Attention: this is patriotism

December 3, 2016

Rohit Dhankar

The Supreme Court (SC) has ordered that:

(a) “There shall be no commercial exploitation” of the national anthem,

(b) “There shall not be dramatization” of it,

(c) “National Anthem or a part of it shall not be printed” in such a manner that “may be disgraceful to its status and tantamount to disrespect.”

(d) All the cinema halls in India shall play the National Anthem before the feature film starts and all present in the hall are obliged to stand up to show respect to the National Anthem.”

(e) While the national anthem is being played “the entry and exit doors shall remain closed”

(f) Playing of national anthem will “be with the National Flag on the screen.” And,

(g) The abridge version of the National Anthem … shall not be played or displayed.”

I have been arguing on this blog (particularly during the JNU tamasha) that:

  1. It is wrong to think that the notion of nationalism is necessarily (a) repressive for some sections of the population and (b) aggressive to other nations. There can be forms of nationalism that are no-repressive and non-aggressive.
  2. The humanity at present is not developed enough to organise itself and have a non-repressive state without the ideas of nation and constitutional nationalism, which to my mind come so close to patriotism that is virtually indistinguishable from it. Therefore, they are necessary ideas at present state of intellectual and moral development of humanity.
  3. It is not possible to argue in favour of and struggle for the ideals of equality, justice, freedom, etc. if one discards the ideas of nation and nationalism.
  4. The ideas of the nation and nationalism expressed in the idiotic Sanghi vigilante brigade are not the ideas or ideals on which Indian nation is built. Therefore, assuming that that is what nationalism is and attacking the very core of Indian nation under this false assumption is massive foolishness.
  5. The overbearing and screaming critics of the ideas of nation and nationalism are deriding the massive section of population, undermining the binding force for the democratic nation and spreading disaffection for the nation and state. While at the same time reaping all the benefits of these very ideals; they are actually being irresponsible and selfish free riders.

This SC order seems to be a legal reaction to this kind of irresponsible, loud and overbearing criticism. This kind of criticism is made possible by some theories of nationalism built on false assumption of necessity of repression and aggression in nationalism. This also provided such people an opportunity to pretend to be the champions of the repressed, and therefore take the moral high ground. Many people lose no opportunity of earning credentials of being revolutionary simply by showing deviant behaviour. For example in on public function when the national anthem was sang at the conclusion a supposed to be revolutionary intellectual remained seated. That person was clearly seeking attention in a very childish way. This act did not constitute a critique, did not constitute any resistance, it was simply an act of trying to show “who one is”.

However, the SC order itself raises very serious and disturbing questions. The order assumes that the above mentioned legal diktats will “instill the feeling within one, a sense committed patriotism and nationalism”. The court thinks that the Article 51A(a) of the constitution makes it “clear as crystal that it is the sacred obligation of every citizen to abide by the ideals engrafted in the Constitution. And one such ideal is to show respect for the National Anthem and the National Flag.” Then goes on “[B]e it stated, a time has come, the citizens of the country must realize 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. It does not allow any different notion or the perception of individual rights, that have individually thought of have no space. The idea is constitutionally impermissible.”

Most of the objectives of the order may be laudable, but one wonders whether patriotism can be instilled by legal orders. Yes, legal orders may ensure external behaviour as per stated norms, in other words can ensure a “show” of patriotism. But patriotism and love and respect for the nation is much more than just an outward show of it. It is a sentiment, a disposition, a commitment which comes about from one’s internal intellectual and emotional processes; from shared experiences and public feelings. This commitment cannot be enforced, this cannot be based on any “sacred” ideas with legal force. That respect and love has to come from a rational understanding and emotional bonding with the people living in the nation, the citizenry. If some loud people are building their intellectual fortunes on the basis of pitting one section of the population against other, are incapable of imagining common public good and ways to achieve that without attacking the very foundations of the nation; they cannot be made ineffective by legal action.

Their genuine concerns have to be addressed and their misguided attacks have to be intellectually countered. This is not an issue of defeating them, this is an issue of convincing them of more meaningful ways of critiquing the ills our democracy has and showing them the necessity of respect to some fundamental ideals as well as large sections of population who disagree with them. This is a project of freeing them of their own bigotry.

This requires a more balanced debate and rejection of the factionalist nationalism of the sangh-parivad as well. The saner people have to groups to deal with: the sanghi-bigots as well as the all-knowing so-called left liberals. Two wrongs in the national arena cannot be righted by a legal order.


