Nationalism has forever been a relevant subject to discuss in India. With its vast geographical expanse, cultural diversity and regional plurality, it tries its best to serve as a country united in its diversity. Centuries ago, the colonial intellectuals were dismayed at the reality of India when they compared it with their own countries. Many claim that India was not a nation before the British transformed it into one. I, for one, don’t believe in this particular ideology.
I strongly feel that India was a nation way before the dominance and rule of the British. It was because we were living as a nation with different races, religions and cultures, united by a sense of commonality of our roots that British rulers felt the need to divide us and conquer.
The fight for independence brought innumerable countrymen forward with different ideologies on how to wage a war against the Britishers. Sri Aurobindo was one of the freedom fighters who delivered various speeches on fighting for independence with the belief that we were the children of God and that we were sent to serve the country with a true sense of spirituality. He said that the purpose of our existence as citizens was to serve our country in the best way possible.
But I don’t think that kind of ideology would have served us well in the long run because we as individuals, need to figure out on our own what our true calling could be. You can’t forcibly instil patriotism in the hearts of your countrymen.
Again, there was Dr Ambedkar, who, in my opinion, did an incredibly great job of taking steps to unite the country by standing up against age-old discriminatory societal and hierarchical structures. He wanted equality and civil rights for those who were deprived of them for centuries. He encouraged the upliftment of the lower classes so that we could work towards an equal nation.
Now let’s come to the time post independence. I feel we have degraded as a nation. The same differences in religions, cultures and traditions that once united this country are the same differences that have taken a toll on it today.
Recently, the interventions of the AIMIM MLA from Aurangabad Sayed Imtiyaz Jaleel in the Maharashtra Assembly strongly depict how small harmless issues can be manipulated to create a national fiasco. Jalal only questioned whether the public money should be used for the construction of memorials. The entire issue was manipulated into portraying him as an anti-national who also happened to be a Muslim. He was asked to recite patriotic slogans which he refused by saying he would do it naturally and not under someone’s orders. That further exaggerated the issue. He was mainstreamed as a Muslim traitor.
Nationalism was confused with citizenship which is wrong on so many levels. After the governor’s speech, when Jaleel raised his fears, legislators could have answered him quietly and reassuringly. Sanity and rationality could have saved the day. Sadly, a simple question got blown out of proportion. Is this democracy? Can India be called a nation where every countryman’s voice is questioned and curbed because of their religion, caste and creed?
Is Hindutva the only ideology we can follow to be called a nationalist? India is now merely a country with diversity, devoid of its unity. This should be a cause of utter shame for all of us.