Safeguarding the National Honour

April 15, 2007
Shantanu Dutta

N.R Narayana Murthy, whom President Abdul Kalam seems to find agreeable as his successor in the role of the President of the country, is in the dog house with indications of a case registered against him under the Insult to National Honour Act. This looks to be the end of any aspirations that Narayana Murthy might have had to be the next President. Although the reaction of the Karnataka legislature looks like a matter of overkill, the Infosys Chief Mentor's reasoning is also illogical.

I wonder what is there to feel embarrassed about listening to the National Anthem of another country that Narayana Murthy feels uneasy about protecting the foreign employees' sensibilities. Surely it is possible for foreigners to pay respect to India's National Anthem in several ways without their national affiliation or citizenship being threatened or compromised in any way. Besides, a lot of Indians work in foreign companies and are otherwise based overseas and when they are so located, they pay respect to the foreign nation's Anthem and other requirements of protocol.

Besides what constitutes National Honour ought to be debated too. Is it all about hoisting the National Flag, singing the National Anthem with gusto and dealing with symbols like that? Symbols are important as they serve as a visible reminder of who we are as a nation, as a populace and what we represent. But is that all they are? Of what use are shells and symbols by themselves? Surely the greatest signature of National Honour is when the people of a country are united, there is peace, justice and equity and over all prosperity. I am not talking about some Utopian Ram Rajya but where the systems to ensure all this are in place and working.

But is that the case at all in our India? The recent report, which revealed that one in every two children in the country will have been abused at some point in their lives, whether sexually or otherwise, is disturbing. Half or more of our country is wracked by terrorism and militancy of one kind or the other. Although the country's economy as measured by norms like GDP is rising, the inequities in the country are no where like being addressed. The reservation debate has stoked long buried fires all over again and casteism and feudalism is as entrenched as ever, especially in the hinterland of North India. Starvation deaths are so routine in the country that they no longer make news and the story of farmers' suicides is going the same way. Finally, even though sports and cricket are not every thing, even here the performance of our highly paid cricket stars was of cause of national embarrassment

Is it not worth debating, in our legislatures, as to what is a greater dent to our national honour - that our farmers commit suicide because they are forever in debt, some of our citizens die of starvation because of the fact that they have no money, that our children are abused and exploited, that the nature of our society has become such that children have to be forced though legislation to look after and care for their aged parents? Yet we are sitting and debating as to whether the National Anthem should be sung or played in instrumental version and crucifying the man who did a dumb job of trying to defend the indefensible in this particular area but over all might have done more for national pride and honour than a whole band of legislators.

National Honour is important, but what really is National Honour?

Shantanu Dutta is a medical doctor by training and a development professional by vocation. His writings mostly deal with change, complexity and conversion and tries to look at a changing world through heaven's eyes.
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April 16, 2007
09:54 AM

What is Insult to National Honor Act? I don't think there should be anything like that.
Things that cannot be defined shouldn't be touched by legal acts. How about National Slander Act? How about National Criticism Act? Where everyone who criticizes the nation is put behind bars? And what does it mean? Anyone who criticizes the government will be put behind the bars.

We will have lot of fun with such acts. POTA, TADA, weren't enough, we need more fun! :)

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