Triveni Journal

1927 | 11,233,916 words

Triveni is a journal dedicated to ancient Indian culture, history, philosophy, art, spirituality, music and all sorts of literature. Triveni was founded at Madras in 1927 and since that time various authors have donated their creativity in the form of articles, covering many aspects of public life....

Search for New Symbols of Nationalism

Prof. K. Subramanyam

SEARCH FOR NEW SYMBOLS
OF NATION BUILDING

The process of Nation-building is a continuous one. It is going on from ancient times and has taken different forms in different times. When the society in India, faced challenges or threats to unity, unifying or synthesising movements arose, to strengthen the forces of unity and weaken the differences. The work of Adi Shankaracharya in ancient times, and the Bhakti movement in the mediaeval times are examples of those synthesising movements.

During modem times, the struggle against the British or the freedom movement was also a nation building movement. The freedom was able to unite the Indians, as perhaps no other movement of the past could. The struggle for freedom united the Indians and made them feel that they were all one, inspite of religious, regional, language and other differences, because of the common objective of liberation from foreign rule. But India became divided at the end of the freedom struggle, giving rise to the conclusion that the national movement succeeded, but the nation actually got divided.

A new process of nation-building has started after 1947, after our emergence as an independent, sovereign nation, and after we have given to ourselves, a democratic constitution. This new process of nation building is already five decades old and perhaps requires appraisal and assessment with a view to making it more vigorous, and fruitful.

Composite Culture

One of the ways being pursued in our country, to promote unity among all the people, is to promote what is called a composite culture. The supporters of these attempts argue that there are different cultures in our country due to its vast size and the existence of several religious, languages, and that a synthetic culture must be fused out of these diverse cultures. Writing about the philosophy of composite culture, Prof. Rasheeduddin Khan, wrote, “Philosophically Composite Culture would mean that peculiar brand of culture that represents the rejection of uni-cultural regimentation or mono-cultural domination and positively reaffirms, the value of secularism and syncreticism as the valid, stable and desirable basis for cultural efflorescence in a mixed society and plural polity like India”. Continuing about the advantages of the composite culture, Prof. Rasheeduddin Khan wrote “composite culture is a product of borrowing, sharing and fusing through processes of interaction between two or more streams over time, in the belief that such cultural symbiosis has a propensity for greater vitality through larger acceptability than mono-culture either of the dominant or dominated ethnic segment”.

But the meaning of composite culture is not clear to all. Speaking in a seminar in 1988, on - Nation building, Development process and Communication, in search of India’s Renaissance, Dr. V.K.R.V. Rao, said “There is one question which has always puzzled me ‘what is Composite Indian Culture?’ I myself have used that expression when lecturing to people about the importance of national integration. But I have not been able to explain to myself what it means”.

What is generally meant by the composite culture of India, is that it does not belong to any particular religion or region or language and that, it is the fusion of the different cultures in India, representing the unity in diversity in the country.

But over emphasis on the composite nature of our culture, may lead to laying stress on the differences instead of highlighting the unifying forces, which is the need of the hour.

In the same seminar in which Dr. V.K.R.V. Rao participated, former Governor of Andhra Pradesh and present Vice ­President of our country, Sri Krishna Kant expressed the view that the concept of composite culture is a concept created by the Britishers, with the aim of dividing India, on a religious basis. He quoted Swami Vivekananda, in support of his view that the idea of composite culture is ensnaring and misleading. Sri Krishna Kant said that in one of his speeches in Madras. Swami Vivekananda had commented “Composite culture Ke Chakkar Mein Math Pado, Padoge to lad ladke marjaoge”. (“Do not fall into the trap of composite culture. If you fall into it you will quarrel and quarrel and die”)

Pointing out that all cultures are composite, Sri Krishna Kant argued that there is no need to specially describe the Indian Culture as Composite Culture. He said “All cultures are composite, whether it is in the Soviet Union or America, because during the period of thousands of years various streams come and they mix to form a composite culture. But we never call them composite. Unity in diversity is a part of culture. It need not be mentioned”.

Always saying that Indian Culture is composite, that it is pluralistic and diverse in nature may strengthen the dividing forces. The British did exactly the same thing to make their task of ruling over the Indians easy. In that process, they made people of India conscious of their differences. In Independent India what is needed is an emphasis on the similarities and the fraternal feeling among Indians and not on the composite or pluralistic nature of the Indian Culture. The focus in our country should now shift to Indian Culture, a culture of which all Indians can be proud of.

