Nationalism: Subcontinental Vibes | Opinion
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Nationalism: Subcontinental Vibes | Opinion


Nationalism: Subcontinental Vibes | Opinion

Published on :5 Sep,2017 By :- UNT News Desk

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Srinagar:As Muhammad Ali Jinnah came up with his demand of separate nation for Muslim majority areas in northwest and northeast of India in 1940, two nation theory was taken to be his creed, notwithstanding the fact that it was already in vogue since later part of 19th century.  As Pakistan shaped up, Jinnah insisted that the newly created state would have equal opportunities for people of all faiths. Owen Bennet Jones, for long BBC’s point man in Pakistan in a ‘Dawn’ column dated August the 17th 2017 relates that faced with military men deserting their ranks in the decade long fight with Pakistan Taliban, Pakistan had to redefine nationhood as purely nationalistic without religious overtones. Jones means to relate that nationalism became a necessity to combat the religious doctrine of Taliban. In his column, Jones seems to be convinced that redefined nationhood reflected in how Pakistan sees its nationalistic bearings on the eve of nation’s 70th Independence Day. If Jones is taken on his face value, it could be said that wheel has turned full circle with constitutionally secular India professing to follow cultural nationalism, a nationalistic brand with a mix of exclusive cultural and religious traits.

Nationalism in the subcontinental context has had varied shades, the variations across the subcontinental divide dominate the political scenario. From pan-Indian nationalism to two nation theory, the definition has differed. How nationalism gets defined has been matter of perception evolving over centuries. It is time related too, given the political compulsions related to different epochs. Going through the history of about half a millennium, we see Emperor Akbar evolving in mid-16th century a concept related purely to what the central Asians called Hindustan—the abode of Hindus. ‘Ustan’ in Persian means province, Hindustan literally means province of Hindus.

Akbar opted for composite culture, and an inclusive Indian nationhood. Kabul of Babar’s memoirs as noted in his masterly biography, ‘Tuzk-e-Babri’ was redesigned as merely a province of Hindustan. The course set by Akbar held during the reign of Mughals, even much maligned Aurangzeb had his armies commanded by Hindu generals like Jai Singh.  And, he holds the distinction of uniting south of India with northwest.   Stretching of lines to far south, it is related, led to strategic weaknesses, leading to decline of Mughal power. The rise of regional satraps like Sivaji of Marhatas’ led to rise of Hindu ruling houses changing the political equation, power balance as well. And, with that a new brand of nationalism in Hindu context started asserting in Hindustan.

With the coming of British, efforts of Hyder Ali and Tipu Sultan for re-asserting the Indian hold on power did not succeed, as it was largely taken as an effort of Muslim ruling houses to regain power. Mutiny had a similar construct, though the rebel forces had leaders like Mangal Panday. In the later part of 19th century and in earlier decades of 20th century, nationalism defined solely on terms of dominant majority started asserting. The very fact that Muslims held power for centuries resulted in wounded psyche. Muslim rule was taken as foreign occupation, notwithstanding the fact that Muslim ruling houses had adopted India as their home. And, overwhelming majority of Indian Muslims were sons of soil. Even if it is taken as a fact that majority of Indian Muslims were of foreign origin, majority of Indians could be similarly labelled. Dravids of south were the earliest migrants followed by Aryans of north. Hence, Muslims being labelled as intruders is simply a case of an earlier migrant calling the later migrant, an intruder.

 Definition of nationalism in India starting changing in late 19th century, as Nabagopal Mitra described Hindus of India as a nation, the basis of national unity being Hindu religion. He added that the Hindus should strive to form an ‘Aryan nation.’  Bhai Parmanand buttressed his argument by calling Hindus and Muslims as being two separate nations who were ‘irreconcilable.’ In his 1908 autobiography, Parmanand makes note of calling for an exchange and settling of Hindu and Muslim populations in different geographical areas. Bombay’s Tribune carried an article of Lala Lajpat Rai on December 14, 1924 calling for a ‘clear partition of the region into a Hindu India and non-Hindu India …’. Lajpat Rai was a Congress leader, professing to be secular.

VD Savarkar in 1923 coined the word, ‘Hindutva’ in his treatise with similar title. For Savarkar ‘Hinduness’ meant Hindus only are Indians, with Muslims and Christians outside of ‘Hindu nationhood’. In 19th session of Hindu Mahasabha held in 1937, Savarkar insisted ‘there are two nations in India: Hindus and the Muslims.’ The argument was carried further by RSS supremo--MS Golwalker in his treatise, ‘We, Or Our Nationhood Defined’. The definition amounted to asking minority communities of India (specifically, Muslim) should merge with the Hindu nation or perish. He wrote that non-Hindus in India could not be considered Indian unless they were ‘purified’. The purification meant conversion to Hinduism. Golwalker was fascinated by Nazi Germany’s way of dealing with minorities (read Jews) disinclined to adapt the culture of ‘national race’.  By national race, Golwalker obviously meant Hindus. The present ruling dispensation in India takes Savarkar and Golwalker as trend setters, while Pakistan bitten by religious extremism is changing course to nationalism, as Own Bennet Jones relates.

It could be concluded thus that nationalistic tunes are related to exigencies of time, what defines it in the subcontinental context keeps on changing, as seen in the redefined nationalism of India and Pakistan in prevailing times.

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