Thoughts on Nationalism around Independence Day.. (Updated)

this comment first appeared on Bachchan’s blog a year or two ago..

I remain as always suspicious of nationalism. Or rather I like to celebrate love for one’s place of birth or the land one grows up in with the more jingoistic uses of one’s country. To be even more precise I’d argue that one never really loves one’s ‘country’. What one loves is a slice of life that one experiences in one or different parts of the country. But this by does not mean that one loves the country as such. One of course claims this all the time. It is common language. But there is a substitution that takes place here. Someone who is born in, grows up in, and spends his or her entire life in Thirunelveli believes in the Indian nation state as much as someone who does all these things in Faridabad. The nation ‘fiction’ embraces both these inhabitants whose experiences are otherwise completely different. All nation-states are fictions that essentially assert that to belong to the nation-state is an identity that supersedes that of one’s ethnic or religious or regional particularity. The ‘one’ of the nation-state subsumes everything. But why?

Some national fictions are stronger than others and this is always useful (or not) to the health of the nation-state. The fiction is premised on geographical contiguity, a sense of common memory, commonality in the present, and so on. But note how each one of these terms is loaded with ambiguity and arbitrariness. Let’s take these in turn. By a strange quirk of fate Pakistan or the region now called Pakistan is not part of India. Are for example those who now reside in Bangladesh any less ‘Indian’ than those who live in W Bengal? Originally they weren’t but by a different inflection of the nationalist fiction they now see themselves as ‘other’ to Indian Bengalis. The same goes for Pakistani Punjabis vis-a-vis Indian Punjabis. But one’s basic identity cannot overnight become different based on lines drawn across a map! These lines are then justified retrospectively with the creation of new fictions. Somehow if the British had decided not to partition India (a tragedy in my view) the very definition of India would now be geographically different.

But this works the other way also. If the secession in Punjab had succeeded in the 80s, if some of the North-East had successfully realized the same, and so on.. what would have happened? A different India? But if there is one India there cannot be a debate over its geography. Or rather that geographical modification ought not to be possible. And of course one can go back through time. The definition of India keeps altering. This of course confirms the British notion (one must never forget how much our ideas of the Indian nation-state derive from those that the British originally put in place) — the whole mystical notion of Indian continuity through time. But this doesn’t really confirm the obvious but the opposite. That this ‘idea of India’ (to use Khilnani’s phrase) is a ‘virtual’ one which can be adapted to different circumstances. Whatever commonality different groups of people might have felt at different points about inhabiting this tract of land all of this can in no way be equated with the fiction of the current nation-state. The political fictions have been different at different points depending on who was ruling the land, what parts, how many rulers, etc etc. It is always actually impossible to decide where the geographical boundaries of a nation-state definitively end. You cannot for example draw me a map of India that is completely consistent. Include any area of land you like and there will be problems that emerge. How can one be so thoroughly invested in a nation-state the contours of which are always completely contingent? Or are the outcome of historical contingency and no principle larger than this?

And then there is the question of common memory. But this too is always ‘invented’. The classic example here is of the German nation-state. But what became Germany was actually the most fragmented set of states even until relatively modern times. One day it was decided to stitch all of this together into a ‘German’ nation and then a mystical memory was invented for this too. So ‘memory’ depends on political choices. In Pakistan they are forever trying to prove that they have been ‘different’ from India since ancient times. An absurd exercise if there ever was one but it is one that nonetheless reveals the vacuum at the heart of every national fiction. Because a stronger fiction simply means better political choices, not that it is more well-grounded otherwise in any metaphysical sense.

But creating a dominant set of political choices also means suppressing a great deal that is not consonant with these choices. Because this must never be forgotten — the nationalist fiction is only possible by suppressing very many identities, stories, histories and so forth within that nation state. It means that one has to choose from a whole treasure trove of memories to fashion what eventually becomes the hegemonic one. For example the dominant discourse of the Indian nation-state is essentially a political construct inflected in ‘Northern’ terms. A nationalist fiction then suppresses a great deal, often brutally. How? There are very many groups who never buy into the fiction because even when they are invested in the idea of the nation-state they have differing views on what constitutes such a nation-state or at least a different sense of what kind of nation-state they ought to belong to. So those waging campaigns in the North-East do not believe they are part of the Indian national fabric. They are kept in the nation-state by force and their ‘narratives’ are considered illegitimate. Because these disturb that overall national fiction that always has to maintained by force.

In any case getting back to the idea of memory it is not that whether one lived in Asoka’s times or those of Indira Gandhi one somehow had some loose sense of being Indian. Not at all! What is actually the case is that since British times this has been assumed to be the case! And here one must also consider the political arrangements of an older or ancient world which had different ways of dealing with certain kinds of ‘commonality’. For example the Greek city -states where they shared a common language and culture and where they certain defined themselves collectively as being different from say the Persians. But this did not mean that they had a primitive notion of the nation-state. In fact they privileged regional differences a great deal despite the commonality. It is as if India were a confederation recognizing its strains of commonality but also the important distinctions. Similarly when we look at other political histories from kingdoms to empires and so on we must be very careful not to simply merge them with one another as the nationalist fiction does.

