In countries turning totalitarian like India, many who speak out against the powers that be should get used to being called anti-national. At the drop of a hat! Whenever the fear of retribution would not chill your bones and your shriek will become audible to the mighty who will act immediately to crush it lest it be heard over the silence of the lambs.
Anti-National. I too have the privilege of being called one on numerous occasions. Mostly in India and sometimes in my adapted land, Canada too. By strangers, acquaintances, even friends and family. In person, on social media, in the comment section of my articles posted on Canadian and Indian media portals and off course, behind my back.
Honestly, I am not averse to being called one. Come to think of it I am one. Anti-national to the core!
Given to me, I would prefer to be called a Birdman, one without borders who can flap his wing and fly all over. But alas since we live in an imperfect world, I am now supposed to be a Canadian. My Canadian citizenship is a bond of convenience as it allows me to travel a wider range of countries visa free. But it does not tear me apart from my desi roots- of food, language, relations or traditions. Neither does my dual Indian citizenship take away my love for Canadian values, sense of justice and off course, respect for time. Neither of them make me lesser of a world citizen, a gypsy, who lives out of hotels, ever ready to pack bags and hop over to the next city!
I absolutely do not accept any man-made boundaries as guidelines to draw apathy against a differing set of people, customs, cultures and traditions. I do not believe that these lines make people on the other side of the border, my enemies or worthy of my hate and anger. Politicians and power mongers, yes and I reserve my deepest contempt for them on either side. But people no, as more often than not I have found that we all possess human hearts and are capable of loving, caring and respecting each other even if we come from man-defined hateful territories. I have not just traveled to many countries but lived there for long periods and have always brought from these sojourns, tales of empathy and love which can last a lifetime. The world is beautiful and wide enough to accept all the love that I can muster and I can never understand why I should attempt to fill it with hate. Or let others do it!
I dream of a world wherein there would be free movement of people from one place to another depending on the laws of economics or of their own free will. If we can allow a bird to fly thousands of miles and enjoy the beauty of the nature, why should we chain humans and build walls and fences to prevent their movement?
Coming back to being called Anti-national, an adjective which I wear with pride, in today’s world people who oppose the right wing have to get used to being declared one whenever they oppose these forces. After all the right is right. And today right is might and might is right. In India, the right brews a winning potion as not only it instills the fear of protecting a religion in distress but is also accompanied by the lure of brute power, free flow of goodies and a chance to rise above the crowd and get fifteen minutes of fame in a nation swamped by ordinary bodies.
What exactly is nationalism and what makes a person anti-national?
Does detesting an idea to play the national anthem in a cinema hall makes a person anti-national?
Does speaking against the government in power, standing up to a bully or fighting oppression of any type be it due to differentiation of class, caste or religion makes a person anti-national?
Does belonging to a minority- class, caste, region or religion and expressing one’s concerns when the basic rights are trampled makes a person anti-national?
Does eating a particular type of meat makes a person anti-national?
Questions which cry for answers in a nation under the siege of patriotic wars!
And while the law remains blind and the administration silent, it is the mob led by the political and religious mafia which rules the nation and holds people to ransom.
We, the common people remain mute spectators carrying dead souls in our living bodies.
Rape threats are issued to one daughter and the rest of us, all parents run to ensure that their daughters stay silent lest they are next in line.
Writers and intellects are abused, sometimes murdered in broad daylight and we drop the pen lest its nib be even found to be dipped in ink of dissent.
We crawl, when ask to bend.
Indians rise. Rise for nationalism is not love for a physical boundary but for the people who inhabit it and build its ethos. India does not just limit itself to the geography of this continent but lives in our hearts wherever we carry it thousands of miles away!
Rise if a girl is physically or verbally threatened and say- Enough is enough
Rise if a goon uses nationalism as a tool to instill fear and say- Enough is enough.
Rise in every nook and corner of the country against every bully, political, social or religious entity which throttles our voice and questions our love.
The voice of dissent- That is and will remain our biggest strength. A voice which does not make you anti-national but only shows how deeply you care for its well-being.
The voice of dissent- That will remain calm, peaceful and yet firm and forthright.
The voice of dissent- That will rise in chorus and sing ballads of courage of people who stood up for a nation and its people in times of darkness.
Posted in Times of India on 5th March 2017. Link below-