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Ignorance is bliss for ?proud? Indians

Recovering from a Republic Day high? Here are some sobering thoughts.

india Updated: Jan 27, 2006 02:00 IST
Sanjay Kumar and Yogendra Yadav
Sanjay Kumar and Yogendra Yadav

Recovering from a Republic Day high? Here are some sobering thoughts.

13 per cent adult Indians do not recognise the Tricolour

9 per cent don’t know the country’s name; another 9 per cent give wrong answers

27 per cent go blank when you ask them about August 15

39 per cent don’t have any idea about January 26; the figure goes up to 55 per cent if you accept Republic Day as the correct answer.

If you are an illiterate Adivasi woman, the odds are nearly one in two that you won’t be able to name the country. Only one in three Indians can tell what the three national holidays are for. Even among those with bachelor’s or higher degree, a majority cannot answer all the three correctly. These are some of the findings of the Hindustan Times-CNN-IBN State of the Nation Poll conducted by the Centre for the Study of Developing Societies (CSDS).

Lest you conclude that these findings indicate unwieldy nationalism, consider the figures for a sense of national pride. As many as 97 per cent Indians are proud of being Indian. When the same question was posed in many other countries a few years ago, no other country, including the ever-patriotic USA, returned such figures. Germans, Russians and Japanese lag behind Indians. Indianness trumps over all other identities. People are proud of their state identities, but when asked to describe themselves, a majority says they are only Indians.

Similarly, 55 per cent describe themselves as Indians first and then Hindus, Muslim or follower of any other religion. Less than one-sixth of all Indians identify themselves as Tamils or Gujarati etc or as Hindus or Muslims first.

Nationalist leaders are still the most powerful icons. When shown photographs of some of the best-recognised Indians over the past 100 years, Mahatma Gandhi tops the list. His photograph was recognised by 88 per cent people.

Gandhiji was followed not by Nehru, but by his daughter Indira Gandhi at 72 per cent. Nehru was a little behind at 67 per cent, followed by Amitabh Bachchan and Sachin Tendulkar. But this primacy to nationalism has not made most Indians into an aggressive and chauvinist lot.

The rulers may have changed their minds, but Indians still believe in the Nehruvian foreign policy. On balance, more people want India to resist US hegemony rather than cosy up to super-powers. They would not like India to act big brother — vis-à-vis —small neighbours and remain friends with Pakistan. There is pride in Kargil victory, but that does not indicate aggressive nationalism. When asked to name a moment of shame, a majority chose farmers’ suicide. Clean drinking water for everyone tops the wishlist for the country’s future. Not a bad Republic Day resolution.

First Published: Jan 27, 2006 01:03 IST