February 19, 2020
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Happy R-Day!

There is a lot wrong with our society—politically, economically and socially. Will we ever be able to melt our social and communal identities into a national whole to achieve greatness?

Happy R-Day!
Happy R-Day!

The biggest perk of editing Outlook is the privilege of publishing great writers like Ramachandra Guha. I am indebted to him for this special Republic Day issue because it was his article that triggered the idea to seek essays on patriotism from other equally eminent writers. But am I qualified to write about nationalism and patriotism? The question was asked by innumerable trolls who abused my forefathers for pointing out the mismatch between the patriotic cry for honour for Rani Padmavati and our everyday victims of rape and murder. How dare I mix up Rani Padmavati with some Dalit girl getting raped, mutilated and murdered? Last week, when I wrote about the Nirbhaya of Haryana, some five women had been raped. The number rose to ten on the tenth day, just in Haryana. Yet, the trolls were attacking my progenitor and his ancestors for my piece on the honour or lack of it for the victims? For them Deepika Padukone ought to be riding a lion with the hologram of the Indian map in the backdrop and we ought to be burning buses to celebrate patriotism. All for the nation, indeed! What did your dad do for this nation? A troll asked. He probably didn’t get to do much as he was tortured and locked up for his politics at the dawn of our independence. But more than my dad, two of his friends had impressed me a lot.

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Puthupally Raghavan, a Gandhian-turned-communist ideologue, and another, R. Gopinathan Nair, the founder-publisher of the Communist Party’s mouthpiece, Janayugam or People’s Age. Raghavan, one of the tallest leaders of Kerala’s freedom movement, never hankered after power or its trappings, and died unsung. No mean scholar himself, he had helped Robin Jeffrey write his seminal work, The Decline of the Nair Dominance. The asthmatic Raghavan’s last struggle was against a rock-crushing unit in his neighbourhood, which didn’t let him breathe peacefully till the last. Nair was the son of a Travancore palace physician and ironically it was this feudal connection that got him a licence for the Communist Party’s newspaper. The initial capital was his mother’s jewellery. But Nair was cast aside when the party turned the newspaper into a company. Many decades later when Janayugam was relaunched with renewed capital and communist vigour, Nair was forgotten. I have seen true patriotism in these and many other lives. Every nook and corner of this country had such great examples of people “failing” so that ano­ther generation could live without the fetters of colonialism and feudalism. They were givers who happily lost out to the smart takers of the post-independence generation. Though Nair was a “failure”, many Janayugam newspaper agents did bec­ome successful legislators. Now, just 70 years after independence and nationhood, we seem to have completely forgotten our priorities. Some imagined hurt over a fictional character and a movie (most probably a costume drama) has become a natio­nal issue instead of 10 rapes in as many days in the national capital’s backyard.

In this issue we have dissected patriotism from the Left, Centre and Right perspectives by such scholars as Irfan Habib, S. Gurumurthy, Apoorvanand, Saji Narayanan and R. Balashankar. As a chronicler of everyday injustices, all I can say is that there is a lot wrong with our society—politically, economically and socially. Our institutions are all in a shambles. Will we ever be able to melt our social and communal identities into a national whole to achieve greatness? Not till we hold a mirror to our miserable lives.

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