Nationalism is an ethno-political ideology that sustains the concept of a nation-identity for an exclusive group of people. It is the discrete or implied doctrine which holds the preservation and independence of its distinct identity, in all its aspects, and the “glory and wellbeing” of the nation as core aspects of its fundamental ethos. Why does nationalism exert such a powerful pull? Rada Ivekovic, a Croatian-Serbian philosopher living in exile in Paris has one explanation.
She tells me that in today’s world identities are in a permanent state of flux – feminist identities, ethnic identities, identities based on disability, sexual preferences, religions and so on. In the face of this the new nationalisms offer a security to which people cling, a primordial rootedness. Indian nationalism refers to the consciousness and expression of political, social, religious and ethnic influences that help mould Indian national consciousness.Indian Nationalism describes the many underlying forces that moulded the Indian independence movement, and strongly continue to influence the politics of India, as well as being the heart of many contrasting ideologies that have caused ethnic and religious conflict in Indian society. It should be noted that Indian nationalism often imbibes the consciousness of Indians that prior to 1947, India embodied the broader Indian subcontinent and influenced a part of Asia, known as Greater India.It must be noted that in Indian English, nationalism does not have a negative connotation, as it does in much of Europe and North America.  Nationalism and politics The political identity of the Indian National Congress, India’s largest political party and one which controlled government for over 45 years, is reliant on the connection to Mahatma Gandhi and Jawaharlal Nehru, and the Nehru-Gandhi family which has controlled the Congress since independence.
The Congress Party’s fortunes up till the 1970s were single-handedly propelled by its legacy as the flagship of India’s Independence Movement, and the core platform of the party today evokes that past strongly, considering itself to be the guardian of India’s freedom, democracy and unity. Muslims have remained loyal voters of the Congress Party, seen as defender of Nehruvian secularism. Small religious parties have arisen, and Muslim frustrations with communal violence and the aggressive attitudes of Hindu nationalists might lead to the development of a party solely on Islamic religious lines.In contrast, the Bharatiya Janata Party employs a more aggressively nationalistic expression. The BJP seeks to defend the culture and heritage of India and the majority of its people, the Hindu population. It ties nationalism with the aggressive defence of India’s borders and interests against archrivals China and Pakistan, with the defence of the majority’s right to be a majority.
The party’s fortunes arose primarily in the 1990s, with the frustration of the people with over 40 years of Congress domination, corruption, sycophant leaders and lack of direction.Ethnic nationalist parties include the Shiromani Akali Dal, which is closely identified with the creation of a Sikh-majority state in Punjab and includes many Sikh religious leaders in its organization. In Maharashtra, the Shiv Sena uses the legacy of the independent Maratha kingdom under heroes like Shivaji to stir up support, and has adopted Hindutva as well. In Assam, the Asom Gana Parishad is a more state-focused party, arising after the frustration of the ULFA as a benevolent expression of Assamese nationalism.In Tamil Nadu came the first of such parties, the DMK.
Today the DMK stands for a collection of parties, with the DMK, the AIADMK, the PMK and the MDMK. Caste-based politics invite the participation of the Bahujan Samaj Party and the party of Laloo Prasad Yadav, who build upon the support of poor low-caste and dalit Hindus in the northern, and most populated states of India like Uttar Pradesh and Bihar. Almost every Indian state has a regional party devoted solely to the culture of the native people.Unlike the Akali Dal and the AGP, these mostly cannot be called nationalist, as they use regionalism as a strategy to garner votes, building on the frustration of common people with official status and the centralization of government institutions in India.
Benedict Anderson’s Theory of Nationalism and Imagined Communities Published in the same year (1983) as Gellner’s Nations and Nationalism, Anderson’s Imagined Communities – Reflections on the Origins and Spread of Nationalism presents an interesting hypothesis.The basic premise of Anderson’s theory is that the decline of religion made it possible new conceptions of time, which in turn made it possible to imagine the nation. Before nationalism, there existed the “great religiously imagined communities”, such as Christendom, based on shared languages such as latin. With the rise of exploration, Europeans came to realise the insularity of their conceptions of existence. Furthermore, the shared language of latin was beginning to decline, and was replaced by the vernacular.Whilst Europe existed as the great religiously imagined communities, the conception of time was one in which history was fused together.
The past, present and future were not linked causally, but through the will of the divine. Within such a conception of time, the word “meanwhile” can have no meaning. With the dissolution of such communities, it became possible to imagine a state in which there was now no longer “simultaneity along time” but “homogenous, empty time”.This type of time could be marked by clock and calendar, and was amenable to theoretically incidental coincidence. Then came print capitalism. After a while, the monopoly on print was lost by Latin, and new works were published in the vernacular.
(Protestantism, and its emphasis on internal salvation was particularly important here. ) Books, newspapers and novels in vernacular languages gave the idea to their readers that there existed, simultaneously in time, a group of readers like them consuming the same cultural manufactures.