Society

As the country celebrates its 75th year of Independence, India’s youth talk of what nationalism and patriotism mean to them

Does bringing home a flag, playing patriotic songs on loudspeakers, and hosting an Independence Day party make one a patriot?

Does bringing home a flag, playing patriotic songs on loudspeakers, and hosting an Independence Day party make one a patriot?

On the website  harghartiranga.com (the name translates to ‘a tricolour in every household’), created to celebrate the 75th year of India’s Independence, 2,65,90,618 people have pinned the flag digitally to their homes, giving the site access to their devices’ location. And 58,90,891 have uploaded a selfie with the Indian flag. The Indian government is asking people to unfurl the Indian flag everywhere possible, from educational institutes to pharmaceutical companies.

But does bringing home a flag, playing patriotic songs on loudspeakers, and hosting an Independence Day party make one a patriot? Do these material symbols, the nation’s geography and the military constitute young India’s idea of a nation?

According to sociologist Kamala Ganesh, nationalism, which she believes is intertwined with one’s idea of nation, was an organic and subdued expression in the 50s and 60s when she was growing up. The 80s’ and 90s’ generation was, however, more enamoured of liberalisation and globalisation and critical of what India had become then. But today she sees nationalism making a comeback. “This time it seems more artificial and drummed up,” says Ganesh. “It has its supporters, but thank god there are also those who do not believe in any kind of jingoism or performative patriotism,” she adds.

For a section of India’s young, their idea of a nation reflects in the growing saffronisation and militarisation of the country, and patriotism is about supporting this narrative. “Back in the 70s, 80s and 90s, the idea of a more composite nationalism was discussed. But from 2000 onwards, we saw the consolidation of a muscular nationalism, which is more majoritarian in its content, and this shift can be seen in the youth’s idea of nationalism and patriotism as well,” says Joseph M.T., assistant professor of sociology at the University of Mumbai.

This has led to growing self-censorship, especially among those who consume critical media and oppose the government’s political policies and religious agenda, says Joseph. This includes the woke generation who are outspoken about everything from #MeToo to body positivity and gender inclusion.

Meanwhile, the influence of mainstream media is also becoming highly pronounced within the farming community. “Farmers who have access to televisions and smartphones discuss the need of a Hindu state, safeguarding their religion and waging a war against Pakistan to resolve the Kashmir issue,” says Sandeep Deore, a farmer activist from rural Maharashtra. Poorer farmers, however, are too busy with their everyday struggles to think of anything beyond where their next meal will come from.

At the other end of the spectrum, there are those whose idea of a nation is secular and plural, where everyone enjoys equal rights and opportunities, and their idea of patriotism is to revive these values. “If you look at the debate around CAA [Citizenship (Amendment) Act] and farm law protests, what came to me as a rich and surprising experience, though not an unexpected one, was its intensity and the way in which young people owned the Constitution, the preamble and performed it in public protest sites, risking arrests, and in many States, physical harm and even death threats,” says Kalpana Kannabiran, Distinguished Professor, Council for Social Development, New Delhi.

She saw the promise of new India at these protests against CAA. “The reportage, the participation, the creative energy were unprecedented. Here, I received a totally different articulation and the idea of India of our dreams,” she adds.

Priya Goswami | 34

Feminist, activist against female genital mutilation and filmmaker

Priya Goswami

Priya Goswami | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

When I think of a nation and think of India, I think of the words secular and plural. What I associate it with are the summer vacations of my childhood when we would be asked to construct the idea of India visually. We would buy chart papers that would depict different people with different traditions, food and dressing style. Yet, they would be all on one single chart paper. I am proud of being Indian as I don’t think there is any other place where people from so many communities co-exist. But it also breaks my heart to think about the secular fabric depleting. Even at the level of a child understanding India, the idea of secularity and plurality is leaving textbooks.

I am deeply patriotic and not a nationalist and I think the difference should be internalised. I do not have a strong idea of nation as I think it’s exclusionary to think that geographical lines should define our affiliation and allegiance over humanity.

Mahi Ghane | 25

Marathi rapper from Mahadev Koli tribe in Waranghushi village, Maharashtra

Mahi Ghane

Mahi Ghane | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

My idea of a nation is a place where nature and humans co-exist. Where we conserve and protect our environment, and acknowledge the hardships and struggles of people who do so, like the tribal communities. Patriotism for me is expressing my views freely through my songs, without any fear, and sticking to my beliefs and opinion, no matter the opposition.

Arjun Rathi | 35

Architect and lighting designer

Arjun Rathi

Arjun Rathi | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

Thanks to the Make in India initiative, we, Indian designers, are finally being recognised for our superior craftsmanship in the West. Also, thanks to the infrastructure — good roads and mobile connectivity — I can work with craftsmen from a remote village in Manipur because I can reach them easily, something that was not feasible even 10 years ago. This freedom to work across State borders, build, design and expand business is my idea of a nation.

