Nationalism is not an epithet

Why is Nationalism an anathema to some Indian commentators?

After the Americans took out Osama bin Laden inside Pakistan in a stunning military raid, the mainstream Indian reaction has been one of vindication — telling the world “I told you so” about Pakistan. After all, having suffered for many decades from the terror unleashed by the Pakistani state, schadenfreude would be a perfectly acceptable emotion among Indians.

Within a couple of days of the Abbottabad raid, India’s army and air force chiefs were asked a straight-forward question by the journalists about India’s capability to conduct a similar overseas raid. Their answer was an honest one — Yes. It was a perfectly valid response to a direct question posed to them. We should not expect it to be any other way.

Since then, Pakistani media has chosen to highlight the above themes in its coverage of Indian reaction to the Abbottabad raid. This is understandable because it allows India to be portrayed as one aggressive big-brother with evil and nefarious designs that only the Pakistani military (and its jehadi proxies) can effectively counter.

However, even more amazingly, there is a section of Indian commentators, writing in both the Indian and Pakistani media, which has copied that line. These commentators (and this blogger is deliberately avoiding taking any names in order to avoid a controversy) blame the Indians for being vocal about their feelings of vindication, and criticise the service chiefs for their straight-forward answer. They suggest that Indians need to be more considerate and sympathetic towards the feelings of the Pakistani state, where the army and the ISI feel outraged by the violation of its sovereignty by the US.

Of course, these commentators are entitled to their opinion and have the utmost freedom to express their view. They have been able to establish this viewpoint as the fashionable one, and the influence they wield via the mass media has allowed them to implant these thoughts in many impressionable Indian minds. Unless countered vigorously, it has debilitating consequences in the offing for the Indian society.

These commentators are usually christened as liberals or left-liberals in public discourse. Liberals or not, these folks seem completely dissociated from our past, our history, our people and from our very existence. Their disengagement has become so extreme that everything alien is their fashion of choice. And the more alien, the more fashionable it is. It seems that advocating an adversary’s line is being used by the commentator to bolster her independent credentials.

Observed closely, all their arguments flow from the presumption that India and Indians can never be right. As India and Indians are not right, the corollary then is for India to come up with solutions — making one concession after the other — till it meets the approval of the adversary.

Nationalism seems an anathema to these commentators, an epithet which they shouldn’t be tagged with.

For the first fifty years of the previous century, nationalism was the mantra of public and intellectual discourse in this country. The foundations of India’s independence and its continuing journey as a Republic were laid in that discourse. The word has unfortunately been devalued since. It is now used by joining it to other pejoratives  — communalism, fascism, chauvinism, jingoism and fanaticism. Once nationalism becomes a dirty word, synonymous with fascism, it is explicable that these commentators feel the need to strike a pose — a pose which conveys that they are not Nationalist (any by extension, neither fascist nor communal).

As my colleague Nitin Pai has explained (here), automatically equating nationalism with intolerance is wrong. And dangerous, if I may add, as being witnessed in the current instance. Nationalism must be liberal, and that is what we should aspire for in India. As Nitin articulated in his essay on Liberal Nationalism:

Liberalism (or libertarianism, in its American usage) is concerned about individual freedom. To enjoy freedom in practice, the individual gives up some of it to the state. The state, a nation-state in India’s case, exists to ensure the rights, freedoms and well-being (yogakshema) of its people. So ensuring the survival and security of the Indian state—by maximising its relative power internationally—is wholly consistent with allowing its citizens to live in freedom.[Acorn]

There is no reason for anyone among us to be apologetic about Indian nationalism. Indian Nationalism is fully consistent with the values enshrined in the preamble to the Indian Constitution — our Constitution, which is the lodestar of modern Indian nationhood.

Nationalism is about putting the interests of India and Indians first, without compromising on any of our constitutional ideals. Let us not allow it to be any other way.

