The partition is often looked at as one of the painful bits of Indian history. While August 14, 1947, marked the formation of Pakistan, a Muslim nation, India remained secular and accepted all religions and faiths equally.
Emphasising this and the basic nature of the Indian Constitution, Congress MP and former Union Minister Shashi Tharoor said, “We’re a country for everybody and we won’t reduce India to a Hindutva version of Pakistan.” He was in conversation with The New Indian Express’ Editorial Director Prabhu Chawla and Author and Senior Journalist Kaveree Bamzai at a session of the ninth edition of the Odisha Literary Festival 2020 which is being held virtually.
“Any government can undo the doings of the previous government,” said Tharoor, reminding us of how the Narasimha Rao government in the 1990s altered the economic policies of the Nehru government. “However, no government can undo the basic logic of the Indian Constitution which says that ours is a country for everybody,” he said.
Elaborating on the concept of civic nationalism that he had widely written about in his new book The Battle of Belonging: On Nationalism, Patriotism And What It Means To Be Indian, he said that there are broadly two types of nationalism.
“In the book, I describe the theory, concept and evolution of nationalism around the world. There is a nationalism linked to your identity and the nationalism of institutions and constitutions. The latter is civic nationalism,” he said.
“This is what I mean by ‘good’ nationalism. While ‘good nationalism’ and ‘patriotism’ have a lot in common, there are still differences between the two – what we understand by “good nationalism” is really civic nationalism with liberal democracy stirred in, whereas patriotism is largely a positive emotional and sentimental love of homeland,” he wrote in the book.
He added that the practicing of civic nationalism is what facilitates one’s migration to the US without being white or Christian.
“In India, the Hindutva is essentially assaulting the civic nationalism enshrined in our Constitution and nationalism,” he said.
He also said that this was what the controversial Citizenship Amendment Act and the National Register for Citizens were questioning.
He also said that patriotism is nothing but love for one’s country.
“It is like the love for one’s mother,” he said.
Tharoor, who says that civic nationalism is a very liberal ideology, contrasted it with Hindutva. He added that the Indian Constitution allows one to have various identities, without disrespecting the state and its symbols.
“The civic nationalism of the Indian constitution is very liberal. I talk about the example of Bharat Mata ki Jai. I have no problem saying Bharat Mata ki Jai and I have said it often enough. But I would respect the right of a fellow citizen of mine who happens to be Muslim and says 'in my interpretation of my faith, I can say Jai Bharat and Jai Hind, but I will not say Bharat Mata ki Jai, because my religion will not allow me to maternalise or deify my nation as a goddess, he has the right to remain silent. Whereas I'm afraid, the Hindutva leaders will not give him that right to be silent,” added Tharoor, who believes that there is an ongoing battle on the part of the ruling party to move India from a civic nationalistic country to a Hindu Rashtra.