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Are we patriots or just patrioteers?

india Updated: Sep 13, 2006 13:38 IST

IT  WAS unfortunate and unnecessary that an unsavory political controversy was raked  up which mired the centenary celebrations of the national song Vande Mataram. But  it would be a great national service if during the centenary celebrations we  honestly define what constitutes patriotism.

When I talked to a cross-section of  the society to find out what do they mean or understand by patriotism, most of  them defined it as love and unflinching loyalty to the motherland. But when I  asked who was a patriot and who was not, they were not very sure but emphasised  that love and loyalty remain the two traits of a genuine patriot.

There can be  no doubt that sentimental love of motherland is the basic premise for  patriotism, but there is much more to it than just emotional love and loyalty –  may be, love and loyalty in terms of patriotism are very comprehensive and all-embracing virtues. Patriotism is not ceremonious and can be traced to very  ordinary, small national and social duties.

To  satisfy my curiosity, I consulted a few dictionaries to get at the true meaning  and import of patriotism. All dictionaries emphasise love and loyalty as the two  most important attributes of patriotism, but these lexicons further explained  the character of a true patriot: a genuine patriot loves, defends and supports  his country, its interests and its welfare. Here the dictionaries elaborated  what love and loyalty widely mean when we talk of patriotism.

When  I applied the definition of patriotism as love and loyalty to the motherland to  the non-resident Indians who enjoy dual citizenship, I had no hesitation to say  that they were not and they cannot be patriotic for patriotism demands absolute  loyalty and love for the motherland.

A man who salutes two flags with the same  hand, sings two national anthems in the same breath, and swears allegiance to a  foreign land can never be patriotic. To be sure they have a divided loyalty, and  loyalty divided is not patriotism. To treat the NRIs as Indian citizens just  because they augment our foreign reserves is national hypocrisy. Besides, as  they do not discharge their national duties to the motherland, how can they  claim her citizenship?    

Though it is very artificial, but it serves my purpose, when I classify  patriotism in two categories: emotional/sentimental patriotism and practical  patriotism. Emotional patriotism is confined to our national flag and the  national anthem, which is on test when the country is at war or when we are  celebrating the Independence Day and the Republic Day.

Here the emotional/  sentimental, patriotism ends. But thereafter the most difficult test of our  patriotism begins, for patriotism in action calls forth the best in man—his  labour, his sweat and his daily sacrifices. A patriot is disciplined, sincere,  and honest in his national and social duties. He does not cheat, deceive or  betray his motherland, for her welfare is sacrosanct to him.

Judged by this yardstick of patriotism, are we patriotic? Far from it. We  are neither disciplined, nor sincere nor honest. We cheat, deceive, and betray  the motherland most shamelessly. We divulge defence secrets to the enemy country  for petty considerations.

We accept bribes and tarnish her image. We swindle  funds and deprive her poor populace their right to social justice. We engulf her  into violence and destroy her property. We do every thing to discomfit her and  drown her into sorrows.
Considering all this we are not patriots, but patrioteers: a patrioteer  is an ostentatiously and volubly a patriotic person, who makes a career of  patriotism for his own benefits.

I hope that during the centenary year of Vande  Mataram, our patriotism will wake up and we will confront all those who are  cheating our motherland in a variety of ingenuous ways. 

The first freedom struggle threw the  foreigners out and won us freedom; now it is our turn to begin a second freedom  struggle to free Mother India from the clutches of the patrioteers.