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Asian Tribune is published by E-LANKA MEDIA(PVT)Ltd. Vol. 20 No. 108

Patritism On Parole

By Atul Cowshia - Syndicate Features

Patriotism which is identified with being loyal to one’s country cannot be decried except perhaps by the ‘ultra’ liberals whose calling includes ridiculing the nation and its leaders. For ordinary people, patriotism’ is not just about becoming martyrs from enemy bullets but also loving one’s country, warts and all, and respecting it even when being critical of the rulers and their policies.

Lately, ‘patriotism’ has been hitting the headlines in a big way. The air is so thick with accusations of ‘anti-nationals’ and ‘unpatriotic’ against dissenting Indians that some might be forgiven for wondering if all those grand slogans for ‘good governance’ have given way to inculcating a sense of ‘patriotism’ authenticated by jingoist cries.

The ranks of Indian ‘traitors’ have been discovered among a vast section of the populace—from hide skinners, to rich movie stars and directors, not to speak of the ‘pseudo seculars’ and ‘Left liberals’. Meat eaters fall in this category if they cook ‘beef’ at home even if they say that it is mutton. The majority religion in the country has long been under alleged threat of being inundated by the growing ‘unpatriotic’ minority population.

Most ordinary citizens as well as the rich and the famous boil with anger when they find that their ‘patriotism’ is being challenged by party apparatchiks and self-appointed conscious keepers of the nation who rule the streets and shout at guests invited to their studios. As things stand today, Indians who do not meet the criterion set by ‘cultural’ organisations and their ‘family’ risk being attacked and being dubbed ‘traitor’, a punishable crime.

Vigilante groups have been encouraged to take care of those who trade in ‘beef’, killing them on the spot if found even when suspected of transporting ‘beef’. No need to check if it is indeed cow meat. Courting and wooing women by minority men can invite the same instant justice. Both events keep the attention of the ‘nation’ riveted for days.

A hope was kindled for the ‘unpatriotic’ elements who hire or invite artists from across the western border. One of our self-styled torch bearers of patriotism and everything associated with it found a ‘compromise’ formula. Pay a hefty sum—at least Rs 5 crore—as ‘penance’ and get absolved of the undeserving tags of being ‘anti-national’ or ‘unpatriotic’. This was an arrangement “brokered” by a chief minister.

Unfortunately, the new system of ‘hafta’, as one newspaper called it, for being accepted as a ‘patriot’ does not appear perfect. The ‘penance’ money, it was decreed, should be paid into the army welfare fund. The army rose in protest because as an organisation of proud ‘patriots’ it did not believe in receiving money raised through coercion and force.

The concept of ‘penance’ money has clear political overtones and in no way forms part of ‘good governance’. The idea of ‘good governance’ that encompasses all-round progress is being pushed into the background. Despite all the admiration that the larger section of the media has for the Prime Minister, media consumers have noticed a preponderance of news about ‘patriotic’ issues of the kind that do not relate to governance.

The focus on ‘patriotic’ matters becomes sharp when our hysteric TV anchors harangue their guests who defer with their (anchors’) take on what a true, blue-blooded Indian should believe in and say in TV studios ‘discussions’. The usual babble inside the studios drowns the dissenting voices, especially when the ruling party spokesmen (inviting more than one is the norm on most channels) are allowed to contradict everything said by their rivals—without the reciprocal right for the other party.

The verbal jousts on the TV screens have become a necessity for improving TRPs (TV Rating Points) that help in boosting ad revenues. If the claims of the media houses are to be believed they spotlight issues that are dear to the ‘nation’. It means that the confrontations and clashes over people’s eating habits or the nationality of actors in Bollywood films grips people more than the dull and dry debates over ‘governance’ issues.

It is quite common to see crowds gather whenever there is a street brawl or fight. People are known to have watched murder being committed in front of their eyes—without doing anything to stop it. So, the crescendo of blather in the media about what is dismissed by the government as ‘non-issues’ has become all too important.

The people expect the government to press on with its agenda of ‘good governance’. But there is one problem: publicity and propaganda cannot hide certain realities. The life of the ‘common man’ remains as stressful as before because of stagnation in the job market, constantly rising prices (never mind the inflation figures), corruption (who says it has disappeared?) and the many inadequacies in providing social services.

It is ‘good politics’, not necessarily ‘good governance’ that matters at the husting. Keep the people engaged with issues which appeal to their emotions and their religious beliefs. Their ‘patriotic’ spirit can be kept alive by strong rhetoric against imported terror with an occasional counter measure.

‘Good governance’ cannot yield dividends between now and the coming months of state elections. ‘Good governance’ is, after all, not very different from the concept of ‘India Shinning’.

Well, India Shinning had greatly enthused business houses and the media during the last rule of the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance but proved a dud scud even with the charismatic and unifying personality of the prime minister of the time

- Asian Tribune -

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