Nationalism In India

Article Publish Date : August 26, 2020

“Nationalism: An infantile disease. It is the measles of mankind.”



Pandit of Indian Hindu culture.

Whenever we heard this term, commonly we thought of national flags, the republic day parade which brings out the sense of patriotism and unity in diversity. It is a common consciousness of a larger group of people based on many factors such as linguistic, religious, political, cultural, psychological, racial, and historical. But if we try to dig more, we will find that it is a desired inclusive and tolerant nationalism yet difficult to define this natural nation, without being exclusionary, sectarian, racist. Modern nations write their histories retrospectively to justify their present by their past reason history plays a very important role in defining a culture of a nation which signifies ultimately to the feeling of nationalism only when there is another. According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, nationalism is defined as “loyalty and devotion to a nation, especially a sense of national consciousness,” and “exalting one nation above all others and placing primary emphasis on promotion of its culture and interests as opposed to those of other nations or supranational groups.” Often, we are confused with the term ‘patriotism’ and ‘nationalism’. If I talk about the toleration power, nationalists cannot tolerate any criticism instead are ready for war and patriotic tends to tolerate and they have a sense of belongingness and attachment to their country. The late American journalist Sidney J Harris stated the difference: “The difference between patriotism and nationalism is that the patriot is proud of his country for what it does, and the nationalist is proud of his country no matter what it does; the first attitude creates a feeling of responsibility while the second a feeling of blind arrogance that leads to war.” It is not only a feeling of belongingness to a nation; but also, according to the definition by experts of the Royal Institute of International Affairs, “a desire to forward the strength, liberty, or prosperity of a nation, whether one’s own or another.”


Mahatma Gandhi
Photo of Gandhi on Indian Currency.

Nationalism is a public sense of belonging to a nation. The rise of Indian nationalism was partly a result of and revolution of colonial policies. Leaders like Dadabhai Naoroji and R. C. Dutt said that the poverty, economic backwardness, and underdevelopment of India were directly the consequence of British colonialism. Civil Services, integrated judiciary, codified laws throughout the length and breadth of the country imposed a new dimension of political unity in the country. Railways and telegraphs brought people very close to each other and strengthened the feeling of nationalism in India. The unprecedented growth of Indian, English, and vernacular newspapers, helped the spread of the modern idea of self-government, democracy, civil rights, and industrialization throughout the nation. Arya Samaj, Brahmo Samaj, Ramakrishna Mission, Theosophical Society gave new awakening amongst Indian citizens. Expanding English educated class formed the middle-class masses who constituted the nucleus of the newly arising political dilemma. This new class though was a minority but played a crucial role in igniting the minds and soul of the majority. There are three phases of the Indian National Movement as follows:

The Early Nationalist (1885-1905);

Taj Mahal
View of Taj Mahal in Agra beside Yamuna river.

The early nationalists relied on constitutional and peaceful means to accomplish their aims. They relied on the three P’s i.e. Petitions, Prayers, and Protests to achieve their objectives. They were referred to as moderates and sought a greater share of Indians within the governance of the country; reduction in taxes and government expenditure; economic progress through trade protection; protection of civil rights, etc. The leaders included W.C. Banerjee, Rashbehari Ghosh, Surendranath Banerjee, and R.C. Dutt from Bengal; Dadabhai Naoroji, Gopal Krishna Gokhale, Pherozshah Mehta, Justice M.G. Ranade from Maharashtra d Gujarat; P.R. Naidu, Subramania Iyer, Ananda Charlu from Andhra Pradesh and liberal Englishmen like Hume and Wedderburn. The early nationalists have been criticized on the following grounds: The methods used of passing resolutions and sending petitions were criticized as inadequate. They failed to realize that British and Indian interests clashed with each other, and also failed to draw the masses into the mainstream of the national movement.

The Assertive Phase (1905-1918);

The main objective of the Assertive Nationalists was the immediate attainment of ”Swaraj’. They wanted to intensify the struggle, to take it to the common people, to awaken the masses politically, to secure their participation in the national movement, and to force the government to bow before public opinion. They adopted the methods of Swadeshi, boycott, national education, and passive resistance to achieve their goals. A large number of national schools were established in East Bengal, Punjab. Efforts were made to give education in vernacular languages. The Assertive leaders asked the people not to cooperate with the government and to boycott government service, courts, schools, and college. The leaders like Aurobindo Ghose, Bal Gangadhar Tilak, Lala Lajpat Rai, and Bipin Chandra Pal asked the nationalists to rely on the abilities of the Indians. They made all efforts to develop self-respect and self-confidence and inculcated national pride among the Indians by praising India’s past that ensured the participation of the middle classes into the national movement. The assertive nationalists believed in active resistance to British Imperialism.

