I believe in India as a land where 1.3 billion people of all faiths, communities and regions have somehow found a way to live together in one of greatest displays of peaceful co-existence that the world has seen.
I believe in the fundamental tenets of the Constitution – a charter that guarantees protection from discrimination, equality for all, the right to practice different religions, and protection from discrimination.
I believe in our democracy, in the freedom of speech, in the right to express oneself without fear, in the ability of journalists to freely report without being attacked or abused.
I believe in the rule of law, and that every man and woman has the right to a fair trial, without the fear that a lynch mob will suddenly decide to assault them in the very temple of justice.
I believe that India belongs equally to all Indians, whether we are Hindu, Muslim, Sikh or Christian, whether we come from the North, the South or the Northeast. I believe that every Indian has the fundamental right to be treated with equal respect and dignity, whether we are Brahmin, OBC or Dalit.
I don’t believe that one religion, one party, one language or one community can ever claim to represent India. Nor should they ever try to do so.
And none of this makes me anti-national.
What I believe in is the very DNA of this nation, part of our ethos through the centuries, and formally laid down by our founding fathers in our Constitution. It has been stated by our greatest saints and philosophers, by leaders like Mahatma Gandhi and BR Ambedkar, and is, officially at least, echoed by every major political party.
I think we are starting to see an attempt to hijack patriotism and nationalism for various reasons – ranging from political brownie points to TRPs. And I think it is up to all of us to thwart this attempt.
Patriotism is too powerful an emotion to be abandoned to the fringe.
We have already seen religion being hijacked by extreme elements across the world. We can’t allow the same to happen to nationalism.
I don’t support separatist slogans or objectionable speeches; those who break the law should face the consequences of their actions. But the scenes this week have been frightening.
There is a tricolour in my car, flying over my house, and on my desktop. In my days at Oxford, I took great pride in having the flag in my room – and in the early 90s I did a series of stories on the need to allow all Indians to freely fly the flag.
But that’s precisely why it makes my skin crawl to see lumpen thugs walking around waving the tricolour while they beat up students and journalists in the name of Mother India. To my mind, that’s a desecration of the flag worse than anything proscribed in the Flag Code. Soldiers give their lives fighting for the flag on our borders. I’m sure it would bring deep pain to their hearts to see that same flag in the hands of a lynch mob.
It is tempting to respond to those actions with revulsion, by saying that if that if this is nationalism, then we would be proud to be anti-national. But in my view, that’s a mistake – because it sets the stage for that mob to stake claim to patriotism, and to state that that they have a monopoly on India.
They don’t. The vast majority of Indians would not support their actions. And it’s time to state that openly and repeatedly, from every platform imaginable.
You can’t really love India, if you don’t respect the rule of law and the rights that are enshrined in our constitution.
You can’t really love India, if you hate half your fellow Indians.
By Vikram Chandra (Group CEO & Executive Director, NDTV Group)