ABSTRACT Nationalism is a sacred passion, a great moral and ethical belief. It is oriented towards the development and welfare of all. The development can only be achieved if peace and tranquillity co-exist with plurality, tolerance and assimilation. A true nationalist understands that the social, economic, ethnic and religious identities imposed by people are artificial and they have… Read More »


Nationalism is a sacred passion, a great moral and ethical belief. It is oriented towards the development and welfare of all. The development can only be achieved if peace and tranquillity co-exist with plurality, tolerance and assimilation. A true nationalist understands that the social, economic, ethnic and religious identities imposed by people are artificial and they have only benefitted people with vested interests. He apprehends that nationalism is not about submergence of the minority into majority nor about flaring up of the majority instead it is about co-existence of all. – Nationalism: Spiritual Or Secular? BY- Deepika Singla

The identities of people are fluid and complex. Encouragement of a particular religion that exists in the majority to shade the diverse colours of nationalism put-togetherness, tolerance and fraternity in peril which are very essential ingredients of nationalism. In a country like India with immense diversity and plurality talking of Hindu state or Hindustan for Hindus is against the well- established secular fabric of our country.

Nationalism is about establishing a just society for all and not just the majority community. However in a nationalism defined by majoritarianism of particular identity the idea of nationalism defined by intellectuals has no place. The majority community implants the idea of nationalism based on a common religion or language which is often prejudiced to the numerical minority community which impedes democracy. But in true sense nationalism is built by all and not just by few. In other words, a national identity needs to be inclusive that recognizes the uniqueness and contribution of all the diverse communities within a nation.


“Nationalism premised on religious majoritarianism we abhor,

Liberal nationalism is what we adore.

‘Nation- civic’ and not ‘Nation- religion’ is our motto

Cohesion, unity and accommodation make a nation glow

Fusion, uniformity and annihilation brim a nation with woe.

Armor of synthesis, solidarity and reconciliation

Will help a nation to fight dissolution, merger and regimentation.”

Nationalism is a socio-political-economic-cultural concept to establish and maintain the sovereignty of homeland and fulfil the interests of the nation. It is a function of the nation and not merely waving flags, shouting slogans or penalizing people for not shouting slogans like ‘Bharat Mata Ki Jai.’ It is a sacred passion, a great moral and ethical belief. It amalgamates the aspects of a nation such as democracy, territory and power. It is about ensuring economic growth, social justice and welfare of the entire society. It is a medium to establish equality among its citizens and entitle them to human rights.

The real entity of nationalism are the people who inhabit the territory of a particular nation.

It is about the inclusiveness of all irrespective of religion, language, ethnicity and culture. It involves coalescence of multiple identities and not a projection of a single identity as superior to rest. It is about the greater commitment to the needs and aspirations of the nation.

Nationalism is oriented toward a national identity and not a single identity. The priority given to a single identity would act as a force of divisiveness. Despite that majority, religion has always been flared up as an identity to imbibe nationalism. Religious majoritarianism embraces a nationalism that is marked by universalism generated by complete homogenization by adopting a particular religion and by particularism of self –identical and closed communities.

India- a SOVEREIGN SOCIALIST SECULAR DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC- is a land of immense diversity. It’s laid on the foundation stone of pluralism, co-existence, openness and dialogue. Its existence is devoted to the ideals enshrined in the Preamble of our Constitution- EQUALITY, LIBERTY, and FRATERNITY and JUSTICE. The elements of diversity- RELIGION, LANGUAGE, ETHNICITY AND CULTURE- are not a source of divisiveness instead of the founders of robust nationalism, a feeling of ‘WE’, oneness and brotherhood.

However, the parochial supporters of nationalism based on religious majoritarianism fail to realize the strength of unity in diversity. They fail to visualize the threat posed on the social cohesion of the country by giving priority to a particular religious identity to promote nationalism. They fail to understand that nationalism based on religious majoritarianism nurtures the seed of communal violence and social disharmony hence keeps the country away from tranquillity. It undermines the very existence of democracy i.e the protection of the minority.

