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Patriotism and Reinvention of Ideology

Yubraj Tikendrajit

There is a need to review the content of patriotism and also probe into how ideology interacts with patriotism. In short, adequate light is needed to understand the invention, import, and recovery of ideology lost in the labyrinth of ethno-nationalism-inspired patriotism(s).

By Dhiren A Sadokpam

August 13 is being observed as Patriots’ Day every year in Manipur. On this day, the people reminisce the valiant sons of Manipur who sacrificed their lives and chose the gallows poll over timid surrender to British colonial rule. Their martyrdom and gallant acts have been considered as the highest form of patriotism by many.

On this day, the people of Manipur also ardently recall the Anglo-Manipuri War of 1891, an event considered as the last war of Manipur’s independence. In the war, many courageous sons of the soil laid down their lives to save the dignity, honour and sovereignty of their motherland. In the face of inescapable defeat, they had the valour to fight against the mighty empire of the British.

In the aftermath of the Battle of Khongjom in 1891, Manipur lost its independence to the British. On August 13, 1891, Prince Tikendrajit and Thangal General were hanged. In remembering those brave sons, people pay the highest kind of tribute and honour to the bravehearts who are still considered true patriots of Manipur.

When recalling such historical narrative, it has become more than necessary to inject unflinching adjectives to those considered patriots for the love of their motherland. However, the official rituals surrounding the marking of the day has also served as an opportunity to contemplate on the very idea of patriotism. So, what actually is patriotism in the context of official rituals and ethno-nationalistic construction of the same idea? This question calls for a rigour in serious inquiry even if the intent can be termed as academic by many.

One is aware of the fact that there are several definitions of patriotism in many disciplines – both humanities and social sciences. However, the most common and accepted definition of patriotism in existent literature, relates it to the “notions of love and devotion towards one’s own country”. Thus the definition of patriotism has centred on one fundamental form, often referred to as the attachment of a group or members of a group to the country in which they belong.

Patriotism has also been described as comprising of attachment and love on the one hand, commitment and citizen involvement on the other. Scholars have also argued that patriotism is not to be identified with blind support to one’s nation. A patriot may be critical of his own nation and also resist acts performed or committed by his own nation-state. In other words, patriotism is a way of thinking, an acquired belief with or without a political ideology.

Ideology as primarily understood in Sociological discourse is directly related to sets of cultural beliefs, values and attitudes that serve a society to reinforce a structure or a changed set of adopted beliefs that can exert pressure on the same structure.  Thus, every culture has an ideology that can invent, import and recover values to either unify or fracture the overall structure of the society.

However, there have been virtually no specific and rigorous scholarships on the contours of how societies in the Northeast region of India developed their own set of patriotism or ideologies with specific reference to social, political or historical context. Despite the virtual absence of the exercise, it has been quite interesting to observe the impact of value system and diverse paths opted by ethnic communities since time immemorial irrespective of territorial constraints.

When one juxtaposes the history of ideology against the overall political developments in the Northeast, interesting observations have been made. However, no effort has been made to understand the dynamics in the invention, import and recovery of ideologies vis-à-vis patriotism.

Even the official recorded histories have little mention of the ruptures in ideology and how the same have shaped one’s idea of patriotism developed over the span of few centuries. Mention may be made of the period witnessed in Manipur since the advent of Hinduism with the arrivals of Brahmins in 15th Century till the defeat of Manipur in the last war of independence in 1891.

Over the last few decades, contemporary scholars have missed probing deeper into how a society composed of numerous communities have traversed through shifts and turns in value system as represented by ideology and how the same have shaped one’s own understanding of patriotism. This is why there is a need not only to review the content of patriotism but also probe into how ideology and patriotism interact. In short adequate light is needed to understand the invention, import and recovery of ideology lost in the labyrinth of ethno-nationalism inspired patriotism(s).

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