Gandhian Phase- Era of Mass Struggle (1919-1947)

Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi was born at Porbandar in Gujarat on the second of October 1869. He studied law in England. He returned to India in 1891. In April 1893, he visited South Africa and for twenty years he gets into the struggle against apartheid. Finally, he came to India in 1915. He spent an initial one year traveling all over India and understand Indian conditions, people and then in 1916, he found Sabarmati Ashram, in Ahmadabad. After that, he involved himself in the Indian National Movement. First, the Civil Disobedience Movement. Starting with the Champaran movement in Bihar to abolish the tinkathia system and the non-cooperation movement kheda satyagraha (1918).  Which gave a boost to nationalism in the mind of the people and further encouragement to go against the other in order to define the self.

Girl going School
A girl going to get education with his two siblings.

Our forefathers like Mahatma Gandhi, Jawaharlal Nehru, Dr. B. R. Ambedkar, and Sardar Vallabh Patel, etc. have contributed a lot to our country India but, is it true that the idea of a nation that they thought is present today? In 1950 our forefathers declared a constitution that defines the true nationalistic perspective. With the feeling of oneness, the preamble talks about sovereign, socialist, secular, democratic, republic stop for a second, and think whether these ideologies are in practice? Are we a secular country? I don’t think so, with the coming of Constitutional Amendment Act (CAA), there was a countrywide protest, it hampered the harmony between communities and violates this principle as it excludes one particular religion which has a 2nd largest in population in the country and not only this but also with the movement against this act, there is a violation of many articles 13, 14, 15, 16 and 21. To set up the equality of status and opportunity, Dr. B. R. Ambedkar came with reservation plan in every sphere for SC and ST category people and this was applicable up to 10 years and then after that is the choice of interim government but this becomes an instrument which produces votes for the party to be in power and that’s how in another way it becomes discriminatory for other groups of people. Mahatma Gandhi in hind swaraj had not mentioned about secularism, but he does not accept any particular religion to be linked with the nation. But it is happening now with the coming of this interim party BJP. There is a pandit as Chief Minister (CM) of UP who is busy in changing the names of places within its state e.g., like Allahabad to Prayagraj, but have you seen any Muslim (maulvi) or Buddhist or any other religious scholar as a CM of any state in our so-called secular country? In the recent scenario, our nation has changed drastically. The idea of nationalism is portrayed as more of hate and anguish. Recently, After the Indo-China border disputes, there is an increasing case of discrimination to North Eastern citizens throughout the country. They are being deliberately termed as Chinese and being humiliated, some people term this as an act of nationalism. Which is purely not justified. Slowly the focus of a few individuals is shifting from nation nationalism to hatred nationalism. The country saw widespread cases of cow vigilantism, which was also targeted to a particular section of society in India. Later it got transformed from cow protection to attracting votes in elections. This was not how our constitutional forefathers have imagined the Indian democratic nationalism. According to the needs of society and political masses, the word nationalism is being used negatively. JNU case happened in which students of a particular community were targeted. The price of all this has to be paid by common citizens, students, and society as a whole. This only creates more hatred and it also imbibes a feeling of negativity to the future generations. The nationwide lockdown started quite a few months ago has frustrated a lot of people and even killed many. So, think about all those people of Jammu and Kashmir who are forcefully lockdown by the government from 5 august 2019 till now in order to curb terrorism but don’t you think so, it is giving much more fuel to the rise of community terrorism within the state itself? We need to think again and see where we are leading to a positive or negative nationalism.? And correct ourselves before it’s too late.


Nationalism is one of the key aspects of the Indian constitution, but with emerging times masses have redefined the term according to their benefits and agenda. A positive nationalism is always good for society and humanity, a sense of brotherhood and patriotism is always loved and cherished worldwide, not all individuals are spreading hatred in the concept of nationalism. There are some of them and as an individual take a stand and make the change in society. India as a country was always being appreciated all over the globe due to its cultural diversity, different communities, yet India was united and it emerged as one of the most powerful nations of the globe. The Foundation of a strong nation is its citizens. So, as responsible citizens, we should always follow the path of what our forefathers dreamt of and take our country to new heights endeavours. This will not just improve our present but also our future generations, as they will also know the meaning of real nationalism and will be aligned towards it.

“Bombs and pistols do not make a revolution. The sword of revolution is sharpened on the whetting stone of ideas.”                        

— Bhagat Singh.

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Md Sharif

Md Sharif

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