Some ideas on nationalism

November 26, 2016

Rohit Dhankar

Recently I spoke on nationalism in a panel discussion and one old friend raised some questions on what I said. Here I am articulating some of the ideas expressed in this session. Obviously this article remains only at some sundry ideas and nowhere near any rounded articulation of a position. However, some of the ideas here may play a pivotal role in a rounded position, if it is ever fully developed.

Recently some of the very prominent and noisy intellectuals have been shouting on every proper or improper opportunity that ‘nationalism is an evil idea’. There can be nothing good in it. There can be no beneficial or even benign interpretation of this idea. It is necessarily: 1. repressive for some sections of population in the country (nation), and 2. inimical to some other nation. The argument is made on the basis of historical analysis of emergence of the idea of nationalism in Europe. Where, it is claimed to have been used in consolidating nation states through internal repression and external aggression.

I will leave the historical analysis as it is, without commenting or questioning. But will ask a different short of question: what kind of concepts permit immutable certain knowledge? What kind of concepts permit fallible but reliable knowledge? And what kind of concepts permit interpretative knowledge of particular instances which may or may not be generalizable in all supposed to be similar situations? Is “nationalism” a kind of concept which permits immutable certain knowledge? If no, what is the basis for shouting loudly that ‘nationalism’ can be only a repressive and aggressive evil idea?

To elaborate on the same point a little further let’s consider three particulate concepts and the kind of claims that can be reasonably made about them.

First let’s take a triangle. In Euclidian geometry a triangle by definition is a figure contained by three straight sides. Figure, straight, three, sides, angles, etc. all have their definitions. It is not necessary for any of these concepts to correspond with anything in the real world of experience; even if they are abstractions of very real experience in the world.

Now, when one says that sum of all the interior angles of a triangle is equal to two right angles; it is nothing but statement of a relationship between various definitions; which all are abstract and immutable. This conclusion can be deductively proved starting from definitions and using only one’s reason; or logic, a more direct and restricted from of reason. Since the definitions are immutable, and the procedure of arriving at conclusions is deduction, the knowledge expressed by the above statement is immutable as long as the definitions and logic remains the same. And one can confidently claim anywhere and everywhere that sum of the interior angles of a triangle is always equal to two right angles. But, remember that in real-world one can never draw or make such a perfect triangle. This perfect triangle remains only in human imagination.

Second, let us consider the concept of a leaf. A dictionary definition of leaf could be: “a flattened structure of a higher plant, typically green and blade-like, that is attached to a stem directly or via a stalk. Leaves are the main organs of photosynthesis and transpiration.” This object is found is nature, it has a ‘natural’ relationship with plant, green, flattened shape, stem, stalk, and a process called photosynthesis. These are names given to objects and processes found in the nature. Therefore, they are not purely definitional; here definitions have a job to do: to represent nature as closely as possible.

In this case leaves may or may not adhere absolutely to the characteristics given here: they may not be always green, may not always be very well flattened; could be thickish. There could be fence sitters who one wonders whether to call a leaf or not. The claims that can be made about leaves have to be found in the nature, and they may not be as clear, absolute and immutable as those about triangles. Therefore, there is always a possibility of finding leaves that actually have some characteristics not so far attributed to them or even those which may not have some of the characteristics supposed to belong to them. There might be laves which have thorns on them or may have sharp edges. On the basis of this evidence one cannot claim that “all leaves have thorns”.

Third, let’s consider the concept of a “school”. The simplest definition of a school could be “special arrangements made and space set aside for teaching of the young”. This is abstract and captures only the purpose and arrangements required to achieve that purpose. Now, there is a possibility that in a particular time and place there are schools which teach Sanskrit grammar mainly through rote learning. That does not mean that all schools always teach Sanskrit grammar and in this manner. But teaching is of course essential in this definition of the school. Suppose that teaching necessarily ‘changes the state of mind of a person’; then one can claim that schools necessarily want to change the state of mind of their students. Again, if some schools have made some students’ clones and cronies of their teachers or crafty cheats one cannot claim that all schools produce such graduates.

School is a concept that describes a social arrangements and functions. They can be of very different kinds in their content, pedagogy and organisational structures and still all may have the central purpose as facilitation of learning in young children. Therefore, statements like “all schools kill creativity”, “all schools teach confirming to authority” etc. may be true of particular set of schools. They may even be true of “all existing schools so far”. But they are not necessary part of the concept of school, and therefore, the possibility of someone creating a school that enhances creativity and teaches rebellion against authority is not closed.

