Friends of Tibet: People's Movement for an Independent Tibet

"Indianness and Nationalism" by Tushar Gandhi
(A Report by Eswar Anandan, June 13, 2016)

Tushar Gandhi 2016 Kerala Lecture Tour

Ernakulam, Kottayam: During a lecture series on "Indianness and Nationalism", organised by Friends of Tibet Foundation for the Wellbeing, Tushar Gandhi spoke on the subject at St Albert's College, Ernakulam; CMS College, Kottayam and at at the Sukumar Azhikode Trust on June 13, 2016.

The lecture at St Albert's College, Ernakulam was organised by The English Association (TEA). On seeing the disparity in gender ratio, Tushar Gandhi jokingly asked where the boys are, whether they are busy chasing Engineering and Medical Sciences. He asked the students no to be disappointed looking at him, since they would have expected someone who resembles Mahatma Gandhi to stand in front of them.

At CMS College Kottayam, Tushar Gandhi felt that it would have been a privilege to him if he had learnt in such an old and serene institute of knowledge. He appreciated the beautiful campus and the serene infrastructure the campus provided. The management of the college presented Tushar Gandhi a copy of the letter that Mahatma Gandhi had written to the then principal during the Civil Disobedience Movement.

At the DC Books Auditorium, Kottayam, the lecture was a part of the First Sukumar Azhikode Global Lecture series. Tushar Gandhi said that he was honoured to be the first to speak in the lecture series. He released the English edition of Sukumar Azhikode's book "Tatvamasi". The event was presided by Justice KT Thomas, Chairman, Sukumar Azhikode Trust. To one of the remarks made while welcoming him, Tushar Gandhi said that he does not blame Brahmins in general for the murder of Mahatma Gandhi though everybody involved in the murder was a Brahmin. He also remarked that his family cannot claim the legacy of Mahatma Gandhi, though are fortunate enough to be part of the lineage. The day Mahatma Gandhi took the vows of celibacy or brahmacharya, the whole humanity became his children and hence all human beings inherited the right to claim his legacy. So he cannot claim exclusivity over Mahatma Gandhi.

Indianness and Nationalism lecture by Tushar Gandhi (June 13, 2016)

Excerpts From the Lecture Sseries:

"The topic 'Indianness and Nationalism' would have been better if it ended with a question mark. Because today there is a great question mark following each of the characteristic which we proclaim as national identity."

What Constitutes a Nation: Everything in the nation is interconnected. Nation happens when group of people come together and live together. Map is just a geographical demarcation of a piece of land to which people lay claim. One should understand the difference between what makes a nation and what is an area called a nation.

The very national identity comes under cloud of question. Existence is more apparent in its denial than actuality what is a nation — is it a piece of land, a map or represent by national symbol or flag. Can an empty piece of land become a nation if a border is drawn around it? Or is it a nation where a group of people despite their diversity, despite their disparity, come together and in a unanimous manner to create an entity that it becomes a nation. If it is that then today if we can rightfully question whether we exist as a nation.

Ritualistic Nationalism: We are confused by ritualistic aspects of nationalism and we trivialise the feeling of nationalism with slogans. If you are a patriot you would say 'Vandemataram' or 'Bharat Matha Ki Jai'. If you are a nationalist you would abuse Pakistan.

One gets up and chants 'Vandhe Mataram' or 'Bharat Mata ki Jai' makes one a patriot, after which he or she can break the laws of the land, can litter, evade taxes, cheat fellow countrymen, tell lies, and get away with all of that, may be end of the day again stand and chants 'Vandhe Mataram' or 'Bharat Mata ki Jai'! These mere ritualistic aspect of national pride facilitates our actions that prove to our world as national pride and national identity! I don't have anything against those two slogans, it should be voluntary and not merely on our lips but should reflect in our practises, every day, every instant we should reflect the devotion towards our nation. We all love our parents, how many of us get up every morning and go in front of one's mother and say 'Oh mother! You are the best mother in the world'. 'My Mother Zindabad'. Do we have to say that every day to prove that we love our mother? And if we don't say does that mean that we don't love our mother? The same feelings is for the nation. One's actions need to speak louder than one's words. Unfortunately today the whole thing is turned upside down and what we say matters and not what we do.

