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Being a lawyer, that too a practitioner in common law, the first inclination is to delve into the subject citing the constitutional provisions and court rulings. That approach is often confusing when it comes to dealing with emotive issues, and hence this attempt to analyse the issue on a first principle basis.

Should nationalism be worn on the sleeve and be expressed in a demonstrative manner? Is reluctance or failure to be demonstrative with nationalism a bad thing or a pointer to anti-national behaviour, or is it a demonstration of an inherent confidence in our nation state.

While the rationale for being demonstrative with nationalism is easy to understand, the reasons for not being demonstrative may not be as clear. Hence, limiting the discussion below to that aspect.

Question -- does a refusal to be demonstrative of Indian nationalism in a particular manner point to a reaction similar to a child refusing to eat candy when an elder seeks to force the candy upon the child. The assumption being that this child does like candy.

Thinking of the issue intellectually, as against emotionally, few questions come alive: 
(i) What is nationalism for an Indian? 
(ii) What is the Indian nation? Does it differ from the Indian state? 
(iii) Could there be a difference in how an Indian connects to the Indian nation as against the Indian state? 
(iv) Does an Indian citizen have the right not to be overtly demonstrative of his or her nationalism and that too in any specific manner? And 
(v) In that context, does the phrase "Bharat mata ki jai" have a monopoly over how citizens ought to expresses their affection for their motherland? One way of looking at the issue would be as follows:

Nationalism – the term is defined and understood in various ways. My favoured interpretation would be 'an emotional attachment to ones homeland'. Assuming that the terms emotional and attachment are well understood, would like to discuss the term 'homeland' and what it might mean from time to time.

For many of us brought up in the modern Indian school system, me included, the term homeland ought to be fairly clear – it’s the Indian nation. However, I can also see how this might be confusing at times.

Which then gets us to the second discussion. What is the Indian nation and does it differ from the Indian state? Is it rational to insist on an emotional attachment to the Indian state?

Historically, it would be fair to see India as a geographical area that spread in the north from the Himalayas, to the river plains, into the Deccan plateau and in the south upto the Indian Ocean. A description from the east to the west however becomes more difficult. I would say that on the west the Indian nation began on the eastern borders of Iran and in the east India began on the south west of China. This is close to the notion of an Akhand Bharat, and we know who coined the term.

Modern day India of course is much smaller, and can be found and seen in any Indian school text book. 
That is geographical India, but not necessarily a description of the Indian nation, which ought to be wider. To my mind, the Indian nation would comprise of the land mass, the people that live in the subcontinent, the different cultures and sub cultures, cuisine, languages, art, history, religious beliefs and traditions. This would include both, the good and the bad in our civilisation, aspects that we appreciate and love and those that we resent and despise.

To share my sense for historical India, amongst the positive aspects, I would include the family system, culture, many acceptable traditions (noting that some are difficult to accept), spirituality, food, art and above all, a basic raw energy that is difficult to find elsewhere on the planet. On the negatives, there are a few though the two big ones would be economic deprivation and social injustices.

On the positives for the modern Indian state, I would count our limited successes with reducing economic depravity and the creation of economic opportunity, blunting the sharp divides of the cast system, democracy, however distorted, the theoretical recognition of our fundamental god given rights (which not all citizens enjoy equally), the India defence forces and their culture (being an army kid, I am a big beneficiary of this culture and the existence of an independent judiciary, which is presently is suffering a few hiccups on account of an inclination to play to the gallery.)

The clear failures of the modern Indian state are the continued existence of social injustices, blunted though, the slow pace of our judicial system, the colonial minded and oppressive bureaucratic system, and the highly inept and extortionist police force. Last but not the least, the political culture that has evolved in India where every aspect is to be in spin and there is no straight talk. I am not flagging corruption as a negative since I see it as an over simplified term that points to our collective frustration with a system that consistently performs below potential and seems to be pressing the accelerator going downhill.

