Sarsanghchalak Shri Mohan Bhagwat Ji, Delegates, Ladies and Gentlemen
Today, I'm here to share with you my understanding of the concepts of Nation, Nationalism and Patriotism in the context of India, that is Bharat. These three concepts are so closely intertwined that it is difficult to discuss any one of them in isolation.
Let us make a beginning by understanding the dictionary meaning of these three words. Nation is defined as 'a large group of people sharing the same culture, language or history and inhabiting a particular state or area'. Nationalism is defined as 'identification with one's own nation and support for its interests especially to the exclusion of interests of other nations'. Patriotism is defined as 'devotion to and vigorous support for one's country'.
Let us look at our roots,
India was an open society, globally connected along the Silk and Spice Routes. These busy highways of commerce and conquest witnessed a free exchange of culture, faith and invention as merchants, scholars and sages traversed mountain and desert and sailed the oceans. Buddhism reached Central Asia, China and Southeast Asia together with Hindu influences. Ancient travelers like Megasthenes in the 4th century BC, Fa Hien in the 5th century AD and Hiuen Tsang in the 7th century AD; when they came to India, wrote about the efficient administrative systems with planned settlements and good infrastructure. Takshashila, Nalanda, Vikramashila, Valabhi, Somapura and Odantapuri comprised the ancient university system that dominated the world for 1,800 years beginning the sixth century BC.
We were magnets to attract the finest minds and scholars in the world. In the liberal environment of these institutions creativity found full form and art, literature, and scholarship flourished. Chanakya's Arthashastra, an authoritative text on state-craft was also written during this period.
Indian Nationalism Emanated From "Universalism"
India was a state long before the concept of the European Nation State gained ground after the Treaty of Westphalia in 1648.There model was a defined territory, a single language shared religion and a common enemy. That was the model that led to the formation of various nation states in Europe. On the other hand, in stark contrast to that context Indian Nationalism emanated from "Universalism" the philosophy of Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam (वसुधैव कुटुम्बकम) and Sarve Bhavantu Sukhinah, Sarve Santu Niramayah. We see the whole world as one family and pray for the happiness and good health of all. Our national identity has emerged through a long-drawn process of confluence, assimilation, and co-existence. The multiplicity in culture, faith and language is what makes India special. We derive our strength from tolerance. We accept and respect our pluralism. We celebrate our diversity. These have been a part of our collective consciousness for centuries. Any attempt at defining our nationhood in terms of dogmas and identities of religion, region, hatred and intolerance will only lead to dilution of our national identity.
As sir Sarvapalli Radhakrishnan said, “Any differences that may appear are only on the surface, but we remain a distinct cultural unit with a common history, a common literature and a common civilization.”
In the words of the eminent historian Vincent Smith, "India beyond all doubt possesses a deep underlying fundamental unity, far more profound than that produced either by geographical isolation or by political superiority. That unity transcends the innumerable diversities of blood, colour, language, dress, manners, and sect".
If we take a quick look at history the emergence of the Indian State can be traced back to the sixteen Mahajanapadas mostly spread across Northern India in the 6th century BC. In the 4th century BC, Chandragupta Maurya defeated the Greeks to build a powerful empire comprising of North-Western and Northern India. Emperor Ashoka was the most illustrious king of this dynasty whose reign has been described as the brightest interloop in the troubled history of mankind. It was he who at the height of victory converted the sounds of war drum into the sounds of peace fraternity and love.
5000-Year-Old Civilization Unbroken
After the collapse of the Mauryan Dynasty, the empire broke into small kingdoms around 185 BC. Gupta Dynasty again created a vast empire which collapsed around 550 AD. Many dynasties ruled till 12th century, when Muslim invaders captured Delhi and successive dynasties ruled for the next 300 years. Babur defeated the last Lodhi King in 1526 at the First Battle of Panipat and firmly established Mughal rule which continued for 300 years.
The East India Company after winning the Battle of Plassey in 1757, and the Three Battles of Arcot (1746-63) brought a vast territory in East and South of India under its control. A large part of western region was also annexed to the company's territory and to administer these territories, a modern form of government was established in 1774. To administer these territories, the office of Governor General at fort William, Calcutta and two sub-ordinate governors at Madras and Bombay were created.
For nearly 140 years, Calcutta was the centre of British Authority in India. However, the responsibility of administration was taken away from the East India Company in 1858 and the Secretary of State for India was appointed in the British Cabinet to super intend the Indian Administration.
However, a particular point is to be kept in mind that throughout the period of 2500 years of changing political fortunes and conquest, a 5000-year-old civilization continuity remained unbroken. In fact, each conquer, and each foreign element have been absorbed to form a new synthesis and unity. Rabindranath Tagore very beautifully and magnificently described, “Keho nahi jane…somudre holo hara.”
No one knows at whose beckoning; how many streams of humanity came in indomitable waves from all over the world over the millennia and mingled like rivers into the vast ocean creating an individual soul that is called Bharat.”
Distinguished participants, the concept of modern Indian states has been well articulated by various scholars, philosophers, thinkers and political leaders. From the platform of INC, sir Surendranath Banerjee in his presidential address in 1895 conceptualised the Indian nationalism. This nationalism comprised all Indians living in the British Indian provinces and 565 princely ruled states in India. When Bal Gangadhar Tilak, a great patriot gave hoist to the phrase to coined by Barrister Joseph Baptista, “swaraj is my birth right, and I shall have it”, he referred to Swaraj for the whole people of India encompassing various caste creed, religion spread across British India and princely states. This nationalism was not bound by language, religion or race.
