27th January 2012
Yesterday was 26th January. We were invited to a flag hoisting ceremony in a high school. After hoisting the flags, I told the students that hoisting a flag on 26th January and 15th August should not become a just a ritual for us. Instead it should mean a lot more for all of us. We need to ensure that everybody under that flag should feel respected and protected. We cannot hoist the flag and continue to treat millions of our people with contempt and disrespect. It is difficult to say how much the students grasped from that message. These occasions are only used to inject unquestioned patriotism in the minds of children. While we continue to speak highly of our country and our history it becomes important for most people to show others in slightly bad light. I am sure this is not only applicable to India. This is happening in every other country. The Americans go to the extent of publicly announcing ‘God Bless America’. I was bought in an atmosphere of ‘Jai Jagat’ which means well-being of world at large. I do not cherish a patriotic mind that is disrespectful of other countries and other cultures. Just as we need a secular mind that respects all religions while practicing your own, we need a mindset that will respect all countries and cultures while being happy about the situation in which one is bought up. Leave alone being disrespectful of other countries and other cultures, we are disrespectful of our own people in our own country and their cultures. What is the understanding of a middle class or upper middle class Indian about adivasis and their culture. How much do we know about fisherfolks and their way of life ? How much efforts have we made in order to understand the culture of different groups of nomads. We can’t pretend to be respecting our flag and our country without respecting the people living in the country.
Looking at what is happening at this country today, I am deeply concerned that our young people are imbibing a kind of superficial patriotism. They want to be proud of India without being proud of marginalized communities in this country. Huge levels of corruption, poverty are all indicators to show that our patriotism is superficial. Casteism, communalism, dowry etc are other indicators to show that we do not really care about the problems of the country. There are new slogans becoming increasingly popular in India. One slogan is ‘Incredible India’ and the other one is ‘India the super power’. These are slogans that will please our mind and we tend to believe that these slogans are true. Only when you travel through remote areas of India will you understand the reality. If you think industrialization is making us a super-power it is good to understand that cost at which this industrialization is taking place. How many adivasis and other poor people are displaced. How many new slums are created. How much havoc we have played with the culture of people who are different from us. There is an old proverb, ‘if you repeat a lie a 100 times, it will become true.’ We are doing something similar here. By shouting a slogan 100 times, we tend to believe that we are making a true statement. A country is not made of buildings, roads and airports. A country is made up of people. If millions of our people are poor and ill-treated, there is something seriously wrong with the slogan we are shouting.
A good patriot will be broadminded and will be respectful of all others. A good patriot will also admit mistakes that his/her country is making and work towards correcting the mistake. I wish our young people will become patriots in true sense of the word. Superficial patriotism will be as dangerous as communalism. To some extent our religious practices are also becoming superficial. The spiritual aspect is missing. Swami Vivekananda said to some farmers who came to meet him from Punjab: “As long as there is even a stray dog that remains hungry, my spirituality is to look for food for that hungry dog”. Working to eradicate the suffering of those who are in misery is a key component of spirituality according to most major religions. How can we allow millions of people to remain under Below Poverty Line (BPL), totally asset less and at the mercy of powerful and rich while we celebrate all the festivals and continue to believe that India is a highly religious and spiritual country. There is something basically wrong with the way we look at ourselves. May be it is time for us to change the mirror so that we can see our full reflection,
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