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India: A republic being nation

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Ankit Raj
A development professional. National resource person for rural development and good governance. Passionate about foreign policy and global politics. A poet by instinct.

Nation building in India

India is fighting with the new, more infectious, and rapidly spreading strain of Wuhan Virus. On 16th April the newspapers reported on one hand about India recording a historic more than 100,000 cases in 24 hours, on the other hand about the 18% historic jump in Chinese economy[1]. India is witnessing an unprecedented stress on its economy and the infrastructure on the domestic front whereas trying to somehow manage the global readjustment after the coordinated stalemate move of Russian federation and China against the United states of America. It can also be said that the socialist capitalism is taking on the democratic capitalism at this point of time in the world and India finds itself again stretched between the architecture of socialist democracy and capitalist democracy. It’s a direct question on identity and hence requires a revisit of the movement which got quite intensified in the last decade with the name of “Nation-building”.

Diversity and Unity

There is no harm in identifying the fact that the Mahalanobis model, which is also called Nehruvian model, of development remained aloof from identifying India as a nation in its true sense. This may be a critical claim but is powered by the conscious choice of going for a bureaucratic development rather than social transformation and it says a volume. Precisely, the decision making process remained with the elite where they enjoyed the political immunity in the repackaged state-craft. It may be claimed that there was a dearth of options before the decision makers then, but along with that it must be recognised that it was a limitation on the part of decision makers’ imagination and hence the failures cannot be passed on to the paradigm.

The reason for calling it a failure is the result of India being more of a “republic” that a “democratic nation”. The recognition of this fact is important because the shadow of the same is making India run out of its time to gain the right attitude in its daily life. That is visible when India is seen trying to make space in the hard global order with soft tools. And that is because there is very less capitalisation of the country’s human capital. It would hardly be an exaggeration to say that India does not live like a nation. Rather she lives like a multinational nation where the smaller nations are system less, capital less and in emotional marriage with a quasi-self-actualization approach. And hence the idea of “Unity in diversity” in philosophy turns out to be “diversity in unity” in practice. That’s exactly where the faultlines of “India as a nation” are glittering.

Common ethnic strings 

After getting exposed to the theoretical part of Indian polity and the practicalities of governance mechanisms at macro and micro levels, what I have observed is that India is yet to realize her strength to harp on an influential journey of global evolution. And that can happen only when we channelize the energy of most of the individuals in creating assets, services and capital. But the critical requirement for that to happen is the union of visions and targets. The diversity of unity is certainly a stumbling block there. The energies are powered by divisive ideas of tribal, lingual, casteist, regional and religious ethnicity.

In general, the politicians are bashed for making religion and caste-based manifestos and creating representative positions with the same criteria. But from the other side of the table, it’s hard to find an alternative tool which can fetch the desire of self-determination of each individual of equal magnitude as done by caste and that to the extent where one invokes sovereignty and chooses the government. The Vedic scholars recognise caste as an alien concept of identity because Vedas organised the identities in Indian society on the basis of individual’s profession, skills and values and the most significant fact of it is the permeability of different categories. But, ignoring the fine utility of caste as an identity tool in electoral politics in today’s India will be a wishful thinking. The groups which cannot be targeted through this tool, are subject to the more ambiguous one i.e. religion.

Religion and the politics

The influence of religion is not new in world politics. There is a legacy of “nations” taking birth due to religious movements. And that’s why there is a sense of threat to the aspirant modern nation states from the remote-controlled religious groups. The loyalty of a group of people to an external religious power center, fueled by superstitious convictions, is a threat to the sovereignty of the government of the land and hence to the will of the people who voted. Probably this projection is something which the Nehruvian model overlooked in the smoke of western results – packaged in the narrative of secularism and made up of hardcore religious majoritarianism.

It is a fact that the nationalism of identity does not leave space for any other identity. And if there is a trace of any alternative identity, it is certainly a compromise to the idea of “nation”. The confusion created by that paradigm in Indian context is the confusion which Indian population silently exhibits at the global stage. We are trying to fit a circular seat in a square chair!

Pandemic and the national identity

It may appear that these issues may be addressed later as we are amidst a pandemic. True that. But the needs need to be recognised right now otherwise we would be overpowered by the quest of comfort of daily normal life and the status quo. This very absence of a clear daily governance framework & structure and the resulting invisibility of common individuals through systemic channels is what has earned us so much confusion about how to deal with the pandemic crisis. Here are some of the symptomes – Like floods and Tsunami, this crisis has also been encashed by the lower bureaucracy to deepen its pockets with black and bribed money; the migrants have exclusively shown no confidence in the government when they faced life threat due to washing off of the economic opportunities; when the developed nations were vaccinating themselves, India was vaccinating others and now she herself is under deep distress and the working class now is the prime target of the virus – why? Because there is a deep desire to be an influential power with good will of the world, but the fundamental plot is shaky, and it chokes in pressure. The Indian community wants its students to bring innovation, but it does not want its lads and girls to think on their own and act accordingly. There is a certain amount of respect for an established business entity and they are accepted in the community but there is hardly any acceptance for the one in making an enterprise. I think the above examples clearly express the under current of our confusion between what we are doing and what we want to achieve!

What to be fixed?

So what to change? The change has to happen in the fundamentals. The web of marriages to contradictory values and actions need to be cleared out. If we want to be a modern nation, we must have no other identity than the national identity. If we want to be a modern religious nation, we must devise ways to ensure clear and non-negotiable religious visions about relevant national goals. If we want to be a capitalist democracy, we must say it out loud and clear the path so that the same can be achieved. Cascardi’s observation seems to be instrumental to express the current ethnic equation. He observes “The modern subject is defined by its insertion into a series of separate value spheres; each of which tends to exclude or attempts to assert its priority over the rest”.

At the moment, Indian system of governance appears to be in need of a change to the extent where means are prioritized over the ends. Precisely, the rank of economic development needs to be equated with the administration of justice. It needs to create a synergy in the education system and the governance where the student of class tenth can witness his/her village taking decisions in Gram Sabhas in actual rather than just memorizing the process for the sake of answering questions in examination. As ends are not the means, similarly the urge to make India a nation does not mean India is a nation. This confusion needs to be cleared out to make this republic a nation. 

The solution needs more attention. I aim to write about it in the next piece in continuation of this article.

[1]https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/asia_pacific/china-economy-growth-coronavirus/2021/01/17/2138ef2c-5935-11eb-a849-6f9423a75ffd_story.html

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Ankit Raj
A development professional. National resource person for rural development and good governance. Passionate about foreign policy and global politics. A poet by instinct.

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