And finally commonality in the present. But this too follows from the other two to a large extent and then beyond this it depends on creating other sorts of choices in the present. So for example a nation-state might decide that however things have gone on in the past the most important coding of the present, the one that ought to be most definitive for the nation-state is in fact one of religion or one ethnicity or the other and so forth. In the Communist dream everyone in the entire nation would overnight be re-coded into either an appropriate ‘citizen’ of the state or its ‘enemy’. And then anything could happen from one being dispossessed to being shipped off to Siberia! One shouldn’t laugh at this last bit. It’s extreme yes but this too is where the logic of nation-states often leads us. of course the Communist dream is always minimally ‘international’ but that’s another matter. Various Fascisms are not. So commonality in the present also means very little. Indoctrination begins right away and the new fiction is immediately disseminated and is usually complete within a generation. So you have the BJP altering textbooks in many states where it is in power. Giving its version of events as it were.

All nation-states are like this. Does it mean then that one shouldn’t be attached to the land of one’s birth? Not at all! But I don’t also see the need to forever limit discussion of this ‘land of one’s birth’ to the fictions of the nation-state. There is very much in contemporary India that subverts this fiction. You ran across this very interesting tribe with African roots in Gujarat. There are very many such identities in India (not all as quirky!) that are not represented by the nationalist fiction. If one just equates one’s land with the latter one then is part of the project to suppress everything that doesn’t confirm it. Consciously or not.

I think there is a better way. Here I think there is a positive way to recover that virtual ‘idea of India’. Why not go all the way? I would frame it this way — I am very much invested in India but for me India defines a whole set of cultural codes, practices, histories, narratives and counter-narratives, factually attested or apocryphal, a whole body of ‘opinion’ (in the best sense of the word, the Greek ‘doxa’ if you will), a whole series of signifiers that collectively offer many competing notions and experiences of ‘India’. In other words the very label ‘India’ can constantly be re-invented or re-configured. It never corresponds to the stability of a national fiction. It defines commonality yes but one that lacks the ground beneath its feet! Put differently there is no complete or total ‘attestation’ for the word ‘India’ that would be completely consistent. But that’s fine! Because this imagining of ‘India’ doesn’t suppress any identity or any ideology and nor does it force anyone to subscribe to it.

Pragmatically we live in the age of nation-states but this doesn’t mean that we should buy wholesale into these fictions. One of course chooses within reality. So whatever nation-state I live in I have to minimally endorse the legal fiction (I am forced to do this). But this is again simply a pragmatic issue. This doesn’t in any way entail my investment in the fiction itself. This is a profound distinction.

87 Responses to “Thoughts on Nationalism around Independence Day.. (Updated)”

  1. that Metro ad in the lower right hand corner thrills me! Such a momentous day but they still make space for the movies!

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  2. but ya truth is stranger than fiction

    don’t agree with that nationalism bit

    Liked by 1 person

  3. omrocky786 Says:

    Re.-By a strange quirk of fate Pakistan or the region now called Pakistan is not part of India. Are for example those who now reside in Bangladesh any less ‘Indian’ than those who live in W Bengal?

    Even the people (aliens) of Pandora did not like invaders …..LOL

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  4. omrocky786 Says:

    OT-
    no more R’s – Regan/ Romney/Ryan
    The RR ticket is being called the Rolls Royce Ticket ..LOL

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    • Is the Chicago machine ready for Ryan?…lol

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      • LOL, Obama has this great luck where not only does he get weak opponents but those who also commit suicide!

        Of course it’s partially luck and partially the fact that the Republican heavyweights didn’t think they could run against him and win even in a weak economy. Romney would never have made it if Perry had just performed like Bush. Evidently even that was asking too much of him! But see here:

        http://www.politico.com/news/stories/0812/79697.html?hp=f1

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        • Incidentally both the Rs and Ds are bullish about Ryan helping their respective causes!

          Satyam what do you think of Romney outraising and outspending the sitting president..is that all from a few rich donors? Isnt that important, considering money dominates the political scene in the US (negative ads etc) or for that matter anywhere in the world?

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    • omrocky786 Says:

      ha ha…another R- Rahm!!

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  5. tonymontana Says:

    Wish everyone on the blog a very happy National Slavery Day

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  6. So what’s the article trying to say (apart from trying to sound very clever), we shouldn’t mark the day when foreign rule left us?

    My understanding is that we mark the day to celebrate INDEPENDENCE from the British and NOT a day where we celebrate our successes, or non, as a nation and what it has achieved (which is another story).

    Of course, that we are facing another kind of colonialism is something most are unaware of.
    I say this because of the frustration a lot of people who are fans of the TV serial called Chandragupta Maurya are facing when this channel (Imagine TV – owners Turner GRoup) just shut down. Now one can’t reach them to request for NOC to another channel to allow it’s continuation. How to reach a foreigner holding power over what people in India want to see.

    THis is only one example. I’m sure there a lot more where we have to look to some foreign power for what we want.