Challenges to Unity Faced Successfully

During the last five decades, the process of nation-building in India had several obstacles and set-s. The riots after partition, were a big challenge which was over come in course of time. The integration of the princely states achieved with the statesmanship of Sardar Vallabhai Patel, has strengthened the bonds of unity among the Indians. Linguistic fanaticism which raised its ugly head during some years in the past, appears to have been buried. Regionalism which at one time looked like fragmenting India politically, is now very much contained and appears to be subservient to national outlook. On many occasions during the past fifty years, there were communal riots in different parts of the country, resulting in the death of hundreds of men, women and children. These communal clashes also posed a great danger to the idea of a united India. Fortunately, the communal clashes also have decreased”.

Terrorism in Punjab and Kashmir also posed a great threat to the unity and integrity of the country. It appeared as though, there was no hope of peace returning to those states. Even there due to the bold decision taken by the Central Government to revive the democratic processes and due to the tenacity and courage of the common people and the police and paramilitary forces, normal conditions have come .

When the Soviet Union disintegrated, some outside India and in our own country began to suspect, and even made predictions that India may go the way of the Soviet Union. That India continues to remain in the same form as it emerged in 1947, with some parts of the country breaking up, inspite of the several major social upheavals and serious threats to unity, may cause admiration and surprise to many people, particularly because the world in the past fifty years, witnessed the break up of East Pakistan from West Pakistan, the break up of Yugoslavia and the most shocking break up of all time in history viz., the disintegration of the Soviet Union. No single reason can be given for this enduring strength of India to remain united even in the face of very grave threats. The strength of the historical and cultural bonds which unite all the people in the country, the vitality of the democratic structure in the country, the modern trends of globalisation have all perhaps collectively contributed to the Indian nation, surviving socio-religious and political storms.

However, any feeling that the hard times are over and that the future is all a path of roses is not warranted. There is no room for any complacency. In any part of the country, serious trouble due to religious, regional, language and caste differences cannot be ruled out. The differences can always be exploited and unscrupulous politicians are experts in exploiting such differences. To protect national unity from the dangers of divisive forces, constant strengthening of the forces of unity and weakening of the divisive forces is required. Differences of various kinds will always exist in any society or country. They are not peculiar to our country only. There are differences relating to religion, history, social structures, economic development and political factors in almost all countries of the world. Wherever those differences are kept under check, they do not pose any threat to unity. If the differences are not effectively managed and if they are allowed to be exploited, they become serious threats to unity.

Potential Sources of Danger

Religion, regionalism, language and caste in that priority are the potential sources of danger to our national unity. Any strategy to strengthen the forces of unity in our country should aim at the weakening of the elements of danger in those four forces.

The antidote we have adopted to religion, in our country is secularism. We have amended our constitution also to declare that ours is a secular state. But the required secular spirit does not come through constitutional enactments or through Government declarations. Secular or non­religious thinking is promoted by scientific temper and modern education. Secular culture is rooted in our traditions and that is helping the growth of a secular culture in our country. As Saral Jhingran in her book. Secularism in India - A Reappraisal, points out, a secular and national culture already exists in our country. It can be further strengthened by providing opportunities for people of different religions in the country, to meet more frequently in social gatherings for better understanding and appreciation of people belonging to all religions in the country. More occasions and opportunities for greater interaction among people of the different religions in the country, have to be created. Secular culture can blossom only if it is protected from the attacks of unscrupulous politicians. Communal riots are not the consequence of religious differences between Hindus and Muslims. It is due to the exploitation of certain events or incidents by evil-minded politicians. T.N. Madan, in the book edited by him and entitled Religions in India, writes, “The communal problem is not a religious problem. It has nothing to do with religion. It was not religious differences as such but its exploitation by calculating politicians which had produced the communal divide”.

The Economic Approach

One of the approaches to reduce the evil influence of religion, or to check communal thinking in India, is to give more importance to economic matters. Jawaharlal Nehru had such an approach. Speaking in 1988, at Delhi, in a seminar, Prof. S. Gopal summed up, Nehru’s approach in the following words:

“Nehru thought that once you tackled the economic issues i.e. the removal of hunger and poverty and bringing about the economic well-being of the people of India, whatever their religion might be, whether Hindu or Muslim - it would help in transcending communal differences”. Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose also had a similar approach. As early as in 1938 he wrote “it is absolutely necessary to stress the economic issues which cut across communal divisions and barriers. The problem of poverty and unemployment, of illiteracy, of disease, of taxation and indebtedness affect alike the Hindus and Muslims and other sections of people”. Thus, we have leaders saying “Food, Clothing, and shelter to all is important and not Masjid or Mandir”.

