Loyalty to the country does not necessarily mean loyalty to the government, says author Rana Ayyub, whose self-published book on the 2002 Gujarat riots has become a major hit and gone into its second edition.
"For me, nationalism is defending the idea of the country -- that includes everybody," Ayyub told IANS in an interview.
"For me loyalty to the country means loyalty to the government only when it deserves it... Patriotism for me is to speak against those in the government who support disturbing elements in the society," she added.
She was asked what nationalism and patriotism -- in the present scenario -- meant for her.
Posing as an American filmmaker of Indian origin, Ayyub secretly interviewed Gujarat's top bureaucrats and police officers, serving as well as retired -- interviews that suggest that the 2002 riots were orchestrated.
The author was asked for her thoughts on Pakistani artists being sent home from Bollywood after protests by the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) in the wake of the terrorist attack on an army camp in Jammu and Kashmir that killed 19 soldiers.
"Patriotism seems to be in vogue today. Putting a badge on you may declare you more patriotic," she said.
"I wonder if Ajay Devgn would have said something similar if his film ('Shivaay') wouldn't have been coinciding with Karan Johar's ('Ae Dil Hai Mushkil') and did not have a business angle to it," she said, referring to Ajay Devgn's support for the ouster of Pakistani actors from Bollywood.
"Unfortunately, the saying that patriotism has become the last refuge of the scoundrels in the country is proving true every day. Each time one has to promote a movie or a brand, they use patriotism," she added.
Ayyub said it cannot be denied that Pakistan was India's neighbour.
"Whether we like it or not, Pakistanis are our neighbours, even though we may have many differences. But cultural ties should not be broken and should always exist.
"This intolerance towards our cultural ties baffles me," Ayyub said.
Ayyub went on: "I completely support the surgical strikes. As an Indian, I definitely will. But why do I have to say it, why do I have to wear my patriotism on my sleeve? Even if I do not say it, I am proud of it.
"However, if somebody is in disagreement or wants to see the evidence, there is nothing wrong in it as it is his/her fundamental right. Questioning the government's operations, especially the surgical strikes, does not make one anti-national," Ayyub added.
The writer is unhappy over the happenings in the Kashmir Valley, where life has been more or less paralysed for nearly four months following the killing of a militant commander.
"What is happening in Kashmir is extremely unfortunate. Kashmiris are struggling for human rights. Is supporting them against nationalism? Every time what I hear about Kashmir on prime time TV is: 'Kashmir hamara hai.' Yes, of course, but what about the people? Are they not ours?
"The country wants Kashmir but not Kashmiris. The country does not stand up for the rights of Kashmiris. If talking about their rights makes me anti-national, then I would rather be called one, but I do believe that we have been apathetic to what is happening there," Ayyub said.
Frequently branded anti-Modi, Ayyub didn't find any publisher for her book "Gujarat Files: Anatomy of a Cover Up" on the 2002 Gujarat riots and its aftermath. She self-published -- and it became an instant best-seller.
"It was a bestseller across all sections on Amazon in the first week. Till today it continues to be one. We sold 24,000 (English) copies till September and 5,000 e-publications, including Kindle.
"Right now, the figure, including the Tamil edition, is 40,000 copies. I am releasing the Urdu edition on Sunday at Jamia Milia Islamia University in New Delhi," Ayyub said.
Asked whether the book largely sold in stores or online in India and abroad, she said: "Since we did not have a distributor I had to rely on Amazon and Flipkart sales. I personally went to bookshops and stocked copies. LeftWord and BahriSons (Delhi based publishers and distributors) boosted sales by selling it.
"I created a seller account on Amazon and managed to sell most copies there."
The book has sold a record number of copies abroad, a rare feat for an Indian political book which has seen terrible censorship in india.
The second edition was released a week ago and it has also been self published. It has notes by Naseeruddin Shah, Ramachandra Guha, Arundhati Roy and Hansal Mehta, among others.
Naseeruddin Shah says in his note: "If the reporting here is proven authentic, then it will be time for demanding answers to some hard questions."
"For me, patriotism is releasing my book which exposes the truth and in many ways goes against (Prime Minister Narendra) Modi and his party president (Amit Shah)."
(Rachel V. Thomas can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)
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