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To be an Indian patriot

14 98 3110

Recently, the vice chancellor of India's most prominent educational institution, the Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) announced plans to set up a war memorial and install a decommissioned tank on campus. In his view, these measures would "constantly remind students about [...] the great sacrifices and valour of the Indian Army" and "show our strong and close association with defence institutes of the country".

JNU's Vice Chancellor Mamidala Jagadesh Kumar (aka BattleTank Kumar) is the latest proponent of Project Patriotism and by far is not a pioneer in this quixotic quest. A self-conscious fragility has marked the Indian national integration dream since the birth of this nation, and it is a fragility that is sought to be offset by aggressive military posturing and a conspicuous brand of patriotism.

Last year, in November 2016, the Supreme Court observed that "people should feel that they live in a nation and show respect to the national anthem and the national flag," ruling that the national anthem had to be played before any film screening in India. Cinema doors are to be locked and cinemagoers are to stand while the anthem is played.

In the southern state of Kerala, at least a dozen people were arrested in December for not standing up while the national anthem was played during screenings at an international film festival. Those who published a cartoon on this issue were reproved for being anti-national by the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). Last week, the High Court of Madras ruled that singing Vande Mataram (an Indian national song) must be made compulsory in schools and offices in Tamil Nadu state to "instil a sense of patriotism in each and every citizen".

A schoolgirl tries to climb out of a Schilka tank as others stand on it during an exhibition organised by the Indian army in the northern Indian city of........

© Al Jazeera