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The idea of patriotism must not be restricted to its classical definition

It is also exemplified, perhaps ideally, when student-activists hit the streets to raise awareness against the most formidable challenge of our times: climate change

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Here is the winning entry in the Juniors Category for the Essay Competition organised by Apeejay Education on ‘What does patriotism mean for the youth of today?’, written by Mohammed Ibrahim Iraqi, a class 6 student of Apeejay School, Nerul, Navi Mumbai

Mohammed Ibrahim Iraqi, Class 6, Apeejay School, Nerul.

Patriotism, the factor that binds the nation, ran through the country’s veins way before independence was achieved from the colonial British rule. The sentiment of ‘sacrifice for the nation’, the principle of ‘country before self’ and the undeterred faith in the ‘idea of India’ adequately resonated in the previous generations. But, does that essence of patriotism also resonate in contemporary youth?

This question assumes significance as nearly 54% of India’s population, according to an official estimate, is aged below 25. To realise the potential of what our honourable Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi describes as the ‘New India’, this section of the population should be as fiercely patriotic as their ancestors, if not more.

But what does patriotism mean for current generation?

The classic definition of patriotism is ‘devoted love, support and defence of one’s country’. For a lay observer, it may be practically reflected among the youth through the joy over India’s recent success in the Olympic Games, the sheer delight witnessed after the Indian team’s victories in the cricket field and the plethora of social media posts on the national festivals of Independence Day and Republic Day.

All of this does reflect one’s love for the country, but the idea of patriotism cannot be restricted to it.

Patriotism is also exemplified, perhaps ideally, when student-activists hit the streets to raise awareness against the most formidable challenge of our times: climate change.

When 22-year-old Disha Ravi, also known as ‘Bengaluru’s Greta Thunberg’, holds demonstrations to warn against the dangers of deforestation, it is an act of patriotism as climate change ends up claiming scores of lives in India. A Lancet study estimates that nearly 740,000 people die annually in the country due to abnormal hot and cold temperatures.

Disha is not an exception. Nine-year-old Licypriya Kangujam had been protesting weekly in Delhi outside the Parliament, before the onset of the Covid-19 crisis, to raise awareness over the threat of global warming. The child-activist is not directionless as one of her primary demands is that the central government must enact a law to combat climate change. Isn’t it patriotism which is fuelling her struggle?

It is also the patriotic sentiment of Delhi’s 16-year-old Aditya Mukerji which compels him to move from café to café and restaurants to restaurants to urge people to shun the use of plastic sips, considering its environmental hazards. Similarly, 13-year-old Riddhima Pandey has been petitioning the National Green Tribunal seeking greater emphasis on the efforts to curb India’s carbon emissions.

The list can go on and on.

It would be unfair to infer those youngsters who are not into activism are not patriotic enough. Buying local, feeding the poor, keeping your surroundings clean, respecting the country’s diversity, combating casteism and shunning all other forms of discrimination, are also laudable acts of patriotism. Only time will tell whether this generation is patriotic enough to curb ‘brain drain’ — the emigration of most qualified professionals to the developed world.

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