The idea of (an) Indian

It is an unforgiving time for being an Indian. It seems we have lost our individual belief and identity in the race to conform to a single standard of nationalism. Whether you are a beef-eater, a Kashmiri protesting against Indian army atrocities and AFSPA, an average Indian who doesn’t support the war against Pakistan, or you find the idea of banning a movie with a Pakistani in it naïve; you will be termed unpatriotic and anti-national, someone who should be burned gladly at the social media stake.

Lets talk about the movie first since that has become the tipping point for me to be writing this post. The movie has one Pakistani actor, whose presence in it has become so overpowering that we have forgotten the presence of 300 Indians who have worked hard to make this piece of art a reality. The idea of an Indian loses to the idea of a Pakistani, how ironic for all our jingoist brothers and sisters.

Lets talk about Kashmir, an issue which is a lot more complex with a lot more emotion associated with it. In all the years of violence, the presence of Indian army and the rule of AFSPA, we seem to have completely forgotten the Kashmiri. Does he not get a say in what happens in his own home? Why has the idea of Indian national defence for decades taken precedence over the plight of the Kashmiri? What will be left to defend if we lose the trust of the Kashmiri? (some may say that we already have) Can there be an idea of Kashmir without the identity of an individual Kashmiri at the core of it? Can there be an idea of India without Kashmir in it?

A related argument can be made regarding all the war-mongering that has taken place after the Uri attacks. We seem to think that revenge is the only answer, that that is what the families of those martyrs would want. Have we ever wondered that the answer may not lie in revenge but in respect, support and sympathy for the families, and in making sure that we do not subject more Indians and Indian families to the same plight. It is not just those 18 families, it is all those braveheart families who have lost a son or a daughter to the motherland, and those families whose sons and daughters will be spending Eid and Diwali on our chilling national frontiers so that we can light a warm diya inside our houses. I have a feeling that if I went and asked them, they would not want other families to go through the same. That the best way to honour our jawans is to make our country stronger economically, socially and to make sure that their families are respected and supported.

India has always derived its fundamental identity from diversity. Not since 1947, but since a millennia before that. There was an idea of India much before there ever was an idea of Pakistan. Let us not derive our identity from that of being anti to our neighbour, or being anti to one belief or habit. We will disagree with each other, but constructive discourse with individual participation is not some ideal way of progress, it is the only way of progress for a country as diverse as ours. I do not have a perfect end-solution for all our problems, but I do know that the beginning lies in boldly placing the idea of an Indian ahead of the idea of a collective India.