India is a land of religion- Hindus (82.7%), Muslims (11.8%), Christians (2.6%), Sikhs (2%), Buddhists (0.7%), Jains (0.4%), Zoroastrians (0.3%) and Jews (0.1%). Each major religion is sub-divided along the lines of religious doctrines, sects and cults. The existence of variety in religion is not a threat to the country as secularism is in tandem with the plurality. However, when a particular religion is given priority at the cost of others it poses challenges of ethnic movements, religious fundamentalism, communalism, religious conflicts and dwindles the persistence of self- identity of India i.e. UNITY IN DIVERSITY. It is truly remarked ‘A community divided means a nation divided. A community united means a nation growing and enlightened.’

The course of Indian freedom struggle makes us a witness of use of religions and not a particular religion to imbibe nationalism. The opposition of all Indian groups to the prospect of alien domination by Whites provided a new impetus to unity. The national movement welded communities, cultures and religions. Hindus soldiers formed the bulk of independence-seeking soldiers but they had no hesitation in accepting the Muslim King as their supreme commander with no trace of any communal bias among Hindus, Muslim or Sikh soldiers. This secular nationalism was forged while soldiers united to fight the common bias. Swadeshi movement in 1906, Khilafat issue in 1919 to promote unity among different religions highlight the healthy influence of religions and not a particular religion to build nationalism. We could free ourselves from clutches of colonial power only when we united forgetting all our differences-elitist vs poor, Hindu vs Muslim, Brahmin vs Dalit, Industrialist vs Laborer- as it expanded the mass base to fight a common cause. However, discord developed between the religious communities resulted in partition. Despite that India was made a secular country with the provisions for the protection of minority communities. Thus associating a particular religion with nationalism and declaring others as anti-national is an ignominy to sacrifice of our freedom fighters to achieve nationalism.

Ayodhya vandalism, Mumbai blasts or Gujarat holocaust are all the symbols of religious bigotry and incendiary fundamentalism that threaten the consolidation of true nationhood.

The slogans such as ‘Gau Mata ko Rashtra Mata Banao’; ‘Jo Gau Hit Ki Baat Karega Wo Rashtra Par Raj Karega’ are painful to hear on land bristled with diversity. We are living in a regime that seeks to replace secular nationalism with religious nationalism. This is not the dawn we had been waiting for. This tyranny of a particular religion is a threat to self- identity of India ie Unity in Diversity. But this doesn’t bring us to the conclusion that expression of religion is wrong. The expression of religion was even desired by Mahatma Gandhi. Gandhi Ji remarked that the ethics drawn by religion helps to drive healthy politics. It helps to protect religious minorities who become victims of communalism and helps to highlight gender discrimination prevalent in religion. Different cults may adhere to different religious practices or even to none but it does not take away from us the common cultural inheritance and shared values of love, oneness and compassion towards our brothers and sisters. The past has always held us together and we should not let the vested interests divide us in the present or future. The expression of religion becomes wrong when one religion tends to dominate other religion; portrays itself as superior to others and fuel nationalism based on religious identity.

The recent consultation paper by Law Commission regarding UNIFORM CIVIL CODE also supports nationalism driven by plurality rather than by majority.

The commission rejected the contradiction of secularism to plurality. The term ‘secularism’ only has meaning if it assures the expression of any form of difference. This diversity both regional and religious should not get subsumed under the louder voice of the majority. A ‘unified’ nation does not necessarily appreciate ‘uniformity.’ Reconciliation of diversity with universal and indisputable arguments on human rights characterize a unified nation.

One needs to understand that religious majoritarian nationalism is a challenge to substantive democracy- a procedural majority rule which is about the protection of rights of the minority as well as an individual. This is because it can replace political majority with ‘identitarian majority’; it can attack minority rights and make dissent illegal, politically suicidal and socially costly. The ethnoreligious majoritarian nationalism that privileges a certain identity as the norm and renders other identities as subservient or inimical within different bounded communities make the principle and practice of democracy impossible. The democracy we have achieved is a result of yesteryears of struggle. We cannot let it go by majoritarian nationalism in the form of Hindutva which even the highest temple of justice in our country- Supreme Court- has defined as a way of life and not as a nation dominated by Hindus.

Pakistan by Islam, Myanmar and Sri Lanka by Buddhism- all are crippled by the weed of religious majoritarianism which hinders the growth of flowers of true nationalism.

The religion in the majority in a particular country fails to realize the core philosophy of a religion that talks about oneness and welfare of mankind instead want to dominate and persecute minorities, hence undermine democracy and true nationalism. They cannot foresee the danger that would preponderate if intolerant and homogenizing forms of identity and nationalism are allowed to develop. Though some of our friends are trying to jump back to a past stage, to a concept that the world has outlived and that is completely out of tune with modern conception but India certainly cannot go back to that stage. India shall always proceed on secular lines in keeping the powerful trends of internationalism.

