The concept of Nationalism in India: Issues and Challenges by Saheli Naha

By | March 12, 2020
The concept of Nationalism in India Issues and Challenges

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Nationalism is the concept of loyalty towards a nation. In Nationalism, this sentiment of loyalty must be present in every citizen. This ideology certainly has been present in humanity since time immemorial. Above all, it’s a concept that unities the people of a nation. It is also characterized by love for one’s nation.

The essay “the concept of nationalism in India: issues and challenges” is an attempt to analyze and introspect on the very sense of nationalism among the Indians. It also further focus on, how since the days of independence until the present times, we Indians as nationals of this great country, India, have carried the legacy of our nationalism. The essay further develops into the various challenges that have hurt our sense of nationalism and how we have sometimes fumbled and at the same time later grasped with both our hands the legacy of Indian nationalism.

Keywords

Nationalism, Patriotism, Nation, Anti – nationalism

Introduction

India, the land of diversity is a Sovereign, Socialist, Secular, Democratic and Republic nation. The world’s second-most populous and the most populous democracy, India is characterized by diversity. It is the homeland for a multi-cultural and multi-religious group of people. In spite of all that diversity, there is still unity among the people. The unity among the people comes from the sense of nationalism. It is the feeling of love and pride for the nation that binds the people together. The supreme law of the land that is the Constitution of Indian upholds the social, economic and political JUSTICE; LIBERTY of thoughts, expression, belief, faith and worship; EQUALITY of status and opportunity; and to promote among them all FRATERNITY assuring the dignity of the individual and the unity and integrity of the nation.

In the Hindi film, Chak de India (2007), the coach, who is determined to assemble a winning women’s hockey team, asks the team members where they were from. When they mention their home state (“Andhra Pradesh”, “Punjab”), he refuses those answers and makes them say instead that they were from India. “Why would the players identify as Indians to a coach who knew it already?”  The answer is simple because the coach wanted to engraft the feeling of nationalism among the teammates to bind them together. The identity of the nation-state matters above all else.

In a general sense, nationalism means – oneness, feeling the goodness of the nation and its people, unity in diversity and respect, love and pride towards the nation by its citizens. To understand nationalism – a profound feeling for one’s nation – one must know the meaning of what constitutes a nation.

The concept of a nation first emerged in Europe. During the 17th century, a model is known as – ‘THE NATION STATE MODEL’ was developed in Western Europe. The model suggests that it is natural for a group of people who shares a common territory and culture (language, religion) to have their own state. Thus, the feeling of nationalism led to the formation of nations.

Meaning of nationalism

The term “Nationalism” has been understood and defined in many ways. It has been described as A state of mind in which the supreme loyalty of the individual is due to the nation-state. It connotes the identification of the state or nation with people. Here, the characteristics of the people are – homogenous culture, living together in a close association or territory, sharing the belief of common destiny and mentality, tradition, history, etc. Nationalism has an inverse relationship with crime. The crime rate is comparatively lower in countries with strong nationalism. This happens because nationalism puts the feeling of love towards fellow countrymen. Therefore, many people avoid committing a crime against their own countrymen. Similarly, corruption is also low in such countries. Individuals in whose heart is nationalism, avoid corruption. This is because they feel guilty to harm their country. According to JC Johari,

the meaning of nationalism has its different connotations if we examine the case of free versus subject’s peoples. Whereas nationalism of the free peoples appeared in the modern period after the decline and fall of the papacy and the nation-states of Europe took upon themselves the emerged as a reaction against the imperial system of the advanced European countries.”

The idea of nation and nationalism both took place in India much later due to the colonial rule of the British. The rise of nationalism was due to various individual reasons against a common enemy. They were – Doctrine of lapse made ruling class upset, the introduction of cartridges (with pig and cow fats), the ill-treatment of Indians in all the fields, the over-exploitation of Indian resources, etc. But, everybody was fighting their own battle till 1857. After the revolt of 1857, Indians understood the need for uniting which led to the idea of nationalism in every Indian’s mind.

Development of nationalism in India

The concept of nationalism was developed in India during the time of freedom struggle against the British people. The perception of Indian nationalism was – anti-colonial sentiment, love for the nation and its people, freedom, self-rule, and end of colonial rule. This anti-colonial sentiment or the sense of nationalism aided to bring people together who belonged to different cultures and religions to fight against colonial rule.

During this time, many political leaders and parties came together and played a very crucial role by spreading the idea of nationalism and patriotism among the people. They gave up their own ideas and philosophy and focused on one common goal to achieve independence by adopting the idea of nationalism.  In 1885, the Indian nationalist movement was organized with the establishment of the Indian National Congress.

Surendranath Banerjee is known as the father of Indian nationalism. He was also the founder of the Indian association and Indian National Conference which promoted nationalism in the form of spreading political ideas among masses. Raja Rammohan Roy is considered as the founder of the modern age of nationalism in India. The “Swadeshi Movement” also known as the “Make in India” campaign was officially started on August 7, 1905, at the Calcutta Town Hall in Bengal. Boycott movement was also launched along with the Swadeshi movement. This movement encouraged the people to stop using British made goods and start using homeland made goods in India.

