The pathology of patriotism

The pathology of patriotism

In perspective

The idea of patriotism/nationalism has been rife with an increasingly abhorring pathology, at least in the reckoning of those who welcome and respect India’s glorious anti-British-imperialist struggle that developed/evolved and succeeded for nearly 75 years culminating in 1947 and making of our Constitution in 1950 and held widely as a model template for democratic governance.

They believe that the struggle was a legatee  from the revolutions staged by the mankind, excruciatingly hard-pressed and exploited in various nations over the centuries; and was a fight against all kinds of privilege in the name of religion, church, caste and feudal inheritance, ascriptive purity, be it kingship or unequal ownership of land, wealth and administrative authority.

It was to establish liberty, equality and fraternity and the government was intended to work according to the principles of ‘rule of law’, ‘due process’, justice, equality, that is, equality of all kinds of opportunities, universal human fundamental and minority rights, rights to freedom of press, speech and religion, and the associated institutional paraphernalia of accountability—the complex hopes and expectations all embodied in government by, of and for the people.

The individual was consecrated amidst the hitherto manifold tyranny of the state and the privileged. These provisions/expectations are standing sanctified by a relatively recent doctrine ‘basic structure’, adumbrated by the Supreme Court of India in the 1973 Keshavananda Bharathi case.

In fact, this became a constituent feature of the idea of India. And these expectations, rather ideals, are at various levels and kinds of jeopardy by mobocracy majoritarian Hindutva elements, all the handiwork of a mind with a sick and distorted sense of national destiny and history; and a gruesome abhorrent pathology has set in. Inequality of various kinds, not merely of income and wealth, has become/remained entrenched; the World Inequality Report, 2018, is a testimony to it.

Any mention or call to follow due process and equality before law, or of the familiar concerns of civil liberties bodies including the Amnesty International, attracts opposition from the acolytes and admirers of the ruling party, is vociferously decried as unpatriotic and anti-national—the case of Kanhiah Kumar of JNU calling for and doubting about the operation of due process regarding the hanging of Afzal Guru, is just an illustration.

Rulers and their admirers/voters believe that they are the monopolists of patriotism.

And the Opposition and the independent press are invariably deemed unpatriotic and a hindrance for the majoritarian slide down and straitjacketing, and is verily a case of growing political pathology.

Any call for preservation and upgrading of livelihoods of rural poor, native land-owning villagers and landless labourers, in the context of acquisition for industry and urbanisation is superstitiously branded as anti-development and anti-national, all because it is deemed as doubting of ‘axiomatically just and well-intentioned(?)’ government policies and decisions.

The same fate has befallen to demands for implementation of land use and environment laws and norms. The unmentioned fact is that the corporate rich have little concern for climate change, are violating laws with impunity, possibly under the aegis of the much-bandied doctrine, ‘ease of doing businesses’; and a growing governmental policy predilection that the corporate sector will solve the problems of poverty and unemployment unhampered by dirigiste laws, accountability norms.

The idea of an interventionist welfare state is getting weakened by political default. It is quite a Rightist swerve to our inclusive egalitarian policy intentions, a warning to equalitarians. Development which implies complementary abatement of poverty is intended concomitantly to strengthen the content of participatory democracy, government by the people.

Inclusive partnership

Here we are harangued to believe that there are only two castes, one of the poor and the other who will eradicate poverty. This militates against democratic inclusive partnership among all peoples in policymaking, the contribution of resources, implementation and obtaining of benefits, indeed a case of political pathology, a case of misleading people.

Large sections of people, deemed poor, are ever consigned to the predicament of receiving condescension from the society. As much of the accountability norms and machinery remain weak, the poor are in a hopeless state of political pathology and unredeemed social and political exclusion.

According to findings by the think tank Centre for Media Studies, the BJP has spent Rs 27,000 crore on election propaganda and rallies. It has been an unconscionable high voltage blitzkrieg to conceal farmers’ distress and fall in employment and incomes instead of emphasising the masochist military strike at Balakot in Pakistan and to boot without any regard to veracity.

This militarist drift is another case of pathology that democrats in India are worried about.