Dear Nationalist Bhakt,
I just had to write to you, because you keep speaking to me. I have never bothered you, I have never said anything to you, I just say what I believe India stands for. But you come out at me—yes, I do take it personally—from every nook and cranny not just questioning my beliefs, but attacking me, calling me a traitor, an anti-national, threatening me, abusing me with vile phrases and words.
I tried to convince myself that you were not speaking to me, that you were actually venting on someone else because you really did not take my name. But I could not distance myself as in all your tweets, your comments on blogs, your posts you ranted against all of those who you described as anti-nationals, who you said belong in Pakistan, who you insist are traitors.
Let me tell you why I know you are speaking to me directly. And despite not wanting to believe it, I am now convinced that you have made me part of that larger whole in your firing line. Who you even attack physically at meetings and conferences, who you sometimes lynch and beat, just to let the ‘us’ know that you mean business, and that the threat is not just in words, that people who fall foul of you can be hit and abused with impunity.
I have been watching and reading you carefully, and now I know that I too am being targeted as i fit that mould you pillory and abuse. Because, and here goes:
One, I believe in peace and not war. I cannot stand war, I am totally against nuclear weapons, against devastation, against macho games that bring so much destruction and devastation. India believes in peace as her struggle for independence, her positions across the world have demonstrated for so many decades. But you say that now it is not nationalist to be in love with peace, and that we have to flex our muscles and shout with you and the television anchors “war, war” to be considered a bhakt like you.
You know I tried to change my views I really did when I read your last abuse on someone’s post—you were so threatening, you wanted to almost kill that person—and wanted to endorse war. But then I saw these two little children at a South Delhi traffic light who were begging, and when I spoke to them they said they had not eaten for a day. I believed them because they were so skinny and starved. I read that 30% of the worlds extremely poor children lived in India and I asked myself whether war would resolve this? And I think India has brought me up badly, what with her Constitution and her values of tolerance and secularism, that the answer that came smacking me on the face was a big NO!
So I continue to believe in peace, not because I am Pakistan obsessed like you are; but because I believe India has carved a destiny for herself in peace, and it is only through that route we can achieve progress and development. And that we are a big, proud country, secure enough to tackle our neighbours with dialogue and diplomacy instead of using the guns.
Two, I cannot hate people. I mean I certainly don’t like people who are corrupt, who assault women, who beat children, who exploit others. And I tried to divide them into Hindus, Christians, Muslims, Sikhs, Dalits it did not work. Then I tried to divide them into vegetarians and non-vegetarians, that too did not work. Then I tried to divide them into LGBTs and the rest, that did not work at all.
I then went back to the Constitution of India that we are all as citizens bound to, to look for some hidden words of hate and discrimination. After all you are the nationalist dear bhakt so I figured that your hate must have constitutional sanctity. But lo and behold, drew a blank there too. Instead the Preamble of India being a secular, democratic, socialist Republic stared me in the face. And so did all those fundamental rights that give we Indian citizens such amazing rights and freedoms.
So at the end of it I am with those you hate because of their religion, or for their choice of food, or for their gender. I am one of them, so clearly you hate me too.
Three, I like this diversity and pluralism of India. Your post threatening an Indian citizen with ‘dire’ consequences terrified me, and being a bit of a coward really, I re-examined this position. I did so seriously. I mean why could we not all be like you, singing one song, raising one, okay two, slogans, pushing one language, tolerating one religion, and following one culture whatever that means.
I asked my Tamil friends to speak only in Hindi and they did not speak to me for days. I asked the Bengali professor to stop eating fish, and you know what I have lost a life long friend. I asked the Kerala family not to allow their daughter to marry their uncle and they looked at me as if I was a mad person. I asked the acutely poor tribal girl working in my house to tell her family to stop eating rats that they have for generations, and she said, ‘give us the money to eat goats’ and left the job. I asked the Punjabi farmer to eat dhoklas and he choked. Instead I found that when the garba dancers of Gujarat performed in Lucknow they received a standing ovation; and there was a queue outside a restaurant in Delhi serving Kashmiri cuisine; and in this mish mash of cultures I learnt a little Telugu, balanced it with Urdu, sweetened it further with Bengali and moved like a duck in water through this land of diversity and tolerance.
I will end now as this letter is becoming too long, and I know your attention span is as determined by Twitter, a few characters long.
So dear bhakt, I am an Indian, a proud Indian who does not need to flex my muscles and thump my chest to prove my bhakti. I do so by letting people live, by respecting all religions, by insisting on peace and the end to nuclear weapons, by placing my faith in dialogue and not the gun, and in celebrating my freedoms and my rights as a citizen of India who got her freedom with her aspirations.
When history is written you dear bhakt will be just a blip on Twitter, momentary and totally temporary.
You cannot change my country.