Do We Criticize Our Nations?
18 October, 2006
people in the world grow up with prejudices and preset notions ingrained
into them by the schools, parents and the media.
This is no different for
people of India. For example, an Indian talking to Pakistani is confronted
with 'gross distortion' of history- it baffles him to know what they
learn is completely 'untrue'. That's because we are taught history in
different ways. Most Indians grow up knowing the map of India to be
such (which includes the beautiful head shape of Jammu and Kashmir).
We do not question its authenticity. Therefore, when someone depicts
the reality (which shows PoK, Northern regions and Aksai Chin outside
India) we become very angry and resort to protest.
Most Indians do not know
their constitution either- hence an unnecessary debate arises when some
groups resist mandatory singing of a 'patriotic' song. The state, the
media and the system participate in distorted education and after awhile
it becomes unchallenged - even blatant lies pass on as absolute truths.
And in countries like India where people lean more towards authoritarian
setup compared to libertarian, questioning authority is tantamount to
being traitorous or unpatriotic, and therefore all kinds of critical
introspection is condemned as sacrilegious.
This unquestioning faith
and loyalty in the system is extreme in matters of nation (all army
actions are absolved) and its enemies (targeting certain alien religions
within), but is completely renounced when it comes to matter of adhering
to law and order (here it becomes very subjective).
The incidents and events
of Kashmir are portrayed to Indian masses in a deliberate and intended
light that perpetuate certain myths. Most Indians grow up knowing 'Indianized'
history; they know only the atrocities committed against Hindu Pandits;
they are aware of mass killings carried out by terrorists, who happen
to be 'foreign mercenaries enjoying Pakistan support', but are unaware
of all other popular movements in that region. Most Indians do not get
the same exposure to the role of Indian politics in Kashmir, role of
Indian Army, and the nature of local and indigenous freedom movements.
Even if they hear it, they dismiss it as mass propaganda of Pakistan,
Islamists, or of vested interests that want to see India fail.
Such continued prejudices,
misinformation campaigns and selected hearing result in a mass hypnosis
and soon the actual facts and data are out of the door to be replaced
with ideology. We soon have a breed of young fanatic Indians who believe
they can lay down their life to defend Kashmir. Against whom?
Every nation that has to
hide its mistakes has to create a bogeyman, someone who can take blame
for all the incidents and events that seem to question the legitimacy
of the nation's mistakes and misadventures. Pakistan has always been
our bogeyman and now the new entrant is Islamic fundamentalism. You
can explain away almost every incident and event that takes place in
Kashmir by blaming these two culprits.
A terrorist action against
Army barracks: it was done by Pakistani infiltrators. A mass protest
against Indian rule: it was instigated and funded by Pakistan. A suicide
killer blew up a bridge: the innocent Kashmiri youth are brainwashed
by Islamic groups in Pakistan. Kashmiri do not turn up to vote for local
elections: they were threatened by Pakistani and Islamic terrorists.
So on so forth. This argument is used again and again, so much so that
nobody questions it anymore because the lie has been repeated so many
times it has now become truth.
Make the lie big, make
it simple, keep saying it, and eventually they will believe it"-
Questioning our government's
stance and oneself is only the first step towards rational thought.
Most of us, the critics, want to ask questions. You don't have to believe
what we say. But you may want to listen to what we say because it presents
the other side of the story. You may already know THE truth but what
we present is the OTHER truth. In our attempt to present the other side
of the story, we may not repeat certain true stories that you have already
Most of us who criticize
Indian rule in Kashmir, American aggression, Israel occupation, are
not Islamists nor do we believe in radical Islam as practiced in certain
nations or as promoted by some terrorist outfits. Even if we were given
a choice we would not go live in those theocratic nations. That's why
you find Noam Chomsky and Michael Moore living in US although they are
its biggest critics.
Most of us who criticize
our nations are ensconced in democratic and free institutions in which
we take pride. The reason why we take pride in our nations is because
it allows and accepts that criticism- of its actions and symbols, however
bizarre that voice may sound. We believe this criticism is necessary
to provide the necessary checks and balances to otherwise a strong and
autocratic government that feeds on fascistic, nationalistic or religious
Many people who do not like
my writings berate me and tell me to shut up. They say, "How can
you criticize your own nation and talk against it? How can you be not
proud of the very nation that gave you shelter, food, etc? Aren't you
grateful to the nation which has given you this freedom? You must be
an Islamist or a communist!"
Some of us run into a paradox
when we encounter such people- these first-generation immigrants and
those redneck Americans who have never understood the greatness of their
own nation; these urban educated Indians who have not understood the
greatness of their own nation. Why do they want me to stop criticizing
my nation that I take pride in, when the very reason I take pride in
it is because it allows that criticism?
Overzealous people in an
obsessive effort to combat their enemy become just like their enemy
- the other side of the coin. The Hindus who fight Islam want to portray
Hinduism as monotheistic and rigid just like Islam but on the opposite
side (which according to them is a good side). The Indians who fight
Pakistan want to curb all voices of dissidence within its nations just
the way Pakistan does. The Americans who fight terrorism want their
citizens to be grateful of their nations to become just like their enemies-
dogmatic and authoritarian, curbing people's freedom on the name of
Patriotic Act. The biggest success of terrorists of 9/11 and the biggest
defeat of US is the loss of that American freedom. The Indian side of
the story has TADA, POTA, Section 144, Emergency, banning of books,
movies, and art shows.
We, the miniscule few critics
of India, consider ourselves different kind of champions of India and
its institutions. For us, the greatness is not found in ancient texts
or Akhand Bharat. We don't see glory in the remote past or in expansion
of our boundaries. We are not proud of our nation when it rules certain
people at gunpoint with a belief that it is actually giving it better
facilities and freedom.
We believe the greatness
of this nation is its institutions, though half-built, but still working-
which promote modern and universal values. We believe the greatness
comes when minorities, backward classes, the poor and downtrodden of
this country get the same opportunities, enjoy access to basic amenities
(like education, food, water, shelter) and avail the same values which
we take pride in.
We believe in looking inward
to build institutions that give fair trial, equal opportunity, and guarantee
for fundamental rights. However, we do not believe in forcing those
values down the throats of others- then it becomes an ideology.
Though India has quickly
embraced tools of modernity, like cell phones, cars, internet, etc,
it has not completely embraced the values of modernity- equality, tolerance,
liberty, and modern science. In an effort to combat its enemies, it
is fast eroding all its half-built institutions, to become exactly like
its enemies- intolerant of diversity, shunning of modern science, curbing
of people's freedom and aspirations, etc.
India, which has been the
champion of independence and freedom movements elsewhere, has now become
the same aggressor it abhorred. It is slowly becoming exactly like its
enemy. And we critics do not want that to happen.
I maintain most of my blogs at sujai
Share Your Insights