INDIA. One of the most talked about term these days in India, and globally, is ‘Nationalism’. There is a paradigm shift in the way everyone thinks. A few years back, ‘Global Citizen’ was the talk of the world and it was important to assimilate various cultures, identities and thoughts into one’s personality. But that’s not the case anymore. And, it is not important to be just a nationalistic, what is more important is that you need to exhibit your nationalism by way of actions and speech. It is not important that you think about the good of your country anymore, what is more important is that you need to showcase your superiority over the others. Talking others down is the new way of lifting yourself up. And, this is not just limited to people in general, the governance, administrative machinery, ideologies; everything is themed around the concept of outspoken nationalism in the current times.
What is nationalism in its true sense? Nationalism is an idea and movement that promotes the interests of a particular nation especially with the aim of gaining and maintaining the nation’s sovereignty over its homeland. Nationalism holds that each nation should govern itself, free from outside interference, that a nation is a natural and ideal basis for a polity, and that the nation is the only rightful source of political power. It further aims to build and maintain a single national identity—based on shared social characteristics of culture, ethnicity, geographic location, language, politics, religion, traditions and belief in a shared singular history—and to promote national unity or solidarity.
It is also important to understand the roots of nationalism and how it has shaped over a period of time. Take India, for example. The nationalistic ideology in the country finds its roots way back to the times when Rajputs fought invaders to protect their homeland. In particular, the mention of Prithviraj Chauhan brings a great glory to the esteemed pride of nationalist ideology of India. It was Prithviraj Chauhan who repulsed early invasions from Muhammad Ghori of Ghurid Dynasty before eventually getting defeated. Nationalism was not about the country in those times, but it was about people and community. The depiction of nationalism of Prithviraj Chauhan has evolved over a period of time to be rightly seen as a Hindu warrior pitted against the invasion of India by Muslim rulers. The legend of Prithviraj has gained more acceptance over years. While it had been about internal battles for power struggle in India till this time, the Islamic conquest gave birth to a true feeling of nationalism as the time progressed. Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj became the epitome of nationalism at his time, when Mughals were seen as foreigners in India. His was an empire that grew at a scale that reduced Mughals to a very limited rule in India. His name still creates a feeling of nostalgia and unity amongst Indians in a very large segment. He gave India a real and relatable concept of nationalism.
But as the times evolved, the face of foreign rulers changed in India. While there was a time when Muslims were seen as foreigners, there came a time when Muslims integrated within the society while Britishers became the face of foreign invasion. In the period when British Empire grew in India, Hindus and Muslims alike felt humiliated and marginalised. They were subjected to brutal tortures by the regime which can be classified as one of the most heinous, atrocious and monstrous ruling regimes in the history of the world. The feeling of nationalism was now about Indians versus British. It was not about Hindus against Muslims anymore.
This form of nationalism became a hallmark of Indian identity. It was not about caste, religion, colour or creed, but it was about India and the country itself. It was this nationalism, in non-violent and violent forms, that was instrumental to finding freedom from the clutches ones of the most inhumane rules ever in the world.
After independence and till date, the form of nhas dwindled around many ideologies. There have been inclusive thoughts and also marginalised ones on both ends of spectrum of the two major communities in India. What continues to grow bigger is the claim of each on the true identity of India or the first claim on the nation. This is heartening as well as a disruptive phenomena for the society. Instead of looking at nationalism as an idea of belongingness and claim, we must start looking at nationalism as a concept of growth and prosperity. No one, in his or her normal psychological form, wants to betray his or her own country, which is the home for their own families and for their generations to come. Everyone, at their core, wants a progressive society which can uplift their lifestyles, ecosystem that supports their needs and leaders who they can rally around with hundred percent faith. With all this in mind, it is needed, in the current times that we talk about ‘Progressive Nationalism’.
Progressive Nationalism, as I would like to define, is a form of nationalism that makes people think about contributing to the country by way of economic progress, social assimilation and cultural respect. It can be the drive for inclusive growth for every community and section of the society. It will call upon the people of India to join hands in the times of travesty, contribute towards economic growth in the times of nation building and stand as a wall against the acts of aggression by the enemies of India. This form of nationalism is not about religion or caste, it is not about staking claim on the country, it is about the willingness to dig deeper into the ideology of finding true bearings within oneself. It is about a feeling of pride that will come by way of making India self sufficient and a beacon of hope for the World. Progressive Nationalism is something that has always existed in the culture of our country, it is somehow never been given term for someone to associate with it. We must, going ahead in the future, cultivate the ideology of Progressive Nationalism. It should be the talk of the country and also a philosophy that should be propagated to the world.
This article by Vishwa Deepak Dikshit, Founder of UnMitigated and MusiCulture, was first published in the July 2020 edition of UnMitigated. Dikshit is a Media Entrepreneur and a Logistics professional. He is an alumnus of MDI, Gurugram and has been an active political commentator. He tweets at @vishwadikshit