Shortcut Mantra: These days we want the easy way out — short cut is the mantra of the day. One prefers two minute noodle over the fifteen minute idly. It does not matter if it provides nutrition, just we want it fast. Though it does not provide us the vital constitution of a good diet, what we care is that it takes care of our hunger for the time being. One hour later if we are hungry again, another two minutes noodle. Now that we have the 'Ramdev' Noodles, am not sure how long it takes to cook, but one fine day may be eating 'Ramdev' noodles instead of Maggi noodles may become a symbol of patriotism!

Nationalism vs Ultra Nationalism: Certain kind of nationalism was considered to be dangerous, ultra-nationalism which manifests itself in the fascist and the Nazis. Ultra-nationalism for a time creates a brand of a nation, but it sows seeds of destructions of the same nation it creates to worship. Greatest example is Germany in the IInd world war. The Nazis were supposed to be ultra-nationalists, ultra-patriotic and for a time being Germany seemed to be example of prosperity progress and development. But look what happened at end of IInd world war, Germany stood in ruins only patriotism of German post IInd world war, help them decide that they rebuild their nation. Two definitions for love for their nation, one ends up destroying while the other rebuilding the destroyed nation and bring it back to the same place in the same place as it enjoyed before.

Our Responsibility Towards our Nation: We get immense pride when our soldiers give the supreme sacrifice of their life and become martyrs for our nation and we feel a patriotic fervour for their actions. But do we realise that inside a nation each one of us who calls himself or herself a citizen of our country or this nation is a soldier of that democracy. We have a responsibility towards our nation it may not be as serious as a soldier or a policeman but every citizen has a duty towards his or her nation and unless we obey that duty it would be very difficult to continue to keep that nation united or the people of the nation united.

We are all soldiers of our democracy. If we don't guard the nation within those borders, there would be a time when we would require for every citizen a soldier to ensure that citizen does not harm the nation. Every citizen have to act as a soldier of democracy to ensure that the nation prospers and is not harmed.

Disparity in Everything: We call ourselves a nation but we are divided based on castes, based on religion, divided by gender and divided by economic disparity! If we there is so many divisive factors, then where is the unifying factor or what is the unifying factor?

In Salem, Tamil Nadu, a few years back, while I was going through a busy intersection, I saw a cycle had fallen and the cycle had pots of water on it, and water had spilled and couple of pots had cracked. A grown up man sitting next to the cycle was weeping. I could not understand why he was weeping. There was no accident, he was not injured, just a little bit of spilled water! Then I realised that for that man, he must have gone to collect his family's daily requirement of water and he must be taking it back. And now that he had spilled, he would have to go back from where ever he had taken it from, fill it again and take it back to his family, which meant half of his productive day would go waste, which meant as a daily labourer he would lose his income for that one day. Which would mean for that evening his children would have to go to bed on an empty stomach. Think of that. I can't even imagine that kind of an existence. In one single nation, two people who calls themselves citizens of this nation, face kind of this bleak or privileged life. And then think of how long we can remain as this nation.'

Indianness and Nationalism lecture by Tushar Gandhi (June 13, 2016)

What do we expect from a person whose existence is so fragile to think about the concept of nationhood? Isn't it time to set it right?

While we sit in the comfort of this auditorium and feel secure and comfortable to these surroundings, a large part of our territory is today outside the sovereign rule of our government from the north to the south in central India there is a whole corridors which is ruled by militant Marxists the naxalites as we call them. The rule of law the rule of state does not extend to those territories I know it first-hand. I was in Chhattisgarh doing a seminar by the state government as an inducement we were given two days off to spend some holiday spot in Chhattisgarh. Since my wife was accompanying me, she expressed a desire to visit Bastar. When the Liaison Officer asked me, I told I would like to visit Bastar. That was the end of the story for the next two days, the liaison officer kept avoiding. I asked him is there a problem we would really like to go there. He said "Sir, what you are asking for even the collector is scared to go to Bastar if he goes there he would either be killed or be abducted." That is Naxalite territory we can't go. This is part of sovereign India. This is part of the territory of what we call as nation and yet our constitution is not functional there, police scared to enter. Government cannot enter that territory. And why is the spread so spectacular and so fast? Because 5 pots of lost water can ruin the life of a person and a whole population of people live through it who absolutely have no hope, who can't put a square meal or provide a square meal for their families once in 10 days.

