There is a past history!
The current controversy on what is nationalism and patriotism is taking communal overtones. There is a history to the rise of nationalism in the modern world. The First World War (1914-1919) sharpened nationalism with the fall of Ottoman Empire and the birth of new nations. The second war, again, led to the breakup of the British Empire and the triumph of Indian nationalism, led to independence though the country partitioned.
Where were the Indian movements like Dravidian separatism, Hindu Maha Sabha, RSS. What were their roles in Independence struggles.
Why a new cry for nationalism? After 65 years of practice of Parliamentary democracy and secularism?
You can’t disclaim history, can you?
So, read your history, history of Europe and see when nations learnt to live under secular agreements. Today’s nationalism debate, if at all, again, has to study the current historical reality and historical truth. We have to look around the world. Study the conflicts, wars and the much terrorism.
RSS is talking for for a narrow agenda. Even the PM has to tread cautiously. So, let us be responsible citizens and talk. Let us not rock the boat!
W e need a progressive and open-minded, liberal outlook. Any right-wing, regressive and violent-minded extremisms would spell only more troubles. So, we need much caution and a restrained language here.
We are living through new nationalism-stirring world. Refugees flooding Europe, new national, ethnic identities are debated across the world. So, in India to we seem to be only touching the surface of the issue. In the coming days, we would have to debate more on this sensitive topic. Here are some new thoughts and reflections.
How many know how nations came about? How they survive today? Why there are troubles and wars in Middle East and Ukraine? See what the German Chancellor Angela Merkel facing for letting through the refugees from a host of nationalities.
An open-minded debate is only timely! Even the Indian debate, both by the BJP and the Congress are incomplete. We don’t venture beyond the over-threaten path. Here are some new insights.
The current world scene is in itself is witness to the many nation states in troubles. So, we say, don’t rock the boat with your own ignorance! Terrorism and violence is a reality. Only world leaders have to act with greater sensitivity. This imperative calls for action on many fronts.
Nationalism, free speech and freedom of expression are sensitive topics. Terrorism and violence and communal clashes is one problem. Another is issue of governance today.
So, in a way, Indian scene, both the political and the social scene is far from comfortable. There are many narrow-focused approaches that are contributing to the present strife in the country. Certainly, obstructing Parliament is not political wisdom but a short-sighted immaturity.
Why the new debate, free and frank and open-minded will do much good the country. Simply because there is of late not much enlightened debate on fundamental issues. On the contrary there is a silent reverse of much suppression of new debates on such sensitive issues like freedom of speech and as for Indian in particular such emotive issues like nationalism and national identity are being twisted by the new regime.
In the olden days, under the UPA dispensation it was assumed that what we held as nationalism, patriotism and secularism were compatible with democracy, we mean, parliamentary system and even in economics to some extent democratic socialism. Today under the Modi regime there is a new debate. Debates are always welcome in a democracy so that there is constant clarifications and new articulation s. Ideas and polices due change and new ideas are what gives a polity its rigour and vitality.
In this sense, let the JNU event and the subsequent events lead, we hope, to a new vision of India. Now, for the bigger questions of freedoms of speech and liberty, these are time-honoured concepts and always agitated and men and countries.What is new in the debate just before India is the new interpretation given by the BJP. More so the hotheads, the fringe groups and the enthusiasts from the BJP’s various outfits, including student’s body.
Now, what is nationalism? Let us leave out the Leftist, Marxist interpretation. Historically, nationalism may be new and yet the concept of nation is as old as biblical times, right? `Ancient nations, original nations were all realities, as in the Greek and Jerusalem times, as also in the modernist sense of secular nations after the 1648 Great Powers Agreement after the Peace of Westphalia, right?
At one point of times, the phrase ‘secular religions’ were also used to define national identities of people. This was a continuous process and if you really care historical details there are plenty of material for the students (See David Cannadine, The Undivided Past, Penguin Books,2013 pages 53-92) Now, the current Indian debate, as we all know, is all about the Hindutva project which the Narendra Modi regime has set its mind and let us see what this implies for the, Nation, Nationalism and anti-nationalism defining projects.
Certainly, a nation that too a modern nation cannot come into being from thin air. It has to have a history. As we have noted that the concept of nation is as old as man. It is both ancient and medieval and modern as well.
As for India, we all know that Indian nationalism sprang forth out of the rise of the European Enlightenment that put reason as opposed to religion in the scheme of modern man and also that led to the 1789 French Revolution. The medieval Europe broke up, as the medieval India also gave way to British and other European colonisation and the various imperialisms.
Unfortunately, what we know by way of history is what the British had taught us, told us, right?
What the Indian leaders, both the nationalist ones and the Hindutva leaders told us are patchy and based on incomplete history.Now, the Indian state, as we know, is an outcome of the freedom struggle that started, if we can say so, from the 1857 so-called Sepoy mutiny to the various stages of the build up of the national consciousness up to 1947.
In fact, the British didn’t tell us what happened in European history. We haven’t learnt from the 19th century, about the 1848 revolution in many European countries, nor do we know enough about what the great 19th century national leaders of Italy, by Mazzini and Garibaldi for the unity and independence of Italy. Mahatma Gandhi was narrowly focused, if we can say so.
The 1947 historic date itself was an artificial outcome of the Hindu-Muslim conflicts. The roles played by the leaders of both the Congress and the Muslim leaders of that period were deplorable to say the least. Where were the Hindutva leaders? What were they doing? Let us, Indians examine ourselves, truly historically. So that the future we shape would avoid some pitfalls. If we don’t learn any lessons from history, of India and the outside world, we only would become poorer, mentally and psychologically.
Now, as for the Hindutva claims, the party itself started as Jan Sangh and later BJP. The role of the earlier pioneers in the Hindutva movement, Veer Savarkar and others, the founding of the RSS are all well-known. These outfits didn’t participate in the freedom struggle, as the Dravidian parties in the South.
But then Time and Tide wait for none! Today, the once mighty Congress apple-cart is overturned and the BJP is in ascendancy.
As for Nation, nationalsim and anti-nationalism claims and accusations are concerned, there is only one important thing to cite. It is history, here and in Europe where the concept of nationalism originated.
There are any number of nations today. Yet, there is no guarantee whether all these nations would survive or sustain.It is the various circumstances, as pointed by many, notably now by David Cannadine, whether peace or wars or other historic circumstances, say, like the disintegration of the Soviet Russia in 1989 or even the current unpredictable outcome of the Middle East wars or the crisis in Ukraine, all that could trigger unpredictable outcomes. So, it is for the BJP leaders and hotheads to look at history, look at the contemporary world and decide whether some of their pet projects like building a Ram temple or converting the education sector into a saffron brigade or some other entity!
History itself is unpredictable.
It is the historical context that thinking individuals(intellectuals)help a people, nationally or internationally, to avert more wars and bloodshed and help the communities(ethnic, religious and linguistic or racial or even inter-dependent)live in a globalising world.
Secular, cosmopolitan and tolerant and modern communities, rather than nationalist or religious identities seem to be the living creed for world citizens today! Let us all become citizens of the world.