“Why do you sing National Anthem?” was a question put up to me in my earlier days back in the school. It was much before when the term Nationalism was not politicized and people used it in utmost regard and dignity, it was used as an emotion and a sense of pride which followed after. The question was put to me by a fellow classmate standing right behind me during the morning assembly which culminated daily by the call for National Anthem, a strength of 2000 odd children and a bunch of teachers singing in unison. I looked at my classmate in silence, perhaps I couldn’t think of an answer for some reason. Looking at me standing all clueless, he replied,” I do it for the soldiers.” For some reason I couldn’t bring myself to answer his question. It was an inherent feeling I guess, proudly pumping my chest, standing upright with straight legs, with feet aligned against each other to form a V like shape, eyes looking straight ahead and singing my heart out. What spectrum of human emotion was this? Something I couldn’t explain at that point in my life. Perhaps the limited scope of the world around me prevented my conscious from giving an answer to the question which I would certainly ask myself in the near future.
Today one would say Nationalism stands for respecting the flag, supporting the army, standing up for the National Anthem, and all those collective thoughts which a left wing leaning individual would dismiss as propaganda of the right wing. But can we view nationalism in isolation of the political thought? Unfortunately if we trace nationalism to its roots, we really can’t. The second half of the 19th century witnessed the full flowering of national political consciousness and the growth of an organized national movement in India. Nationalism was an impeccable weapon to organize the masses under the banner of Indian Freedom struggle against the British. A “Brahmastra” wielded by the Indian National Congress against the colonizers. But here is where the contradiction arises; INC as it stands today shies away from using it again. Minority appeasement would be my first guess. But why is it that while we talk about Nationalism, it is immediately associated with someone propagating the ideas of the Right . Why can’t Left Wing associate itself with a revolutionary concept such as nationalism but the entire Right Wing talks unstoppably about its aspects. Indeed it is a
question for another time.
But while we are talking about nationalism is it a static concept or an evolving one? Nationalism meant different thing for different people during the freedom struggle moment. For the farmers, the fight for Swaraj was a struggle against high revenues. For the businessmen, Nationalism meant an end to oppressive colonial policies. All they wanted was an environment which would allow the business to flourish. They were apprehensive of militant activities and of growing influence of socialism among the younger members of the Congress. For women despite the keenness of Congress in keeping their presence only symbolic; it meant a system free from oppression and subjugation by the male counterparts. So Nationalism of the past was not a singular entity but was a collective entity in which nationalism of different people organized themselves for furtherance of the common object.
Nationalism thus is involving itself through time. Maybe be it’d mean a different thing altogether in the coming future but the very essence of it would always remain embedded in the hearts of young minds. Minds which seek answers no matter what political thought they would belong to.