By Rohit Garg
Several big concerns are being debated by the “intellectuals” of our nation from topics ranging from the attack on students in Aligarh Muslim University to take down the portrait of Muhammad Ali Jinnah to why the President was only present to hand out a few of the awards at the National Film Awards Ceremony.
As you surf through national news channels, there are experts and pundits debating what is right or wrong on these topics and how such issues are detrimental to “nationalism”. While everyone is out there offering their own interpretations of the same, a key question that arises is: What does “nationalism” really mean for the common citizen of our country? Does it mean to hoist flags on national public holidays or paying taxes or merely expressing our views on issues of national importance?
Before we get into a deeper understanding of what nationalism means to us, it is more important to understand what we think of India as a “nation.” It is important to remember our varied history and struggles to understand what makes India a nation before jumping into any other issues.
What makes India?
Although the history of our country dates back to the Harappan civilization which is roughly 2500 years old, there has been a very little time period where a majority of India (as we know it today) before the rule of the British was united under a single ruler. Due to the same, the history of our country is infiltrated with myriad kingdoms, languages, culture, religion, due to which people in this vast mainland never felt being part of a single nation, till the late 19th century.
It can be argued that only during the fight for independence, people around the countries were bounded in a nationalistic movement regardless of caste, creed, religion, language, which is why Mahatma Gandhi is called the “father of the nation.” From then till now there has been an unprecedented effort to build, integrate and retain the identity of our nation, and the understanding of this effort is critical before we indulge in any debates about nationalism.
Big picture issues are more important
Indian culture and the essence of our nation is not merely limited to one caste, creed, religion or civilization. Hence, when we debate we need to focus on issues that will impact the thinking of our youth rather than on merely debating whether or not these actions are nationalistic.
We need to focus our debating and activism on issues of economy, renewable energy, environment, health, education and more which will make out country better. History is replete with examples of nations and empires where people are torn between small issues and lose sight of the big picture of nation-building leading to disintegration and downfall of nations and empires.
Rohit Garg works in management for a pharmaceutical company and is an IIT-IIM alumnus.
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