Whatever Rahul Gandhi may think, India is a nation

May 26, 2022

Rohit Dhankar

Rahul Ganhdi, a leader of national importance (at the least for some!) and Prime Ministerial candidate of his party the Indian National Congress, is repeating again and again that India is not a “nation” but a “union of States”, and even mistakenly compares it with the European Union which is a ‘Union of Nations’, and not merely of states. In his Cambridge interview he again repeated the same stand referring to the Constitution of India. This is a very dangerous stand coming from a leader of his eminence.

One can ignore his lack of understanding of the meaning of the term “rashtra” in Sanskrit literature, one can also understand his advisors being no wiser than himself on this. It seems Yogendra Yadav is right in saying that the left-liberal group of influential people has de-cultured Indian youth through education, which they controlled and still control. Yadav is also right in saying that the same group pf intellectuals and political parties influences by them have thrown the Indian nationalism to the dust. Therefore, I will go into the history only atm the end to prove that India is a nation for a very long time, and will remain so, even if the communists and Rahul Gandhi do not like it.

I will take his statement first in the context of his own party and the constitution. Because in a silly and childish attempt to hammer his point he used the article 1.(1) of the constitution: “India, that is Bharat, shall be a Union of States.”

Staring with the preamble one can see that the constitution sees India as a nation. After declaring “WE, THE PEOPLE OF INDIA, having solemnly Preamble. resolved to constitute India into a 1[SOVEREIGN SOCIALIST SECULAR DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC]” the preamble also talks of “[unity and integrity of the Nation]”. Thus, this ‘union’ which so confused Rahul Gandhi, is India and that “India, that is Bharat” is declared a nation right in the preamble.

His own party is called “Indian National Congress”, if India is not a nation then he should change the name of his party as well. May be can call it “Indian Union Congress”.

A few examples from the constitution:

  • Article 38 talks of “national life”, it makes it a directive principle for “securing and protecting as effectively as it may a social order in which justice, social, economic and political, shall inform all the institutions of the national life.”
  • Article 49 talks of “monument(s) or place(s) or object(s) of artistic or historic interest, … of national importance.”
  • Article 51 talks of “national flag”, “national anthem”, “national struggle for freedom” and makes it a fundamental duty of every citizen of India “to defend the country and render national service when called upon to do so.”
  • Article 54 and several other articles mention Delhi as “National Capital Territory of Delhi”, if no nation where is the need for a national capital?
  • Article 124 mention “National Judicial Appointments Commission”.
  • “338. 2[(1) There shall be a Commission for the Scheduled Castes to be known as the National Commission for the Scheduled Castes.”
  • “249. (1) Notwithstanding anything in the foregoing provisions of this Chapter, if the Council of States has declared by resolution supported by not less than two-thirds of the members present and voting that it is necessary or expedient in the national interest that Parliament should make laws with respect to any matter enumerated in the State List specified in the resolution, it shall be lawful for Parliament to make laws for the whole or any part of the territory of India with respect to that matter while the resolution remains in force.”

One can multiply such examples from the constitution many times over. Rahul Gandhi and his advisors are confused about the idea of ‘nation’. They think that the term ‘nation’ is applicable only to a culturally homogeneous mass of people who are formed into a political community. They do not think that often cultures themselves make a ‘family’ with significant unitary thread running through them as well as retaining many important, even contradictory, differences. He also seems to think mistakenly that a federal structure contradicts existence of a country as a nation.

To quote from one of my old blog articles “the man (Ernest Renan) who called “A nation’s existence is … a daily plebiscite” was wise enough to admit that “At the present moment, the existence of nations is a good and even necessary thing. Their existence is the guarantee of liberty, a liberty that would be lost if the world had only one law and one master.” and we can add if a mass of people had no laws at all!

The historical angle

To quote some more from the same article of mine mentioned above, lets see what Prof. Habib says on this issue. Professor Irfan Habib in his lecture to Aligarh Muslim University students on 26th October 2015 states: “The first perception of the whole of India as a country comes with the Mauryan Empire. … the inscriptions of the Mauryan emperor Ashoka range from Kandahar and north of Kabul to Karnataka and Andhra and they are in Prakrit, Greek and Aramaic. So it was with such political unity that the concept of India came, and its first name was Jambudvipa a name which Ashoka uses in his Minor Rock Edict-1, … The term Bharata was also used in Prakrit in an inscription in Orissa, at Hathigumpha, of the Kalinga ruler, Kharavela in 1st century BC; that is the first instance of the use of Bharat, and Kharavela uses it for the whole of India. So, gradually the concept of India as a country began to arise and a cultural unity was also seen within it as religions like Buddhism, Brahmanism and Jainism spread to all parts of the country. Prakrit was spoken, at least literary Prakrit, all over the country, becoming its lingua franca. So, there were things which, as people could see, united us.”

