of knowledge and insight on the subject being tackled.
Yumnam Dependrajit, On E-Mail
I did not know before this that RSS cadres participated in the Republic Day parade in 1963 at the request of then PM Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru. It shows all was not bad between the Congress and the Sangh at that time. Now, the former has a single agenda: Defame Modi at any cost! Have they ever appreciated the BJP or the RSS for a single good thing they might have done in all these years?
Rajesh Gupta, On E-Mail
This is in reference to your editorial comment Rani Nirbhaya (Jan 29). Had Padmaavat’s villain been named Daulat/ Dalpat Singh, no outcry would have occurred. In the current era, names like Tipu Sultan, Allauddin, Akbar etc draw the attention of the bhakts. By the way, had the Marathas not sided with the British, Tipu would have sent them packing out of India.
Biswanath Roy, Jabalpur
The other day, I heard a prominent Left leader praising North Korea and their stand against American imperialism. I felt aghast. There is something wrong with his priorities at this time, when we face issues such as the release of Padmaavat and the mob outcry against the SC’s order. And why are we being subjected to this “mob raj” now? Because some leaders, including ministers, support them, while we observe in silence.
V.N.K. Murti, Pattambi
I refer to Rockbed of Cultural Renascence (Feb 5). The article is heavily biased in its approach to defining India’s cultural heritage. It presents an extremely reductive picture. It describes the heritage of India in exclusively Hindu terms, negating the history of several other faiths and cultures, including the 1,000 years of Muslim rule. Who consolidated present-day India? Not the “cultural fundamentalists” as the writer calls the Aryans and their followers, but the colonial fundamentalists—the British. Fundamentalists will always appear to combat change whenever it occurs, and the emergence of the BJP is only one example of this phenomenon. The ineptness of the Congress and other parties only helps the BJP’s cause. Even so, the BJP only won 32 percent of the national vote in the last general election, just as Hillary Clinton received 3 million more votes than Donald Trump. Can electoral systems that allow such victories truly be considered legitimate?
Nasar Ahmed, On E-Mail
The recent ‘revolt’ by four senior Supreme Court judges against the CJI shook the conscience of the people across the country (A Gavel in the Voting Ring, Jan 29). It whispered that there is something fishy somewhere. The country’s apex court is subject to errors and omissions too. As the judiciary is the last bastion to safeguard and protect democracy, it is expected to respect the rule of law. The four judges deserve appreciation for showing the courage to go against the grain and having realised their responsibility to raise the issue of selective allocation of cases by the CJI and wanting the judiciary to make remedial measures.
M.Y. Sariff, Chennai
What a tragedy! I will feel less regret if the cases get resolved to complete satisfaction. The most disturbing aspect is the weak wicket of the judiciary. If they are showing signs of failure as well, then one can assume that democracy is on its way out of its largest republic.
Anis Mohiuddin, Calcutta
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