Its been seven decades since we are independent, every 5 years we are fooled and votes are purchased by for a bottle of liquor, saree for his wife, and few pots and pans and after that the misery of their life continues. If I was in their place and naxalite came and said here is a gun city 200 kms away in the city, the people there are enjoying the fruits of life and they have electricity, water and food in abundance, go there and snatch it, it's your right. If we were in the tribal's shoes, we would pick up the gun. We are very fortunate that we are sitting in a much secured surroundings and discussing this. But the time is not very distant when instead of a knock of our door, the door of our house would be ripped off from the hinges by a bomb and our home would be stormed by these people whom we have criminally neglected. Where is the nation for the father who can't put food in the plates of his children?

Lethargic Democracy: We have become a lethargic democracy. A democracy becomes vibrant only when its citizens become vibrant. Nothing seems to bother us, nothing seems to affect us. We lead lives in automation — from certain age to certain age one has to educate oneself. The next set of years towards taking care of the family by doing 9 to 5 work, some who are more dynamic become entrepreneurs but the motive is to make money and provide family and make sure they are well taken care of. To my age group of people, not so old, we wait to retire to do public work. But once we retire, like idiots we laugh standing in the parks because it's a therapy.

So what is the age to do public work, to do work that benefits the nation and what qualifies as the work that benefits the nation. When is the time to do that? In this very strictly enforced time line there is no age when it's performed. How can a nation or society survive if it's populated by selfish people who live only for themselves and their families and not for their nation? It's important that we devote a percentage of our leisure hours towards building community selflessly. Imagine how grand it would be when it's a culmination of every individual's selfless act. It would make a huge difference.

Not long ago, a generation that was selfless in acts of nationalism: In comparison to human life, 70 years is not a very big period of time for the age of a nation. We are still young, but look where we have reached from the time of inception? It was not even hundred years back, there lived a generation of people who fought together a unique battle, where there was no war, but in a non-violent way that defeated an empire about whom it was said 'The sun never sets'. They did it because each and every citizen considered that it was his or her duty to do whatever they could for independence. It was a collective effort, Bapu alone would not be able to succeed. There is a contribution of the revolutionaries in getting us freedom too. And in its totality it caused the British to think that India must be independent. They sacrificed selflessly. The freedom fighters benefit are more enjoyed by the descendants than the demanded by the true freedom fighters. They felt as an insult to ask for benefit of their freedom fighting. But those were the people who sacrificed, they did not live in a distant past. Just few decades not even a century before they existed in this world in our nation.

Indianness and Nationalism lecture by Tushar Gandhi (June 13, 2016)

Blame Game: We can no longer blame the British. We love to bring the British for all the present things. But they are gone they are not an influence on our destiny anymore and yet look at what we have done to our own nation. We like to blame politicians. But we must be honest enough to accept the fact that since independence we have been a true democracy, although in recent years a dysfunctional democracy, but for a major part of a national life we have been a true democracy in which every citizen was an important cog in the mechanism of democracy. What has happened to our nation, we are all to be blamed for us it is from within ourselves that the political class has emerged. They were not divinely born to rule over us they emerge from within our society, the society that formed this nation they are reflection of the society that they have emerged from. And if they are corrupt it is because they have emerged from corrupt society. If they are inefficient, they have emerged from an inefficient society. If they are selfish because they are emerged form selfish society. They have only carried forward the qualities they have inculcated from within all of us which are a part of all of us. Its time in our nationhood or time in our nation that we look into the mirror and acknowledge the terrible reflection that reflects from the mirror, it's not the flaw of the mirror. It is what we refused to see in ourselves.