    Anyway, I don’t believe in throwing the baby with the dirty bath water. Nationalism leading to ‘jingoism’ is definitely sickening – I hate ‘God Bless America!!’
    But at THAT TIME when people were struggling to send the British packing, nationalism was a useful and very understandable sentiment.

    Since I’m glad for today, here’s a song I love.

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    • “So what’s the article trying to say (apart from trying to sound very clever), we shouldn’t mark the day when foreign rule left us?”

      The word ‘foreign’ here is key. If you asked a substantial portion of the right in India (certainly the ideologues) they would define ‘Muslims’ as ‘foreign’ and ‘invaders’. So this game becomes tricky once one starts playing it!

      The problem with Independence Day celebrations is that these are not completely distinct from the fictions of nationalism but part and parcel of the same. So it might seem like a ‘neutral’ gesture to celebrate one’s Independence from the British but really isn’t. Of course the question also becomes: what sort of of ‘Independence’ are we really celebrating from the British as we merrily type away in English on these blogs?! We have also absorbed ‘Britishness’ in all sorts of profound ways. Physically driving people out doesn’t seem to me the only test of ‘independence’! Yes we have driven out the colonizers in a literal sense but not before we became colonized and even fostered this colonization with a history that extends to the present day and shows no signs of weakening. Again to be clear I am not taking some sort of ‘nativist’ position here. This too is always an illusion as I’ve tried to highlight in the longer response.

      Finally I am not trying to be the equivalent of the Grinch who stole Christmas. I have nothing against Independence Day celebrations! I am just not a subscriber to them in the most ‘wholesome’ sense!

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      • That exactly was RDB point 😉

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        • haha munna, so you’re RKS from NG?….there were a few tell tale signs like the polite nature (though this version is a bit more assertive:)), techie-behind-the-site thing and the link-happy nature….but the almost unfathomable devotion to RDB is the clincher! Even on NG, nothing bothered you except someone criticizing RDB….-;) Just kidding!

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        • that was RDB’s point upto a point! Because towards the end Mehra takes it all back and the film’s resolution is very confused. First off assassinating a minister is not a ‘plan’ (in isolation) but this is still not the worst of the film’s problems. The larger issue is that towards the end once the protagonists realize their actions were misplaced they still don’t offer a sense of direction in terms of where a better solution might lie. So there’s the ‘let’s feel it’ moment there that moves at a level of abstraction. But also note that the whole assassination bit isn’t the absurdest thing around given that the freedom fighters they (and many of us) cherish were also ‘assassins’ and ‘terrorists’ (to use contemporary parlance). By the end of the film the entire nation has been ‘moved’ but no one’s the wiser. The maddy speech is one of the film’s key moments. Though very effectively delivered by the actor the message here seems to be — either get institutionalized and agree to fight for the state or do something else but don’t just complain. Contra Maddy I think one can be a completely coherent ‘critic’. One doesn’t have to do anything more. That critique is already ‘doing’ something! But his friends don’t do this. Nor do they have a proper ‘revolutionary’ plan. To the extent that they have a half-baked one they abandon it by the end.

          I don’t mean to be too harsh on a film that at least raises these questions and is otherwise a fine piece of filmmaking at other levels but at the same time the bar is raised higher when you attempt more. And such political confusion runs the risk of becoming part of the problem.

          In some ways this confusion runs throughout Mehra’s career whether he takes a more inward turn as in D6 or a more metaphysical one as in Aks. In each case Mehra is wonderful at setting things up but finds it much harder to merge the personal with the larger (macro) political issues. Still he gets away with it better in D6 where the problem remains at a ‘sociological’ level and even if the film is confused beyond a point it still chooses a bolder political statement from which it does not turn back. The black monkey symbolism here is problematic but whatever the monkey represents (and this is a different debate) ts seems to function like a different kind of agency. so Mehra is not really thinking politics here as much in terms of the nationalist framing and much more by way of ‘community’ and so on. It is a much more micro look at things. Now this ‘retreat’ on Mehra’s part from RDB’s grander narrative might itself be considered troubling. In a way he continues the withdrawal brought about at the end of that older film. But once you get beyond this the D6 narrative is at worst schizoid. So the religious violence and the ‘message’ of the second half does not necessarily follow from what has proceeded earlier (though one could argue that there is a Spike Lee-like quality even here where things are on a slow burn building up toward something) but there is no grand project or ‘interrogation’ here for which an answer is supplied. If anything it’s in reverse. So in RDB the protagonists feel disconnected from national affairs and identify this as a problem in the nation-state itself. They then take action. By the end they withdraw and sort of accept the problem lies within themselves (which itself is a conformist move than cancels out the rebellion of the first half.. so Mehra keeps confusing these macro and micro levels of critique). In D6 however there is no ‘problem’ as such. The protagonist arrives from elsewhere, takes in the ‘excess’ of his surrounding almost in mute fashion (of course this is supposed to be a dead man’s narration, even if Mehra changed the ending that original resolution keeps informing the tonal choices of the film we’ve seen), at some point he becomes a critic of everything he sees around him, specifically the religious violence, and shows a mirror to the community. So the film always remains at the level of self-reflection. In fact there’s a clear movement here. The protagonist arrives, observes things, an event intercedes and he then turns his observations onto the others. For turning this mirror inward he has to die (the original ending therefore made much more sense).