This focussing of attention on economic matters to divert the attention of people from religious matters, is worth pursuing. But will it succeed in a country, where religion even now plays an important role in the lives of people, is a question which can be answered only by time. So far however, this approach does not seem to have made much impact on the people. The comment of Prof. S. Gopal on Nehru’s thinking that solving economic problems will put an end to the communal problem, ‘proved to be a text book theory and was not found to be practical in reality’, should become an eye opener to the protaganists of this economic approach to communalism.

Humanism and Non-Violence

As it is not possible to eliminate the influence of religion on the people in our country, because it is deep rooted in the minds of people, the ways to combat the evil side of religion viz., communalism have to be found. One way of combating communalism is to lay more emphasis on humanism and non-violence. The leaders of the two major communities in the country should preach to their followers, the benefits and advantages of humanism and non­violence. For greater social interaction, and coming together of the Hindus and Muslims, voluntary organisations, interested in promoting unity among people, should arrange meetings in which people of both communities participate and discuss about the virtues of humanism and non-violence and also other forces which can bind the people of the two communities together. Differences between the two communities can be bridged only by building bridges of understanding and not by allowing the differences to perpetuate. In mediaeval times saints like, Kabir and Nanak tried to build bridges of understanding between the Hindus and the Muslims. In the modern times, Mahatma Gandhi made supreme sacrifice to unite the Hindus and the Muslims. Perhaps another Mahatma has to emerge to increase the fraternal feelings among the Hindus and the Muslims of our country.

Regionalism is another threat to our unity which should be kept under control. In a vast country like ours which is now the sixth largest in the world, regional feelings are inevitable. Regionalism under check does not pose any danger to our unity. Infact, like the love for the family forming the basis for the love for the society, the love for one’s own region can be the basis for national love. The Indian freedom movement had its regional roots. Regional sentiment can be developed into nationalist sentiment provided, the national interests are kept above the regional interests. As Ajit K. Dande rightly points out “for the purpose of generating the sentiment of nationality, particularism may be an essential precursor and therefore should not necessarily be considered as unwelcome”.

The many languages in our country are all Indian languages and as long as there is understanding that English should be allowed to be used for all necessary purposes, without being replaced by Hindi, problems relating to language may not arise. The country faced serious linguistic problems, in the early years of our independence. But thanks to the statesmanship of Jawaharlal Nehru and the widening of the outlook of the regional leaders, the hatchet of linguistic conflicts seems to have been buried.

Caste is also conceived as a hindrance to national unity. Due to modern developments like the trains, buses and other modern means of communications and due to modern education, caste system in our country, would have been on its way to a decent burial, but for its perpetuation by political ends. Can we think of a safeguard to protect the society from, the political exploitation of the caste by politicians? The problem is a complex one and has no easy solutions. Non-political voluntary organisations have to play an important role to bring about a transformation in the attitudes of the present day politicians and in grooming politicians of the future generation, as leaders who care more for the larger interests of the nation than for narrow and partisan consideration. Intellectuals of all communities who are not involved in party politics should also play a positive role in protecting and safeguarding national interests from the political games of the politicians.

Though religion, region, language and caste in our country have the seeds which can divide people, there are many other agencies which are slowly but surely bringing about unity among all people in the country. A constitution for all regions and for all people in the country, a constitution which guarantees equal treatment and opportunities for people of all religions and regions, in the country, the All India Service like the I.A.S. the I.P.S. and allied services, a uniform system of judiciary, for the entire country, the films, the modern means of communication, All India conferences of various types and the trend of globalisation in all spheres, are all creating a strong sense of unity among all the people in the country. They are the new symbols of nation making and these new symbols have to be strengthened and the divisive forces kept under check to strengthen the feeling of national unity in our country.

The new symbols of unity are capable of creating a feeling among all the people in the country that they belong to one nation.


* paper presented in the seminar on ‘Composite Culture and Nation Building’ held in Osmania University, Hyderabad on 26th and 27th November, 1997, Hyderabad, by the Department of History, Osmania University, Hum Sab Hindusthani Hai Trust and Jawaharlal Nehru Technological University, Hyderabad.

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