Coming back to the concepts of a nation and nationalism: what kind of concepts are they? Are they definitional like a “triangle”, which contain all their properties in their definition itself? Or are they like “leaf”, which has to describe a natural object and its properties are contingent on natural phenomena, which need observation and cannot be deduced from the definition itself? Or are they like the “school” where a social phenomenon and organisation is deliberately demarcated; and which can change, grow, be modified etc. as per the changing needs, functions, theories of learning and so on?

One does not need to spend time in arguing that “nation” and “nationalism” are like “school”; and not like “triangle” and “leaf”. Therefore, the claims that can be made about them can never be generalised on all possible forms of these concepts. They are open to interpretation and constantly evolve.

In view of this analysis if one wants to make a claim that “Indian nationalism is necessarily repressive and aggressive” then one has to first establish that there is such a thing as unified “Indian nationalism”, and then one has to show on the basis on empirical evidence that the current version of what is being called “Indian nationalism” does have these characteristics.

Is any such analysis available at the moment? As far as one knows—none. There have been ways of thinking and conceptualising nationalism in India which is non-repressive internally and perfectly compatible with international cooperative coexistence. How do the critics of the idea of nationalism today know that the majority Indians do not hold this kind of positive and integrative concept of nationalism? Why do they assume that some social media hoodlums and coward vigilante represent the majority idea of nationalism?

The intellectual incapability of the noisy critics of nationalism is very clear at the moment. They are not able to distinguish between the hoodlum-nationalism and sentiments of concerned Indian citizens. In their zeal to attack the hoodlums they are constantly deriding the ideas of the nation and nationalism. Yes, the hoodlums need to be defeated and silenced. But so do need the overbearing critics of the ideas of nation and nationalism.


The Guardians of the Nation, The Warriors of Justice and the Sheep

April 26, 2016

Rohit Dhankar

 “One thing I feel very solemnly is that, if indeed some of these statements were made, such as “destroy the nation,” “barbadi Bharat,” and so on—they ought not to have been made. Anything that borders on condemnation of the national integrity and unity as such should be severely punished. That much is clear to me: whether they [the accused] said that, or who said what, and how, and when, will come out as a result of these enquiries.” Upendra Baxi. (Emphasis as bold and underlined added, italics original.)


We are the nation

We are the guardians of the true culture of this land.

All that is different from what we think is contamination in our pristine culture.

We are the guardians of the nation and the culture.

If you disagree with us: We will attack you, every where

We will attack you in the courts, on the streets

We will tell you how to express your patriotism, all other form are of no consequence.

Some of us will talk nice and legal language

Others will threat to kill

We are the same, the legal talk is to assure you; threat is necessary to bring you to the right path.

We will decide what you can eat, if you disagree our vigilante groups will attack you.

We will tell our women what to wear, whom to love. Those who disagree will be punished, insulted.

If you disagree with us: Go to Pakistan.



We want justice

We are the law unto ourselves.

If committees are to be appointed they should have all the people we want. If not, they are a farce.

If the police acts before the University processes are given time, that is wrong (This is genuinely wrong—Rohit), if the University processes follow, we do not accept the result. As you know, they are dictated by the RSS.

If Supreme Court gives a judgment it is determined by the Brahamanical conscience.

If the punished happen to belong to Dalits, Minority, or OBC it is the dominant castes suppressing and silencing them.

If the committees ask us to depose, we reject the committees.

We reject the legitimacy of the Indian state. (Not all of us, but we don’t allow to single out those who do, some of us make noises of accepting the nation and the constitution to shield all of us.)

We do not consider nation important.

We are fighting for greater justice.

We are the law, we are the judge.

If you touch us we will raise an international hue and cry. Our Guru’s are too well connected, their word is the truth.

We are engaged in bringing about a revolution.

We are the law unto ourselves.

If you disagree with us you are status-quoist, a rightist, a casteist, a majoritarian. You do not understand.

You see, we are the law and we are also the truth.



We are the sheep

We are the sheep

We follow, blindly

We make crowd in your speeches and slogans

We shout what you want us to shout

Clap when you want us to clap.

We remain invisible and give you visibility

We make the stool on which you stand and look tall

Our eyes and shut

Our minds are closed

We go by our emotions which you know how to manipulate

We lose our mind

And our existence

In your mind and your existence

We cease to be, to make you exist


Someday, yes, someday

Ours eyes will open

Our eyes when opened

Become the third eye of Shiva

Then we will get our minds back

Then we will get out existence back

Then you will cease to be

The opened eye of Shiva

Burns all evil



Demand of the Nation: blind worship or critical commitment?

