Instead of fighting for national emblems, focus on nation building

Emblems and symbols instill nationalism and a sense of brotherhood among the people and form a bridge that connects different religions, beliefs and cultures

National emblems and symbols that give a country a unique identity and cohesion and are therefore of great importance. In addition to representing the varied culture and rich civilization of a nation, they recall the past glory of a people and promote the collective aspirations of all citizens. The emblems and symbols also infuse nationalism and a sense of brotherhood among the people and form a bridge that connects different faiths, beliefs and cultures.
Nationalism is often viewed in a negative sense and seen as an unhealthy trait that fosters animosity. While hyper-nationalism is indeed a threat to humanity, national pride and unity is a necessary prerequisite for nation building. Given the negative connotations associated with nationalism, many political scientists and commentators prefer patriotism to nationalism, because while the former is seen as inclusive and accommodating, the latter is seen as something that promotes exclusion and repels certain entities like “l ‘other “. However, in practical terms, the two are interchangeable and synonymous with a minor distinction in perception and so, without getting into semantics, let us discuss nationalism as an element contributing to nation building.
A left-liberal thinker, Professor Lord Bhiku Parekh, has argued that India needs a strong dose of nationalism that will spur internal melting pot as it transitions into a single, big and powerful country. It may have inadvertently reflected the views of Netaji Subhash Bose who advocated an enlightened dictatorship for a limited period after independence as India loomed as a country. The idea was rejected, but the spirit behind the suggestion should be recognized as it refers to the nation’s building blocks of discipline, unity and commitment.
As stated earlier, the major component of nationalism is culture which is represented by emblems, symbols, heritages and icons. Note that national culture predates religions, languages, regions, etc. Look at Indonesia which, despite its Muslim majority, still retains symbols related to the Hindu culture that flourished here before the arrival of Islam. The national airline of Indonesia is called Garuda which is the vehicle of Lord Vishnu and the epic drama Ramlila is still very popular in this country. Similarly, a Buddhist country like Thailand has the portrait of Lord Krishna at its main airport leading Arjuna in the epic battle of Mahabharata. Bangladesh, another Muslim country, still uses Hindu names and follows Hindu customs like wearing sarees and bindis, their language is also Bengali not Urdu.
A word on culture and its detractors. India has multiple and unique ways of perceiving life and the universe and the pluralism of these perspectives is what Indian culture is all about. The national emblems, icons and symbols of India signify this culture but unfortunately they have often come under criticism and attack on various grounds. Since there are no logical grounds for any antagonism in many cases, one might infer that resistance and rebellion against secular emblems and symbols is the result of confusion or misconception about them. topic.
In light of the undeniable link between nationalism and culture, emblems and their meaning, let’s talk about the unfortunate controversy around the national emblem which has just been installed in Parliament. Objections to Ashoka’s lions placed atop the central foyer of the new Parliament building are both technical and architectural in nature.
Before going any further, allow me to make a small caveat. In a democracy, it is natural to expect criticism and counterpoint on every conceivable issue. So while one would expect national symbols and emblems to be kept out of political differences between parties, there is no harm in debating them because that is how democracy survive and thrive. The objections raised mainly relate to the manner in which the lions of Ashoka are featured in the national emblem, and even though these are in the public domain, however, to look at the raging controversy in proper perspective, let us recap some- one of the main problems.
Opposition parties argue that the lions of Ashoka in the national emblem were portrayed as angry and aggressive, which belies the grace and glory of the original emblem and, in as such, constitutes an unwarranted distortion or deviation. The history of the national emblem and the process of its adoption in the Constituent Assembly are well known. The emblem was built in 250 BC. to commemorate Gautama Buddha’s first lesson containing the four noble truths of life.
The emblem was mounted on a base made up of smaller sculptures including that of a horse, a lion, a bull, an elephant moving clockwise. These four animals are believed to guard four directions – north, south, east and west and are separated by the wheel called “Dharma Chakra” in Buddhism. The chakra was adopted as part of the national flag. Mauryan Emperor Ashoka used this emblem to spread Buddhism across and beyond India with an emphasis on non-violence and compassion.
The Constituent Assembly decided on the Sarnath Pillar as the national emblem. Members of the Assembly believed that the pillar symbolized the power, courage and confidence of a free and new nation. The emblem also depicts a two-dimensional sculpture with Satyameva Jayate (truth alone triumphs) inscribed on it in Devnagri script. On January 26, 1950, the Lion of Ashoka of Sarnath became the national emblem of India and history has it that this newly adopted emblem was carved by the famous artist Nandalal Bose and his five students. One of them [Dinanath Bhargava] was advised by Bose to visit Kolkata Zoo to observe the movements and mannerisms of the majestic lion. Bhargava traveled hundreds of kilometers and visited the zoo several times. Incidentally, Bhargava also designed the first 30 pages of the Indian Constitution.
In conclusion, let us strive for consensus on certain issues and identities that are national and above partisan politics. Politics in a democracy can be driven by competitive electoral contests, but this must not come at the cost of denigrating national symbols or making them the center of unnecessary controversy. We must not forget that if democracy allows dissent, it cannot be at the expense of national construction, it requires unity and loyalty!

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This article first appeared in Financial Express

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