          Note how there’s a parallel with Aks here. There is a constant between two kinds of violence. The institutional kind, the one representing order (Bachchan’s character) and that which is extra-legal, outside the state, even outside the religious-bourgeois order (Bajpayee). At some point this film’s inward turn involves the two forces inhabiting the same body. So the state’s violence is itself the problem! The evil that Bachchan’s character seeks elsewhere is within him! It then requires an exorcism to remove this violence. This very exorcism defined in political terms is a ‘revolution’. An event which changes the contours of the state in the most ‘internal’ sense. This is the exorcism RDB ultimately refuses. D6 is a kind of return to Aks in this sense. The evil is externalized and then revealed as internal to the community. Here the protagonist is simply a means to effectuate the transition (which is why he must die as surely as Bajpayee’s character did).

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      • @satyam
        First of all I apologise for mistaking the writer. I thought you had posted someone’s article. Turned out you are the writer 🙂
        I wouldn’t have said what I did. I would have just disagreed.

        >So it might seem like a ‘neutral’ gesture to celebrate one’s Independence from the British but really isn’t. Of course the question also becomes: what sort of of ‘Independence’ are we really celebrating from the British as we merrily type away in English on these blogs?! We have also absorbed ‘Britishness’ in all sorts of profound ways

        I think you’ve missed the point. So – again, Independence day = independence FROM BRITISH RULE.

        Britishness has nothing to do with this. There are Anglophiles even in the US. Perhaps I’m one too, because I love their literature, theatre, their landscape/villages the architecture etc. AS for the language English, I think it was a plus (along with the road/railway network) as Indians could venture out into the English speaking world.

        Then again. The BRitishness has almost disappeared. It’s all about America and Americanism. The people no longer say ‘dance’ (with ‘a’ as in ‘park’) but ‘dance’ (with ‘a’ as in ‘at’). And the slang!! They go to Mac Donald, and KFC. I found this in at least three cities I visited last year (Delhi, Pune, Bombay).
        They don’t say ‘fillum’ anymore, but – movies. And, they all use ‘cellphones’.

        >The word ‘foreign’ here is key. If you asked a substantial portion of the right in India (certainly the ideologues) they would define ‘Muslims’ as ‘foreign’ and ‘invaders’. So this game becomes tricky once one starts playing it!

        No it isn’t tricky at all. Even they know it. It’s not the same. They are not ruling India. Anyway, clearly their agenda is different. To get into that would be like getting into a totally different discussion.

        I think that the essence of what the day signifies is lost. People start talking about how the situation is in the country and about the government – which is a totally different issue.

        No feelings for the nation, no religion, no family life (because marriage is out and silly) – LOL what is one supposed to do? Just have s%x? Work hard for money? and sit in front of the computer?

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        • Wow what a spirited return by oldgold..
          She and anjali are eating (drinking )the same stuff nowadays 🙂
          Good points there ..

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        • No apology required Olgold..!

          Let me start with the last bit first.. I’m hardly suggesting that one become a robot! check out my second last paragraph in the post.

          On the rest here’s the difference — there is a cultural imperialism that is not predicated on the geographic kind. So yes there’s ‘Americana’ everywhere in the world, people are influenced and so on.. without the US occupying those countries. With Britain on the other hand India was a colony. So here the influence has been entirely because of this fact. And it is ultimately more profound than the American one (where America did not actually occupy a country as for example with Japan after WWII). Because we have no ways of thinking anymore than are not modified by the British experience. From religious/caste/ethnics definitions to ideas of Indian history, the ways in which the educational system has been formed, the political and administrative machinery, the monuments.. etc etc etc.. all of this is not like the folks in Shanghai running after Pepsi and KFC!

          The history of Western colonialism is a profound one precisely because it isn’t only about occupying countries. I can’t get into all the historical and philosophical dimensions of this problem here but the point is that the ‘native’ is altered in his or her very ways of thinking.

