We can’t allow fringe elements to define nationalism. It should be seen in the widest context of pluralism
Renowned scholar Ernest Gellner defined nationalism in his book, Nations and Nationalism, as a ‘political principle that holds that political and national unit should be congruent’. Gellner and other modernists see nationalism as a construct of post industrial era, which emerged in 18th century Europe. As the clamour for resources increased, the modern societies started looking for strands of homogeneity to strengthen themselves politically. Nationalism stood out as the unifying force and it satisfied the need for new forms of identity.
In Indian context, the idea of nationalism treads unique contours. The aspect of cultural and ethnic consistency, as is the case with other modern nations, is absent in India. Our nation thrives on the heterogeneity of race, ethnicity and culture and presents a distinctive cultural mosaic. But, the occasional incidents of racial discrimination have dented the inclusive edifice on which the idea of Indian nationalism stands. The worst sufferers are the people from Northeastern India, who face the brunt of racial profiling more often.
Government’s recent attempts at ‘bringing the North East region at par with other developed regions of country’ are praiseworthy. Development of power projects, improved transport connectivity, employment generation, resolving the ethnic conflicts are few baby steps towards this integration. A lot needs to be done to prepare the social mindset of rest of India.
It is always feared that nationalism carries an undercurrent of fanaticism and bigotry, which needs to be crushed at the opportune moment. The idea of India is not based on the parochial concept of sectionalism and partisanship. Our forefathers had envisioned the unity and integrity of nation, not only in broader, physical sense but for every individual in the country to accept these ideals inherently. As a nation, we need to cocoon our rich diversity from the narrow-mindedness of the fringe.
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