A young couple salute the flag of India. Photo: iStock

The catch phrase “anti-national” is in vogue in India. You never know when you might end up being labeled as one. Nowadays, it is mandatory to stand up for the national anthem, which is played in all cinemas before the movie starts. Fair enough. But it’s not fair to beat up somebody if he fails to do so and label him anti-national.

If you question the new goods and services tax, demonetization, political corruption, or lack of safety for women, you could also be labeled anti-national and trolled mercilessly on social media.

But it is pride in one’s national identity that makes one a patriotic individual, and it has nothing to do with one’s religious allegiance, whether or not one eats beef or is a vegetarian, or one’s inclination to question the government. Indians largely lack that sense of pride in their national identity.

It is what we practice on a daily basis that makes us who we are. Nationalism cannot be drilled into people by making them sing the national anthem; it has to be lived every day, practiced with fervor and worn on our sleeves with pride. Sadly, that does not happen enough in India.

So who exactly is an anti-national in India? Here are 10 categories of people who should be considered anti-national, but unfortunately are not.

  1. Those who litter roads and sidewalks

Civic sense, like common sense, is a rarity, and it shows when people go to great lengths to fix up their homes and then throw trash on the sidewalk or on the street. Given the popularity of street food in India, it is no wonder that the street corners and sidewalks are littered with used plates and cups. No amount of Swachh Bharat Abhiyan, Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s “Clean India Drive”, is likely to deter these people from their “anti-national” activities.

  1. Those who spit paan masala (betel mix)

Paan masala (betel mix) is a staple of men in northern and western India, stuff they chew and then spit. No problem with that, except the connoisseurs of this product are repeat offenders at spitting in public places, be it buses, trains and even the restrooms in planes. No place is safe from the red stains that result from spitting, and even elevators are not spared, because after all, they are outside their homes. They obviously think they are exempted from Swachh Bharat Abhiyan.

  1. Those who damage public property such as trains

Modi, since coming to power, has often spoken of his wish to see bullet trains run in the country. Recently, the first trip of Tejas Express, the high-speed train from Mumbai to Goa, which can reach speeds of  200km/h, started amid much fanfare. The train returned to the station  with missing  headphones, damaged infotainment screens and waste strewn all over. Although the railway officials had anticipated such an outcome, the extent of the damage left them shocked.

  1. Those who break traffic rules and don’t follow driving ethics

Not many people who drive in India are aware that there is something called a turn signal in their cars, or that they should stick to their lanes (mostly unmarked) or try not to push another car off the shoulder. Instead, they pull up close behind the vehicle in front, and if it is a bus or auto-rickshaw, then God help the traffic, for they are most likely to park in the middle of the road to pick up passengers, thus bringing everything to a standstill.

  1. Those coveting foreign stuff and not buying from the local market

Gone are the days when the father-figure of an Indian household would go to the local market to buy fruits and vegetables after haggling with the vendors over their prices. These days, with supermarkets galore and foreign products available aplenty, all under one roof, the fairly well-to-do Indian prefers his cauliflowers and broccoli from China, his soybean from the US, and his fruits from Europe. It is another matter that all these products are available in the local market. 

  1. Those preferring Western clothing and footwear brands

Today’s brand-conscious Indian is more likely to be seen in a Gucci shoe and Pierre Cardin shirt than in a Bata shoe and a Raymond shirt. It is not the in-thing to be spotted sporting Indian brands anymore. With several malls boasting the best foreign brands, local brands and products are being forgotten faster than you can say Jimmy Choo.

  1. Those dissing Hindi movies and songs

Doesn’t matter that Warner Brothers, or Sony, or Fox Star studios or Viacom 18 have produced Bollywood movies, or that Hindi movies are such a rage in the rest of the world; for some snooty Indians, anything that is not Hollywood-produced is not worth seeing or even talking about. Even someone like A R Rahman winning Oscars and Grammys with his brilliant compositions is not enough to convince these “anti-national” Indians that it is OK to love your own culture be proud of it.

  1. Those who go abroad for treatment

Apparently India has some of the best medical facilities in the world. Now, don’t tell that to the politicians, who for even minor ailments fly to Switzerland or the UK or US for treatment. It is quite another matter that on their return, they are likely to be seen inaugurating another medical facility and talking proudly about the state-of-the-art facilities available in India.

  1. Those obsessed with the English language

Given that only 10% of Indians can actually speak English, with varied degrees of proficiency, the obsession with English in India has to be seen to be believed. One is considered an illiterate if he is not proficient in the queen’s language, never mind that the person might be eloquent in his or her mother tongue or in Hindi, the fourth most widely spoken language in the world, with Mandarin, not English, in first place.

  1. Those who wear jerseys sponsored by an ‘enemy’ nation

The game of cricket is a religion in India. Cricketers are idolized like no other, and it is anti-national to question their commitment to the country, even after being thrashed by arch-rivals Pakistan. Recently, India has had to protect its borders from Chinese incursion in the northeast, with soldiers on both sides being in a state of war, but none of that has stopped Chinese mobile-phone company Oppo sponsoring the Indian national team and Vivo sponsoring the Indian Premier League. No conflict of interest whatsoever here.

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Amrita Mukherjee

Amrita Mukherjee is a freelance journalist and author. She has worked in esteemed publications in India and Dubai and she blogs on women's issues at www.amritaspeaks.com.

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