We live in turbulent times. The Indian society is divided right down the centre with people being either “pro-BJP” or “pro-Congress”. The “pro-BJP” people derogatorily called Sanghis, trolls and intolerant take it upon them to defend every decision the government takes. At times they deem anybody who has a difference of opinion with them as Anti National. On the other hand, the ”pro-Congress” people who are now in the opposition, take every effort to downplay the success of the current government, to allocate praise for schemes initiated to themselves or at times, just oppose the government.On the third side, there are people who claim to be “neutral”. However, many of these “neutral” people also have leanings, but maybe don’t have enough courage to come out. And then there are people who are just stuck in the crossfire.
Liberal is a word that is thrown around very loosely. A lot of people like to call themselves liberal these days.Fortunately or unfortunately, a lot of these liberal people choose to take sides against the current government. So what is a liberal? I believe that a liberal is somebody who, among other things, is open minded. He should be open to ideas from all sides of the political and social spectrum and incorporate it into his life. A liberal need not be neutral, but he should have an opinion. He should be someone who looks at both sides of the argument, reads material written by people from both ideologues and then makes up his mind. Unfortunately a lot of us (myself included) do the exact opposite by making up our mind first and then reading material which reinforces our pre-decided opinion.
I find it sad that liberals have been given a bad name in India. In India a liberal is mostly associated as being a “left wing” liberal. While “right wing” liberals do exist, I think that they are under-represented. I personally consider myself to be a liberal, but am embarrassed by the arguments that self-proclaimed liberals give in debates. I have largely found them to be close minded and hateful, two qualities which I think liberals must never have. I find nothing great about being a liberal. It is not something one must be proud of. I think that everybody should be a liberal. It should be the norm and not the exception.
Secularism is also another noble idea which is sometimes used as a bad word by people on the right. Indian secularism is different from Western secularism. The Indian form doesn’t reject religion; it just doesn’t take sides and doesn’t consider any religion to be superior to the other religions. In Sanskrit Indian secularism is called “Sarva Dharma Sama Bhava”, or “having equal respect to all religions”, one of the ideals I choose to live by. But these days in India, it looked upon as “secular” to criticize people from the majority community and condone wrong doings by people from the minority communities. When a politician goes to temples, he is looked upon as being “communal”, while when other politicians visit other places of worship, they are called “secular”. This reeks of double standards. If we truly belong to a secular nation, we must rise above this.
I understand the outrage which took place during the lynching of a man from the minority community in 2015 on a suspicion of eating beef. I also condemn the killing of people belonging to the backward section of Indian society. But are these enough reasons to call an entire nation or community “intolerant”? And why do we have to call ourselves a “tolerant” nation? To me the word “tolerant” has a negative connotation. I believe that the phrase “tolerate each other” means that we live together even though we don’t like each other. Hence, I don’t believe that we are a “tolerant” nation. Instead, I believe that we are a “magnanimous” nation, a nation that accepts people of all faiths and backgrounds. Now that does not mean that we don’t have problems with each other. I admit that we have huge, sometimes unresolvable problems with each other. But that does not mean that we are not willing to work together. I would like to believe that if we are true Indians, we will not allow the faith of another person to come in between a sense of kinship which we feel towards one another. It is an open secret that the English on leaving India in 1947 stated that India won’t remain united for long.The very fact that we are still one nation after 70 years and proven them wrong is testament to our magnanimity and not our “tolerance”.
Now that brings me to our political ideologies. What is so “patriotic” in being a supporter of the BJP? In the same breath I ask what is so “dignified”,“tolerant” or “secular” about being a Congressman? The Indian National Congress fought against the English on the very platform of nationalism and patriotism. I know that people these days are afraid of saying things like “Bharat Mata Ki Jai” or “Vande Mataram” on the fear of being called “Fascists”, “neo-Nazis” or “Bhakts”. What is so cool about sitting down during 50 seconds of our beloved National Anthem? Isn’t it part of our Fundamental Duties to respect the National Anthem? However, I don’t agree in making standing up for the National Anthem compulsory. I believe that when you impose anything on people, no matter how noble the idea, there will be those who will reject it just for the sake of rebelling (and this encompasses people from both sides of the political spectrum). People should stand up for the National Anthem not out of a sense of fear or compulsion, but out of a sense of respect. Our country has given us everything, can’t we at least show some love and gratitude? Freedom of Speech and Freedom of Expression should not be used to justify something that is unpleasant, disrespectful or downright derogatory. Our country is larger than any political party. No political party “owns” India. No political party is a “guardian of secularism” and neither is any party the “beacon of patriotism”. People from all political ideologies came together, fought the English and drove them out of our country.India belongs to Indians.
So now I ask the question, who am I? The Constitution of India is my holy book. Who am I?
I choose to respect the National Flag, the National Anthem and National Song. Who am I?
I swear to uphold and protect the sovereignty, unity and integrity of India. Who am I?
I love my country, but don’t hate other countries. Who am I?
I want peace with our neighbouring countries, but not if they are killing my soldiers and countrymen. Who am I?
And above all, I want my nation to prosper. Who am I?