Chauvinism Is No Patriotism

The true beauty and power of patriotism – selfless love for one’s country – lies in its clarity and comprehensiveness that does not preclude the fundamental oneness of the motherland, says Naim Naqvi

afspa

“Real patriotism and chauvinism are two opposites. One concept is based on tolerance, and therefore is growing, while the other is based on hatred, and therefore is dying away. The laws are the same everywhere.” That is what Helena Roerich, the famous Russian philosopher, wrote in one of her letters.

In the name of our brand of nationalism, we can’t smother the opinion of others.

Without going into the details of his statement on Kashmir, BJP-RSS & Co. is going all out to assault and malign Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) leader and noted lawyer, Prashant Bhushan.

Today, we saw on our TV sets how activists of a right-wing radical group, Hindu Raksha Dal, attacked the AAP office in Ghaziabad with lathis and bricks. They shattered windowpanes of the AAP office and smashed the furniture because they “couldn’t tolerate what Mr Bhushan had said over the deployment of army in Kashmir valley”.

In his statement, Bhushan had said: “The government can decide if the Army needs to be deployed to deal with external threats along the border. The government can also decide if the Army needs to be kept to help protect the minorities in the valley. But there should be a referendum on whether people want AFSPA to continue in the valley or not.”

When pressed on what would happen if the referendum suggested that the people of Kashmir wanted to break away from India, Mr Bhushan said, “Secession from India is un-constitutional. We have to find solutions within the purview of the constitution. We have to win the hearts of people in the valley who have moved away from the mainstream since they feel that they Army has been deployed in Kashmir against their wishes and is violating their human rights.”

Now, RSS and its fellow travellers are dubbing Mr Bhushan as a “secessionist, anti-national, and irresponsible”. Self-styled experts on TV channels are honking hard to condemn him. It is ironic that Indian National Congress also seems to be a chirpy participant of this chorus.

Those who know the legalities can understand that Armed Forces Special Powers Act or the AFSPA is one of the most draconian acts, which defies the fundamentals of democracy. Armed with this law, people of any state or part of the state can be subjected to rigorous and severe investigation. It is almost abutting the ruling territory of Martial law.

Under section (4) of AFSPA, any commissioned or non-commissioned officer in the armed forces may open fire or otherwise use force, even to cause death, in a disturbed area, if he is of the opinion that it is necessary to do so for the maintenance of public order. Under AFSPA an army man can shoot and kill any person. This act is imposed in Assam, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland and Tripura and Arunachal Pradesh also. It was enforced in Kashmir in 1990 when the state was placed under Governor’s rule.

Prominent human right activist Irom Sharmila has been on a hunger strike for the past twelve years against the imposition of AFSPA in Manipur, as thousands of youth from the hills of the state have faced the army bullets for decades.

In 2012, Supreme Court had appointed a committee to inquire into several cases of ‘fake’ encounters carried out by armed forces in Manipur. It found that all the cases of killing in the name of ‘national security’ were just staged encounters. The commission was shocked to learn that commandos, at the level of head-constables, were taking the decisions for the encounters and killing people with the help of military.

Under section (3) of the AFSPA, the Governor of the State (in case of Manipur etc) and in Kashmir the Governor or the Central Government can declare the whole or any part of the state to be a disturbed area. Now, the relevant and pertinent question is: ‘who elects any government? If the people can elect a government, how could they be unfit to decide their own security and security of their state? Where does the Constitution of India state that it is unconstitutional to ask to revoke AFSPA? What were the salient features of POTA (another controversial act) and why it was repealed?

Narrow nationalism won’t help and you can’t suppress the hopes and aspirations of people. True patriotism and chauvinism are complete opposites. Narrow nationalism is not similar to patriotism.

According to Helena Roerich – “The task of the national genius is to perceive the achievements of all minorities and all nationalities resident in the country, to blend them, and to bind this conglomeration of creative expressions into a synthesized whole.”

RSS has yet to learn its lessons that we can preserve our Indian-ness, our character and our individuality by enriching ourselves with all the flowers that grow in our meadows. Policy of isolation and suffocation won’t spring up into prosperity. From the history, we have learnt that the wheels of justice are often stuck; they refuse to move, and when pushed, they move with an agonizingly slow speed. However, the fragrance of tolerance moves and moves across boundaries of life.

Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Omar Abdullah’s political advisor and National Conference spokesperson Tanvir Sadiq said: “There is an elected government in J&K and they along with the centre are the best judge of whether AFSPA should be kept or removed. National Conference too believes that AFSPA can be withdrawn from some areas but why does AAP want to politicise AFSPA?”

Mehbooba Mufti’s People’s Democratic Party also supported Mr Bhushan’s call for a referendum on the AFSPA. The party spokesperson, Sameer Kaul, said, “The heart and mind of AAP is in the right place. We are happy to hear about Bhushan’s views that the people of Kashmir should be consulted on Army deployment.”

Naim Naqvi

Naim Naqvi is a writer based in New Delhi, India.

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