Fragile National Pride
Something to ponder about,an interesting article by N Vittal.
Our sense of national pride as Indians, I am afraid, is very fragile. Only recently did we celebrate the emergence of India as an IT superpower and an economic power to reckon with being part of the BRIC (Brazil, Russia, India and China) economies. Our scientists launched Chandrayaan-I successfully, adding one more feather to our cap of national pride. Viswanathan Anand again proved that he is the reigning world chess champion. After all, the game was invented here in this country. As globalised Indians, we have been watching and celebrating Obama’s historic success in the US presidential elections. But soon after his election came a moment of doubt that pricked our swelling balloon of national pride — our Prime Minister, Dr Manmohan Singh, was not among the first set of world leaders whom president-elect Obama contacted on phone. Both the print and electronic media went into a tizzy. Speculation mounted about India’s ranking in the world. Don’t we count any longer? Fortunately, our anxiety was short-lived. Obama contacted our Prime Minister and the real mundane reasons for the delay in his contacting our PM became public. Why is our sense of national pride so fragile? The pride which the citizens of a nation have for their country depends on two factors. The first is a strong awareness and identity of the citizens as belonging to a nation. The second is a strong sense of self confidence. Unfortunately, we appear to be lacking in both departments. Ever since we became a free nation in 1947, our political leaders have been trying their best to destroy the idea of India as a single nation. As long as the British ruled us, we were all aware that we were Indians, inheritors of a great tradition stretching over 5,000 years and more. Thanks to the dedicated patriotism and invaluable sacrifices of thousands of our forefathers — led finally by the greatest Indian of our times Mahatma Gandhi — we became independent. Unfortunately, even that independence was flawed. The country was divided into India and Pakistan. The pernicious two nation theory vigorously denied by our leaders in principle was haplessly accepted in practice and Pakistan was carved out as a homeland for Muslims. We did not stop with that. In 1952, yielding to the pressure of the Telugu leaders demanding a separate state, culminating in the fast-unto-death of Potti Sriramulu, the state of Andhra was created. This initiated the process of linguistic reorganisation of the states in 1956. This crystallisation of linguistic identities was soon followed by a long history of identity-based politics emphasising caste, religion, community, etc. If in the colonial period the British were accused of following the divide and rule policy, after Independence the same policy was vigorously followed by our own native leaders in the name of democracy. We started by casting our votes in the election of 1952. Today, we vote a caste in the elections. With the next general election already looming large, the identity politics is taking a vicious turn. Witness the Raj Thackeray phenomenon in Mumbai. If our sense of India as a single nation is itself being questioned day in and day out, where is the basis for developing national pride rooted in our identity as citizens of India? The second factor for national pride is self confidence. If right from the primary schools the idea of India as a great nation with a valuable tradition and culture was inculcated, the foundation for developing a sense of a confident national pride would have been laid. In addition, another basic fact about national self confidence must be recognised. As our former President Dr A P J Abdul Kalam pointed out, ‘strength respects strength’ in the comity of nations. This strength springs from three sources — military, economic and cultural. We must develop on all three fronts to enhance our sense of strength. Only then will we achieve a sense of robust national pride.