The inclusiveness, social disharmony and unity being trampled underfoot by votaries of religious majoritarianism need to be revived back. The sub-nationalism emanating from religious majoritarianism needs to be nipped in the bud. The widespread unrest, discontent and conflicts among sections of the population as a consequence of regional and social imbalances fuel sub-nationalism. Economic disparities have created social tensions, urban unrest, rural upsurge and youth disenchantment. The true nationalist spirit demands to tackle the problems of hunger, poverty, unemployment, terrorism, food insecurity, climate change and degradation of basic amenities with robustness instead of painting the nation with the colour of one identity.

Indian definition of the term ‘FUTURE’ as given by our respected Prime Minister Narendra Modi provides a comprehensive way to deal with the unrest.

F stands for Farmer, U stands for Underprivileged, T stands for Transparency and Technology Up gradation; U stands for Urban Rejuvenation; R stands for Rural development and E stands for Employment and Entrepreneurship of Youth. The need of the hour is of policies that rationalize unities and not ravish disunities; rejects disconnects, worn clichés & mental barriers that divide us; excessive vetoes to block war and not peace and emphasizes right to food, right to health and right to learning. The launch of welfare programs like National Nutrition Mission, Public Distribution System, Start-Up India, Skill India, Stand Up India, Ajeevika Express and Attracting Rural Youth towards Agriculture (ARYA), etc by our government is a welcoming step to address such imbalances.

J W Goethe remarked ‘The destiny of a nation, at any given time depends on the opinions of its young men under five-and-twenty.’ On an individual front, one needs to remember that it took years to free ourselves from colonial shackles, let’s not handcuff ourselves by parochialism. So let’s imbibe in ourselves a religion that has enough to make us love one another and not hate each other so that in future no colonial power is able to play with our nationalist sentiments. The need of the hour is to propagate Ashoka’s Dhamma and Akbar’s Din-I–Illahi so that all religions exist together and put an end to majoritarianism vs minorities debate. This will help to prevent a kind of nationalism that prioritizes a single identity over other identities and help construct a nationalism that is built on national identity- AN IDENTITY OF BEING AN INDIAN.

This national identity cannot be based on a shared cultural identity because more societies are culturally diverse.

This common identity cannot be also based on shared religious identity as it will lead to oppressive and highly authoritative society because religions are internally diverse. This importance of a national identity- the identity of being an Indian- is very well highlighted in the movie Chak De India where Shah Rukh Khan asks the contestants to introduce themselves. The national identity has to be defined in an inclusive manner which recognizes the importance and unique contribution of all the communities within the nation.

The prime concern of nationalism is to ensure the welfare of the entire society and all its citizens. Nationalism when diverted from the path of reason and the common good, often loses its sacred instincts and moral beliefs. So let’s not express religion in partisan terms and allow it to take the form of communalism. This delays and slows down development and even pushes the country into the darkness of backwardness.

Winding up by the words of Swami Vivekananda ‘Each nation has a destiny to fulfil, a message to deliver, a mission to accomplish, a place to occupy in the march of nations and a role in which it can contribute to the harmony of races.’ So the idea of nationalism must be based on humanism, universalism and brotherhood such that it is not detrimental to the interests of any community be it a religious, linguistic or ethnic and whether it is numerically weak or strong.

Let us strive towards making the words of our first Prime Minister Pt. Jawahar Lal Nehru a reality “Whatever the uncertainties the present may contain, in future India shall be a land, as in the past, of many faiths equally honoured and respected, but of one national outlook, not a narrow nationalism living in its own shell, but rather the tolerant creative nationalism which, believing in itself and genius of its people, takes full part in the establishment of ‘ONE WORLD.’”

“Let’s endorse liberal nationalism

Celebrate the particularity in religions

Admire universality among different religions

Appreciate the socio-religious embeddedness of individuals

And not modulate nationalism by religious majoritarianism.”

Our tradition teaches us tolerance; our philosophy preaches tolerance; our constitution practices tolerance. Let’s none dilute it and hence build nationalism that accommodates diversity and not just majority.

BY- Deepika Singla

Daulat Ram College, Delhi University

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Updated On 19 March 2020 12:14 AM GMT
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