While nationalism is the integration of people based on a single identity, sub-nationalism derives its identity from a narrower ideology which might be regional, communal or linguistic in nature. India has witnessed several sub-national upsurges when regional cults got threatened by the so-called ‘national culture.’ A great example which can be cited is the Dravidian Movement of the 1920s, started by Periyar E.V. Ramaswamy Naickker. It was the first time when people were able to observe sub-nationalism.
In recent times, sub-nationalism is evident in Karnataka where the people are seeking an official state flag. Karnataka is not being ruled by a regional party, nor had it shown separatist tendencies in the past. This paves way for a constructive debate on sub-nationalism.
The compounding sub-nationalism in India can be attributed to the ‘self-proclaimed’ nationalists’ trials to impose Hindi language and Aryan culture on the Dravidian states. Even the beef ban has something to do with this. Language is a major concern in south India and compelling them to learn a language that they don’t want to, would definitely spark a feeling of sub-nationalism.
Sub-nationalism cannot be equated with anti-nationalism. The former is focused on its own ideological enhancement, the latter is aimed against another ideology. While anti-nationalism is contrary to nationalism, sub-nationalism is complementary to it. It lets the nation hear the voice of people who have been isolated. It sets a stage to showcase the incredible diversity of India.
In fact, I believe that the growing hyper-nationalism in India can be referred to as a kind of terrorism. It is terrorising people in the name of nationalism. Hyper-nationalism is a graver threat than extremism, as it comes in the guise and cannot be whipped back since it becomes a part and parcel of our lives. But it is important to understand that forceful infliction of a common national identity on people is inhuman.
Calling Muslims and dalits beef eaters and assaulting them in the name of nationalism is not fair and makes them feel insecure. It dilutes the precious meaning of the term ‘nationalism’. The mob lynchings have aggravated this situation.
Nationalism cannot be allowed to shadow people’s basic rights. What one must eat cannot be decided by the majority community in the name of nationalism. India is a diverse land and respecting this diversity would display the maturity of the Indian democracy.
Dealing with minority issues is important. The minority-appeasement card was played by previous governments to grab the helm of power. However, now the tides have turned and catering to the majority has become the new electoral fashion.
While sub-nationalism has helped states such as Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Telangana to prosper, hyper-nationalism has ruined lives and created laggard states such as Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh and Bihar. Sub-nationalists strive to gain an identity for themselves, within the national framework, hence, an agglomeration of various sub-national identities would provide for a national identity for India.
The basic electoral structure of India provides for a first-past-the-post system which favours minorities, tribal groups and other socially depressed classes. In an extremely diverse nation like India, sub-nationalism is equivalent to representation and inclusion.
While hyper-nationalism is on the rise, it is important to reassert the pluralistic nature of the Indian state. While nationalism conventionally privileges one socio-cultural identity over the other, India’s pluralistic nationalism celebrates the harmonious co-existence of multiple identities.
Hyper-nationalism is swerving us away from our track of nation-building. It is all thanks to sub-nationalism that’s trying to put us back on track!