March 17, 2016

Rohit Dhankar

According to The Hindu (17th March 2016) Maharashtra assembly has suspended an AIMIM MLA for refusing to chant “Bharat Mata ki jai”. The assembly is said to be unanimous in this expression of pseudo-nationalism; as BJP, Shiv Sena, Congress and NCP all supported this resolution. This is deeply disturbing and shows how small minded people can misinterpret and misuse the constitutional processes.

According to The Hindu a “BJP MLA … asked both [AIMIM] MLAs to chant Bharat Mata ki Jai. Mr. Pathan stood up and. said he would not do so even at the cost of his life.” The BJP MLA demanded this chanting totally out of context; and therefore, a test of their respect for the country. It was totally uncalled for, and he had no right to slight fellow legislator by demanding proof of their nationalism in this mindless manner. Mr. Pathan was completely within his rights to refuse to chant the slogan. He later on said “I love my country. I was born here and I will die here. I can never dream of insulting my country. Don’t judge anyone’s love for the country by just one slogan. Jai Hind; Jai Bharat; Jai Maharashtra.” And still he is charged of “disrespecting the country”.

This is blatant imposition of one single imagination of the nation on all its citizens. This is an attempt to create a religion out of nationalism, and deification of the nation. “Bharat Mata” is being seen in the same way as Durga or any other Hindu goddess. This imagination if taken toofar will decrease the respect for the nation rather than increasing it. Of course there are many people who see the nation in this manner. Of course, this slogan has been historically used my many patriots who contributed to the freedom movement and shaping this nation. Many of us grew up chanting this slogan. And so it is fine if you imagine the nation as Bharat Mata and love or worship it in that form. It is your freedom as an Indian citizen.  But all this does not make it the only way of expressing our respect and commitment to the nation. And it can take dangerous interpretations if pushed too far.

A nation is a shared imagination of its citizens. It includes their visions of living and flourishing together. It includes their aspirations and frustrations. It includes their cooperation and confrontations. It includes varied imaginations of the nation itself, of values and of peoples place in the system that they themselves create to make this collective life possible. The relationship of a democratic citizen with his/her nation is not necessarily that of a worshipper, or that of love. It is not a surrender of the citizen to the god of nation. It is a relationship of continuous creation and critique; of shaping and reshaping the nation. We as citizens shape the nation, we make it as per our imagination of good human life and aspirations of all. Deification of the nation demands abject surrender to that god, which cannot be questioned, cannot be critiqued, cannot be shaped and reshaped. This is a relationship of a blind bhakta. A nation that has only an army of blind bhaktas will be a poor nation and will not be able to take care of all democratic interests and aspirations of its citizens.

In this sense this imagination of the Indian nation as Bharat Mata makes it possible to love that non-existent imaginary goddess without respecting and caring for its citizens. Calling all of us Bharat Mata’s children in a sense infantilizes us. This is an example of a useful metaphor taken too far, too literally. It creates a false imagination that Bharat Mata is some kind of mysterious being that will take care of its perpetually infant offsprings. Or that it stands in need of these children to safe guard its honor. This is poetic imagination that might have its beauty, but the undeveloped minds who start taking this imagination as some kind of mysterious existence do a lot of harm to the very idea of a nation.

Remember the starting words of the preamble of Indian constitution: “WE, THE PEOPLE OF INDIA, having solemnly resolved to constitute India into a SOVEREIGN SOCIALIST SECULAR DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC …”. It is we who create this nation, it is we who want justice, equality, freedom, fraternity and dignity for all. Once you create an imaginary goddess called Bharat Mata it becomes possible to worship that imagination and forget autonomy if its citizens. It becomes possible to profess false love to that imaginary goddess and support injustice and perpetuate inequality in the sections of its population. Making chanting of “Bharat Mata ki jai” mandatory for all citizens is an attempt to change the relationship between the nation and its creator citizens.

A critical citizen cannot be demanded to love and to worship the nation. All that can be demanded from her/him is respect for the constitution, respect and care for all its citizens and their rights, and commitment to its integrity and flourishing. Mr. Pathan violated none of it. Charging him of ‘disrespect for the nation’ is an expression of demanding expression of respect and commitment in a particular way that some people favour.