          All of this does not mean (and nor have I implied this anymore) that one shouldn’t celebrate Independence Day! Nor did I even primarily look at this through the prism of colonialism. My larger point is that the history of the Indian nation-state (which owes all of its genealogy to the experience of European nationalism much like every nation-state in the world) contains within it certain problems of definition whereby everyone who’s a citizen isn’t quite included in the same way. Every nation-state practices such violence. Hence every nation-state ought to be questioned on the very same grounds. For example when people celebrate the great experiment of America and rightly so for very many reasons they conveniently neglect the fact that this grand experiment is also founded on a genocide of the ‘native’ (or more or less what amounts to this). This is one example but there are many such examples in every nation-state. It is part of official Turkish policy to not talk about or even accept the genocide of Armenians a century ago. So on and so forth. But it’s not just about the violence that each state ‘excludes’, it’s also what it continues to practice on a daily basis. Not because it’s an imperfect state but because it’s fictions do not allow it to do any better. Again all of this would amount to a very long discussion. But the point I’m trying to make in that paragraph above is that one can for example live all the cultural and relatively obscure histories of Kerala (‘obscure’ from the perspective of the nationalist hegemonic definitions.. some states are always more important than others) or be invested in this slice of life without necessarily subscribing to the ‘Indian’ definition of Kerala. It of course literally is this but it also has a history that transcends this. So you can be very invested in aspects of Indian life or various histories or cultural traditions or what have you without being forced to accept the Indian nation-state wholesale. Minimally, and for reasons of definition, one is of course forced to do so but that doesn’t mean one cannot critique the same. Let me provide a final example. One you’re familiar with — Bidar. The history of this region is not at all limited to the definitions the current Indian state gives it and for this reason there is much about the experience of Bidar even today that cannot exactly be aligned with the categories of the nation-state. Much as you have people in TN/Kerala border regions speaking Tamil and Malayalam, sometimes a mix of the two. Are they Tamilians or Malayalees? It’s very hard to say but the Indian nation-state insists on one or the other depending on where you fall in terms of the current boundaries of these states.

          So again you can be interested in, invested in, involved with all of these aspects (and countless other slices of experience) without at all accepting the Delhi hegemony (actually Rathnam’s Dil Se is a great work on all of this.. SRK’s the standard or model Indian who subscribes completely to the ‘Delhi consensus’ and then when he goes to these other regions of India he is almost in a foreign place.. here his ‘Indianness’ badge doesn’t mean very much).

          Having said all of this I was still not arguing that one shouldn’t be happy about Independence or what have you. But yes I don’t have that easy investment in such celebrations (don’t have a problem with anyone who does) and as a much larger matter (and not least for philosophical reasons and for those of the more immediate historical past) I am just very suspicious of nation-states. That doesn’t mean I like kingdoms! But one has to be willing to imagine more than the nation-state argues for. Not as a utopian idea but because those (in this case) alternate Indias already exist!

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        • But that is what history is all about.

          Would you like to go further back and talk about the Romans and their empire? Or the Greek?
          What about the wars leading to spreading kingdoms far into the south. One could go on. Changes are always there, and it’s right to consider what boundaries now exist, because a Tamilian living in another state across the border will still consider himself Tamilian – a tamilian living in Kerela.
          Till the generation in Pakistan or India who lived in the other country before partition dies away they will have a soft spot for the country of their birth and where they grew up, but basically that is an emotion, and they are Pakistanis or Indians – at least that’s what the situation is – at present. Ask Advani.

          Majority is what always counts and for the majority these situations are not as you define. Otherwise one would have to reject democracy because the government ruling a country may not be supported by a large percentage, maybe just 47% even.

          Considering how large the world and its population is, these things of boundary etc do define a certain state of existence for the people and where they are.

          As for the American influence being different – I think it is a deadlier one, the passive one, and will go deeper because people are accepting it without thinking of it as ‘the enemy’s’ or ‘the ruler’s’ and offer no resistance. I’m talking about India alone (not China or any other country) because the transition from British to American is an easier and quicker one as compared to from Chinese (communist) to American with KFC and Pepsi.

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          • “As for the American influence being different – I think it is a deadlier one, the passive one, and will go deeper because people are accepting it without thinking of it as ‘the enemy’s’ or ‘the ruler’s’ and offer no resistance. I’m talking about India alone (not China or any other country) because the transition from British to American is an easier and quicker one as compared to from Chinese (communist)to American with KFC and Pepsi.”
            Hmm some good points there…
            Oldgold has certainly eaten (drank) something special today 🙂
            Btw if u hate Kfc/ McDonald, why are u eating chips all the time haha

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          • first of all you’re factually wrong on the American influence being ‘deadlier’. That’s just your bias speaking. The cultural impact of Britain was as total and was hardly rejected by anyone even after colonialism technically ended. Which is precisely my point! Nor are the Americans just using soft power. They have occupied very many parts of the world themselves. So it’s the same sort of situation except that the theaters sometimes differ.

            As for the older empires you’re making my point. But we’re not living in the Roman age! As a historical matter we can continue to examine how the Roman world informs our own in certain ways but that’s a different matter. Again I can’t get into all of the relevant literature here but colonialism is something different from imperialism. The two often overlap but they’re not the same. Colonialism is directed at the institutions of knowledge to get a bit theoretical here. Imperialism often isn’t.

            It’s not about majorities or minorities. It is about the state defining its natives in exclusive ways. So if one belongs to UP one of course accepts the definitions of the state in this regard but being from that region is not exhausted by the state’s categories. And ‘majorities’ never dominate nation-states. Hegemonies do. which is something very different. You are confusing the two. A majority votes for certain choices within a given frame. But what about that frame itself? Was a popular vote taken before the Indian constitution was put in place? Or the US one? Basically the prestige of political figures carried the day. Yes, people wanted independence from the British either way but they were not necessarily supporting everything else. Once the frame is in place people again start voting and so on. But even if there are majorities so what? Majorities can agree to anything!

