Nationalism & National Interest!

Ironically, of late a lot of noise has been made over nationalism of Indian Muslims who have chosen not to chant a controversial new slogan on ground of their religious beliefs. Quite a few extremist Hindu leaders have even stated that if they could, they would have beheaded Indian Muslims who refuse to chant the controversial slogan. Some have even raised questions over the “nationalism” of Indian Muslims.

This naturally demands analysis of several factors, including the manner in which these extremists have questioned nationalism of Indian Muslims. To begin with, it may be noted that the Indian Constitution does not lay out any specific and/or precise definition of the term nationalism or asks Indians to chant a certain slogan. If it did, the situation would have been different.

Nevertheless, it is pertinent to note that any activity which may prove harmful to the nation may be viewed as anti-national. Besides, if any individual and/or group chooses to pursue an activity that may cause harm, reflect abuse or disrespect for the nation and so forth may also be viewed as anti-national activity. This also implies that nationalism of Indians may be questioned if and when they engage in any activity which is not in keeping with their responsibilities and duties as citizens of this country and/or which may be viewed as anti-national as per the Indian Constitution. Naturally, this raises the question as to from which angle refusal of Indian Muslims to chant a controversial slogan may be viewed as anti-national? How does this constitutionally justify the questioning of nationalism of Indian Muslims? It does not. And this demands reflection on this issue from a new angle.

Blaming Indian Muslims for an offence that they have not committed is equivalent to an attempt to defame them, spread false ideas about them, malign their reputation and also raise controversies about their national identity as well as definition of the term nationalism. Secondly, legally, constitutionally, socially and politically, the persons indulging in such practises - that is questioning the nationalism of Indian Muslims - are not authorised by the State to do so. They have not been assigned the responsibility and/or authority to judge and take decisions on the nationalism of Indian citizens, whether Muslims or non-Muslims. By indulging in this behaviour, when law and ethics - social or political - do not lay out for them to do so is equivalent to their carving out their own rules and laws, which they expect Indian Muslims to follow blindly. From what angle, should they be permitted to carve out their own rules and laws and impose them on others? Doesn’t it amount to their showing little concern and consideration for the Indian Constitution and its dictates?

Now, this also demands deliberation on to what extent should keepers of Indian law and order be expected to remain silent against those apparently showing little concern for and also consideration which they are constitutionally expected to?

Understandably, there is no specific definition of the term nationalism. However, it cannot be ignored that each Indian citizen has a certain duty and responsibility towards the Indian Constitution. How can it be ignored that when Indian authorities, legislators, government officials and others are elected/selected to their respective offices during their oath taking ceremony, they agree to bear true faith and allegiance to the Constitution of India.

It is indeed paradoxical that while a lot of noise has been made over refusal of Indian Muslims to chant controversial slogan, little attention has been paid to the questionable authority of those making such noise. Rather, as legal dictates suggest, the nature of aggressive noise being made regarding Indian Muslims’ refusal to chant the controversial slogan can from no angle be viewed as an activity committed in the national interest, to promote the nation’s welfare and so forth.

There is little doubt that the manner in which certain extremists have lashed out at Muslims’ refusal to chant what they want them to cannot be viewed as reflective of an activity in the national interest. Rather, it has to a certain degree spread tension and has thrown bad light on the image of the country, nationally and across the world. In this context, it would be pertinent to draw attention to the freedom of speech and expression as permitted by the Indian Constitution. As per the right to freedom, according to article 19, all citizens have the right to freedom of speech and expression. It is a fundamental right but with limitations.  Article 19(2) highlights the reasonable restrictions on the exercise of this right, in the interest of sovereignty and integrity of India. These are security of the State, friendly relations with foreign states, public order, decency or morality, contempt of court, defamation or incitement to an offence.

This naturally demands deliberation on the extent to which certain extremists have abused their freedom of speech and expression by making noise against Muslims’ refusal to chant the controversial slogan. Isn’t it time that some effective stand was taken against elements not interested in giving the due importance to the Indian Constitution and its dictates? Doesn’t national interest demand this?    

This article appeared in The Milli Gazette print issue of 16-30 April 2016 on page no. 11

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