While analyzing our country a very distinct feature that always stands out to me is the history and foundation behind the amalgamation of states forming one unified country i.e. India. I see our political state as a country being an umbrella to diverse states based on concepts of colonial, monarchial, radical and linguistic ideals. Creating and carving out counterparts, fighting the threat of cessation and trying to balance the concept of diversity, India has several identities melted and molded into one identity.
If one takes a glance at our history he or she can conclude that the entire concept behind our country was to form a centrifugal federation or several nations coming together to form one state with a common goal in mind to attain. Britain adopted the concept of divide and rule for their material benefit which eventually led to a reckoning. This reckoning led to nationalism and its manifestations leading up to a free and liberal country. Mind you though the concept of nation is different from nationalism, it still was a turning point in how several nations thought about unity and came together to form a majestic sovereign republic. In 1947, the country rejoiced in a free nation but with no political boundaries. The freedom struggle had made one thing clear that even if the Indian peninsula had several nations in within itself, it still needed to be united for its sustenance. This finally brings us to question the concept of a nation.
So what is a nation? One of my favorite books in middle school was ‘Imagined communities’ by Benedict Anderson. He defined a nation as an imagined community as nation is more emotional than political and so it is only experienced and not witnessed. Nation thus is a stable community of people who have a common culture and are brought together by mutuality for example through religion. Through those terms we can enlist a vast number of nations in our country. We have our citizens set apart by linguistic, religious, territorial, cultural, sexual and educational aspects. This leads to formation of several nations enclosed in within one boundary.
“From Kerala to Kashmir, Assam to Gujarat, we have countries that have come together to be a part of a state; not seeking independence, but needing an independent flourishing” – Sriram Karri
After having established the fact that India indeed has several nations in it, it is necessary to explain why it is a state. A state is a definite geographic territory governed by a sovereign monopoly through a centralized political organization namely the government. Quite obviously India fulfils all these features of a state.
It is quite clear that communities form nations or strongly emotional ideologies. This also makes the fact, that India has several nations in within itself, prominent. After much discussion with a fellow journalist we both came upon one conclusion. That even if today we are one state, communities in within this state could potentially be modern, democratic and acceptable small sized countries. And why not? We can call the Indian states as sub nations. These sub nations have their own intrinsic identities. They have their own history, dances, dresses, food, festival, culture, etc. But we also observed how we cannot compare the modern united India with the European Union, as it is a fusion of independent nations with room to identify with their community while being a part of one final nation i.e. India. One phenomenal thing about the Indian democracy is that it is not blinded by a false notion of a singular nationality. It is not threatened by the fact that Kashmir is the only state with an independent constitution; it is not threatened by the southern states’ on record disagreement on Hindi being a national language. This shows how India has not only achieved to be a state but a nation state.
This brings us to the definition of a nation state. I have built my own definition for this after considerable research.
“A nation state is a governed sovereign territory with its citizens forming several emotion oriented communities, with the a liberated condition of identifying with these communities and a bounded condition by the state’s final political identity”.
While researching for this assignment I came upon a very interesting study by Ananya Vajpeyi. His work in his book “Righteous Republic” he compares several classic literary pieces with political scenarios. He compared Tagore’s poem ‘Yaksa’ written in 1940 with the contrast and union in between the concepts of nation and state. The work of the poet is poiesis; the work of a politician is praxis. Poiesis expresses emotion, so does a nation. Praxis expresses polity, so does a state. Yaksa’s yearning can be directly related to the nationalist behaviors of Tagore’s contemporaries. After reading the prose a bit myself I saw a distinct and intelligent personification. The poem revolves around separation between Yaksa (nations) and his beloved (state). The Yaksa is an emotional, outpouring individual with a defining identity. His beloved on the other hand is calculated and bounded. The poem then highlights the need of their union for their benefit which can be related to the need of nations coming together to form one state while maintaining their independent identities. So despite the differences in their concepts, several nations and a state need to exist dependently and independently in a country like India. The poem, through love and longing, highlighted the praxis of nationalism and then acknowledged two facts that India consists of both political and emotional institutions and that these institutions co exist with one another, or at least that they should (Make note that India still had seven years of colonial rule to experience when this poem was written). Through Tagore’s vision one can draw conclusions on how the nation state dynamics work.
We are many nations and one state. Up till quite broad extents we were able to fight the delusion of nationalism through unfair uniformity. To elaborate we do not have a national festival or no language is shunned rather they are celebrated through concepts of unity in diversity. This shows a victory in building a state enclosing several nations. I look at India as a garland of different flowers whose impact is truly felt when held up together.
We, the people, share a common history of struggle, realization and nationalism. This is of course despite the facts that we were nothing but several princely states in the beginning. The fact that we have a common history even with these differences only establishes that we have a common destiny. Just like our past our future too will keep us bounded.
To let our citizens enjoy their liberty of unique identity while governing them together will bring forth a very surprising notion. It will help us realize how much we have in common and how much we depend on each other. We will realize a further purpose, overlooking the dissonance of harmonies, and going ahead together to attain the goals set by our forefathers.
We will simultaneously be a citizen of a republic and a member of countless nations.