THE IDEA OF NATION

Dear Bhuvnesh,

I appreciate your concern for nation but again I would say it is an artificial concept. Just like some people believe in God and have faith in religion you believe in nation. Your faith is as blind as somebody’s is in God. I too am concerned about soldiers dying on border but unlike you I’m concerned about soldiers on both sides of border. They are dying unnecessarily. Precious lives are being lost for no apparent logical reason. Tell me when leaders of two countries can meet whenever they like (remember how Narendra Modi made an unscheduled stop in Lahore and attended a wedding at Nawaz Sharif’s place) why do they make our soldiers kill each other? Have you ever heard of two leaders of enemy countries trying to kill each other when they met? If you allow the soldiers to enjoy the kind of bonhomie which is seen when leaders of enemy countries meet, probably there will be no enmity. The soldiers on two sides of border at Wagha yearn to talk to each other but they have to officially express antagonism against each other and display it publicly in the evening every day in events on both sides of border. They have to build a hype so that their citizens can raise jingoistic slogans. Imagine, if the soldiers had to perform a programme to promote friendship between the two countries! The entire atmosphere would be different. After all, it just requires an order from the respective governments to alter the nature of programme. It is the leaders who decide whether there will be peace or war between two nations. People on both sides want peace. This I can tell you from my ten visits to Pakistan. So, why don’t the leaders resolve the disputes between the two nations and make our borders like those between European nations or that between US and Canada? Soldiers are middle class people mostly from rural areas who are doing their job. None of the leaders or people from affluent class will send their children to armed forces. The only place where I’ve seen children of leaders getting killed is in Gaza, probably because it is so small. Is it right that we’re sacrificing lives of people who have no choice? How right is it to bring two youth face to face to kill each other just because one was born on one side of border and the other on other side and they were both indoctrinated in their respective nationalisms, which incidentally can change with history. After all India and Pakistan were one country before 1947 and who knows how history will evolve in future?

You say that we’re able to enjoy freedom of speech because we’re being safeguarded by brave soldiers on border who are committed to Mother India. Do you realise that we’re able to enjoy our lives because of the hard labour of our farmers who bring food to our tables 3-4 times a day? Over three lakhs of them have committed suicide in last 25 years because they are not able to repay their loans, which is many times the number of soldiers who have laid their lives for India. Have we ever felt the same emotion for them as we feel for our soldiers? Of what use is the security being provided by soldiers to our farmers. We, especially the elite (our leaders have built nuclear bunkers for themselves), will survive even if the soldiers fail us but nobody will live if the farmers don’t survive. Indian soldiers are killed by enemy soldiers but Indian farmers are losing their lives because of our own Government’s policies, which is certainly preventable.

You say you feel pride in being an Indian and hold you head high when you see the national flag flying. These are just emotions. You can live in an illusion and feel happy with symbolism. When we consider concrete reality, I can say, I feel ashamed as an Indian because even though our growth rate is very high all the benefits in this country are enjoyed by the elite and the poor are left to fend for themselves. Our social indices are one of the worst in the world. Number of malnourished children is highest in world. Half the children are not in school. Sanitation facilities are poorest in world. We take pride in doing space research but human beings die in our sewers because of suffocation when they enter to clean it, even though there is a law against this. Cheats, manipulators and criminals rule the roost. Corruption guides government policy and not concern for human beings. We are a hypocritical people who worship statues but have no feeling for fellow human beings. Gods made of stone live in magnificent temples but human beings sleep on streets, their children often trafficked. Our women and children are not safe inside our homes from sexual exploitation. Tribals like Soni Sori are persecuted by State because it doesn’t trust them and people on the margins like Irom Sharmila fast for 15 years for removal of a draconian law. Have you ever wondered how are people on the receiving end of State’s justice delivery system expected to feel proud when they see the national flag?

You’ve ended your note by using the greetings ‘Jai Hind’ and ‘Jai Bharat’. Great political saint and follower of Mahatma Gandhi, Vinoba Bhave had popularised the greeting ‘Jai Jagat.’ Today it might be better to say ‘Jai Shristi,’ considering that we’ve to worry about saving our environment too. Would it not be in the interest of humanity if we were to expand our vision to the entire world or even to universe? I hope you’ll give a thought to it.

With love, Sandeep

(This is in response to a final year B.Tech. in Civil Engineering student Bhuvnesh K. Sharma at IIT-BHU who was disturbed by my remarks on the concept of nation in my JNU speech delivered on 10 March, 2016. Bhuvnesh was a student in my Development Studies class in 2014-15.)

By Sandeep Pandey
Vice-President, Socialist Party (India)
A-893, Indira Nagar, Lucknow-226016
Ph: 0522 2347365, M: 9415022772 (Arundhati Dhuru)
e-mail: ashaashram@yahoo.com

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