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What Is Patriotism?

Padmini Vaidyanathan
·4 min read

Creative Producer: Puneet Bhatia

Every 26 January there are some staples we all look forward to - the parade, the flypast, the bravery awards, beating the retreat, dry day and sometimes the long weekend. But this year, as we crawl slowly out of a pandemic, and face several uncertainties, we ask what is patriotism, and why we need to look at the Constitution more than ever before to understand the meaning of being patriotic.

26 January 1950

Our Constitution was adopted in 1950 and India became a Democratic Republic. Every Republic Day is a celebration of the idea of India as written in our Constitution. Dr Rajendra Prasad, who became the first President of our country, said, “The objective of our Republic is to secure justice, liberty and equality for its citizens and to promote fraternity among the people who inhabit its extensive territories and follow different religions, speak various languages and observe their peculiar customs.”

So, what does our Constitution and what our first President said have anything to do with patriotism? Pretty much everything.

Also Read: Birth of a Nation: Looking Back at India’s First Republic Day

India, Bharat, Hindustan

There are many ways to show love for one's country, ranging from collective joy when we win an impossible series to showing our gratitude to frontline workers in a pandemic. But India, Bharat, Hindustan - has never been one homogenous community to be loved in only one particular way. In fact, textbooks and a lot of 80s and 90s Doordarshan always taught us 'Anekta main ekta', unity in diversity. Which is why to truly understand patriotism, we need to go back to our Constitution and look at the values enshrined there.

We the People

The Preamble of our Constitution starts with 'We the People'. This is important because, before the Constitution was adopted in 1948, a draft was made available to the public. For months there were suggestions and opinions that poured in from across the country.

The drafting committee headed by Dr Ambedkar considered these proposals in detail and often made changes based on them. And it was the changed draft, born out of public participation, that was debated in the Parliament and eventually became our Constitution. The Constitution is intended for everyone. The Preamble, while not legally binding, is what we believe our democracy should be. It talks of JUSTICE - Social, Economic, Political; LIBERTY of thought, expression, belief, faith and worship; EQUALITY - of status and opportunity and to promote them amongst all; and FRATERNITY - assuring the dignity of the individual and the unity and integrity of the nation. And what does this have to do with patriotism?

The Idea of Freedom

We bring to your consideration three provisions - Article 14, Article 19 (a) and Article 25 of the Constitution. Article 14 assures us Equality before Law and when read with Article 15, it extends to no discrimination on the basis of religion, race, caste, sex or place of birth. And you know what then becomes unpatriotic and anti-national? Laws like the CAA or mulling laws against so called ‘Love-Jihad.

Article 19 (A) promises us freedom of speech and expression, sure, with reasonable restrictions. But those restrictions are if you are really being anti-national, not for cracking jokes, especially if you actually didn’t hurt any religious sentiments. Or making shows and films with a strong point of view. Article 25 of the Constitution guarantees the right to freedom of religion. So then, anti-conversion ordinances breach the fundamental rights guaranteed by the Constitution.

Being Patriotic in 2021

We are at a watershed moment in the history of our country. 2020 battered and bruised us, but we are still standing. Now more than ever before, it is important to take everyone along, and show love for all our citizens. In the past few years, we have been lectured a lot on what it is to be patriotic and called names if we don't fit a certain mould. But we think it is better to read the Constitution and remember what our founding fathers said.

Also Read: Letter to India: Tell Us How to Rebuild India in 2021

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