Nationalism is a spirit that integrates people to collectively strive to achieve political independence, maintain political sovereignty, and participate in the process of nation-building. However, nationalism cannot be ignited without the existence of the nation. Then what is a nation? The Nation is not a state but a group of people who are bound together by a common religion, history, language, tradition, or common political interest. So, regardless of the nature of nation (culturally or politically, or both) patriotism or national consciousness is always a binding factor. However, the feature of national consciousness is not merely the sentiment of loyalty or affection for one’s nation but the aspiration to self-governance and achievement of statehood. Therefore, the concept of nation is attached with sovereignty and homeland, while nationalism is a quest for establishing a nation-state, where people have a right to self-determination for creating their political and legal system. Nationalism can never be extinct because it is a belief of the people which integrate them towards a common goal of building a strong, developed, and powerful nation. Even the rapid expansion of globalisation, transnational free market, and multiculturalism couldn’t weaken nationalist sentiments among the people.
Major revolutions in the history like the American revolution, the French revolution, the Russian revolution, the Indian independence movement, Iran’s Islamic revolution, among many others championed the spirit of nationalism. While nature and character may vary from country to country, national consciousness is the major force behind the establishment of an independent nation-state. For example, the French revolution reflected the liberal political nationalism where people integrated to remove inequality and class privileges and establish a nation-state which respects the sovereignty, self-determination, equality, liberty, and fraternity. Unlike French nationalism, Iran’s Islamic revolution reflected cultural nationalism where Shi’a people were bound together by sharing common ethnicity and religion in the quest for establishing an Islamic state and prevent western influence.
This article aims to find the true nature and character of Indian nationalism that how people’s nation came into existence?, and how Indian nationalism was ignited among people to achieve political independence? What was the nature and character of Indian nationalism? And, did Indian nationalism end after getting independence or is still ignited?
Indian independence movement demonstrated mass national movement against colonialism in pursuit to establish independent and sovereign nation-state, where people would have the right to self-determination and political equality. The nationalist sentiment to establish a sovereign, liberal, secular and democratic nation mobilised the people against the prolonged domination of colonial power. However, nationalism could never have been ignited among people without the existence of people’s nation. So, the main question is that how did people’s nation come into existence?
The vast population of India was extremely divided into diverse creeds, races, customs, colours, castes, sex, religions, languages, cultures, ethnicity, class, and regions. These divisions had been merged into social cleavages for generations leading to discrimination, inequality, backwardness, illiteracy, suppression, and atrocities. Then how did people integrate and mobilise despite deep diversities? And how did the feeling of brotherhood and belongingness ignite among people? People’s nation did not come itself but it was generated from two hundred year-long struggle against colonialism, where British Raj constantly tortured and suppressing the people, demoralised their cultures, manipulated their history, exploited resources excessively, and displaced people from their inherited land.
However, invoking nationalism among the people was a long and multi-staged process -cultural, social, and politcal nationalism. Cultural nationalism had been brought when there was rising of consciousness among the people towards their cultural heritage and common history. Socio-liberal nationalism had been brought when there was rising of awareness among people about the socioeconomic equality, freedom, fraternity, justice, morality, and welfare. This collective consciousness integrated people to launch Non-cooperation and civil disobedience movement against divide and rule policies and arbitrary and brutal laws of the British Raj. And, finally political nationalism had been brought when there was rising of consciousness among the people about the political equality, self-determination and sovereignty. This consciousness integrated and mobilised the masses, irrespective of their caste, sex class, and religion, during the Quit India movement. After all, the Indian nation came into existence where people were bound together by sharing a common interest, shared history, geography and rich heritage culture. And their nationalism had been ignited to achieve political independence, establish a sovereign, secular, social, liberal, and democratic nation-state. So, the nature and character of Indian nationalism were secular, socio-liberal and political rather than cultural.
Indian national movement did not only provide an independent Indian nation-state but also had a great contribution to ignite nationhood among people and unite them. Indian national movement put a foundation of a nation where the people were bound together by shared interests. These shared interests were incorporated in the Indian constitution after getting independence. So, the overall goals of the nation-state were to maintain sovereignty, territorial integrity, and give equal opportunity to everyone to participate in the mainstream of socio-economic and political development of the nation. These goals are nothing but the nationalism of the nation-state because after getting independence, the real nationalism ignited among the people was to make our Indian country a world powerful and competitive nation. That’s why nationalism can never end as long as a nation existed.
However, Indian nationalism now seems to be weak because of rising internal power politics, which is creating false nationalism and breaking the unity of the people in pursuit of self-interest and self-serving.
Generally, the democracy plays a multidimensional role. In the legislative sphere, it is closely linked to the exercise of authority, the right of a person or institution to make decision on behalf of the nation and community interests. On the public affair front, it is closely linked with the public bodies and institution for the national good. And, on the social sphere, it takes up the responsibility to resolve the conflict of diverse interests and encourage cooperation through negotiation and distribution of resources and wealth to the masses and also empower them through providing good education, health facilities, clean environment, accountable government, and socio-economic opportunities. Democratic politics is a foundation to maintain unity and integrity among the nation. It provides equal opportunity to individuals, civil societies, intellectuals, media, civil servants, and politicians to participate in the process of nation-building.
However, this dream is breaking in the contemporary politics, where government decisions are made to serve their political interests rather than the nation and mass interest. The political system is now influenced by identity politics, power politics, corporate politics, and corrupt politics. Unfortunately, these immoral conducts are deep-rooted in contemporary politics leading to suppression of citizens, stark inequality, discrimination and exploitation, violation of law and constitution, etc. This defeats the basic foundation of nationalism.
The basic foundation of nationalism is dependant upon the existence of the nation, and a nation is nothing but a union of the people. It is our duty to stop these political forces that are attempting to break our unity. The principle of liberal democracy not only provide a proper mechanism for the formation of legitimate government but also provide a meaningful platform for the people participating in political activity, public activity and decision making. The principle of liberal democracy ensures free, fair and competitive election with the active participation of citizens. Right to freedom of speech and expression, Right to Information(RTI) etc, are the mechanism that ensures public accountability. Active debates, and arguments keep the ruling party in check. Political participation is not confined only to raise demand, but it also scrutinizes whole government processes. The political system is nothing but an instrument to fulfil the need of the nation and society. If we want reform in entire politics then we must understand our importance in politics. We must participate in decision making either directly or indirectly. Political participation automatic makes government responsible, accountable which ensures good governance. Only people participation can provide good governance. A responsible government would take decisions just for the nation and public interest, and this would help to curb inequality, disparities and social vulnerabilities.
If unity is broken, the nation will break, and if the nation breaks, the nationalism would be weakened, if nationalism is weakened, then the whole dream of making India a great and powerful country will break. This country belongs to every community, and nobody has a right to call someone anti-national. Because the Nationalism is a spirit of every citizen, who loves this country and want to make India a great nation in the world.