Abhiraj Rajadhyaksha | 28 and Niyati Mavinkurve | 31

Content creators of YouTube channel ‘Abhi and Niyu’, with 2.97 million subscribers

Abhiraj Rajadhyaksha and Niyati Mavinkurve

Abhiraj Rajadhyaksha and Niyati Mavinkurve | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

India is a civilisational state. Our knowledge, such as of Ayurveda, is at least 5,000 years old. Thinking of India from the time we got Independence is to do disservice to our rich heritage and culture. When we travelled across the country for 200 days for our YouTube series ‘100 Reasons to Love India’, we met some great people quietly working to make the world a better place. Ladakh’s Padma Shri awardee Chewang Norphel, the man behind the invention of a simple yet highly effective artificial glacier which has resolved the water crisis of a few villages in the Himalayan desert, is hardly known even by the people of his village, but that doesn’t deter him. People like him teach us that doing one’s work with sincerity is the best kind of patriotism.Through our videos, we want to solve the problem of apathy, which we think plagues the country today. Many people believe there is nothing left in India that’s worth saving, but we want to make them realise that’s not true. When people leave the country, their idea of India is frozen in that time. For instance, all those who left in 2013 completely missed the UPI [Unified Payments Interface] movement, which radically changed the way India does business. It resulted in economic transparency and accountability. Our videos try to bridge this time gap in people’s minds.

Shivani Karia Jhaveri | 30

Chief marketing officer and co-founder of Blox, a digital real-estate start-up

Shivani Karia Jhaveri

Shivani Karia Jhaveri | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

The digitisation push during the pandemic has given a momentum to the start-up sector in India. We are no longer a country of the BPO [business process outsourcing], but are creating employment in a consumer economy for ourselves. What is shining bright in India is that we have grown from eight unicorn start-ups to more than 100 in the last three years, and that’s immense upward social mobility.

For me patriotism is to contribute to this ecosystem. If you are born in the nation that can be greater, push the envelope, do your bit.

Ranveer Allahbadia | 29

Content creator and social media entrepreneur with 7 million-plus subscribers and online followers

Ranveer Allahbadia

Ranveer Allahbadia | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

Patriotism is about winning that big medal and trophy for our nation. We live in the age of Shark Tank (a television start-up business reality show) and an extremely aggressive and capable cricket team. These are the cultural elements we have grown up with. So, for me, a nation is a massive, extremely capable and evolution-oriented team.

Dilip Samad | 25

Member of Odisha’s Munda tribe and a postgraduate in social entrepreneurship

Dilip Samad

Dilip Samad | Photo Credit: R.V. Moorthy

My idea of a nation is a place where people of all communities get equal opportunities to education and employment. It’s a place where nobody is discriminated against or ill-treated on the basis of their caste. Working towards achieving this equality is my idea of patriotism.

Kiran Deore | 29

Farmer from Dhule taluka, Maharashtra

Kiran Deore

Kiran Deore | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

Farmers in this country are mired in unfriendly government policies and regulations. The price of seeds and fertilisers is increasing and the crop yield is decreasing because of unpredictable weather. It’s hard to make a decent living as a farmer in the country, which is why many young people don’t want to work in the fields. We call ourselves an agrarian nation, but do we really respect our farmers? I would like to see a nation where farmers prosper and get the respect they deserve. For me patriotism is about supporting our military. It’s thanks to the soldiers on the borders that we can sleep peacefully. Given the growing aggression of our neighbouring countries, we need a strong military, and it’s our duty to celebrate them. But I am not in favour of the rising religious intolerance. We were never a Hindu state; we were always secular and must stay that way. Even from an economic development standpoint, what is a Hindu going to achieve alone? He needs the skills and support of other communities to succeed.

Reetika Revathy Subramanian | 31

Ph.D scholar in gender studies at the University of Cambridge

Reetika Revathy Subramanian

Reetika Revathy Subramanian | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

Imagine the pieces of a jigsaw puzzle. They are all different, but when they come together, they appear as one. That is my idea of an ideal nation, a place where we should be able to retain our individual identity while working towards a common goal. Back in school, patriotism was more performative, about telling people how much you love your country. Our national politics at this point is almost jingoistic. But I think patriotism is beyond that. It’s closely linked to the idea of a nation, of what we can do to revive its core values and not ‘Har Ghar Tiranga’.

The Mumbai-based journalist is also a movement therapy practitioner and Kathak student.


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Printable version | Aug 13, 2022 6:59:11 pm | https://www.thehindu.com/society/as-the-country-celebrates-its-75th-year-of-independence-indias-youth-talk-of-what-nationalism-and-patriotism-mean-to-them/article65752869.ece