The feeling of love and pride towards the nation one is born in is purely natural. It is ingrained in almost every human throughout the world. The concept of nationalism can be defined by both narrow and broad concepts. But in general, a sense of nationalism requires 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 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’ (Tara Chand: History of the Freedom Movement in India, Vol ii, page 552). As such, it implies the identification of the state or nation with the people. Here, the characteristics of the people are a homogenous culture, living together in a close association or territory, sharing the belief of a common destiny etc. According to JC Johari in his book, “Indian Politics” (Fifth. Edi. 1996, page 25), “The meaning of nationalism has its different connotations if we examine the case of free versus subject 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.”
Indian nationalism developed as a concept during India’s freedom struggle against the colonial role of the British. Indian nationalism is an instance of territorial nationalism, inclusive of its entire people, despite their diverse ethnic and religious backgrounds. In Indian perspective, nationalism belongs to the category of anti-colonial nationalism. The nationalist movement of India took organized form in 1885 when the Indian National Congress was set up and brought with it new hopes and aspirations for independent India. As such, Nationalism in India signifies a common political consciousness or patriotism with the purpose of attaining self-rule. Nationalism in India can be defined as the growth and development of anti-colonial sentiment – from a movement for reasonable constitutional reforms to a struggle for complete independence.
Meanwhile, if we observe the recent debates on nationalism then the term is being redefined for achieving political goals. The concept of nationalism is being used for acquiring votes in the elections. There are lots of misconceptions and propaganda about nationalism.
Generally, the idea of nationalism becomes negative with irrational blaming and the spread of hatred among the people. Nationalism is not a particular idea or thought that can be identified in the name of religion, caste or community of the people, it’s beyond all these.
Similarly, one cannot be identified as an anti-nationalist just because they have different political views or an ideology that majority people don’t follow in the nation at a particular point in time. If a person is being critical of the government’s style of working or they often criticise the policy of the government, they are not anti-nationalists. It’s worthless to call someone anti-nationalist just because they do not follow majoritarian views or belief. Being critical of issues in the country is a huge indicator of love towards the nation and its betterment!
Now in India, the debate of nationalism vs anti-nationalism is taking new heights. But most of the views are being used for political gain through misconception and half-truths. We must show our love and respect towards the nation but that does not mean that we should take the law into our hands and become violent. The nation never wants violence, hate and fear to reflect on its people. Instead, we should stand for national integration.