To what ex­tent can In­dia be de­scribed as a na­tion be­tween 1880 – 1914?

The Diplomatic Insight - - Contents - *Michael Wooldridge


The Thus, In­dia, in my opin­ion, can only be de­scribed as a na­tion in terms of an emerg­ing po­lit­i­cal com­mon­al­ity of opin­ion in ref­er­ence to Bri­tish colo­nial rule. Or, in other words, as a shared set of po­lit­i­cal ideas con­cern­ing to a ‘national’ de­vel­op­ment. Ideas that would grow through­out the pe­riod to even­tu­ally in the mid 20th cen­tury link the de­spon­dent so­cial groups, re­li­gious sects, ge­o­graph­i­cal di­vides through­out In­dia. What, there­fore, I shall ar­gue in his es­say is that the ex­tent to which In­dia can be con­sid­ered a na­tion lies as a purely ideational con­cept within the body politic of the higher caste in­tel­li­gentsia. That prac­ti­cally In­dia con­sisted of a plethora of cul­tural, so­cial, and eco­nomic com­mu­ni­ties lack­ing the com­mon­al­ity of tra­di­tion, cul­ture, ho­mo­gene­ity and per­sonal be­lief in their con­nec­tiv­ity to be con­sid­ered a na­tion. To ar­gue this my ar­gu­ment shall be bro­ken down into three sec­tions. Firstly, look­ing at the con­cept of a ‘na­tion’: to present an ar­gu­ment for what con­sti­tutes one. Next ex­am­in­ing the politico-eco­nomic po­si­tion and ideas of higher caste In­dian na­tion­al­ists who claimed to rep­re­sent the masses: show­ing that the In­dian Na­tion, in this pe­riod, ex­isted purely as a nor­ma­tive idea. Fi­nally I shall sum­marise the dif­fer­ences in In­dian So­ci­ety at this time, to show how, and na­tion, can­not be con­sti­tuted fully as one in this pe­riod; that to call In­dia a The his­tory of Na­tions can be traced as one of de­vel­op­ment, for be­fore na­tions came com­mu­ni­ties liv­ing through tribal, slave and feu­dal phases of so­cial ex­is­tence. In light of this, as cor­rectly noted by De­sai, it is only at a cer­tain stage of so­cial, eco­nomic and cul­tural de­vel­op­ment that na­tions came into be­ing. For the or­ganic weld­ing of mem­bers to the state is nec­es­sary for na­tion­hood; and this hap­pens through, as Hroch notes, the for­ma­tion of ob­jec­tive re­la­tion­ships (eco­nomic, po­lit­i­cal, lin­guis­tic, cul­tural, re­li­gious, ge­o­graph­i­cal, his­tor­i­cal), and their con­scious­ness es­tab­lish­ing Mill’s ‘Com­mon Sym­pa­thies’. But that im­por­tantly this ho­mog­e­niza­tion of fac­tors is un­der­pinned by Ersnt Re­nan’s sin­gu­lar con­clu­sion: that each per­son has ex­er­cised their in­di­vid­ual choice to live to­gether. For as An­der­son shows the na­tion is an imag­ined com­mu­nity. Imag­ined be­cause the mem­bers of even the small­est na­tion will never know their fel­low mem­bers, yet in the minds of each lives the im­age of their com­mu­nion. Hav­ing de­vel­oped a work­ing model for what con­sti­tutes a na­tion, it is now im­por­tant to elu­ci­date the link be­tween na­tion­al­ism and be­long­ing to a na­tion. As ob­vi­ously for one to ex­ist within a pre­req­ui­site would be the in­di­vid­ual choice to hold na­tion­al­is­tic ten­den­cies as part of a shared com­mu­nity. It is this that high­lights a no­tice­able split within In­dian So­ci­ety. A split be­tween the English ed­u­cated in­tel­li­gentsia and emerg­ing bour­geoisie cap­i­tal­ist mid­dle class, who held a com­mon­al­ity of

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