He goes on to explicitly refute Perry Anderson: “I say all this because it means that the concept of India as a country was ancient, the assertion made by Perry Anderson in his book The Indian Ideology that the India is a name given by foreigners particularly Europeans in modern times, is a totally misleading statement.”

However, the idea of love for the country or patriotism came much later according to Prof. Habib. “True, there was a conception of India in ancient times, even before Christ, but when was there a conception of love for India i.e. patriotism?” he asks. And his answer is that “The first patriotic poem in which India is praised, India is loved, Indians are acclaimed is Amir Khusrau’s long poem in his Nuh Sipihir written in 1318.”

But that makes only a country, not a nation of free citizens. That according to Prof. Babib came during the freedom movement when the aspirations and wellbeing of the masses became a deep concern and were made part of the freedom movement. And later on enshrined in the Constitution of India.

I disagree with Professor Habib that love for the country emerged only in the 13th Century and that the concept of nation necessarily demands modern kind of liberties for its citizens. Rest I think he establishes firmly that the idea of India is very ancient. But on that at some other time.

Personally I think that an idea of a social and political community with a set of common rules and principles to govern collective life should be considered at the least a beginning of formation of a nation. And such an idea and desire for strengthening it is clear even in the last Sukta of Rig Ved:

“2. Come together, speak together; together let your thoughts agree, just as the gods of long ago, coming to an agreement together, reverently approach their sacrificial portion.

3. Common to them all is the solemn utterance, common the assembly, common their thought along with their perception. I (hereby) utter an utterance common to you all on your behalf; with an oblation common to you all I offer on your behalf.

4. Common is your purpose; common your hearts; let your thought be common, so that it will go well for you together.” (The Rigveda, Translated by stephanie W. Jamison and Joel P. Brereton, X.191, page 1661, Oxford University Press, New York, 2014)

Rahul Gandhi will do well to revise his ideas of India and nation, and be a little more respectful to this nation. Otherwise, if we agree with Yogendra Yadav, he is frittering away whatever little of a key political resource in the form of nationalism his party still retains.


Past wrong destroying our future

May 9, 2022

Rohit Dhankar

For last few days a continuous row is going on on the issue of video-graphy of Gyanvapi Masjid, build on destroys Kashi Vishwanath temple. More than one cases are pending in the courts connected with this mosque. The most recent is regarding right to daily worship of what is termed as Shringar Gauri, represented by a statue said to be in the outer wall of the mosque. Another case regrading archaeological survey by Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) is said to be pending in the Allahabad High Court. A number of pictures of the masque are available on the internet and are circulating on the social media which have clear telltale signs showing that the mosque was built on a temple.

Another high profile temple-idgah dispute brewing is that of Krishna temple and Shahi Idgah in Mathura. Many more such disputes are ping to arise, in spite of the Places of Worship Act 1991 which provides “for the maintenance of the religious character of any place of worship as it existed on the 15th day of August, 1947”. Ram Janm Bhoomi-Babari Masjid was considered an exception to this act, which is now settled by the Supreme Court.

Most people attribute flaring of these disputes to BJP’s Hindu identity politics, which seems to be only a partial truth. Partial because BJP did not create these disputes, and it could not have created, if there were not a festering wounds on the Hindu psyche and corresponding Muslim pride, if not in the acts of vandalism themselves, but in the bravery of the historical charters who inflicted this wound to Hindu civilization. No serious effort was ever made for reconciliation on this medieval barbarity. Our historians tried to whitewash these shameful acts of destruction of temples and building mosques on them through spacious theories of temple destruction being a common practice by kings in that era. This last even to the extent that the NCERT1 book suggests that the destruction of Somanatha temple by Mahmud Ghazani was same in character as Rajendra I, the Chola King, carrying away statues of deities from the temples of defeated Hindu kings. The combined effect of this white washing, equating two very different motives of the kings, often expressed pride by Muslim leader in ruling hover Hindus for eight hundred years like slaves (Sir Syed Ahmad Khan, as the most famous) never allowed the Hindu wounds to heal. I have talked to many Hindus on this issue, and what rankles them the most is denial that there were any such atrocities perpetrated on their ancesters. BJP found this festering wound useful in its politics and used it. But in its own right any democratic and justly secular nation should have addressed it through its normal politics. Now all these temples which were destroyed and particularly ones converted into mosques or built mosques forcibly on their grounds will open up. Neither BJP can stop it nor the extremely biased so-called liberals who killed secularism in India by completely distorting it.

