Nationalism: Vices in Disguise By – Saumya Singh

By | May 24, 2019
Nationalism: Vices in Disguise

Abstract:

India is the third largest Asian nation characterized by immense diversity in cultures, religions, languages, opinions, etc. However, diversity is often supplemented with differences and chaos because every section of the society is willing to be heard and looks forward to asserting their religious and political beliefs by contradicting others. This is one of the harsh realities postulated by human nature. This writeup examines India’s democratic setup and utilizes data from local researches and personal experiences to throw some light on conflicting Indian nationalism. It is found that gross lack of youth empowerment schemes, ineffective implementation of policies and lack of opportunities to weaker sections of society are hindering the principle of nationalism. It is recommended that India encourages her youth to participate in the furtherance of national interests and provide equal opportunities to all the sections of society for the overall progression of our nation. Read Here Nationalism: Vices in Disguise By – Saumya Singh

Introduction

Alfred D.Grazia says, “Nationalism combines the love of country and suspiciousness of foreigners. Love of country comes from shared values and suspiciousness of foreigners comes from the belief that foreigners do not share such values in the same strength. The first shared value is the love of familiar places – the neighbourhood, the land, the homes, the valleys and the mountains, all of the surroundings that one loves because they have been part of oneself from infancy.”[1]

Aurobindo Ghose gave a new meaning to the term nationalism. He wrote, “Nationalism is a religion that has come from God; nationalism is a creed in which you shall have to live. It is an attitude of the heart, of the soul. What the intellect could not do, this mighty force of passionate conviction born out of the very faith of national consciousness will be able to accomplish.”

Nationalism puts emphasis on the fact that every national group has an individuality of its own and if it’s given an opportunity, it can make a distinctive contribution to humanity at large. Every nation demands the right of self-determination. It must be given the right to govern itself according to its own lights. If a nation is under foreign rule, it demands liberation and also prepares to make sacrifices to achieve the goal.[2]

Despite the chaos and conflicts persisting in our nation, we must always continue to put forth the benefit of genuine nationalism.

This would help in maintaining peace and strengthening ties. Most of the wrong-headed ones that exist in our nation seek to encourage nationalism by imposing societal values onto other nations against their will. Peace can only exist when the focus is only on strengthening one’s own nation without being a problem for others.

As we know every coin has two sides and so does nationalism. It is astonishing to note that nationalism could be thought of evil too. Since this principle is subjective, people interpret it to their benefit. Despite being a broader concept, people have narrowed it down to equate nationalism with love for one’s country and hatred for another. Nationalism is a principle which shall be effected for the greater good. But when a certain concept is capable of yielding both positive and negative reactions, the chance of the latter being provoked is the most. Today, Nationalism has only resulted in giving rise to intolerance and problems for minorities. It has raised particular problems regarding the ideology of Hindutva, as espoused by V.D. Savarkar, concerning a mistaken idea about Hindu unity. It would be appropriate to quote the lyrics of a famous song – ‘Imagine’ by John Lennon, “Imagine there are no countries, it isn’t hard to do, nothing to kill or die for and no religion too. Imagine all the people living life in peace.”

The conflict and chaos associated with our integrity

C.D. Burns writes in his ‘Democracy’ [1935], “Democracy is a word with many meanings and some emotional colour. It is not an algebraical symbol, but a flag or the call of a trumpet for some; and for others obsolete mythology which has undesirable connections with capitalism and imperialism.”

Democracy is based on the principle of equality of all men and women. It does not believe in the foolish principle that ‘some are born to rule and other’s to be ruled.’ Even the humblest person has a chance of rising in life. His humble parentage is not a permanent hindrance in his way. If he works hard, there is every likelihood of his beating others who may have started their carriers in better circumstances. No discrimination is practiced against any particular individual or class. All are equal before the law and the same punishment is meted out to all if a law is broken. However, there is a wide gap between democracy in theory and democracy in practice.

Most of the democratic governments do not act strictly according to democratic principles. There is the talk of the sovereignty of the people, welfare of the people and the principle of consent and criticism. However, in actual practice, many democratic governments violate the spirit of true principles of democracy[3]. C.D. Burns says that democracy rests upon certain pretences, not to say frauds. Political parties are supposed to be free associations but in fact, most members of a party belong to it because of their parent’s politics or because of some irrelevant connection between the party and some locality or economic interest or religion.

Politics has degenerated into a business

Honestly speaking, the leaders subsequent to the independence were the only ones who had kept the spirit of democracy alive without being biased towards satisfying their personal interests because our country had just become independent due to the blood and sweat of eminent persons and so they had appreciated the value of it. But now, politics has degenerated into a business and politicians are only driven by money and malice, which has resulted in corruption, division of people by triggering their religious sentiments, dissent, intolerance, the threat to women’s safety, etc.