As Gandhiji explained Indian nationalism was not exclusive not aggressive, non-destructive; it was this very nationalism that Pandit Jawahar Lal Nehru so vividly expressed in the discovery of India and I quote “Nationalism can only come out of the ideological fusion of Hindu, Muslim, Sikhs and other groups in India. That does not mean the extinction of any culture or any group, but it does mean a common national outlook to which other matters are subordinated”
In the process of our movements against the British, rose various anti-colonial and mostly progressive movements across the length and breadth of the country, which ultimately unified in a cohesive national struggle for freedom keeping the feeling of patriotism above everything individual, ideological and political leanings. Ultimately, we won freedom in 1947, thanks to Sardar Patel’s untiring efforts, the princely states of India merged with the British Indian provinces leading to the consolidation of India. The complete integration of provincial and princely states took place after the formation of the states re-organisation commission in 1956.
On 26 January 1950, the constitution of India came into operation in a remarkable display of idealism and courage. We the people of India gave to ourselves a sovereign democratic republic to secure for all its citizens justice, liberty and equality. We undertook to promote to all citizens, fraternity, the dignity the individual and the unity of the nation. These ideals became the lodestar of the modern Indian states, democracy became our most precious guide towards peace and regeneration from the swam of poverty which was created by 190 years of colonial rule.
For us democracy is not a gift but a sacred trust, the Indian constitution consisting of 395 articles and 12 schedules is not an instrument for administration a legal document of but a Magna Carta for the socio-economic transformation of the country. It represents the hopes and aspirations of billions plus people in India. From our constitution flows our nationalism, the construct of Indian nationalism is constitutional patriotism which consists of an appreciation of our inherited and shared diversity, a readiness to enact one’s citizenship at different levels and ability to self-correct and learn from others.
Distinguished guests and friends,
I want to share with you some truths that I have internalised in my 50 years of known public life, as party activist, as Member of Parliament and as a member of the cabinet.
The soul of India resides in pluralism and tolerance. This plurality of society has come through assimilation of ideas over centuries.
Secularism and intuitions are a matter of faith for us. It is our composite culture that makes us into a nation. India’s nationhood is not one language, one religion, one entity. When I shut my eyes and dream of India, from Mizoram to Dwarka, from snow-capped Himalayas to way west towards Cape Comorin. I mesmerise, how it is possible, 1.3 billion people use more than 122 languages and 1600 dialects in their everyday life, practice 7 major religions in their everyday life, belong to three major ethnic groups Caucasians, Dravidians and Mongolodis and yet under one system one flag one constitution and one identify which we may call Bhartiya, Indian.
But we do not identify any enemy that is what makes Bharat diverse and united nation.
In a democracy I believe informed and reasoned public engagement on all issues of national importance is essential. Dialogue is necessary not only to balance the competing intestate but also to reconcile them divergent stands in public discourse have to be recognised. We may argue, we may agree, we may not agree but we cannot deny the essential prevalence of multiplicity of opinions. Only through a dialogue can we develop the understanding to solve the complex problems without an unhealthy strife within our polity.
Peaceful co-existence, compassion, respect for life and harmony with nature form the foundation of our civilisation. Every time a child or a woman is brutalised the soul of the nation is wounded. Manifestations of rage are tearing our social fabrics, everyday we see increased violence around us. At the heart of this violence is darkness, fear and mistrust. We must free our public discourse from all forms of violence, physical as well as verbal. Only a non-violent society can ensure participation of all sections of people in a democratic process, especially the marginalised and the dispossessed. We must move from violence, anger and conflict to peace, harmony and happiness.
For so long we have lived with pain strife, I am addressing the trainees, you are young, disciplined, trained and highly educated, please wish for peace and harmony and happiness. Our motherland is asking for that, our motherland deserves that. Happiness is fundamental to the human experience of life, to lead a happy healthy and productive lives is the basic right of our citizens.
We have done well in many macro-economic areas, growth indictors, shown how india is emerging as the fastest growing state in the emerging economies of the world, but we have not fared well in the world happiness index. We rank 133 out of 156 countries mapped in the world happiness report 2018. When we go to Parliament just above the lift at gate no-6 there is a shloka inscribed in Sanskrit by Kautilya,
प्रजासुखे सुखं राज्ञः प्रजानां च हिते हितम् ।
नात्मप्रियं हितं राज्ञः प्रजानां तु प्रियं हितम् ।।
In the happiness of the people lies the happiness of the king, their welfare is his welfare, he shall not consider good as what pleases him, but treat as beneficial to him whatever causes happiness to the people.
Kautilya placed people at the centre long before the formation of the modern democratic government, by the people, of the people and for the people. The aim of the state should be to galvanize the people to concerted war against poverty, disease and deprivation and to convert our economic growth into real development. Let the objective of spreading peace, harmony and happiness inform the formulation of our public policy and guide all the actions of our state and citizens in their everyday life. This and this only will be able to create a happy nation where nationalism flows uninterruptedly, automatically.
Dhanyavad, thank you, Jai Hind, Vande Mataram