If Indian liberals were to have a theme song, my country, always wrong would be its name.
Because, in many ways, we too are liberal -- albeit mugged by reality -- this sob-song of our co-travelers on India's road to secular modernity is enormously frustrating.
Sure, India is fallible -- but it's a nation unlike any other in our extended region. Our people are justifiably proud of our freedoms -- these freedoms make our system unique and superior to our neighbors'.
Liberals don't quite see it this way. They hissingly question even factual assertions of our superior freedoms, and demand we dilute our nationalist pride by recalling occasional Indian failings.
Indian liberals thus construct a parade of horribles and cherry-pick a few egregious examples of Indian lapses to diminish the self-evident superiority of the Indian project (vs. those of our neighbors) -- this is a profoundly subversive act. [Note: The italicized words are taken from the conservative dissent in a US Supreme Court ruling from earlier today; the language is terrific, and it applies well in the context of our post.]
Fortunately, most Indians can see through this subterfuge. They remain patriots at heart and their politics embraces nationalism. They are, however, puzzled by the constant drip-drip of India-bashing by our liberals who strain to find nuggets of good in our awful enemies, while dismissing the entire ocean of our nation's greatness.
This suicidal liberal attitude discredits liberalism itself. Consequently, India's instinctively nationalist heart turns away and, in desperation, opens itself even to faux-nationalist evangelism of India's cultural bigots.
If we are to sustain a secular, modern, and tolerant public space in India, our fellow liberals need to re-assess their constant India-bashing. If they don't feel comfortable making this sacrifice, well, then they should consider relinquishing, to secular-nationalists, their self-seized mantle of being secularism's defenders. Absent this, liberals risk tainting secularism by their association -- this would be a horrible tragedy.
As they might say in American, Indian liberal dogma don't hunt no more!
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