Nationalism over rationalism

The Supreme Court last year decreed that all movie theatres should run the National Anthem, while the citizens are directed to stand in rapt attention and respect. According to the top court, “a time has come, the citizens of the country must realise that they live in a nation and are duty bound to show respect to National Anthem, which is the symbol of the constitutional patriotism and inherent national quality.”

However, by the last week of October this year, in response to a recent PIL, the Hon CJI Deepak Mishra, as part of a three-judge bench, tweaked the earlier judgement and ruled that it can be modified, but the government should take a call instead of “shooting from the court’s shoulder”. The Supreme Court said today, noting, “We don’t have to wear patriotism on our sleeve”!

The torchbearers of free speech and liberty, who were ‘petrified’ by this despotic diktat of the SC earlier, heaved a sigh of relief and celebrated the change in the stance of the Supreme Court, in this matter. But actually, they were free to slouch on their seats uninterrupted, munching on their popcorn tubs and enjoy their freedom of expression, even by the earlier order, which was not binding on anybody.

While it may be a matter of nuanced debate whether the courts have infringed on the people’s basic rights and embarked on a hyperbole of judicial activism, acting like a “nanny state disturbing its citizens even in their moments of leisure”, nonetheless, in my opinion, it is a matter of colossal collective embarrassment for us as a nation! We don’t have to be forced by a legal directive to exude a feeling which should come out naturally of our own volition!

For a nation which liberally quotes the constitution for its rights and privileges, again and again, but conspicuously prefers to overlook its own obligations and responsibilities as a citizen. For obvious reasons, envisaging an ideal democracy inhabited by good Samaritans, our makers of constitution overemphasised and strengthened the ‘rights’ of the people and mostly kept the ‘responsibilities’ as morally obligatory and advisable as directive principles.

Is the recent order of the Hon High Court just a rude reminder of this anomaly in our democracy and a ‘folly’ committed by our constitution makers? Metaphorically, isn’t it akin to reminding the errant children to be respectful to their parents (even here, some children may argue that even though we abuse our parents on their faces, we are aware of our duties? “Judge us by our action, not words”, sermonise our ‘Liberal Friends’, but I am sure, it doesn’t augur well of our cultural ethos, probably that’s where the EAST is better than the WEST, and words do matter, perceptions do matter!

It behoves of all citizens to at least behave like a patriot, is the curt message! Your patriotism can be different from my patriotism, and there can be some nuanced debate on it, but certain behaviours are morally imperative. Respecting the National Flag, National Anthem, respecting our Defence Forces and War Veterans, our Freedom Fighters (obviously not in the jingoistic way, which many do nowadays), cleaning our surroundings, protecting public property, respecting elders and helping the differently abled, avoiding lose talk and baseless allegations directed at the statutory bodies that are the pillars of democracy – these are small harmless rituals, gestures and emotions that bind a nation together. Let’s not let go of them in our over-enthusiasm for ‘rationalism’ over ‘nationalism’!

Dr Shrivastava is working as a Senior Consultant in the Department of Neurology at PSRI Hospital, New Delhi. He is an avid reader and has an opinion on issues that matter the nation.