Book Review: The Battle of Belonging- On Nationalism, Patriotism, And What It Means To Be Indian by Shashi Tharoor
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- Publisher : Aleph Book Company
- Release Date: 31 October 2020
- Genre: Non-fiction, Indian History, Political Structure, Political Ideology
- ISBN-13 : 978-8194735380
- Price: INR 799/-
Now available on
There are over a billion Indians alive today. But are some Indians more Indian than others?
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'History is replete with examples of democracy being used as a stepping stone to power by nationalist parties that then proceed to subvert or even dismantle it and substitute it with their own authoritarianism. The formula is well known: weaken the independent institutions, demolish the autonomous checks and balances, stifle dissent, persecute and prosecute the critics, suspend genuine politics and replace it with mass rallies, parades, celebrations and entertainments, while treating the populace to 'bread and circuses'. (Pg. 387)
Through this book, Tharoor makes an excellent case for civic nationalism combined with patriotism. His arguments in the favour of it, make you believe that this is the only way every Indian can get their rightful place intact with its honour and respect.
This book is by no means a dated statistic which speaks about things long forgone. It is very well updated and talks about the current scenario with an eerie detail. It also follows it all by a detailed bibliography at the end of the book which has so many interesting references for further reading. Something about the bibliography says this discussion is not going to end with this book. It is a topic which needs more books and more discussions.
Interestingly, Tharoor just does not talk about the problems in this book. He is in no mood to simply magnify the issues and analyze them cryptically for pages and pages, endlessly. After making his point, he swiftly moves to the solutions which according to him, can help us overcome the current situation we are in.
The epilogue of the book is titled - Winning the Battle of Belonging and begins with these lines,
This book has been a paean to an India where it does not matter what religion you practice, what language you speak, what caste you were born into, what colour your skin is, and a celebration of civic nationalism that affirms that in India it should only matter that you are Indian. A paean, I said- not an elegy, and certainly not a dirge. (Pg. 405)
This book is for each one of us who are desperately looking for answers to our questions. Growing up in a nation different than what we are living in right now, we are bound to be laden with questions. Strange as it may sound, we are surrounded by questions. Ones that we ask and ones that others around us are asking. Once again taking Shashi Tharoor's words here to emphasize on the need for answers:
Above all, our patriotism must give us a nationalism of hope, not fear.
Only then will be able to look a questioner in the eye and say with upright stance and uplifted gaze: 'This is my nation. I am proud to say I am an Indian.'
However, this does not take away the fact that this book is extremely important. And I would not be wrong is saying, this should be considered an important academic read in our country to encourage healthy debates and invite ideas and suggestions for this.
The book does not promise to be the answer to all, but it does promise to raise a lot of questions and make us think.
Overall, a brilliant read, which should be read by one and all.