The idea of India

In India the problem of the basic idea of nationhood seemed to have been settled the day Pandit Nehru gave his famous “tryst with destiny” speech.
The idea of India

For as far back as one could remember, we have been informed that Pakistanis have a difficult relationship with the basic idea of their country. That the country is divided over the purpose their country came into existence. For one set of people Pakistan was made to implement the idea of the Islamic state. For many scholars of Islam and especially political Islam, Pakistan is first time in Islamic history that the idea of Sharia-based state was sought to be implemented. But there are many who disagree with this kind of purpose assigned to the country whose name literally translates into "Land of the Pure." They believe that even if the original idea was Islamic in nature, most countries need to grow out of the original idea and evolve with time to meet the demands of the time. They often quote the famous Jinnah speech in which he gave a "secular turn" to the newly created state. In this famous speech, Jinnah asked the followers of different religions to go to their respective places of worship, but remain within the safe custody of the state of Pakistan. The tussle between these two ideas has never come to an end. The clash between the two haunts the nation. Compared to this, India appeared to be free of this problem. Until yesterday.

Changing paradigm in India

In India the problem of the basic idea of nationhood seemed to have been settled the day Pandit Nehru gave his famous "tryst with destiny" speech. No doubt there were voices which disagreed with the Nehruvian vision even at the time the British departed. However, over the fundamental drive of the nation, there was no major controversy. The talking point of the secular-left-liberal constituency in India was the fragile foundation of the idea of Pakistan and the solidity with which India as a stable democracy was moving forward irrespective of its "violent edges." The collapse of the neighbouring country was a common catchphrase. Any communal event whether it was the massacre of Sikhs in Delhi following the assassination of Indira Gandhi or the Gujarat riots, though horrible in nature, were accepted as "aberrations" in a big county of the size of India. They did not define what India stood for, what actually Indians believed in. The innate spirit of Indians was tolerant of all points of view. The essence of Hinduism was inclusive which had over centuries assimilated the cultural trends which happened to come over towards India. The problem of exclusivity, the confusion over the direction of nation, the issue of the anxiety over original idea always and forever belonged to the other country. India as a modern secular democracy was free of that national confusion. India was a palimpsest and secularism was a given norm. That was the dominant path, until of course the ironical "ache din" arrived on the political horizon of the largest democracy on earth.

Mirror Image of the Other

The way "ache din" phrase is gradually turning on its head, should be proverbial. With a meaning inverse of its literal, it won't be a surprise if "ache din Syndrome" comes into shape. The new government in Delhi promised good days for the nation. However, these promised good days have slowly compelled the country to return to a state of mind which has put a large question mark on the collective existence of the country. The debate is no more whether good days have come for the country or not. The country today is asking whether India was made for secularism or a theocratic state. Whether India is going to have cultural nationalism or constitutional nationalism. The question now is whether the direction taken by the forefathers of Indian freedom struggle was the correct one, or should they have charted an altogether different direction, one that is believed to have been suppressed when India became free. As Nehru pales into the shadows and Patel is rising from the relative oblivion, as Gandhi's statues are clouded with a new doubt and Godse is rising from the dead, India is fast looking like a mirror image of Pakistan. That is, the question is now being asked about the very idea of India. The new Moditva nationalism is setting every public intellectual and institution to its litmus test of nationalism. This type of nationalism has a different set of heroes and villains. Golwalkar's Bunch of Thoughts is perhaps more important than what has been put in the constitution. There is now a question mark over the sanctity of the national flag. The current wave of nationalism which bears the visible threat of violence in its armour has brought out the underbelly of India from which even judiciary is not untainted. The old concept of India is being lynched in favour of a new one which has created sharp boundaries of different hues. Worse, many of those in opposition, that is the secular camp, are easily crossing the border into the saffron camp, proving that they were actually "pseudo secular" which the followers of the Moditva camp were accusing them of. 

Way Forward

There will not be way forward for India if it becomes the mirror image of the "Other" across the border. Countries which get caught up in ideological internal battles are wasting precious time which could be used to alleviate the suffering of the masses. In a country which loses innocent children due to lack of oxygen had better preoccupations than quarrelling over the grandiose ideas of their nations. Those grandiose ideas are the privilege of the rich and the powerful. No doubt, ideological battles have to be won but only with a serious co-existence with the fight against poverty, bad health care, poor quality of education and many other social concerns. As it is, with India descending into a battle of definitions with the opposition, the situation in the future is anything but heart-warming, and it is going to get worse with the fangled cultural nationalism spreading its sway with money and muscle across India.

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