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.