The Swadeshi movement was very successful. This movement inspired millions of people to fight for their motherland by instilled the idea of nationalism and patriotism. The movement not only strengthened the freedom struggle movement but also benefited the Indian textile industry which ultimately led to the growth of the Indian economy.

Lokmanya Bal Gangadhar Tilak, Bipin Chandra Pal, Lala Lajpat Rai, V.O. Chidambaram Pillai, Sri Aurobindo, Surendranath Banerjee, Rabindranath Tagore were some of the prominent leaders of this movement. Nationalism brought new hopes and aspirations for the independence of India. The burning desire for independence and self-rule and love for the motherland forced the British people to leave India.

Finally, on 15th August 1947, India was declared as an independent nation. The Indian Nationalism Movement can be defined as – the growth and development of anti-colonial sentiment – from the formation of a completely independent nation – by the establishment of a sovereign government – defining the boundaries of the land – and the adaptation of the Constitution of India.

The modern concept of nationalism, Issues, and Challenges 

The meaning of nationalism has been changed since the 20th century with the emergence of Fascism and Nazism. The concept of nationalism took into an ugly turn. In Europe, the model of nation-state became a problem for those, who did not share the same national culture of the majority community within a state. They were either violently persecuted or forced to conjoin into the national culture. The Jews and Gypsies in Europe are examples of victims.

During the French Revolution in 1789, most of the people did not speak the French language. They were forced by the state to learn the French language. However, the world recognized this type of nationalism as negative and dangerous for society. After that many nations gave up the idea of aggressive nationalism. Though the idea of nationalism in contemporary times continued and did not weak. For example – in the United States and former USSR people saw strong nationalism. There was a merger of nationalism with economic ideologies like capitalism and socialism.

In the 21st century, the term nationalism is being redefined for achieving political goals. It becomes an instrument for acquiring votes in the elections. For example – the popular election of Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin is the biggest proof of misusing nationalism for the victory. The election victory of other nationalistic leaders is more evidence. In India, the term nationalism is also wrongly propagated in the minds of people for the election victory.  For instance – The use of the national Army and the major community of the country in 2014 and 2019’s election for the political gain is the evidence.

The idea of nationalism becomes negative with irrational blaming and the spreading of hate speeches among masses. It creates nothing but communal riots and violence in society. For example – the recent violence in Delhi broke out due to the negative nationalism which already killed 42 people and injured more than 200 people. The violence broke out on 23.2.20, Sunday evening after the pro and Anti-Citizenship Amendment Act protester clashed with each other. Now in India, the debate of nationalism versus anti-nationalism is taking new heights. Asking any question on the government activities or criticizing any government policy is now labeling as anti-nationalism.

There are lots of misconceptions and propaganda about nationalism. The idea of nationalism is being misinterpreted for political gain. It has now been deviated from its original meaning and lacks a sense of patriotism and love for the nation. The modern concept of nationalism is a form of political propaganda. This is not the true meaning of nationalism.

Conclusion

Nationalism is both a vital medicine and a dangerous drug.

– By Geoffrey Blainey.

As it is above stated, understanding of the true meaning nationalism is very important. The sense of nationalism cannot be identified in the name of religion, caste or community of people, it’s beyond all these. Similarly, the European model of the nation-state is an old concept. India is a diverse country, where each state has its own culture, religion, tradition, history, language, etc. The nation-state model talks about the cultural boundaries of the state that must be similar to the cultural boundary of the nation. This is a very narrow concept.

On the other hand, the idea of state-nation is much wider than this. The state-nation concept says that there is no need for similarities between states and nations. Thus, the concept of state-nation protects the rich culture and individuality of the states. The welfare of the nation is the true sense of nationalism. It means the spreading of love and peace, brotherhood and unity among the countrymen, women empowerment, eradicating poverty and economic development, improvement of law and order, etc. In short, nationalism means the complete development of the nation.

Nationalism neither encourages discrimination with minorities nor any type of violence against them. After all, minorities are also part of the nation. Nationalism is the true love and loyalty for the nation. It should be inculcated in every child through education. A nation is nothing without the spirit of nationalism. We should spread the true sense of nationalism in order to build a strong nation.

By Saheli Naha,

Adamas University


References

  • Basanta Nirola, A sense of Nationalism in Today’s India, Youth ki Awaaz, URL https://www-youthkiawaaz-com.cdn.amproject.org.
  • Dalia Gebrial and Thomas Jeffery Miley(s), The debatr: is nationaliam ever a force for good? New Internationalist, (Oct 10, 2018) URL newint.org.
  • Mamta Aggarwal, Rise of Nationalism In India. History Discussion, URL http://www.historydiscussion.net/history=of-india/rise-ofnationalism-in-india
  • Chandan Gowda, India is a state-nation, not a nation-state, Bangalore Mirror Bureau, (Mar 13, 2015, 22:28), URL http://bangaloremirroe.indiatimes.com/opinion/views/cafting-state-nations-johns
  • Vol ii, Tara Chand, History of the freedom Movement in India.
  • JC Johari, Indian Politics. 25 (5th. ed. 1996)
  • Indian constitution-Preamble