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Nehru shaped Indian nationalism through his qualitative opposition to colonialism, his clear rejection of fascism born of the most insane nationalism, his clear opposition to religiosity, his philosophy of secularism and his all-encompassing attitude.
(1) ‘India is not a country. India is just a geographical expression ‘, said Winston Churchill.
(2) ‘The best you can do about Indian nationalism, you should not define it’ – What can be done about Indian nationalism? So do not explain it – Pt. Benjamin Zakaria mentions Jawaharlal Nehru in his biography of Nehru.
What exactly do these two statements mean? When Winston Churchill said “India is not a country” he defined the country from a European perspective. Churchill’s statement was based on the principle of “nationalism based on one race, one culture and one race.”
Nehru’s second statement should be taken seriously. The best thing about nationalism is not to define Indian nationalism, so he wants to point out the different culture of India and its diversity. Of course, Nehru did not believe that the coexistence of different cultures was an obstacle in the nation-building process, but when he defined nationality, the boundaries were drawn and divisions formed between ‘us’ and ‘them’. Due to the inevitable division of nationalism, there is always a process of excluding certain groups, castes and tribes, so defining Indian nationalism precisely is not the best option.
Despite the context of the two statements, it emphasizes the uniqueness of multicultural Indian culture. There is a colonial context in Nehru’s nationalist framework. Nationalism in India is rooted in the anti-colonial movement. When statements like ‘India has a tradition of thousands of years’ come up frequently, the basic fact that the nation building process in India in the modern sense is the offspring of colonialism is not taken into consideration. This leads to many conceptual confusions and ultimately a major obstacle to the contemporary interpretation process.
Anti-imperialism is the source and important feature of Indian nationalism. According to Nehru, the logical expansion of anti-imperialism is anti-fascism. There is ample evidence that Nehru was unaware of the dangers of fascism while unequivocally opposing British imperialism. He studied in depth what aggressive and insane nationalism could do to the country. So they warn their colleagues about it.
In the early nineteenth and twentieth centuries, colonial forces were at work in many countries. Anti-colonial movements began in many places; But their hatred of the British was not the foundation of the anti-immigration movement in India, which should be considered a feature of the anti-immigration movement in India. The contribution of Gandhi and Nehru in building a ‘new India’ was greater than their contribution to the independence movement. Gandhi’s statement in court after Gandhi’s treason trial in 1922 separates India’s opposition to colonialism. Gandhi-Nehru took appropriate precautions against the formation of Indian nationalism based on the question of who our enemy was. At the time, he was of the opinion that the country should not have self-recognition according to the enemies of the British or later Pakistan.
Nehru was one of the few people who saw nationalism in a broader perspective beyond the colonial context. Along with Nehru, Rabindranath Tagore was also such a thinker. According to Ramachandra Guha, Tagore laid the foundation for the Gandhian-Nehru nationalist framework. The correspondence between Gandhi and Tagore in this regard is interesting. Three essays on nationalism reveal Tagore’s basic idea of modernity, Western culture, colonialism and nationalism. “Patriotism is not the ultimate spiritual refuge. For me humanity is the ultimate refuge. I do not want to buy glasses for the price of a diamond. I will not allow patriotism to defeat humanity as long as I live.
Even after the departure of the national anthem composer Tagore, Nehru continued to pay homage to Tagore.
According to Nehru, Indian nationalism was born as a natural response to the lack of political independence. It is desirable to look forward to internationalism after independence. This was mentioned by Nehru in the 1946 issue of Discovery of India. Both Glimpses of World History and his autobiography reflect Nehru’s views on nationalism. It is also clear that Nehru’s views were shaped by his understanding of history through the lens of the anti – colonial movement and nationalism.
While clearly articulating nationalism, Nehru was at the bottom of his mind that those countries were declining because of fascist tendencies in Europe. Therefore, he kept repeating how dangerous narrow nationalism was to the country. Narrow nationalism is a different form of religiosity. Nehru’s insistence that majority communalism takes the form of extremist nationalism and is therefore even more dangerous.
While the Indian independence movement was in full swing, religiosity seems to have grown in parallel. After 1915, Hindu-Muslim tensions escalated and sectarianism between the two religions became violent. When the country gained independence, there were various forms of nationalism related to Hindu, Muslim, Sikh religious, ethnic and aggressive fascist attitudes. Hindu and Muslim religiosity culminated with the partition of India. Pakistan is a new country born based on Muslim nationalism; The President of India was assassinated by a representative of Hindu nationalists. Former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi was assassinated by Sikh nationalism while Rajiv Gandhi was assassinated by ethnic nationalism. The assassination of Gauri Lankesh, Dabholkar, Pansare, Kalburgi, etc. turned out to be a nationalist version of fascist tendencies. Not all of these violent, vicious nationalist issues became part of mainstream politics before 2014. The Congress and especially Nehru have been the lion’s share in integrating and keeping the mainstream of Indian nationalism secular. This is a separate chapter.
It is very difficult to build a country with such a comprehensive nationalist structure after independence. It is difficult to counter the separatist tendencies of ‘Hey Vishwachi Maje Ghar’ saying ‘Mere angane me tumhara kya com hai’. Nehru was very careful that in his view nationalism should be comprehensive. It’s not a country, Winston Churchill said. But India could not be ‘Balkanized’. India remained united. Good political scholars predicted that India would split. If the country is not divided; On the contrary it is moving towards progress. The main reason for this brilliant progress was hidden in Nehru’s holistic vision.
Nehru expressed Indian nationalism through his qualitative opposition to colonialism, his clear rejection of fascism born of the most insane nationalism, his unquestioning opposition to all forms of religiosity, secularist philosophy and inclusive attitude. Consequently, Nehru-led nationalism completed the broader perspective of humanity. When World War II broke out in 1939, when the controversial issue of what role India should play in the framework of colonialism arose, Subhash Chandra Bose spoke out in support of the fascist forces. As Nehru sees this phenomenon from an international perspective, he laid the foundation for modern India by opposing fascism and imperialism. The difference between the characters of Bose and Nehru reflects Nehru’s international consciousness. Nehru did his utmost to ensure that the tool of nationalism was not transferred to his own country but to maintain a sense of unity in it. He cleverly dispelled the duality between the two and transformed nationalism, building the dream world of humanity through nationalism without giving nationalism a last resort to thugs.
Author Savitribai Phule teaches at the University of Pune.
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