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Mourning Two Early Post-Nationalist Strains

Nationalism, Genuine and Spurious

Nationalism is not patriotism. Nationalism is an ideology and is configured in human personality the way other ideologies are. It rode piggyback into the Afro-Asian world in colonial times as an adjunct of the concept of nation state. Patriotism is a non-specific sentiment centring on a form of territoriality that humans share with a number of other species. This unacknowledged difference is central to the spirited critique of conventional nationalism by Mohandas Gandhi, India's Father of the Nation, and the total rejection of nationalism by Rabindranath Tagore, India's national poet.

Indians, Vinay Lal tells us, are inveterate record seekers.1 From no other country does the Guinness Book of Records receive so many applications for recognition – at least one-tenth of all applications to the Guinness Book emanates from India – and some of them do get into the book – from the silent holy man who stayed on the same spot on a roadside in a village for 22 years to someone who wrote 1,314 characters on a single grain of rice to set a record in micro-writing.2 Strangely, the record that the Indians have not claimed is a unique one; it involves an achievement that has not been equalled in the 350-year-long history of nation states and is unlikely to be broken till the nation state system survives. Rabindranath Tagore (1861-1941), by common consent India’s national poet, who has written and scored India’s national anthem, is also the writer and composer of the national anthem of Bangladesh. In recent years, anti-India feelings have grown in Bangladesh and there is also a budding fundamentalist movement in the country, hostile to everything Indian or Hindu. Yet, not one voice has been raised, to the best of my knowledge, against the national anthem written by Tagore. That is not all. Tagore has also scored Sri Lanka’s national anthem, though he has not written the lyric. Sri Lankans, too, may not always live happily with the

 

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