Richard Eaton2, one of the historians who white washes these atrocities himself gives a list of eighty prominent temples destroyed by Muslim kings. Sita Ram Goel takes this number to thousands. Many of these destroyed temples were converted into mosques or built mosques on the same site with their material. Arun Shourie3 in an interesting artile titled “Hideaway Communalism” gives a list of seven such mosques: Qawwat al-Islam Mosque, The Mosque at Jaunpur, The Mosque at Qanauj, Jami (Masjid) at Etawah, Babri Masjid at Ayodhya (this one settled by the Supreme Court), Mosques of Alamgir (Aurangzeb) (the Gyanvapi Mosque), Mosque at Mathura at sitev of Govind Dev Mandir. The list is based on a book written by very reputed Islamic scholar Maulana Hakim Sayid Abdul Hai. Proper research may reveal dozens, if not hundreds, such mosques. Sooner or later they all will become part of the raging controversy in the country.

The Hindu-hardliners will demand control of all these mosques. In the first phase, for many of these mosques some so-called secular historians will come forwards and will try to obfuscate the issue by saying that there is no conclusive proof whether this of that mosque was constructed on a temple, or whether on an abandoned temple or on an active temple after destruction. It would be tough work for them now, as too much material is available to all public and this ruse will not work. In the second stage the fundamental Islamic principle of “once a mosque always a mosque” will be quoted, which will get a legal support from the waqf principle that once a property becomes invested in waqf can not be taken back. This tangle will be unresolvable and will further communalism the society. Distrust and hatred between the two community will keep on spiraling up.

The country should make all efforts to arrest this dangerous development and return to sanity, the communities in question should re-establish trust, and mutual goodwill towards each other. Resolving the issue of medieval temple destruction and converting them to mosques alone will will not solve our problems, but it will remove one painful point and may prepare ground for resolving other issues.

What could be done?

It seems to me to stem the mandir-musjid acrimony one has to be completely honest and fist has to acknowledge the wrongs done by Muslim kings without ifs, buts and without propounding unsustainable theories. A joint commission of historians and religious people from both sides can ascertain at the least the prominent temples destroyed and mosques built on them. Acknowledging that can be the first step.

As a second step hardliner Hindus have to understand that the barbarity of bigoted Muslim kings of that era can not be revisited on the nation again in the 21st century. Acknowledgment of the atrocities and considering them subhuman acts of religious bigotry should be enough. The ownership of the mosques should remain where it is today. No handing over, or changing the character of the place of worship. We are no more barbarians even if some are pushing us to be.

The Muslim community, and particularly the Islamists, have to learn not to throw these acts of bigotry on the face of their Hindu compatriots as heroic acts and stop taking pride in them. And in those who committed them.

All such mosques should always remain under the supervision of the Archaeological Survey of India. Their ownership should remain with the Muslim community as it is today, but they should not be able to change these structures in a manner that the evidence of their history gets destroyed. Therefore, every change, addition, renovation, restoration should happen strictly in the supervision of ASI and with its clear written approval with maps and all.

Every such property (mosques, idgah etc.) should have a board prominently displayed in front of each gate of its premises giving brief but clear history of the place. Who built the original structure, when, who changed/destroyed, when, in whose ownership is it today, etc.

This should be done once and then the chapter closed.

A simpler way could be that once the historically ascertained facts about prominent temples and mosques are established and agreed upon, the leader of both communities should sit together and come to an agreement that some of them which are considered of crucial importance may be peacefully handed over to the Hindus. But that kind of magnanimity does not seem to be possible in Islamic thought, as far as I understand it; even if many individual Muslims want such a solution it perhaps will never materialize.

A rhetorical whataboutery is often raised whenever one talks about destruction of temples by Muslim kings: what about the Buddhist monasteries and stupas destroyed by Hindu kings? Well, if (1) we have sufficient evidence of particular monasteries and supas which are in the possession of Hindus today, and (2) if there are Buddhists claimants them them, then (3) the Hindus should voluntarily hand them over to Buddhists. If the Hindus are adamant and do not agree then the same treatment as to the mosques should be mated out to them as well.


1NCERT, Oour Pasts II, page 66.

2Richard Eaton, Temple desecration in pre-modern India, FRONTLINE, DECEMBER 22, 2000