Recovering from a Republic Day high? Here are some sobering thoughts to help you:
* 13 per cent of adult Indians still do not recognise the Tricolour
* 18 per cent don’t know the name of the country; another 9 per cent give wrong answers
* 27 per cent go blank when you ask them about 15th of August
* 39 per cent don’t have the faintest idea of what is 26th January
* the figure goes up to 55 per cent if you accept only ‘Republic Day’ as the correct answer.
If you are an adivasi woman who never went to a school, the odds are nearly one in two that you won’t be able to name the country. Only one in three Indians can tell accurately what the three national holidays are for. Even among those with a bachelor’s or higher degree, a majority cannot give the correct answer for all the three.
These are some of the shocking findings of the CNN IBN-HT State of the Nation Poll conducted by the Centre for the Study of Developing Societies (CSDS). The poll was carried out between January 7 and 14 among 15,141 eligible voters spread across 986 villages or urban localities in 230 parliamentary constituencies.
The sample was a true mirror of Indian population: 75 per cent rural respondents, 46 per cent women, 11 per cent Muslims, 18 per cent Dalit and 9 per cent adivasis.
Lest you conclude that these findings indicate a weak nationalism, consider the figures for a sense of national pride. As many as 97 per cent Indians say they feel ‘proud’ or ‘very proud’ of being an Indian. When the same question was posed in many other countries a few years ago, no other country – including the ever patriotic USA – returned such figures. Germans, Russians and Japanese lag much behind Indians in this respect.
Indianness trumps all other identities. People are proud of their languages and state identities, but when asked to describe themselves, a majority say they are only Indians. Similarly, 55 per cent describe themselves as Indian first and then Hindu, Muslim or follower of any other religion. Less than one-sixth of all Indians identify themselves only as Tamil or Gujarati etc or as Hindu or Muslim first.
Nationalist leaders are still the most powerful icons in our country. When shown the photographs of some of the best recognised Indians of the last hundred years, Mahatma Gandhi still emerges on the top in popularity.
Throughout the country, 88 per cent people recognised Gandhi’s photograph and named him. In face recognition, Gandhi was followed not by Nehru but by his daughter Indira Gandhi at 72 per cent. Nehru was a little behind at 67 per cent, followed by Amitabh Bachchan and then Sachin Tendulkar.
But this primacy to nationalism has not made most Indians an aggressive and chauvinist lot. The rulers may have changed their mind, but the Indian people still believe in the Nehruvian foreign policy. On balance, more people want India to resist US hegemony rather than cosy up to the super power. They would not like India to act big brother vis-a-vis its small neighbours and pursue an active policy of friendship with Pakistan.
There is a considerable pride in Kargil victory, but that does not indicate an aggressive nationalism. When asked to name a moment of shame, an overwhelming majority chose the farmers’ suicide. Clean drinking water for every Indian is an overwhelming choice as the wish for country’s future. Not a bad Republic Day resolution.