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This year, through the coming week, our country would be in the throes of celebrating our 76th Independence Day that marks completion of 75 years of ‘Poorna Swaraj’. ‘Azaadi Ka Amrit Mahotsav’ is the tag line. I have also heard a few leaders mention the term ‘Amrit Kaal’, or the coming of an ‘Age of Nectar’, supposedly, to suggest a harbinger of prosperity, development and all things good.

The Flag Code has been amended to permit any Indian citizen to fly the national tricolour atop his or her house night and day, all year round. A feverish ‘Har Ghar Tiranga’ programme has been implemented which aims to charge nationalistic symbolism through sheer numbers that will paint the imagination of the public. Our lawmakers have elected our first tribal woman President in Indian History. We are well on the way to having a totally revamped Central Vista at our National Capital including a brand new Parliament House. Our country’s first indigenously built aircraft carrier, Vikrant, is all set to be commissioned while Indian Naval warships are visiting 75 ports around the world. And much more…

This is the Symbolism. Now coming to the Stories. Several national programmes have been launched such as Atmanirbhar Bharat, Digital India, Swachh Bharat Mission, Khelo India, National Skill Development Mission, Ayushman Bharat and the like. Are these anything new? Absolutely not. Every government launches national missions to address strategic,  sociopolitical, economic and technological challenges of their time. They evolve with changing requirements, technologies, capabilities and opportunities. The intentions remain the same – the prosperity, resilience and well-being of our people. Let not dependencies on others cripple us in times of crisis as we witness country after country crumble in the aftermath of conflicts around the world.

At this point, a brief recap on ‘Nationalism’ may be appropriate. The term derives from the word ‘nation’, which essentially comprises a group of people who share a common past, history and tradition; and have a vision of a common future. Now, a mere group of people is not enough to regulate the chaos and hence we have a state that has institutions that regulate mechanisms to realise this vision of a common future. A geographical boundary turns a nation-state into a country. While we often use the terms nation, state and country interchangeably, it clarifies our minds to understand what each means. Nationalism requires symbols and stories. Otherwise how else can a country of 140 crore plus people believe in a common purpose? Symbols and stories – combined with a bit of rhetoric create a belief system that allows such large bodies of people to cooperate in a flexible manner to achieve our vision of a common future.

So what am I getting at? Beyond the symbols and stories, lies our belief in goodness, diligent implementation, honesty of purpose and a healthy sense of idealism. Who will help realise all these lofty dreams? Nobody from some other planet or other country will come and do it for us. It rests squarely upon ‘our’ shoulders. When I say ‘our’ shoulders here, I refer to each and every Indian. Here are some broad pointers to my compatriots: –

To our voting population – choose your leaders wisely. To our executive, legislature and judiciary – provide good governance, create conditions for our youth to remain in the country for education and further professional growth. Allow every sector to bloom, whether private or public, small or large. Regulate the application of disruptive and destructive technologies wisely for the benefit of the people. Do not be corrupt and do not allow our institutions to get corrupted. Make amends where we have failed so far. To our civil servants, police and paramilitary forces – do all that is in your power to shape the external and internal environments in a manner that allows peaceful development. To our military – ensure our borders remain inviolable and your conduct remains beyond reproach – you are the last bastion of public faith. Speak Truth to Power. To our doctors and healthcare specialists – be the Gods and messiahs that common people perceive you to be. To our farmers, agriculturists, dairy farmers, fisher-folk and food industry in general – produce abundant food and other farm products. To our professionals in other fields – do your best, stay in India, provide your expertise, produce, manufacture and keep India first. To our teachers – ignite the minds of our children and grow their talents rather than standardising and stove-piping them into pre-set streams. To our senior citizens and veterans –  give the present generation the benefit of your wisdom but let them soar on their own contemporary wings. To our youth – doggedly chase your dreams, believe in yourselves and remember that failures are but stepping stones to eventual victories. If you study abroad, plan to return and be part of your country’s growth story. To our media – be true, fair, critical and fiercely independent. To all Indians at home and abroad – let your heart beat for India.

This is Nationalism beyond the Rhetoric. I know this sounds naively idealistic but in our hearts all of us do realise that at this turn in our nation’s history, if there is anything we need sorely, it is a liberal dose of idealism. I also write this because there is a common refrain that our youth do not truly realise the pain and sacrifice that accompanied our independence. I cannot really fault them since neither were they born then nor have they perhaps read accurate accounts of our history.

Let us cherish, protect and enjoy our independence with a sense of pride, responsibility and compassion.

Jai Hind.


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