Trump’s America to Modi’s India, mandatory patriotism is dangerous: Shashi Tharoor

The global rise of officially mandated nationalism is a surprising phenomenon of our times, Tharoor says

A July 15, 2013, file photo of Shashi Tharoor. Credit: PIB, GOI
A July 15, 2013, file photo of Shashi Tharoor. Credit: PIB, GOI

Indian Parliamentarian and former diplomat Shashi Tharoor on Monday opined that mandatory patriotism is dangerous even if it is in Modi’s India or Trump’s America.

In an article published in the Huffington Post, Tharoor expressed his disagreement towards Supreme Court’s “interim ruling” asking all movie theatres to screen the national flag and play the national anthem, and all movie-goers to stand while this is done.

“The Court’s ruling has transformed an ordinary citizen’s love of his country into a “duty” to the state, the Constitution from an embodiment of the ideals of freedom to a coercive instrument and the movie theater from a place of entertainment to a venue for demonstrating patriotism. Predictably, the ruling party has embraced the judicial decree, since it fits in with the government’s active promotion of “nationalism” as a glue to hold all Indians together to a common, officially approved set of behaviors,” Tharoor writes.

He then compares the situation with that of United States and states that the global rise of officially mandated nationalism is a surprising phenomenon of our times.

“The triumphant Trumpists in the United States have embarked on a similar course of action, with Trump himself proposing a penalty –including possible jail time or loss of citizenship- for burning the American flag. In the U.S, the Supreme Court has tended to lean in the other direction, having already issued two rulings that protect the act of flag burning as a form of free speech. But once Trump has appointed a couple nominees to the current and expected vacancies on the court, who is to say if those rulings will stand much longer?” he said.

Tharoor recalled how a wheelchair-bound movie viewer was berated and cuffed at a Goa theater by an ultra-nationalist in the audience who objected for him not standing up for the national anthem.

“They seek to promote a sense of duty rather than affecting for the idea of the nation, and compliance with the prevailing governmental narrative rather than freedom for each citizen to interpret national loyalty in her own way. Thus “respect” for the anthem and the flag becomes a code for obedience to the state. Conformity is the new badge of allegiance,” Shashi Tharoor added.

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