The government cannot shove nationalism down people's throatsIf the KP Sharma Oli administration is really serious about celebrating the constitution, then it should have high regard for the rule of law and treat everyone equally.
Last week, Yogesh Bhattarai—the supposedly young and newly appointed tourism minister—directed the Pashupati Area Development Trust to play the national anthem before the evening rituals at the Pashupati Temple every day without fail. During the service known as Aarati, which is conducted on the bank of the Bagmati River on the temple's eastern side, a band sings hymns praising the lord. The chanting of Vedic mantras, the ringing of bells and the lighting of oil lamps—the experience is as good as indulging in a spiritual journey.
But as if playing the national anthem before Aarati was not enough, Gokul Banskota, the minister for communication and information technology who is known for belittling and taunting the media during the administration’s weekly press briefing and other public forums, has issued a decree to celebrate the upcoming Constitution Day with much fanfare. He has ordered all civil servants to attend the event organised to mark Constitution Day, and requested citizens to illuminate their homes for three days as a sign of celebration.
The two ministers and the government, by coming up with such ridiculous ideas, have shown that they do not understand that playing the national anthem at inappropriate places and forcing people to celebrate Constitution Day is shoving the idea of nationalism down people's throats. People in this country are patriotic and need not be overly demonstrative about it to prove so. What's more, nationalism and patriotism, though often used interchangeably, are two different things.
Simply put, patriotism means affection for one's country and willingness to defend it, while nationalism is a more extreme, unforgiving form of allegiance to one's country. It seems the government wants its citizens to demonstrate love and respect for the country. The feeling of patriotism must come naturally, it cannot be invoked. What’s more, some people will be unpatriotic for reasons of their own, and that should be allowed too. Because the government cannot control every mind and definitely cannot expect everybody to think in the same way. Ours is a democratic society, and the people in high and influential posts should accept and accommodate different views.
In trying to invoke love for the country in its people, the government is taking a leaf out of India's book where people are required to stand up for the national anthem before the movie starts at cinema halls. Anyone who refuses to do so is branded anti-national—a term that the Bharatiya Janata Party government uses to define those who oppose the government’s actions and policies.
If the government is really serious about celebrating the constitution, then it should have high regard for the rule of law and treat everyone equally. Instead of putting the onus only on the citizen and resorting to riding roughshod over procedure, the government should focus on doing its job properly—like formulating the required laws, deliberating them in Parliament, and showing a healthy appetite for dissent. Doing so would be a better way to pay tribute to the constitution or national anthem than forcing people to do things they would not want to do.
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