            Your India/Pakistan example proves my point too. For example being Punjabi transcends being from India or Pakistan. The nation-state in each case insists that being Indian or being Pakistani trumps being Punjabi but that’s a fiction which one can easily be disabused of outside these countries where Punjabis gravitate to each other far more than they mix with Tamilians. So on and so forth. The Alsace-Lorraine region has changed hands multiple times between Germany and France. These folks obviously have to carry one passport or the other but that’s a limitation of the nation-state not that of the history of that region.

            In other situations people face other problems of definition but one can only deal with (pragmatically) what one has. So the Mughals had other definitional issues which historians routinely point out but that’s not the world we live in. And again conquest or rule is not the same as colonialism.

            So once again the nation-state’s is a de facto reality which is premised on an ‘idea’. But this ‘hegemonic’ idea then drowns out all others and in turn alternate realities that don’t fit the bill. This doesn’t happen necessarily by engaging in literal violence but by not recognizing certain categories at all. When I fill out various forms in the US that ask whether I’m Caucasian or Asian (this usually refers to E Asians in the US) or whatever I often find I don’t fit any of the categories. I then have to choose ‘other’! In every nation-state there is this ‘other’ box where everyone who cannot fit into the established definitions is thrown in!

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          • Oldgold : I ‘warned’ u but u were in a ‘naughty’ mood …
            Look, Satyams (replies) are getting ‘longer’ and ‘longer’–now cope with that 🙂

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          • @satyam
            I don’t agree with your views. I like mine.

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    • ^^^ hiya miss Khyber pass 😉

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  7. tweeted about this today but added this bit:

    [Suspicious of ‘nationalism’, even on Independence Day! This is a long comment I once left on Amitji’s blog and in ‘argument’ and I shall risk saying somewhat crazily (!) that his ‘idea of India’ is much closer to the vision I’ve formulated here towards the end than the one he often does relying on somewhat easy definitions that are belied by his own deeper ‘practice’ and more expansive beliefs about ‘Indianness’ which belong to a truly secular vision of the state that runs from Nehru to Manmohan Desai! There has been no greater cultural practitioner of this vision in public life than him whether ‘on screen’ or ‘off screen’. Nonetheless this comment did come about as a polemical response on his blog]

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  8. A brilliant thoughtful piece Satyam which not only is do daringly original but is also slightly ‘discomforting’ and tough to stomach. The best thing i find abt ur pieces they are never ‘categorical’- u always try to leave enough space in ur pieces so as to create a healthy debate. Will say this though that i do differ on some of ur points here (these days i am arguing with u a lot, hope u don’t mind it 🙂 )

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  9. Satyam,
    For all your utopian ideology,I cannot bring myself to agree here.
    Hail India and f%^& the enemies and the invaders including the British.

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    • This is a first!!! Time to celebrate. Rajen finally, finally disagreed with Satyam! Yay

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      • Lol..
        This is a ” I – Day” moment 🙂

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      • LOL!
        Actually, Satyam and myself are one and the same person.
        Dont tell me you have missed the similarities in our writing style, length of posts/comments, views and knowledge about all kinds of cinema etc!!!

        Like

    • Ha, that’s one way of putting it!

      To clarify something though one of my points is that the nation I’m describing is already one people are partaking of. In other words the hegemonic nationalist narrative isn’t one that holds for very many ‘citizens’ in any country. Of course everyone still lives within the same borders and has to submit to the same narrative one way or the other but this is different from being part of a hegemonic class that is actively interested in the same. It would be utopian to argue for the absence of nation-states (though we’re moving toward a world where these geographic borders are increasingly challenged) but what I’m suggesting is that there are alternative ways of inhabiting national space. These are completely ‘real’ and not imaginary or virtual ones.

      And the larger point of course is akin to the religious one. We fight and die for out beliefs (political and religious) but ultimately (95% of the time) these depend on quirks of birth. Which of course doesn’t mean one cannot be invested in a state for ideological reasons that are not the usual nationalist ones. This too I have tried to point out with India.

      Like

  10. As usual :
    Will place another ‘controversial’ idea here:
    There’s no doubt that the British plundered/abused India(ns)
    But:
    Think there have been some positives also :
    -the ‘modern’ Macaulay education
    -English language
    -the ‘access’ the language brings to Indians the word over (unlike for the chinese!)
    All those typing away from the states won’t be doing so without their adeptness in English (or it wold have been difficult)
    -railways
    -oppression creating a ‘binding force’ to ‘fight against’
    Without which perhaps there may have been an ‘autoimmune’ phenomenon
    Would like the views of esteemed members here on this …

    Like

  11. No
    YOU are stealing my ‘original’ ideas 😉

    Like

  12. Plagiarism alert…..haha

    Like

  13. “no religion, no family life (because marriage is out and silly) – LOL what is one supposed to do? Just have s%x”
    @ Oldgold : what am I hearing from u …
    Seems u are upto something really naughty and dodgy 😉
    Anyhow enjoy…

    Like

    • hahaha. This man had to run from Nation to nation, from boundary to boundary/border to border in search of refuge, so saying “what’s the need for nations” is one of the best ironies I have ever come across LOL!

