Since the second week of February, we’ve been living smack dab in the middle of a 1980s Hindi movie. Framed students, seedy lawyers, heavy-handed governments, goons thrashing journalists, incompetent policemen refusing to do their job – our lives have become a constant potboiler.

We’ve had tragedy, farce, emotional manipulation, implications of sexual intercourse, choreographed fights, insincere dramatic monologues, needless song and dance, and Anupam Kher playing an unintentionally hilarious villain.

And of course, like any court scene in those movies that involved someone solemnly swearing on a holy book to “speak the truth and nothing but the truth”, most people who’ve written and/or spoken about the recent fracas have spent the first few moments proving their patriotism and expressing their love for the country. I love the country more than Chetan Bhagat loves telling oppressed people to stop complaining. As many as 37 generations of my family participated in a freedom struggle so I could say what I want to, okay? Hey, I did a patriotic thing during the Emergency that none of you losers could even think about!


This is exactly what those purveyors of faux patriotism want you to do. They want to create such an atmosphere of fear that people will be tripping over themselves to prove their allegiance. These part-time patriots are bullies who think shouting loudly and punching people in the face means they won the argument. They think nothing of using the coercive power of the state to silence their critics. They want you to believe the untruth that anyone who supports free speech – and the discussion of things that make us uncomfortable – also supports the destruction of the country. By pre-answering their accusations, you’re just playing into their hands. Do you think this will stop them from yelling at you on Twitter?


Remember when returning your Sahitya Akademi award was anti-national? Yeah, good times. Even the people returning the awards were referred to as a “gang”, like they were motorbike riding, illegal gambling hosting cartoon criminals, and not a bunch of writers and artists who look like they only leave the house to refill their back pain medication.

Flashback to 2011, when anyone who didn’t support the anti-corruption movement was being called an anti-national. Glad to report that the Lokpal bill passed and no one ever did a corrupt thing ever again. Before that, if you didn’t support the nuclear deal you were an India-hating, China-loving communist sympathiser. You were even branded an apostate if you didn’t cry buckets of tears when Sachin Tendulkar finally retired. These are the sort folks you’re explaining yourself too?

I mean, really?

Closed minds

Those who have recently discovered that the country is the love of their life, and that any criticism levied at it is a personal affront to them, need to really broaden their worldview. Nationalism is a luxury that not everyone gets to participate in. Can you, for a minute, even entertain the possibility that someone may have a differing opinion than you do? That this grand experiment in democracy – still in its infancy, in nation state years – could have made some mistakes (the emergency, AFSPA excesses, riots engineered by people in government, movies made by Ram Gopal Varma). How do you expect to convince people to join your side if you can’t even acknowledge the humanity of the dissatisfied?

What about a mother who lost her only son to the vagaries of the state? Do you have anything to say to her except meaningless platitudes? Are you going to tell her that she should suck it up and bear it because the Indian government provides students with a big subsidy?

And by the way, a country that doesn’t invest in education has no hope for the future. You’re not doing anyone any favour. Subsidising education is a part of our social contract. We all use the country’s resources. We all get subsidies in some form or the other.

And part of that education is an ability to debate, form your own opinions and to think for yourself. How will you innovate if you even borrow basic thought from other people? College is about debating and testing your opinions and arguments with others. Neither the taxpayers nor the government has the right to take away the rights guaranteed to the students by the Constitution.

Forever in denial

They say that a lie is already halfway across town while the truth is still at home, patiently waiting for its Uber. Even though the police have admitted that the offending videos were doctored, and that they really have no proof against Kanhaiya Kumar, those who brazenly used those students to gain TRPs and political support still won’t admit their mistake.

The police keeps accusing those still in its custody of other, more fantastical crimes (They stole Subramanian Swamy’s marbles! They tried to sell the Taj Mahal to an unsuspecting American billionaire! They convinced Arun Jaitley to tax EPF withdrawals!) in the hope that something sticks. The channels that played doctored videos and publicised fictional Intelligence Bureau reports try to distract their viewers with another shiny object. The government went on the defensive about its role in the whole fracas by having the Human Resource Development minister deliver a stirring speech, in which the only part that hasn’t subsequently been disputed has been the minister’s name.

Petty patriotism is never about the country – it’s about having another cudgel to beat up people you don’t like. When someone acts like they are the last force standing between you and the secret enemies of the nation that live amongst us, then they’re obviously up to something else. You’re fooling yourself if you think otherwise.

Real life isn’t a movie. There is no knight in shining armour who will appear to save innocent people from a system rigged to support the powerful. So we should be careful not to be so easily manipulated by a craven political machine.

Because you need to be better than that. The country needs to be better than that. Even if the government and its cohorts cannot.