If we talk about Panchayats, that is politics at the grass root level, it is coercive and corrupt as well. Electing representatives to the panchayats is often based on clan and kinship. And most times, it is money that buys a position in the panchayat. After all, at the village level, it is the landholding that determines the level of respect and influence that an individual commands. That is the reality which plays a part in the election process. A major portion of our society comprises the unenlightened ones subject to abject poverty due to which it is easier for the politicians to operate their minds and buy their votes. So, do they really represent the people? Unfortunately, it all happens and is part of Indian politics.

Guilty of quashing dissent

The terms ‘Intolerance’ and ‘Dissent’ have been dominating the headlines of newspapers lately. The instances involving intolerance have been increasing which is visible in state and national politics, some of them to recall – the murder of M.M. Kalburgi ( scholar, rationalist, teacher), beef-ban, mob lynching, the threat to actors on the release of movies (especially period dramas) etc. All parties are guilty of quashing dissent in any form. But the worst part is several parties have resorted to violence and even the media, which is supposed to act as the watchdog and is considered as the fourth pillar of democracy, has not been spared.

Despite the rights and freedoms guaranteed by our constitution, there is a blatant violation on the face of it. As per the reports by the Pew Research Centre, India ranks as the worst country when it comes to religious freedom. The report is based on two indices- the Government Restriction Index (GRI), measuring government restriction on the free practice of religion and the Social Hostilities Index (SHI) that looks at hostilities around the issue of religion. Sadly, India fares poorly on both counts but the score is abysmal in case of the SHI index.[4]

Education is the best way to promote tolerance and peaceful co-existence in the society. Students should be provided with a tolerant environment in the school so that they can respect and understand different cultures. Students can develop inter-cultural understanding only in a tolerant environment.

To Jawaharlal Nehru, India’s present danger is within. Wherever he has gone across his vast country since Independence, whatever his immediate pronouncement on the affairs of India or the world, Nehru has appealed above all for national unity. “Integrate”, he warns, or “perish”. [5]

Terrorism and Nationalism

One of the greatest challenges to nationalism is terrorism. It is a huge threat to our integrity and security. The policies of the government can never be implemented effectively if internal disturbances persist within a nation. It severely affects the functioning of the government and its capability to stimulate development. Terrorists are groups of resentful insurgents that are against the policies of the government and aim at deteriorating the internal structure of the nation severely affecting the quality of space that people share. This is an extremely distressful situation where we are fearful of our own people within our own nation.

If the problem of terrorism persists then the government wouldn’t be able to direct its efforts and resources in combatting foreign enemies as its resources would be wasted on battling the terrorism that exists within the nation. Regional terrorism restricts the developmental activities concerning that area due to which people are unable to have access to education or other opportunities to facilitate their progression. Moreover, the problem of terrorism is taken benefit of by the political parties to further their interests and operate the minds of the vulnerable sections of society.

The prime importance shall be given to education for the overall progression of the nation. For instance, if there is a family wherein out of five children, only one goes to school. It does not imply that the entire family is progressing. Thus, it is imperative that even the remotest areas receive equal consideration.

The military forces must also be strengthened. As we know, a strong army led by capable leaders is vital to the national interest. However, discourses have been revolving around the steadfast youth and a shift in their curiosity being confined to their personal interests. The number of people joining the army has severely plummeted. Despite the fact that youth occupies the largest portion of the population, their participation or initiative in joining the army and serving our country is extremely disappointing. The security of any nation depends upon the strength of the army but if the youth itself is uninterested then how can the future of our country be secured. Globalization has expanded the scope of opportunities in the field of international business and industries diverting the youth to making trendy career choices involving handsome money and ample facilities.

Influence of Social Media

Today, youngsters are much influenced by social media. It has led them to create their own whimsical world, away from pragmatism. They desire to own everything that they see on social media and blindly follow the trail of vogue and everything sparkling. Nobody is willing to give up on entertainment and come out of their comforting bubble. In addition to it, the influence of peers and parents has also deflected the youngsters from joining the army and serving the nation. If we ask for a person’s opinion that he holds on nationalism, we would get to hear some really patriotic answers but that would be just an opinion for the sake of expressing it and not involving efforts to do something about it. Today, joining the army is not even a career prospect anymore because everybody wants to settle for a stable job with fewer risks and struggles involved.

