Being 'Patriotic'

India has been ranked 118th in the World Happiness Report 2016, one notch down from last year and several notches below Somalia, China, Pakistan, Iran, Palestinian Territories and Bangladesh in that order. Inequality was a key parameter in the assessment. But we still have a chance to prove we top the world in patriotism. Big steps are being taken in that direction. The national anthem is being sung in cinema halls as this column humbly noted last week. This week it humbly notes the rise of the national flag.

We were told on Tuesday that the city’s guardian minister, Shri Subhash Desai, had proposed the installation of a 150-foot-tall tricolor beside Shivaji’s equestrian statue at the Gateway of India so that in-coming ships might see it from afar. But aren’t they going to see and be awed by the 192-metre tall equestrian statue of Shivaji that’s soon to come up some 3.5 km off Marine Drive in the Arabian Sea? Won’t Shri Desai’s tricolor be a bit of an anti-climax after that? Also what is a 105-foot-tall flag compared to the 207-foot ones flying in central university campuses by order of Smriti Irani? Clearly, where the Global Patriotism Competition is concerned, we can’t have too much of a good thing, especially considering that Americans wear the stars and stripes even on their swimming trunks to show how patriotic they are.
So it is all to the good that a group of BJP ministers have made recommendations regarding the national flag to the Central Advisory Board of Education (CABE). Offering an overall guideline for the new education policy that’s on the anvil, they have said, “From introducing military lessons in schools, to compulsory hoisting of the national flag, education must help make students more patriotic than they are.” Although one is not aware of any study that has found our school children lacking in patriotism, the good ministers must surely be privy to some secret survey findings indicating this. Or they may have read and been incensed by the excerpt from his 2015 novel Smashanagalude Nottupustakam that Kerala writer Kamal C Chavara has posted on facebook. “In a school in Kerala,” says the post, “there were 44 students who were named after 44 rivers of Kerala, which had all dried up. The teacher never bothered to meet the requests of those students, including the request to go to the toilet to urinate. At 4pm every day they had to stand up for the National Anthem. Since urinating was more important for me than ‘Jana Gana Mana’, I was the most indisciplined student.” The police, taking action with commendable patriotic alacrity, arrested Chavara for sedition.

Since these days the aam aadmi is being encouraged to snitch on her/his neighbours with regard to ill-gotten gains, I would like to snitch on an unnamed member of the BMCappointed Heritage Committee looking into the pros and cons of installing Shri Desai’s flag near the Shivaji statue. He, like Chavara, has bracketed a national emblem with the execution of bodily functions by commenting, anonymously of course, that he didn’t see why Rs 12.2 lakh should be spent on a flag when the money could be better spent on constructing public toilets. Surely he needs to be given a sharp warning at least if not a short spell in prison?

This is how children will question and speak their minds as grown-ups if they are not made patriotic at school. The BJP ministers advising the CABE have therefore recommended that, besides flag-hoisting, patriotic values must be injected into every subject at school. Perhaps they mean something like the following:

English : Write an essay on the national anthem/flower/bird/flag.

Geography : Name the places in India where the national flag is flown including the one on Everest.

History: Delete the following from your outdated history books: “Our flag is based on the Swaraj flag of the Indian National Congress and was designed by Pingali Venkayya.” This gives the impression that the Congress led the freedom struggle. The truth is, everybody fought for freedom, some by going to prison, some by staying out.

Wrong history can be easily erased from school books, but wrong historical monuments cannot be razed. The Gateway of India was erected to welcome George V. The Taj Hotel is named after a Mughal mausoleum. Shivaji alone can do little between these reminders of a shameful past. He needs the support of our resurgent nationalism. Hence the flag. Do I read your mind correctly, Mr. Guardian Minister?

Published On : 14-12-2016