Somehow when I think the Indian nation, the historical India springs in the mind, including its good and bad aspects. When I think the Indian state, it’s the modern state that jumps at me. I suspect it’s the same for many of us.

Hence, when we think of homeland, what are we thinking of – the old India or the modern version. In many ways, its easier for me to have affection for the old India and have an emotional attachment with her. The modern Indian state, for all its benefits it affords, I find difficult to love. I may have a grudging acceptance of the benefits it affords, but accompanied with a whole load of despise.

While some of our citizens, softened by the benefits we squeeze out of the system, are critical of aspects of the Indian state, others are either already in an open or a subtle kind of rebellion. Given this complicated situation, I can see the confusion in some Indian citizens to be demonstrative with their attachment to their homeland.

The right not to be overtly demonstrative of ones nationalism is an interesting one. Exercise of such a right draws an obvious adverse reaction from those that take comfort in being demonstrative of their nationalism. In India where there are various sub-nationalisms, the exercise of a right not to be demonstrative with one's nationalism makes the demonstrative ones distinctly suspicious of the formers intent. The immediate suspicion is whether one form of sub-nationalism is seeking to trump or prevail and therefore subversive of a collective sense of Indian nationalism.

To appreciate the context, there needs to be an acknowledgement that India is a nation where many sub-nationalities exist, sometimes coexisting peacefully and at other times not. India is also a land where we often encounter and witness one sub-nationality refusing to accommodate another sub-nationality with ease.

For many the idea of a modern India is to be able to co-exist with both the agreeable and the dis-agreeable forms of sub-nationalism.

It the context of the failings of the modern Indian state, it is also not difficult to imagine some of these failures leading to a section of Indians challenging the notion of nationalism relating to the modern Indian state. I would dare say that a large majority of these nay sayers would be fully accepting of the nationalism in relation to India of the old or of an Indian sub-nationalism. Examples of these would include the Naxals, the north eastern rebels and the Kashmiri separatists – not to mention that locals that do not appreciate the UPwalas and Biharis in Mumbai or the north easterners in Bangalore.

Hence, once born in Indian origin, it is difficult to conceive of a person who rebels against or rejects all forms of Indian nationalism, which includes a sub Indian nationality. I would venture to say that all Indians have an affinity to one form or the other of the Indian nation – we are just too interesting a people for that not to be so.

In the above context, if we were to consider the term "Bharat mata ki jai". The notion of Bharat mata was probably born in the fight against British imperialism. The common image that pops into the mind with the term is of a Durga like goddess standing against the map of India. Indian traditions of course had no such goddess, for there was no political entity like India in the old period – atleast not until the British forged us into the modern nation state we are today.

In the past we were a seen by the rest of the world as a geographical space, much like we see the Arabian Peninsula, Europe or any of the Americas. Digressing a bit, infact the Hindus were the people that lived in this geographical space, regardless of their religious beliefs. It was like saying Americans, or Europeans, Turks, Chinese or Arabs etc. the interesting element is that some of the home-grown Hindu religious traditions would be as different from each other as are the Semitic religions.

Hence, not all sub-nationalities could be expected to be arrayed behind this notion the Bharat mata kind of nationalism. To insist that they must is an imposition, and all impositions that people find disagreeable are resisted, like a child resisting candy being pushed down its throat. Hence, you find the reactions from the Owasies of the world. I would suspect that a Madrasi who has not knowledge of Hindi would react similarly. But that cannot be equated with a lack of affection for the Indian nation and or any of its sub-nationalities.

To my mind it is a complete and utter waste of time and energy to focus on being demonstrative of ones affections to the modern Indian state, particularly for those in positions of power and authority. In particular, when this need sometimes stems from a need to push back an external view of an inferior India, which we in many ways are not.

India is a nuclear powered state, with a very strong army and a rapidly strengthening economy. Fears and thinking from the times of the British raj ought not to be allowed to rule us or divert our attention. We need to be focused on putting more money into the hands of our people and creating a fair and just society, free from prejudice. If we could additionally be a spiritually inclined society, that would be like iceing on the cake.

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