‘India Should Come First’

Children participating the 69th Independence Day celebrations in Delhi

Patriotism beyond communalism, religion sans sectarianism…writes Rajaque Rahman, a journalist and a full-time volunteer with the Art of Living

Children participating the 69th Independence Day celebrations in Delhi
Children participating the 69th Independence Day celebrations in Delhi

With the Indian tricolour fluttering everywhere from the Red Fort to the neighbourhood school to the bonnet of a swanky Mercedes to a hand-pulled rickshaw, patriotism seems to know no barrier.

However, with vested interests trying to pit patriotism against religion and vice versa, the innate feeling of national pride will be under siege of manipulation as the nation celebrates its 69th Independence Day.

If one end of the spectrum is hell-bent on coercing every Indian to wear the badge of patriotism on his/her sleeves, the other will remind its constituency that their religious allegiance take precedence over national loyalty.

The voice of the sane patriot will be lost in the cacophony of ‘Go to Pakistan if your religion doesn’t allow you to prostrate to Mother India’ and ‘Our religion doesn’t allow idolatry in the name of patriotism’.

Have we allowed the fanatical elements to communalise patriotism? Have they been successful in setting up a conflict of allegiance between the two most important domains of one’s identity?

Ideally, it should not be possible to drive a wedge between love for the country and love for god. But with religions getting shrouded in fanaticism and patriotism in rhetoric, a religious patriot may appear like an oxymoron.

The chasm arises when vested interests indoctrinated by political or religious allegiance illegitimately use nationalism or god to endorse division, discrimination, aggression, violence and hatred. Both religion and patriotism have become hostages of their shallow interpretations.

What’s needed is the voice that proclaims the oneness of divinity and frees patriotism from sectarian interpretations. There is an urgent need to spiritualise religions and de-communalise patriotism, for a communal patriot will create divisions and a fanatical cleric will drive one against the nation in the name of religion.

Parliament Speaker with Congress President Sonia Gandhi
Parliament Speaker with Congress President Sonia Gandhi

We need religious leaders who teach their followers that all religions presuppose patriotism as part of the faith, and political leaders who have a vision beyond rabble-rousing. They must educate their constituencies that love for the country and love for god are complementary.

They must reinforce that patriotism is much more than rhetoric and it entails love and honour for everything that belongs to the country — its laws, systems, traditions, culture, diversity. To be a true patriot, one must be a tax-paying, law-abiding, peace-loving and compassionate citizen.

This is where a spiritual outlook becomes essential. Only a spiritual person can strike the balance between fanaticism and nationalism. Spirituality encompasses a wider concept of patriotism and religion, transcending the limitation of geography and sectarianism. Spiritual values can ensure that one’s love for the nation is not guided by narrow considerations of caste, creed, class and religion.

Unless a broad vision about religion and nationalism dawns, divisive agendas will continue to thrive.

In an atmosphere of competitive patriotism, the nation will pay a heavy price if we allow sectarian considerations to overpower one’s allegiance to the nation. We have had enough instances of fanatical elements challenging national statutes on the basis of narrow divisions. This explains why even condemned terrorists who have been convicted get sympathy along the line of religion.

The wrong notion that patriotism and faith need to exist in different realms in secularism has come in the way of mainstreaming the nation. This Independence Day, let’s take a renewed pledge for ‘Patriotism beyond Communalism and Religion sans Sectarianism’.

(M. Rajaque Rahman, a former journalist, is a full-time volunteer with the Art of Living.