      Like

  14. Thanx anjali: some good thoughts there…
    the practical problem with ‘no boundaries’ is that some ‘disadvantaged’ from Rwanda, Sudan may travel across the boundaries and then ask to ‘share’ and ‘take away’ our homes/ cars/ even gals on the context of ‘equality’ ..and so on..hahah

    Like

    • Re: the practical problem with ‘no boundaries’ is that some ‘disadvantaged’ from Rwanda, Sudan may travel across the boundaries and then ask to ‘share’ and ‘take away’ our homes/ cars/ even gals on the context of ‘equality’

      in the UK?!

      Like

      • In any of the ‘haves’..Or the socalled ‘developed’ nations ..
        This battle between the ‘haves’ and ‘havenots’, the ‘advantaged’ and ‘disadvantaged’ wwas always there and will always be..

        Like

        • I was being sarcastic there. 🙂 Thought with your original comment you were outpoping the pope….haha

          Like

          • “Thought with your original comment you were outpoping the pope”
            Actually I was ‘outpoping the pope’ –hahaha
            Anyhow back to the ‘lessons’ … Lol

            Like

  15. WHEN INDIA WAS DIVIDED into two nations, India and Pakistan, a rumor was heard that there was a madhouse just on the boundary. Neither India nor Pakistan was interested to take the madhouse. But something had to be done. It had to go somewhere. Finally, the chief superintendent of the madhouse called all the mad people and asked them, “Do you want to go to India?”

    They said, “No, we are perfectly happy here.”

    The superintendent said, “You will be here. Don’t be worried about that. Just tell me — do you want to go to India?”

    They all looked at each other and they said, “People think we are mad! Something has gone wrong with our superintendent. If we are going to be here then the question does not arise of going to India. Why should we go to India?”

    The superintendent was in a difficulty how to explain to these insane people. He said, “Then would you like to go to Pakistan?” They said, “No, not at all. We are perfectly happy here. Why should we go anywhere?”

    He again tried to explain to them that, “You will be here, whether you choose India or Pakistan. You are not going anywhere.”

    Then they said, “It seems to be very strange. If we are not going anywhere, then why should we even be asked about it? We are here.”

    It was impossible to convince them that it is not a question of physically moving to India or Pakistan. It is a political question: “Under which country, within which boundary do you want to remain?” Finally it was decided by the officials that the madhouse should also be divided into two parts. One will be in India, one will be in Pakistan. They raised a huge wall, just dividing the whole madhouse in two.

    And I have heard that the mad people still climb up on the wall, talk to the people on the other side and say, “We cannot figure it out. We are here, you are here, but you have gone to Pakistan and we have gone to India — just because they have raised this wall. And the strangest thing of all is that they think we are mad.”

    Like

  16. Haha anjali: was that a link or u wrote it 🙂

    Like

  17. Haha anjali
    Btw since Oldgold has taught me today this:: –“no religion, no family life (because marriage is out and silly) – LOL what is one supposed to do? Just have s%x””
    Osho apparently had some interesting thoughts on this
    Can u plz teach me… -in bits and chapters since I may not understand all @ once 🙂

    Like

    • @ alex
      ”no religion, no family life ” and i would humbly like to add “no work”.
      osho followed no religion,had no family to look after and neither was he working for any multinational company.
      he had a whole city on his name..rajneeshpuram. with shopping malls,airports,buses,roads,etc.
      had a fleet of 93 rolls royce cars for personal use.
      once a journalist asked him: how do you spend ur day?what do yu do?
      he said: i do nothing. have u read arabian nights? i spend my day surrounded by houris.in the beginning i used to keep count of how many women i have slept with…but then i gave up the practice…whats the point!
      i may have slept with thousands of women.
      he was a laughing gas addict(nitrogen di oxide)….and loved to eat exotic sweets from all over the world.he spent the day in the laughing gas haze…playing with nymphs and tasting sweets.
      he had a royal bathroom where most of his excesses were committed.he loved taking bath and playing with water bubbles.he fondly called his bathroom…my “white house.”
      everyday in the evening he went out for drive….picking one from the 93 rollysroyces. his disciples had constructed a special 25 miles stretch of road only for his driving because he hated traffic.

      and it was not that his father was an ambani or bill gates or some king and he had inherited the riches. he got all the money..practically by doing nothing…just babbling his tongue in his daily discourses…talking about all manner of beautiful crap!
      and still he managed to take the ass of this world… just by being himself.
      once a journo asked him…how does it feel to have the cult following among millions of sannyasins,being amazingly rich,always in media headlines.etc.etc..
      his one word answer was…GROOVY!

      Now this man should be our ideal. He has the power to show the middle finger to this world and all its rat race values.