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24 Responses to Nationalism is not an epithet

  1. At my blog, Nationalism is not an epithet: Why is Nationalism an anathema to some Indian commentators? http://bit.ly/kEtb0H

  2. No reason for anyone among us to be apologetic about Indian nationalism RT @pragmatic_d Nationalism is not an epithet http://bit.ly/kEtb0H

  3. Nationalism is not an epithet: Why is Nationalism an anathema to some Indian commentators?
    After the Americans t… http://bit.ly/iTXVPx

  4. thr is no reason 4 any1 among us to be apologetic abt Indian nationalism.RT @pragmatic_d nationalism is not an epithet http://bit.ly/kEtb0H

  5. calamur (@calamur) May 14, 2011 at 2:55 pm #

    Sorry Pak, our fault you want to bomb us -the dominant view in the desi MSM ? where is Nationalism? http://bit.ly/kEtb0H by @pragmatic_d

  6. much needed dose for our MSM commentators RT @pragmatic_d Why is Nationalism an anathema to some Indian commentators? http://bit.ly/kEtb0H

  7. @boredknees May 14, 2011 at 6:26 pm #

    Well said RT @pragmatic_d: Why is Nationalism an anathema to some Indian commentators? http://bit.ly/kEtb0H

  8. varnam_blog (@varnam_blog) May 14, 2011 at 6:40 pm #

    Excellent post by @pragmatic_d http://bit.ly/kEtb0H Para 6 & 7 are true regarding our historiography as well #history #india

  9. Nitin Pai (@Acorn) (@Acorn) (@Acorn) May 15, 2011 at 12:17 am #

    Start your Sunday by reading this excellent post by @pragmatic_d http://t.co/ZLoKDEh

  10. Blogpost Replug. Nationalism is not an epithet: Why is Nationalism an anathema to some Indian commentators? http://bit.ly/kEtb0H

  11. @ecophilo May 15, 2011 at 2:07 am #

    Must read RT @acorn: Start your Sunday by reading this excellent post by @pragmatic_d http://t.co/ZLoKDEh

  12. Commentator (@jkamath) May 15, 2011 at 2:58 am #

    Let’s not be ashamed & get carried away. Nationalism is not an epithet http://t.co/3H7rEH2

  13. Athul Prasad (@athul_prasad) May 15, 2011 at 3:36 am #

    Excellent Read! by @pragmatic_d – ‘Nationalism is not an epithet’ http://bit.ly/kEtb0H

  14. tarang (@tarangsinghal) May 15, 2011 at 5:03 am #

    good one !RT @acorn: Start your Sunday by reading this excellent post by @pragmatic_d http://t.co/ZLoKDEh

  15. Saarthak (@spiritualghost) May 15, 2011 at 6:31 am #

    "Nationalism is not an epithet" http://t.co/h3H18VF by @pragmatic_d | I repeat, this blog is a must read for pseudo intellectuals

  16. Sreedhar Chandan May 15, 2011 at 12:36 pm #

    It is great misfortne that there are large number of intellectuals in India who get encouragement by both print and electronic media to propagate their brand of liberalism. The problem is there is a lot of money power ruling the media, they being on the verg of becoming antinational are in fact against Nationalism. Growth of such sentiment amongst our modern social scientists and thinkers is partly because bad parentage and education during later half of previous century. There is absence of political leadership at grass root level to instill qualities essential for generation of necessary desire amongst the populace in favour of Nationalism.

  17. If you have not done so,you should read why nationalism is not an epithet, depends on meaning. http://tinyurl.com/3v95hlg by @pragmatic_d

  18. @thecomicproject May 15, 2011 at 3:50 pm #

    Nationalism is not an epithet – http://bit.ly/m15lfb (via @pragmatic_d) ->automatically equating nationalism with intolerance is wrong

  19. Nationalism is not an epithet http://tinyurl.com/3v95hlg . very nice one from @pragmatic_d . much needed reality check

  20. Rylie Dumisani (@RylieDumisanTu) May 16, 2011 at 11:10 am #

    Pragmatic Euphony » Nationalism is not an epithet http://bit.ly/iq5bKa

  21. @muladhara Agree. It has been a weak spot for us. See my blogpost about why we eschew Nationalism: http://bit.ly/kEtb0H @acorn @filter_c

  22. As I blogged last month, the question that bothers me is: Why is Nationalism an anathema to some Indian commentators? http://bit.ly/kEtb0H

  23. primary red (@primary_red) (@primary_red) June 23, 2011 at 9:16 am #

    No illiberal cause these "liberals" didn’t like RT @pragmatic_d Why’s Nationalism anathema to some Indian commentators? http://bit.ly/kEtb0H

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  1. From Potemkin to Pakistan | Pragmatic Euphony - April 14, 2012

    [...] case, you can still be polite and respectful about Pakistan without comparing it to India. Or as I said in a related context: Nationalism should not be an epithet for Indian [...]

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