Who exactly is a patriot?

Who exactly is a patriot?

As India gears up for Republic Day, Bengalureans weigh in on what it means to be part of a nation

Representative image.

Ahead of Republic Day, Metrolife asked voices across Bengaluru to define nationalism.

Prerana Srimaal, professor of history, says there is no right definition, and the definitions keep changing.

She says the idea of a nation must be inclusive. “If it is defined today, it should be able to change to include voices that are only audible, on the next day,” she says.

For this is to happen, there should be awareness that it is not perfect.

Congress MLA Priyank Kharge says patriotism cannot be defined only on Republic Day or Independence Day. “Younger people should read the Constituent Assembly debates. They will then understand how everything was debated, including our language, land, and why reservations. The Constitution is the only living document in the world and it is flexible enough to accommodate everybody,” he says.

Many agree nationalism becomes a matter of reverence and blind faith when it is co-opted by the right wing not just in India but around the world.

“Giving it such reverence insulates it from any critical voices. It’s this that makes it easy to monopolise, giving one group the authority to define what nationalism is,” Prerana says.

These are evident in the cries of anti-national against anyone who oppose the idea of India put forward by the government. Everyone from students to politicians and celebrities have been called names and have become a part of name calling.

Priyank Kharge says the definitions of nationalism and patriotism are being twisted. “People think you’re a patriot only if you follow a certain ideology or belong to a certain community,” he says.

Prerana adds that one shouldn’t confuse nationalism as allegiance to certain political ideology or even the government.

So who is a true patriot?

Harsha Narayan, the national secretary of Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP) defines a patriot as someone who does whatever is needed to make India No 1. “They stand for the culture and Constitution of the country,” he says.

Prerna says a true patriot loves their country and is completely loyal to the nation, but this love and loyalty is not blinding.

Bruce Lee Mani, frontman of Thermal and a Quarter, feels national identity is complex, especially in a country like ours.

“Most people who have committed their lives to safeguard the country don’t wear patriotism on the sleeve. They truly serve the country in words and deeds,” says Bruce.

Priyank Kharge says anyone who loves the country and protects its culture, heritage and languages is a patriot.

He adds that he finds it surprising that the government keeps asking people to prove their patriotism.


How to define nationalism

In the ‘80s, political scientist Benedict Anderson put forward the idea that nationalism is imagined.

It is created when people imagine themselves to be part of a socially constructed group that shares a common heritage and a collective responsibility to this imagined nation.

The shared common heritage is an important criteria to be part of a nation. Popular Indian nationalism with the symbols of Bharat Mata, the national anthem and the tricolour were a product of the freedom struggle. This was when many believe that the idea of India emerged.
But for others, the freedom struggle was not just against the British but also the Mughal rulers and India is a part of ‘Akhand Bharat’ or undivided India. This creates two very different ideas of the history and heritage of India, and thus different ideas of nationalism.

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