We as critical citizens of a democracy should avoid bind love and worship; and inculcate thoughtful respect and commitment. And st the end, let us recognise without doubt that the demand that every one chants “Bharat Mata ki jai” and that  shouting of “Bharat ki barbadi tak…” be considered ‘freedom of speech’ fuel each other. Both are unjustified and both are harmful for this nation.


A survey on freedom of speech

March 13, 2016

I am running a survey on Freedom of Speech here .

This mixes up questions on religion and nationalism; and statements and slogans. The basic purpose is not to understand legal position but to understand how some of Indians active on internet think. This survey is not about what is the legal situation in the country, but what YOU AS AN INDIAN CITIZEN THINK.

Please complete it if you find interesting and/or useful.

If you don’t think it to be of any use you are free to state here BLUNTLY.

Those who are interested in the sources of these statements and slogans can see the references below:

Freedom of speech survey

Rohit Dhankar

Statements in books, pamphlets, seminars, public meetings:

He [Ganesha] cannot “compete with his father [Shiva], a notorious womaniser, either incestuously for his mother or for any other woman for that matter”.[1]

[Sita]: “That I’m an unfaithful wife and I’ve slept with Ravan.” “You didn’t do anything of the sort,” said Luxmun. He struck his knee and winced with pain. Sita said : “I did.”[2]

“In the months that followed, the staff of The Curtain warmed to the new task. The fifteen-year-old whore “Ayesha” was the most popular with the paying public, just as her namesake was with Mahound”[3]

“As long as Islam is there in this world, terrorism will be there. Until and unless we root out Islam from this world, terrorism cannot be eradicated.”[4]

“Prophet Muhammad was a homosexual and child molester.”[5]

Kamalesh Tiwati ne hamare Nabi ke sath badtamizi kii hai, yadi Uttar Pradesh Sarkar use saja nahin detii hai to uska sar kalam karne wale ko Bijnaur ke Musalman 51 lakh rupaye ka inam denge. [Kamalesh Tiwari has insulted our Prophet, if the UP government does not punish him, the Muslims of Bijnaur announce a prize of Rs.51 lakh for anyone who beheads him.][6]

“Any person who slaps Aamir Khan will be rewarded Rs 1 lakh by the Shiv Sena. This is important because no one living in our country should dare to say anything against India… Anyone from the hotel staff or the film crew can slap him and take the reward,”[7]

Slogans in public meetings (all from JNU programme on 9th Feb 2016):

  • “कश्मीर के नौजवान संघर्ष करो, हम तुम्हारे साथ हैं” [Youth of Kashmir, struggle; we are with you.]
  • “कितने अफज़ल मरोगे? घर-घर से अफज़ल निकलेगा” [Hogmanay Afzals will you kill? An Afzal will come out of every home.]
  • “कश्मीर मांगे, आज़ादी” [Kashmir demands freedom]
  • “पाकिस्तान, जिंदाबाद, जिंदाबाद” [Long live Pakistan]
  • “Right to self-determination, long live, long live”
  • “अफज़ल कि हत्या नहीं सहेंगे, नहीं सहेंगे” [We will not tolerate Afzal’s murder]
  • “अफज़ल हम शर्मिन्दा हैं, तेरे कातिल जिन्दा हैं”. [Afzal we are ashamed, your murderers are still alive.]
  • “कश्मीर कि आज़ादी तक”, “जंग रहेगी, जंग रहेगी” [Till the freedom of Kashmir, there shall be war.]
  • “भारत की बर्बादी तक”, “जंग रहेगी, जंग रहेगी” [Till the destruction of India there shall be war.]
  • “JNU के जयचंदों को, होश में लाओ” [Bring Jayachadas of JNU to their senses]
  • “देशद्रोहियों को, निष्काषित करो” [Expel the enemies of the nation.]


[1] Scenes and characteristics of Hindostan, p. 177. Oxford University Press, New York, 1985. (As quoted by Ashok Vohra, in a paper read in Udaipur.)

[2] The Ramayana as told by Aubrey Menen, page 243 of pdf version, Charles Scribner’s Sons, New York, 1954.

[3] The Satanic Verses, Salman Rushdie, page 402 in the pdf version I am using. Available at

[4] Anantkumar Hegde, BJP MP for Uttara Kannada, The Hindu 2nd March 2016.

[5] Kamlesh Tiwari, as reported The Times of India, City-Meerut, 4th December 2015.

[6] (Video)

[7] Punjab Shiv Sena chief Rajeev Tandon, as reported in Hindustan Times, 26th November 2015