Rights vs Duties: Look at us today — we are more concerned about our rights, what the nation could do for us, we are concerned about the rights assured by democracy. But do we perform our duty towards our nation? Only when the rights and responsibilities are balanced the nation becomes healthy. But in reality we tear our country apart in the name of caste and community, seeking special status. Look at the Jat revolution agitation, it was not an agitation for rights because it was a rule of mob for terrorising people and the government. Then the same thing happens in Gujarat with the Patels. At every place, every small group of community want their selfish rights to be provided by the nation. Who is going to make sacrifice and say we are as proud citizens of the nation we are to make sacrifice for our country which may hurt our aspirations but we know that it would be good for the nation.

If we are to become glorious, shine, incredible, every Indian will have to take responsibility for that. Every Indian will have to obey their duties to make it better. And if that happens then we can truly say we are a nationalists, we are patriots; otherwise we can spend our whole lives shouting from the rooftops 'Vandemataram' and 'Bharat Matha Ki Jai'. And we would see the nation the nation crumbling in front of us.

Swacch Bharat: Let's not talk about nation, let's talk about our own surroundings. How many of us when we see a dirty street, when a street is littered with garbage say that it's my responsibility and I like cleanliness and it's my responsibility to clean if I see dirt? Be it in Europe or any other country in Asia, only rare instances of garbage lying in street is seen. Someone will come quietly and pick it up and deposit in the dust bin. They don't need the prime minister to tell Swach Bharat is our own responsibility. It's automatic. It should happen because we are proud citizens of democracy. It should happen but it doesn't; if that is the kind of attitude we have for our nation how can we even talk about Nationalism or Patriotism. Do you litter in your house or throw garbage in your house and if there is dirt in the house do you wait till the servant cleans it up or your mother comes and clean it up? Or you clean it up because you do not want your house to be dirty? Does somebody else have to come and tell you that to show your patriotism for your family or house you have to do all this? It's natural. We do it natural. You find some homes very dirty. It's not because some outsider make the house dirty, it's because the people living in the house don't care. It's the same with the nation. It's the same attitude you have in your house that reflects in your nation. Many a times we come across families who clean their house twice a day and their house is spotless clean but after sweeping the house whatever garbage is found they open their front door and they throw it right outside in the community area. It's as if only my house is important to me and my neighbourhood does not matter that's to be cleaned up by the municipality! If we depend on others to do what is our responsibility who will take responsibility for our nation. Will it be the soldiers and the policeman who have to do all the sacrifices and keep our state in a healthy manner? And we talk about our patriotism and every time we talk about patriotism we sing a film song which is very patriotic and fashionable or it's so easy to do these days to chant a few slogans. And then we pat on our backs and say oh we are very patriotic.

No Special people to take care of our nation: Some do not start their day without an hour long prayer session. But if one observes carefully some of them would be the greatest sinners and their conscience pricks them that they sit in front of idol and keep singing forgiveness for the sins committed throughout the day. They are desperate to pacify their God! We worship God through fear and not devotion or love! We hear stories of God being benevolent then why be afraid of such a God? In heart one knows one is a sinner, hence one is afraid of God. Same applies to Nationalism and Patriotism. We do the rituals of Nationalism and Patriotism because our practises are not nationalistic and patriotic. The responsibility of the nation lies with young people like you, you must understand these things. You have to obey your duties towards nation. There is no special people who will come to take care of our nation. We have to be nationalistic and patriotic at heart. Time has come in our nation if any nation left, for each and every one of us, we all must live up to our responsibilities, only then we will be truly nationalistic and patriotic only then we can survive. Otherwise we will befooling ourselves that we are a real nation.

Flaws in Our Democracy: We must not ignore the flaws of our democracy. Many a times because I criticise some of the prevalent practise of our nation I am being told am not patriotic, am anti-national. But I believe am more nationalist and patriotistic because I admit the flaws in my nature and I not only admit those flaws in my nature but I hold myself responsible for those flaws, errors and mistakes and I don't blame others. I speak about those flaws because I realise I am a culprit as much as everybody else is.

