-Bhavna Bothra

This is a special word. A word we come across while reading about the freedom fighters, a word the news channels use to define or defile people’s character. As a teenager I always find it difficult to fit into the definition of patriotism society has taught us. I am not fighting on the borders to save the country; I am not in politics to reform the system; and I am not a pioneer in any field to make the country proud. But I am still patriotic.

As we celebrate the 74th Independence Day this year, it’s high time that we redefine what loving one’s country means.

It’s the small things that count and make a difference.

A nation is not built by a group of people who revolutionize it — it’s built by its citizens taking baby steps. It can be something as small as going to vote not just for the sake of going but educating yourself about the candidates and making an informed choice. It’s about following traffic rules even without a cop watching you. It’s about the small candle you light for Nirbhaya or the story you posted on social media about growing instances of mob lynching.

Being a patriot is not about saying it out loud but feeling it deep down inside.

Love for one’s country shouldn’t be a product of hatred. India takes pride in being a secular nation. Unity in diversity is our definition.

Today we have become intolerant towards those who do not fit into our narrative. We have been stripped of our secularity. Being a desh bhakt is not about being proud of the act of violence perpetrated on the minority in our country; it’s not about sitting at the top of the caste chain and misusing the privilege, and it’s not about supporting Islamophobia or homophobia in the name of love for one’s country.

We live in a democracy and a majoritarian system. Our pride does not lie in the utilitarian approach of supporting the majority but it lies in our ability to uplift the minority. Even when our ideologies overlap and contradict, being a patriot means being patient enough to coexist with people who are unlike us because India most definitely does not belong to one set of people.

True love for one’s nation does not mean blindly following the authority but more importantly having the courage to question them.

We live in a country where freedom of speech is curbed time and again under the mask of it being ‘anti-national’. Media houses call them the ‘Tukre Tukre’ gang. These people are blamed for having a contrasting opinion with those in power. We often forget that patriotism is love toward one’s country and not the government.

If the government passes a regressive bill like the surrogacy bill, me not supporting it does not make me an anti-national. My commitment lies with the country and not the ones who claim to run the country. This line of difference even though seems small but is significant enough to identify. Criticism is a pillar of democracy. Having a strong and vocal opposition not just those sitting in the Parliament but the new houses and the people themselves are a sign of a healthy democracy.

This Independence Day, let’s show our patriotism in any which way we can. Be it protecting the patients in the Covid ward, risking their lives to maintain peace in the Naxalite areas, or posting a story about any incident that triggered you. The beauty of the word patriotism is this: it identifies itself with all those who want to identify themselves with it!

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