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Nationalism: Benign or Malignant?

Nationalism is not necessarily a blessing, it can be a curse as well. Hitler was a die-hard nationalist, who butchered 6 million Jews (of which lakhs were German citizens) in the national interest. He slaughtered millions of others and caused the Second World War for the same reason. Britain, France and many other nations of Europe conquered scores of countries by hook or by crook and looted their colonies to enrich their own countries. China attacked and humiliated India in its national interest just as Pakistan massacred 3 million of her own citizens and raped 4 lakh of her own women in the national interest during the war of liberation of Bangala Desh (former East Pakistan). The nationalist people of Pakistan were not ashamed or shocked.

The independence movement of India was also nationalism in action, but while it sought the departure of the  British rulers, it did not want either their blood or their women. It did not preach a tit for tat policy. Our freedom struggle presents an example of benign nationalism. It was inclusive. It accepted the equal right of all Indians born and brought up in the country. It made sincere efforts to unify all Indians to fight the British. The Constituent Assembly produced a constitution embodying benign nationalism i.e. a nationalism which is for ALL and against NONE. The benign nationalism is committed to the national interest of the country without being unjust to any within or without the country.

What is the benign nationalism in action? How can it be identified? Who would decide whether a certain act is an act of malignant or benign nationalism? What touchstone can be used to test the real character of a nationalist act acceptable to all Indians, who are committed to adhere to the constitution of India? The touchstone for testing whether an act is in the national interest or against national interest is the constitution of the country and the principle of the rule of law to which India and Indians are comitted. 

Since there is so much controversy on what is anti-national,  the touchstone should be used to test their real character. The following cases may be tested on the touchstone of the Indian constitution and the principle of the rule of law:

1. A member of Maharashtra Vidhan Sabha has been suspended from the house for refusing to say 'Bharat Mata ki Jay’.

 Neither the constitution of India nor any law of the country obliges any citizen to say 'Bharat Mata ki Jay’. Refusing to raise the slogan is the right of a citizen and it is also his duty if asked to do it under threat.

The Maharashtra Assembly's resolution is against the letter and spirit of the constitution and is against national interest.


2. Some persons raised the slogan 'Pakistan Zindabad ' and are, being branded as Anti-national.

The Indian constitution gives the citizens the right to think freely and express their opinion. There is no law that says that to say ‘Pakistan Zindabad’ is a punishable  criminal offence. It is as permissible as saying 'USA ZINDABAD, CHINA ZINDABAD OR AUSTRALIA ZINDABAD’.

Those who raised the slogans did not violate any law and cannot be called 'traitors' as has been done.

(I am discussing a principle and am not going into the fact that some outsiders with covered faces had actually raised the slogans)


3. To shout Afzal Guru Zindabad or that he was unjustly hanged is not an offence under the law. One has the right to hold a judgment to be wrong and criticise it. Thus nothing unlawful was done and nothing anti-national was done 

Note : If Mahatma Gandhi's murder may be celebrated and Nathuram Godse may be deified with impunity by the Hindu Maha Sabha, the same impunity cannot be denied to the supporters of Afzal Guru.


4. Merely shouting a threat without the evidence of planned action is no offence  in law. It is quite common to hear people shout in anger "I  will kill you”, but no prosecution follows. So if someone merely  shouts "Hindustan to Barbad Kar denge" or "Hindustan ko tukre tukre kar denge", it is not illegal and not enough to declare the person a Desh Drohi (a traitor ).


5. Kashmir is a problem between India and Pakistan. Then there are people in Kashmir who want AZADI. If some citizens feel that giving Kashmir Azadi is a good solution, it is his/her right to communicate/express his thought to the people and the government. Such persons are only exercising their fundamental right, guaranteed under Art.19 of the constitution.

No person exercising his/her fundamental right can be held to be a Desh Drohi or anti-national.


6. Some Indians believe that Kashmir is under occupation of India. It is just an opinion. It may be considered wholly wrong, but the person holding the opinion cannot be held guilty of being anti-national or guilty of an illegal act.


7.  A citizen has the right to feel FEAR AND EXPRESS IT. Amir Khan's wife violated no law when she felt frightened by the rise of intolerance in the country and wondered if they should think of moving out. Amir Khan violated no law when he shared this with the media. It was most unjustified to compare him with dreaded terrorists and ask him to go to Pakistan.


8. Shahrukh Khan like anyone else has the right to hold and express his opinion. He exercised this right when he said that there was a rise in intolerance in the country. The condemnation that followed including asking him to go to Pakistan was an attack on his right as a citizen.


There are numerous acts which are not Anti-National tested on this touchstone, yet they are condemned as anti-national. It is because they have been tested on the touchstone of MALIGNANT NATIONALISM, which is against the constitution, the principle of the rule of law and the ways of a humane society.


The distinction between Malignant and Benign Nationalism and the way to test an act should always be kept in mind while judging whether an act is in the national interest or against it. To overlook the difference would be against benign nationalism and national interest.

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