Although, another major reason is lack of incentives and low remuneration to the Indian army. In an interview, one of the ex-Army Chief reflected on the problems faced by the Indian army, some of them are – distressful promotion opportunities, insufficient time with families, remote areas and harsh climate, inadequate compensation for the increased level of personal risk and hardships in the field areas, etc.[6] However, various steps have also been taken to improve the condition of the Indian army, such as, organization of seminars, presentations, campus interactions, publicity efforts, projection of the dedication and bravery of the Indian army through media, etc., but these measures have not been effectively implemented.

The society and government must come together to ease the present state of Indian army by pulling off campaigning and advertising effectively and educating and motivating young minds so that they can grasp the significance of contributing to the Indian army in order to make it stronger and more efficient.

The name game

Moreover, a place is always known by its works and accomplishments and not just by its name. Renaming public places involves the dissipation of a huge amount of money. Acknowledging the fact that the taxes that we pay to the government are being employed to manipulate the names of significant places for the purpose of satisfying trivial political motives, is frustrating. Rather than setting up ways to affect the sentiments of people and thereby dividing them, these political parties shall employ the resources for uplifting the disadvantaged sections of the society. A nation is always known by how liberal and accomplished its people are. Thus, it is important to note that the success of any nation depends upon the policies and programs set up by the government to provide ample opportunities for the growth and development of its people and not merely by the saffronization of public places.

Rabindranath Tagore has rightly remarked,

“Clever lies become matters of self-congratulation. Solemn pledges become a farce – laughable for their very solemnity. The Nation, with all its paraphernalia of power and prosperity, its flags and pious hymns, its blasphemous prayers in the churches, and the literary mock of thunders of its patriotic bragging, cannot hide the fact that the Nation is the greatest evil for the Nation, that all its precautions are against it, and any new birth of its fellow in the world is always followed in its mind by the dread of a new peril.”

When we talk of developments, we try to examine the results yielded by the policies and programs of the government. Of course, political parties lay down an attractive framework of policies that it seeks to work upon if they assume power. They make huge promises of which 50% is false and only made for gaining votes. Once a considerable amount of time of the political party in power has lapsed that’s when we know that we have been wronged in so many ways especially our sentimental cords being operated by the leaders. But people are not always foolish. If they can put a particular party in power, they can also de-throne them.  Developments should not be merely equated with the policies on paperwork, it should be effectively implemented so that we are able to witness the results.

As far as the efforts of the government in elevating the status of women is concerned, there have been numerous efforts in this regard.

The Ministry of Women and Child Development is administering the following schemes for gender equality/ socio-economic development/ empowerment of women:

  1. Swadhar and Short Stay Homes to provide relief and rehabilitation to destitute women and women in distress.
  2. Working Women Hostels for ensuring safe accommodation for working women away from their place of residence.
  3. National Mission for Empowerment of Women (NMEW) to strengthen the overall processes that promote all-round development of women.
  4. One Stop Centre to provide integrated support and assistance to women affected by violence, etc.[7]

However, despite the above efforts by the government, there’s a considerable portion of women who are unaware of their rights. Effective campaigning must be affected by the government so that each and every woman can have access to the rights. Women must also learn to take initiative to get acquainted with the benefits and rights provided to them and even fight for it because it is a saying that even a mother doesn’t feed her baby unless it’s really hungry or starts to cry.

Conclusion

Thus, Nationalism is a dynamic philosophy which can make possible the advent of a radically transformed humanity. However, it is obvious to feel disappointed when we witness the sufferings of the ingenious section of our society which gets manipulated in the name of the nationalism. We could comfortably be in our space and watch the unenlightened minds being operated by the sly ones and the worst part is, we, as part of the society, are so accustomed to acknowledging the adversities, that it no longer affects us. People who are brutally cynical, living in their own bubbles, untouched by the miseries palling over the society, are no less than a threat to the quality of space that we share. So, let’s propagate the principle of leading our lives with compassion, sensitivity and tolerance and contribute towards creating a peaceful co-existence and eradicating constant hostility.

By – Saumya Singh
Barkatullah University, Bhopal

This Essay was shortlisted in the Third Edition of the National Essay Writing Competition on Nation and Nationalism 2019


[1] The Elements of Political Science, Political Behavior (1962), p.290

[2] V.D. Mahajan, p.768

[3] Political Theory(Principles of Political Science) by V.D. Mahajan

[4] https:qz.com/india/959802/india-is-the-fourth-worst-country-in-the-world-for-religious-violence/

[5] Foreignaffairs.com – The challenge to Indian Nationalism, by Selig S. Harrison

[6] http://www.merinews.com/article/indian-army-facing-crisis-youth-not-interested-to-join/128665.shtml

[7] pib.nic.in


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