'INSIGHTS' INTO INDIAN NATIONALISM
Lecturer in Philosophy
The little magazine 'INSIGHT' of Ambedkar Study Circle, a group of Dalitstudents of JNU, needs encouragement from Indian intellectual communityworking for egalitarian and democratic society. So far most of the Indianintellectuals and social scientists either kept silent about the issues ofcaste or explained in a mild way. There is no much theorization aboutvarious problems of Dalits and their struggles till the day. That vacuumis filled up by the initiative of young Dalit intellectuals. Now, we canfeel proud that there are many organic intellectuals coming up from theDalit community and raising debate on various issues in civil society.This Insight magazine is the testimony for this. The young scholarscommitted to the struggles of liberation of Dalits felt that there is aneed to bring scholarly publication at popular level to negotiate variouspolitical groups of university campus exclusively from the Dalit point ofview. They have succeeded so far in bringing the six issues of INSIGHTthough they are facing severe financial problems. The last issue ofINSIGHT was focused on nationalism and raised many questions in relationto Dalits. INSIGHT set the intellectual debate on the question ofnationalism in India.The word nationalism is loaded with emotions and had the capacity tomanipulate Indian politics. Any claim or struggle has to be silent infront of the nationalism. Most of the radical struggles like naxalitemovements are forced to maintain silence on this issue, otherwise dubbedas anti-national. Parties like BJP came to power so easily withexploitation of sentiment of nationalism. They are consciously propagatedand succeeded to certain extent by equating Indian with hindu throughtheir middle class propaganda machinery. In the name of our nation, Indianidentity attracted people from all castes including Dalits and Adivasis.This coincided with people's experience of threatening loss of culture andcollective life in the wake of globalization. Within no time peoplerealized that hindutva forces limited to cultural nationalism in aselected way, but not connected nationalism in economic and socialdevelopment. They never bothered about swadeshi economy. Social equalityand social justice are not in their project of nationalism. Culturalnationalism has no meaning unless and until it connects to social andeconomic equality. In the scheme of this upper caste Indian nationalism,social aspirations and imagination of Dalits, Adivasis, Women gotmarginalized. Reflecting on this kind of situation, INSIGHT focused on theissue of nationalism and debated various questions in relation to this.On the question of what makes a nation, Telugu writer Gurujada Appa Rao,first modernist writer, said that, 'Nation is not just land, it is ofpeople'(Desamante matti kadoyi, Desamante manushuloyi). Bendict Andersonargues that nation is nothing but the imagination of a community. Takingclue from this Partha Chatterjee explains that building of the nationstate was taking place simultaneously, one from the social aspiration andanxieties of uppercaste hindu middle class from the above and so farmarginalized lower castes from the below.Dr Ambedkar confronted with Gandhi and so called nationalist congress onthis issue of freedom of the depressed castes. He held the opinion thatsocial precedes the political. Social equality only guarantees thepolitical equality. From Gandhi to BJP hindutva are not interested inaddressing this question. Rather they feel irritated when Dalits raisedthis question. When Dalits are asserting national identity through theirpolitical struggles, it needs critical and creative intervention on thisissue. Otherwise it ends up with dominant discourses. The Editorial andEditorial Collective reflects that INSIGHT is clear in understanding thequestion of nationalism and raised the relevant questions in making DalitNationalism.Anoop Kumar's 'Jai Ram to Jai Bhim' is the experience of any ordinaryDalit. His social experience provides the transformation of his self fromramsevak to conscious Dalit. He put it openly without any inhibitions. Oneshould not forget that in theorizing anything Dalit social experienceplays a significant role. I hope his article helps other Dalits too speakopenly about themselves. As Frantz Fanon said to speak is to assume one'sown culture. Milind Awad has explained so nicely how hindu nationalists'target against minority Muslim, that has implications for the Dalits,OBCs, Adivasis and women. Excerpts from G.Aloysious' celebrated book'Nation without Nationalism in India' are really helpful in providing rightperspective to the readers about the discourse of nationalism. After allany nation come into existence, with the struggles of the people.Struggles shape the nation. History of the people could not be manipulatedfor ever. I hope with the intense struggles of Dalits and othermarginalised groups Democratic Nation will come into existence.
(This letter is in appreciation of dalit students magzine named 'Insight' ( special issue on nationalism), from Ambedkar Study Circle, JNU)