Three years ago during the Anti-Corruption Movement led by Anna Hazare was creating fervours in the country, people all over were wearing Caps which said 'I am Anna'. I was invited in a college at Aurangabad, Maharashtra, right at the time when Anna Hazare was sitting on a fast the second time. The whole auditorium was full of people wearing the cap 'I Am Anna' and India against corruption badges worn with pride. They asked me questions about why I was not with Anna and all similar questions. Finally I told them that I wanted to ask them three questions. The first question was that I saw a hundred or more motorcycles parked in the college campus. I asked them how many of them own motorcycles. Almost 75% of the audience raised their hands saying they own motor cycles. My second question was how many of them who own motorcycles, wear helmets. Now out of the 75%, one third raised saying they wear helmets. I told them, 'this means two-thirds of you don't wear helmets and ride motorcycles'. I asked them if they did not know that it's against the law. They said 'yes, so what?' I asked them what happens if the police man catches them and fines, would they pay fine and wear helmets the next time. They laughed and asked if I was stupid. They told that they would go broke and will not have enough to spend on their girlfriends, so they would pay Rupees 50 or 100 to the policeman and get away with it. Then I asked my 3rd question, 'Now that you are wearing Anna's cap, will you still bribe or pay the fine or will you buy helmets'? Their reply was 'No, we have to be practical, we bribe'!

What is the use of wearing the 'I am Anna' cap, if it's not going to change one's habits? The whole anti-corruption movement failed because it just asked people to come up on the stage and curse all the politicians, bureaucrats and blame them to be corrupt. It did not hold a mirror to the society and ask them to look how corrupt we are. If we bribe a police man Rupees 100 or 200, then economic students will know that as one rise in status and when one reaches the level of the country's Prime Minister, the Rupees 200 price tag of the police man will become a Rupees 500 crore price tag for a Prime Minister. Who is to blame, is it the official who takes the money which was offered to be blamed or is it the person who offers, because they want an easy ride and to get illegal things done gives money everywhere instead of following law. What is the use of the same bribe giver prays every morning and chants 'Vandemataram' or 'Bharat Matha Ki Jai', how does it make that person a patriot. These are things we must understand, these are the questions we should ask ourselves. When it comes to selfishness we are neither patriotic nor nationalistic forget about the spirit of indianness.

Corruption is a two way stream. Those who give and those who take. And if there was a stoppage from one side, the other side cannot survive. This is the reality of our democracy.

Moral Policing: Acts of immorality does not mean wearing revealing clothes, holding hands or showing expressions of love. Immorality means actions that hurt society. Actions that damage the fabric of a nation. But today the so called moral police go to the parks and punish young lovers who don't have any other place to express their love for each other. They feel they are doing a great job in protecting the morality of the nation! Some people do think that young people have to be disciplined, but on the contrary, it is the people who believe that they have a right to discipline others who need to be disciplined. The people who think it is their moral authority, because they are perfect, they can go and improve everyone else and teach them the right way of life; it is them who has to be taught a lesson. And then they can get away with it because the majority of others say how does it concern me? They think why they should bother? They do feel in their hearts that its wrong, but they do not want to get into hassles of fighting with the moral police or to tell them that it's wrong. Who will do it?

We have read in scriptures when sin gets too much, God appears to clean it up. This happens only in papers. In my life, I have not seen God coming down to earth and doing anything. May be am too great a sinner that he does not want to help me. I have seen God-like behaviour in people. This comes because they are good people at heart. They take responsibility for the betterment of the society and for the nation and that is true nationalism, patriotism and this is what we must all understand and imbibe in our life, otherwise it's all fake pseudo patriotism and pseudo nationalism. And patriotism and nationalism also does not mean that you pretend that there is nothing wrong in our society or nation. We must accept our faults and not just accept, but once we understand what is wrong in our society or in our nation, make it our responsibility to correct them. We may not be able to correct everything but we must make an attempt. And when a large enough number of people make that attempt to correct our society or our nation then change will happen.

