The current ruling Government led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi has brought about a radical change in the way people think about our country. The government’s core focus has been on creating a sense of nationalism amongst the citizens of the country. They have been highly successful at that, but at the same time, this concept of ‘Nationalism’ has been creating a lot of problems for the Indian Communities. So much that the Nationalist ideals of people seem to have crossed the borders of respect and tolerance for the basic human ethics.

Patriotism is a cultural value we have always been taught about from our childhood. The value of Patriotism makes an individual have respect for his country’s achievements and honor its traditions with respect to the culture of others. It is patriotism that makes our men in the army risk their lives for the collective good of the people, makes athletes work hard to get a medal at the Olympics, and makes our cricketers work hard to match the expectations of the Indian cricket fans. In short, patriotism is a cultural value which makes us think about something beyond our regular world, take responsibility towards making the country better.

Nationalism, on the other hand, is an extreme version of patriotism. For a nationalist, his nation is the ultimate and the best that exists. For him, there is nothing above his Nation, not even the basic human values. A nationalist puts his country above everything, even his own personal interests.

However, in such a case, he might give up his respect for traditions and values which are not similar to his nationalist ideals. This is exactly what has created disputes and riots between communities in India.

Take, for example, the recent case of Junaid Khan who was killed brutally by a mob, all because of an accusation that he was carrying beef. The 16-year old was stabbed multiple times with knives and was thrown off the train. Sadly, this isn’t a rare case anymore, as there are tons of reports and complaints of mob lynching heard everywhere around the country.

Another case is the recent order of the Supreme Court which makes it compulsory for theaters to play the National Anthem before the start of every movie, and all people present inside have to stand up and show respect. To say that this move would make people more patriotic is a completely false assumption. To force people into believing and following ethics and culture which represent respect and pride in the nation is not an act of patriotism. It’s a nationalistic practice which seeks to make people respect a country in spite of its weaknesses and shortcomings.

A patriotic person believing and respecting his country won’t try to force its culture on the people. Instead, such a person would take the responsibility to make the country better and help in its development. Nationalist ideas, though, are based on blind faith in everything that’s happening in the country. And a nationalist community is more concerned with spreading its rules and ideas on the country’s people rather than respecting the diversity and trying to take responsibility and improve the conditions of their home country.

This is what people don’t seem to understand. Respecting and loving the country does not mean that one tries to force their own opinion on everyone around them. Rather, it refers to the ability to love the country for what it has achieved and taking pride in its heritage, but at the same time not blindly believing in everything that speaks well about the nation without thinking about its negative aspects.

Why Indians are Nationalistic instead of being Patriotic

Most Indians seem to be more inclined towards nationalism rather than patriotism. There are obvious reasons why this is happening:

  1. Firstly, Nationalism is much more powerful than Patriotism. Believing in Patriotism does not require someone to change how other people live. Instead, it could be considered as a way of life which adds some meaning to everything we do daily. Nationalism, however, is much more aggressive, it makes people think that they belong to something more precious than themselves, and this is what makes them blind in their beliefs in the first place.
  2. Secondly, the power connected to nationalism makes it a perfect tool to be used by political parties to garner votes. The values of nationalism could spread much more easily and are in direct connection with the prosperity of the nation. A prime value that nationalism imposes is that one’s own home country is better than every other country in the world in spite of its deficiencies and weakness. Such nationalistic values are what make people blindly hate foreign companies for no reason, feel proud when an Indian Origin person gets appointed as a CEO of a foreign Company and when India beats Pakistan in a cricket match. 

Nationalism is actually important for a country. the main reason for it being the fact that people would be happy to live in a country only if their expectations match the country’s goals. The country’s goals here obviously involve attaining development and growth. Without promoting nationalism, the government cannot encourage young people to step up and make start-ups which could grow and help the country prosper. This in-turn makes people desire to achieve success in their lives by living up to the expectations of the country and keeps them happy.

Nationalism in some ways could make several people co-operate to achieve a similar objective. But it could be highly misused in the exact same way. When Nationalism makes people blind, they could be made to commit deeds which could be harmful to themselves and to others who don’t have the same belief as theirs. Also, the same blindness acts as an opportunity for a few political parties and other communities which seek to misguide the people.

There are several incidents which denote how much blind one can get while having faith in nationalism. Social media platforms like twitter and facebook are constantly used by people and even members of political parties to post news with false pictures and captions which could misguide people easily. The problem is actually not just concerned those who post such news, sometimes it’s the response that shows how intolerant people could become of someone after hearing or seeing a news about something.

Such a case happened in May when the Times of Islamabad posted about how the renowned Indian author Arundhati Roy criticized the Indian Army’ presence in Kashmir. The site quoted her as saying “India would never gain full control of Kashmir even if its army deployment increases from 7 Lakh to 70 Lakh”. What followed was a massive backlash from all sides in the Indian media platform. Without any confirmation of the news, she was called as an anti-national and was the victim of various derogatory comments. It was only after she confirmed that she didn’t say anything regarding the matter, that the news channels realized that it was a fake news and stopped covering the story.

To quote Todd Gitlin, an American Sociologist “There is a fuzzy but real distinction that can and I believe should be made, between patriotism, which is an attachment to a way of life, and nationalism, which is the insistence that your way of life deserves to rule over other ways of life”. Nationalism is not an alternative to patriotism, it’s not even close to it. But the reason why Nationalism is causing so many riots and arguments between communities in India is that now, the power of Nationalism has been attached to the sacred concept of religion.

Mixing Nationalism with something like a religion, which is supposed to be very personal and precious to individuals, has created communities which thrash down anything and everything that comes in their way and seek to implement what they feel is righteous and the most beneficial to the nation.

This is exactly what’s creating the division between communities in a country that was once highly praised for its unity in spite of having different cultures, languages, and states. The only way to bring back the unity again is to take the path of patriotism, which not only makes people take the responsibility of the country but also makes them proud of their greatest strength: Unity in Diversity.

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