Friday, 25 March 2016

What is a Nation?

Sometimes, something good comes out of a seemingly ugly or evil  event. The JNU episode though unfortunate has given rise to a debate and/or discussion on what constitues a Nation. The confusion is due to the present day formation of one state-one nation reality. But the two concepts need not be congruent. One State, can include many Nations, so also, one Nation can consist of many States.
For example, The state of USSR, till a quarter of a century ago, included many nations, like Lativia, Georgia, Kazakistan, Armenia, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan etc. The state of Yugoslavia too had comprised more than one nation. Our India, that is Bharat, that is Hindusthan was one Nation from times immenorial but contained many states. At the time of the invasion of Alexander in the 4th century B. C. there was one Nanda Empire, but besides that there were many republics. Lord Buddha was born in a republic. In the 7th century A. D. King Harshavardhan ruled over the territory to the of north the river Narmada, in the south, the king was one Pulkeshin. Germany had been a Nation for many years. But from 1945 to 1990, it was split in to two states.
I feel that the distinction between the two concepts viz State and Nation , should always be rememberd. State is a political association that is run by and through laws. And for laws to be effective the state always needs sanction of  the physical force of army and/or police. I will like to quote Mr. Ernest Barker a renowned polical thinkar. I quote - "A state is a legal association, a juridacally organized nation, or a nation organized for action under legal rules. It exists for law : it exixts in and through law : we may even say that it exists as law, if by law we mean not only a sum of legal rules, but also, and in addition, an operative system of effective rules which are actually valid and regularly enforced. The essence of the State is a living body of effective rules, and in that sense the State is law." (Principles of Social and Political Theory, page 89)
All those who follow the legal framework, become its citizens. Nation means the people. People are the nation. There are three main conditions for people to constitute a nation. (1) Their sentiment for the land in which they live. Those who believe that this land is their motherland, constitutes a nation. the Jews were driven out of their motherland and for 1800 years, they lived in different countries. But they never forgot that Palestine is their motherland. (2) The other condition is the sharing of common history. Afterall what is history except certain events happened in the past. Some of them may give a feeling of pride and others may cause shame. Those who have the same feeling of joy or grief about the events in their history constitute a nation. (3) And the third and the most important is their adherence to a certain value-system, i. e. culture. In all nations of the world, these three conditions prevail. It is in our hapless counry  alone, there is controversy about these conditiones.
Who are the people who take pride in uttering a slogan like 'Bharat Mata ki Jay' or 'Vande Mataram?' Who are the people that stretch their history to Rama, Krishna, Chanakya, Vikramaditya, Rana Pratap or Shivaji? And who are the people that share a certain value-system? One major principle of this value-system is appreciation of plurality of faiths and religions. These people are known, the world over,  by the name of Hindu. Therefore this is a Hindu Nation. It has nothing to do whether you are a theist or atheist, whether you are an idol-worshiper or against idol-worship, whether you believe in the authority of the Vedas or some other sacred book. This was understood by the framers of our Constitution. Therefore, an explanation  II under Article 25 states 'Reference to Hindu shall be construed as including a reference to persons professing the Sikh, Jain or Buddhist religion." Why should this be not applicable to those who profess Christianity or Islam? Dr. B. R. Ambedkar moved the Hindu Code Bill in Parliament; and it is applicable to Sikhs, Jains & Buddhists. Why not to Christians & Muslim?
I will describe here a personal experience. For 17 long  years I was a lecturer in a Christian college run by a Protestant Church. I never concealed by affiliation to the R. S. S. Once in 1957, a very senior Christian Professor, some two decades older than me, asked me "Mr. Vaidya, can I become a member of the RSS?"
I said, "yes, you can."
He said, "What shall I have to do?"
I replied, "You need not give up your Church, nor abandon faith in the Bible and can have the same reverence for Jesus Christ."
I was watching the signs of surprise on his face. But I said, "But, Sir, you have to accept the validity of other faiths and religions also."
He immediately remarked "I can not accept this. If I accept this I will not be able to propagate my religion." I said, "Sir, then you can not become a member of the RSS." 
The whole confusion in our understanding of Hindu is our regarding Hindu as a religion. It is not 'a' religion. As Dr. S. Radhakrishan has said, "It is a common-wealth of many religions." Hindu is a Dharma. And in English language there is no adequate corresponding equivalent of Dharma. It will require another article to explain the correct concept and connotation of Dharma. I will end this artilce by quoting Ernest Renan, a French plilosopher, whose book as translated in English is titled 'What is a Nation.' I quote "The soil provides the substratum, the field for struggle and labour, man provides the soul. Man is everything in the formation of this sacred thing that we call a people. Nothing that is material suffices here. A nation is a spiritual principle, the result of the intricate workings of history, a spiritual family and not a group determined by the configuration of the earth." 
He adds "Two things which are really one go to make this soul or spiritual principle. One of these things lies in the past, the other in the present. The one is the possession in common of a rich heritage of memories and the other is actual agreement, the desire to live together and the will to make the most of the joint inheritance. Man cannot be improvised. The nation like the individual is the fruit of a long past spent in toil, sacrifice and devotion.......... To share the glories of the past, and a common will in the present, to have done great good deeds together and to desire to do more - these are essential conditions of a people's being. Love is in proportion to the sacrifice one has made and the evils one has borne." 

To become a Nation, Renan emphasises that you don't need to have one language or one religion, or community of economic interests. You only need the spirit, the sentiment, the value-system. Can one abuse this conotation of as 'Nation' as narrow or dangerous?
-M. G. Vaidya

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