In 1908, Rabindranath Tagore composed a letter to his companion, A M Bose, and said, “Patriotism can’t be our final spiritual shelter. I will not buy glass for the price of diamonds and I will never allow patriotism to triumph over humanity as long as I live.”
From these above famous lines, it is manifest that humanity must be the priority at every level of human life. However, the creator (Tagore) of the concept (patriotism) himself acknowledged the fact that patriotism denotes abstract elements and has a positive association with the cognitive domain of the individual. Hence, the essence of adherence and the acceptance of patriotism or nationalism come from within, not the outside. Certainly, patriotism has a collective connotation that typically depicts collective ‘loyal’ attitude and perception towards one’s own nation or identity.
However, these collective ‘loyal’ attitudes need a peaceful and appropriate atmosphere to grow and flourish. Further, the norms and values have much potent instruments that help to enhance the spirit of one’s loyalty towards the nation.
In 1916 Tagore, wrote a famous novel, ‘The Home and the World’, in which he showed some resentment to Mahatma Ghandi and said that when love for one’s country gives way to worship, or becomes a “sacred obligation”, then disaster is the inevitable outcome. “I am willing to serve my country; but my worship I reserve for Right which is far greater than country; to worship my country as a god is to bring curse upon it.”
Moreover, Tagore had long before predicted the catastrophic implication for making ‘sacred’ the words ‘patriotism’ and ‘nationalism’. Thus, to label these two words as sacred and to relate two words with religion is predominantly a devastating consequence for the society as a whole.
The manipulation and politicising of the concept of patriotism, nationalism and other national symbols, distracts the nation from its righteous path: the egalitarian society. The nation’s stability and integrity has been expunged by the emergence of hyper-patriotism.
Louis Althusser, the famous Neo-Marxist, discussed the contemporary nature of political-economy. He also examined the power-structure of modern society, particularly the capitalist and ruling class. He argued that the ruling class vitally employed two dominants instrument or apparatuses for internalising, inculcating and asserting their power and dominance on working class in modern societies. These two overriding instruments or apparatuses are the Repressive State Apparatus (RSA) and Ideological State Apparatus (ISA). In the Repressive State Apparatus (RSA), the state has all the material forces like govt, courts, police and armed force to control the working class. In the Ideological State Apparatus (ISA), the state has particularly abstract and non-violent forces to overpower the voices of working classes.
The Althusser theory has much relevance and application in modern Indian society. As we try to comprehend the present situation of India, we have perceived the labeling of patriotism and nationalism with har-ghar-tiranga campaign and related exclusion of non-participatory groups in the programme. However, symbolism like buying flag and unfurling flag is not a criterion to test or measure one’s loyalty and patriotic sprit towards the nation. In real sense, symbolism has nothing to do with patriotism or nationalism. Both symbolism (material in nature like national flag) and patriotism (non-material like feeling of oneness) have different interpretations. I have already mentioned that the feeling of oneness or loyalty towards one’s nation arise from within the mind of individual. One cannot arouse this feeling by using any material or physical forces.
In 1921, Mahatma Gandhi published an article in ‘Young India’ in which he sophisticatedly elaborated his thought on the National Flag of India. He argued that “A flag is a necessity for all nations. Millions have died for it; it is no doubt a kind of idolatry which it would be a sin to destroy. For a flag represents an ideal.”
Thus, we can comprehend from the Gandhian perspective that flag is a necessity which works like a model for creating cohesion and integrity in a diverse society. It is a sin if someone relates it with a sacred thing. In a democratic society like India, the acceptance and relevance of these concepts predominately depends on the will of the people, not any coercive forces.
Consequently, the essence of National Flag as per Mahatma Gandhi, and the feeling of patriotism or nationalism by Tagore, is very far from its originality in the contemporary Indian.
The Repressive State Apparatus (RSA) and Ideological State Apparatus (ISA) have both been used in India, but it is primarily the Repressive State Apparatus which has been used to inculcate and ingrain the value of patriotism. However, these concepts have higher acceptance rate when they are inculcated by polite means and in peaceful environments.
The writer has a PhD Sociology from AMU, Aligarh, and is working as Assistant Professor (Contractual) at Govt Degree Collage Doda, University of Jammu. [email protected]