India as a nation has held a civilisational mission intact for eons—a nation whose nationalism goes beyond the territorial claim and transcends what Benedict Anderson calls the “Imagined Community”.
We are more than imagination and have augmented as a nation rather than any other phenomenon. India as a nation has a history of indigenous knowledge, political system, social coherence, and cultural association contrary to the European model of nation-states.
India is a nation with a soul and Sri Aurobindo emphasised that the soul of each nation is based on the differentiation of one's reality and giving recognition to others. This was agreed to by many thinkers of the Renaissance period and therefore, India as a nation has never been static but continuously progressing towards universality.
India as a nation has a history of indigenous knowledge, political system, social coherence, and cultural association contrary to European model of nation-states.
Marxism has methodologically produced and instituted that India is not a nation but a territorial community.
Congress MP Rahul Gandhi and others in the Left attempt to conceptualise India as a federal union.
The West could be seen as a unifying force for the ‘Nation State’ whereas the Indian concept of ‘Rashtra’ is much older and democratic.
India as a Nation: Not a Conceptual Framework or Imagination but a Civilisational Mission
However, the Marxist school has methodologically produced and instituted the narrative that India is not a nation but a territorial community without linguistic commonality, vivid economic and cultural disorientation, and a history of bourgeois domination.
The idea that India is not a nation but a union of states isn't the first time it is being pushed solely by Congress MP Rahul Gandhi but there has been an interminable attempt by the Congress and the Left at all levels to conceptualise India as a federal union where entities have a right to make choices and even secede.
Certainly, Marxists had the framework to contemn India as a nation and prioritise class conflict. Similarly, the imperialist agenda disparaged the country and accredited Britishers for the self-claimed “civilising mission.”
The Congress leadership from 1939 to 1945 saw a discernible shift from imagining India as a centralised federal structure to a loose federation, and it was reflected in the election manifesto by the Congress Working Committee (CWC) in 1945. It was an attempt to appease the Muslim League, and since then, there have been numerous occasions where the Congress party and the leadership have given precedence to appeasement over national unity and interest.
It is not only about the idea of India that Rahul Gandhi is manifesting, but also the interpretation of Chinese economic policy is itself very precarious and reminds us of EMS Namboodripad, who unfeignedly supported Chinese aggression in 1962 and went on to say that India must calm and negotiate with China.
India’s ‘Rashtra’ vs West’s Nation State
There is an underlying analogy between communism and the Congress party before and after Independence which could easily be seen in the constituent assembly debates. Nehru advocated for a ‘national philosophy’ for India based on Soviet and European lines of change where ‘modernisation’ ought to create uniformity. In post-independent India, the ‘Congress System’ has used the ‘Idea of India’ for convenience and has kept the loophole in the ‘autonomy-unity’ debate at the federal level.
If we choose to see a European concept of nation or nation-state in India, then we constrain our understanding of history and the evolution of India as a civilisation that is neither western nor theological. The concept of the modern nation-state is a nascent one, and it is primarily based on a ‘common entity’ phenomenon.
In Plato, we find a philosopher king, and in Rousseau, we see the ‘general will’ and several social contract theories of the West could be seen as a unifying force for the ‘Nation State’ whereas the Indian concept of ‘Rashtra’ is much older and democratic.
'Rashtra' is defined as the polity complimenting the country, 'Desha' and the Indian concept of nation and nationalism is broader, inclusive, and prosperous. The Vedic and post-Vedic literature at length explains Rashtra, Dharma, and how ‘Bharat’ has grown as a civilisation.
The Indian nation existed as a historical reality. An attempt to belittle Bharat as a nation is an outcome of ignorance and dissonance to learn the country’s intellectual history and deny the civilisational knowledge system and tradition.
Does New India Assert as a Nation Over Federal Idea?
India has grown as a Nation, not as a mere union of states despite the 'Two Nations' theory, several secessionist claims, and the political interests of a particular class of people. The success story of India as a nation is because of shared collective consciousness and a historical connection that has brought the states together to constitute an indestructible union of destructible states.
India as a nation is not a conceptual framework or imagination but a civilisational mission. It is quintessential to underscore what Ambedkar had reiterated in the Constituent Assembly on 4 November 1948 that ‘Union’ was used in India for a 'specific purpose'. He went on to further add that the Drafting Committee is of a clear opinion that India was to be a federation, and the Federation was not the result of an agreement by the States to join a Federation, and therefore, "No State has the right to secede from it. The Federation is a Union because it is indestructible."
It is naive to say that India is a mere 'Union of States' as it stimulates a fractional agenda at both the regional and national levels. As a nation, we have evolved along with the constitutional framework and come a long way.
The Naxalite movement has been controlled, the valley is witnessing the peace process after the removal of Article 370, and there is a new era of development in the Northern and far Northeast states. A nation that is writing a new chapter of accommodation, assimilation, and adaptation to realise the dream of New India after 75 years of Independence is being pulled back by such narratives on global platforms.
We are standing more potent than ever before with the vision of a five trillion economy, a leader in space technology, a global leader in the current day, an alternative to the global north-south divide, and the energy partner to the world for a greener and cleaner future.
(Digvijay Singh is the founder and director of the House of Political Empowerment (HoPE) Research and Innovation Foundation. This is an opinion article and the views expressed are the author's own. The Quint neither endorses nor is responsible for them.)