What The Nation Really Needs To Know : A Subaltern Perspective

Posted by Neil Nirdosh Kumar
April 25, 2017

NOTE: This post has been self-published by the author. Anyone can write on Youth Ki Awaaz.

In recent times, when India’s intelligentsia and political parties are actively participating in both academia and debates and discussions over India’s nationalism and nationhood, the majority population of the Indian subcontinent, the subaltern people of India, do not know about this discourse.

What they definitely want to know is – What is India? Where is India? How is India? and so on.

In 1947, India declared itself an independent, sovereign nation.


We, the People of India

At the time, several ‘nationalist’ leaders like J L Nehru, M K Gandhi, B R Ambedkar, Maulana Azad, V B Patel, C Rajgopalachari, and others decided on a new modern democratic state for Indians which encapsulated freedom, equality and fraternity.


On the other side, religious fundamentalists, feudal landlords and Hindutva outfits like Hindu Mahasabha, RSS and others were talking about a different India which would be Hindu rashtra where minorities would be treated like second-class citizens.

Historians and political thinkers have been discussing the partition of India for decades, but mainstream political and social sections of Indian society propagate an altered history of the voiceless masses. The younger generations that followed, who did not see or experience the historical injustices and genocides, have now become good listeners for manipulators who narrate history according to their own vested interests.

Now, state agencies have taken on the role of manipulator or narrator by legitimizing the fictions and myths into documented history.

Historians must not be judgemental or biased, but the question is – Is it possible for anyone to write history without bias or favouritism?

Political patronage and loyalty towards political ideologies can not be separated from individual’s assertions. Once upon a time in India, when history was not treated as an independent discipline and was attached to theology and religion, the world had no sense of writing scientific histories and all historical literature was written in favour or against personalities or events.

Post-Independence, when the Marxist School of History began to rewrite India’s past and its development, writing scientific and evidence-based history became popular in academia and also played a decisive role in the popular domain.

In the 1950s, 60s and 70s, Marxist School of History enriched and energised academic writings.

Now, Academia knew the historical importance of Socio-economic histories over political histories and explored uncommon-unnoticed events and incidents which opened the various dimensions of Histories which we were unfamiliar and unaware from common readers. Later, Subaltern School of History Writings claimed that History is nothing but selective events which was important for ruling class and wrote in favour of privilege class or elite sections of Indian societies and stated that now history is not written from top to bottom but definitely in reverse, i.e. from bottom to up. It means to say that Subaltern people, their civilizational journey, their customary practices and rituals, their indigenous forms of politics, society and cultures matter and without writing about subaltern people’s lives and histories, History would be never completed.

Here, I want to point out one important thing that ‘What the Nation Really Needs to Know’ is a discourse where ‘needy people’ or subaltern people is neither subject nor object but definitely as commodities which have no written records or have no knowledge of scripts. First of all, I elaborate what is Nation or who is Nation? The very simple question gives very simple answer that is People of the particular realm or territories define the idea of Nation, Nation endorse socio-economic, political and cultural lives of every people and Idea of Nation differ from another idea of Nation due to their geopolitical and historical movements where ethnicity, language, beliefs, class-caste-race and self-determination determine the nature of Nation. Constitutionally, we the people of India needs to know the Idea of Nation according to our new modern democratic franchise state, which provides fundamental and natural rights from Indian constitution which is acceptable to all both who knew the Idea of Nation and who really needs to know about Nation. In this article, I deconstruct the very notion of writing academic/popular writings which had core elements such as introduction, main theme and conclusion.

Now, we talk about above-mentioned theme that is ‘What the Nation Really Needs to Know’. Here, I used the term Nation not as iconic ‘Bharat Mata’ or ‘Father of the Nation’ but necessarily as People of India who exploited, cheated and subjugated by others through Western ‘Civilizing Mission’, Islamic prophesy and Sanskritization. What are these real things that Nation or People of India does not know about that even after seven decades of independence. People of India definitely know about Partition, Hindu-Muslim riots, Sikh riots, Emergency, Suppression of People’s Movements, Genocide, Caste atrocities and exploitation, Domestic violence and rapes, Dalit Massacres, Land rights and Land rights bills and on the other side Nation also know poverty, illiteracy, malnutrition, unemployment and social injustice and migration. Actually, Who is the authority to take responsibility for awareness of the common masses? what they really want to share to Nation and why? Does Nation know nothing about its own past?

This is an era of Post-Truth, where times need times to rethink and reshape its own theory of relevance and space, where Modern democracy run and regulate its people in the name of development, progress and prosperity and where power does not derive or flow margins but legitimises in the name of subaltern people. In theory, modern democracy is for the people, by people and of the people but reality is very different and paradoxical, it is just an act of appropriation and justification by the ruling class. In history, India as a Nation had witnessed several incidents, events, activities and popular revolts, conflicts, tensions, up’s and down’s, and so on and continued after independence but discourse over ‘Idea of Nation’ is continuous and still going on but have not yet get direction or mileage.

For instance, Nation is nothing but everyday plebiscite for someone, for the other Nation is an umbrella for its Sub-Nation, one can argue that Nation is my Fatherland or my Bharat Mata, Someone defines Nation as a federation of various different Sub-Nationalism and Someone wants to express Idea of Nation without Nationalism. Here, I want to highlight that ‘What the Nation Really Needs to Know’ the very discourse have different meanings and objectives for the both academia and popular domain. A Nation where half of its population are illiterate and unemployed, where women of the Nation are treated as second sex and as commodities, where no one talks about land reforms and land rights, where ethnic population are categorised as barbaric and uncivilised, where subaltern people have no voice, where patriarchy and class-caste system regulates the mode of relation of any societies, where Citizens do not get social justice and opportunity, Is the Idea of Nation progressive and prosperous?

Actually, the theme of this article gives solutions to its own self-made question. Nation is in the Making, transforming its shapes and reconstructing its own histories. Imposition is directly subjected to subjugation which is always defined as a part of integration and assimilation by the Post-Colonial State. Without knowing a language of ruling class, we neither define Nation in academia nor in popular domain. I think that What the Ruling Class really needs to know is important question than what the Nation really needs to know. The Indian ruling class or elite class have chosen comfort zone and enjoying his/her modern democratic franchise rights and institutionalised sponsored Idea of Nation which is very far from margins, the subaltern people.

The Idea of Nation does not exist in isolation, it flourishes and develops through time and space and it shapes through processes of amalgamation, preservation and assimilation. No one can impose codified conducts over its people in the name of Nation and its integration. Nation really needs to know that India is not taken granted for ruling class. When real freedom will be accessed where every single citizen will live with dignity and pride?  When fundamental and natural rights will be not violated? When poverty, unemployment, illiteracy, malnutrition and basic amenities will be fulfilled? when someone will get opportunity without any form of discrimination. Is there any women empowerment possible within patriarchy.

The Nation really needs to know how favouritism and careerism mingled together and form comfort spaces for their livelihood and politics. The People of India really needs to know about its own people’s history which is mostly unwritten or manipulated. This is the real time for those who are claiming that they are progressive, stand with social justice and against Fascist State. Now the time has come and we the people of India are eye-witnessing and curious about to know what really needs to know.

Nirdosh Kumar

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