False Pride: In order to enhance the glory of India we need to coin slogans — Incredible India, Shining India and Rising India and Super power India. The more labels we invent, more we show our desperation to show the world what we really are.

Celebrations are very important for a society, its people. It needs to be spontaneous celebration and not orchestrated celebration. We saw a huge orchestrated celebration to celebrated 2 years of governance, wonder if it was to celebrate the performance in the last two years or to thank that the government lasted two years. The celebration if at all should be from the citizens who spontaneously celebrate because the government has made a change in their life.

Look without false prides. Don't get carried away with the Mangalyaan's and the promises of the bullet train. As if that is going to be the magic wand that is going to develop India into progressive nation. The past two years has seen the record number of farmer suicides. India is amongst the top three nations where infants die because of malnutrition. The urban and the rural poor get substandard education. The 80,000 Crore — I am not even sure of how many zeroes follow the 8 — which is the going to be spent on a bullet train which runs between Ahmedabad and Mumbai, can provide nutritious food and not just sustenance to the infants. It can provide proper quality education. It can change the life of the farmer. But its going wasted because the urban elite will, with pride, boast to the foreign counterparts like Japan we also have bullet train in our country. It's a bullet that will kill our conscience. This is what a worrying symptom is for us as a people.

Piece of meat precious than life: If my nationalism or my identity depends on my food choice, are we not trivialising the concept of nationalism. If what I eat decides whether I live or die, are we not trivialising the spirit of our nation. See where our nation is today, look at its disparities. Human life is less precious than a piece of meat, last year you all must have heard what happened in Dadri with Mohammed Akhlaq. He was murdered because of a suspicious piece of meat. So the piece of meat became more important than the human life.

There are so many other examples. In 2002 in Ahmedabad in Gulbarga society 76 people murdered. Lot more was murdered but it was proved only 76 people were murdered. By a mob of over 5000 people. It took almost 2 decades to bring justice to the victims and their families. In our system that too only less than a half number of the accused were convicted for the crime.

For every crime since independence the ring leaders the people who make create those mobs and fill them demon or beastly crimes are scot free. What kind of a justice system we have. What are we going to tell the survivors or relatives of the victims? How are we going to assure them that we are a healthy functional democracy?

Such incidents will increase as long as people like us who witness and keep quiet about it. This will continue till one day the situation will come and grab our throat and squeeze the breath out of us. And that day no matter how much we pretend to be patriotic or nationalistic, the nation will not survive.

These questions should be challenges to our own selves. And the inner voice bapu used to be very fond to saying it's time to turn the search lights inwards. And look for what is wrong and what is going wrong and find our own role in those mistakes and then correct them. It's time that we as a nation turn the search lights inwards. To us and find our own guilt our own culpability with everything that is going wrong with this nation.

So this is the time when all of you who are young, you have a life to make but make nationalistic responsibilities a part of that life. And if you do that then truly you might be the generation that ushers in incredible India otherwise we will all be in India that could have been incredible.

Indianness and Nationalism lecture by Tushar Gandhi (June 13, 2016)

DOWNLOAD: Press Release (Malayalam) | Press Release (English) | Event Poster |

Tushar Gandhi (Born: 1960) is the great-grandson of Mahatma Gandhi; grandson of Manilal Gandhi and son of Arun Gandhi. Chairman of Mahatma Gandhi Foundation, Shri Gandhi is also a known writer and socio-political activist. He is involved in advocating and spreading Gandhian values and principles to address the problems and dilemmas faced by today's generation. Tushar Gandhi was the goodwill ambassador of CSIR-ISP Intergovernmental Institution. In March 2005, he led the 75th anniversary re-enactment of the historic 1930 Dandi March. He is also a part of the High Level Dandi Memorial Committee constituted by the Ministry of Culture, Government of India, a team that oversees the National Salt Satyagraha Memorial Project, Dandi, Gujarat. Shri Tushar Gandhi is the author of the book "Let's Kill Gandhi".

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