      Like

      • “he said: i do nothing. have u read arabian nights? i spend my day surrounded by houris.in the beginning i used to keep count of how many women i have slept with…but then i gave up the practice…whats the point!
        i may have slept with thousands of women.
        he was a laughing gas addict(nitrogen di oxide)….and loved to eat exotic sweets from all over the world.he spent the day in the laughing gas haze…playing with nymphs and tasting sweets.
        he had a royal bathroom where most of his excesses were committed.he loved taking bath and playing with water bubbles.he fondly called his bathroom…my “white house.”
        Wow– sounds familiar oops
        I like that 🙂

        Like

  18. Time for some ‘lessons’ from OG and anjali
    Good nite folks 🙂

    Like

  19. I think the essence of this piece is captured very well in that splendid scene in KHJJS where the group of young boys (who have just joined the revolutionaries) discuss the meaning of Vande Mataram ‘after’ singing it- the scene in a very subtle manner questions what patriotism is. Also another scene regarding this entire nationalism debate belongs to Deshpremee where in the opening credits they show a chained Bachchan alongwith some montages of various regions of India on the national map

    Like

  20. Wishing everyone at SS a very Happy Bharat ka Independence Day !!
    Here is great Compilation of Desh Bhakti songs-
    Nothing connects India like music. From the deserts of Kutch to the tea Gardens of Assam. From the Shalimar Gardens of Srinagar to the beaches of Kerala, we love to make a song and dance about everything. Here is explaining India’s journey through some defining songs. –
    See more at: https://www.myind.net/bringing-out-patriotic-fervor-india%E2%80%99s-70th-independence-day#.dpuf

    Like

    • “Happy Bharat ka Independence Day”

      What’s up with your fascination calling it ‘Bharat’ again n again? Isn’t the official name India??

      Like

      • Okay, looks like even Bharat is official at some level. Not sure what’s up with that!

        Like

      • LOL!!this is new….
        ab Bharat per bhee aapattee !!

        Just like NDTV says – Bigger Bharat flag is hyper nationalism !!
        # hadd hai yaar !!

        Like

        • Nothing hadd wadd bro! Bharat is ‘insider’s/local name or actually used when not in English. If you say ‘ “Happy Bharat ka Independence Day’ it doesn’t sound right.. whereas ‘“Happy INDIA ‘s Independence Day” does.

          “Bharatiya swatantra diwas” sound more apt.. as its localised flavor. You are trying to mix two and it doesn’t give that feel and looks forced. No wonder it looks over fascination for calling it Bharat even when required.

          Like

          • Theek hai bhai……….
            hamrai abhivyakti kee azadi yaani FOE gai tel leney !!
            Umar Khalid kee FOE bahut zaroori hai !!
            #had hai Yaar !!

            P.S.- Bharat humko jaan sey pyara hai !!

            Like

          • Kaahe Naaraz ho jaate ho chhoti chhoti baton par..Saw Parched 🙂

            Like

        • Munaa , agree I should not… lekin yahan baat Bharat and RDB kee thee …LOL!!

          Liked by 1 person

          • So Munna- did you like Parched..Is the leaked whatsapp scene there in the movie ?
            Radhika Apte is getting typecast doing these kind of bold scenes IMO.

            Like

          • Yes..It is a decent movie on women freedom, sexuality, empowerment. I was surprised to see the scenes. Even Sunny leone becomes all kosher for Bollywood.
            I will say she is doing roles which she is capable of. She obviously can not compete with Kirti, Shradha, Katrina…She is trying to carve a niche something like Vidya Balan.

            Liked by 1 person

      • I read somewhere the article 1 starts with “India, that is Bharat, shall be a Union of States. ….”

        Liked by 1 person

    • best to you and everyone else here though you already know my ultimate sense of these things from this post!

      Like

  21. Like

  22. This piece is so disgusting ….saala films ko toh chod do !!
    These people are determined to “Bharat terey tukdey hongey ” !!
    http://www.thehindu.com/features/metroplus/the-right-turn/article8981658.ece

    Like

    • Liked by 1 person

    • To add to this.. after playing incredibly maratha peshwa Bajirao, Ranveer Singh is supposedly ‘advised’ by ‘unknown powerful’ to NOT play the ‘evil muslim’ ruler Allauddin Khilji who eyes, lusts, obsessed and wants to get the much married ‘hindu princess’ Padmavati at any cost in Bhansali’s next!

      Like

      • and it turns out SRK is supposedly advised’ by ‘unknown powerful’ to play the ‘evil muslim’ ruler Allauddin Khilji who eyes, lusts, obsessed and wants to get the much married ‘hindu princess’ Padmavati at any cost in Bhansali’s next!

        Like

        • Twist in the tale: Hrithik to replace Ranveer as Alauddin Khilji in SLB’s Padmavati?

          If reports are to be believed, Bhansali has approached and given a narration to Hrithik Roshan to play the character of Khilji, in his grand historical Padmavati!

          Like

  23. Happy Independence Day!

    Liked by 2 people

  24. Good to see Satyam’s comment after a very long time though it is an old one.

    Like

  25. tonymontana Says:

    Happy Independence Day everyone!

    Like

  26. Happy Independence Day.

    WOW, great to read some old comments.

    Liked by 1 person

  27. True nationalism is respect for your motherland (district, state or nation) while at the same time being open, accepting & tolerant of diversity and willing to explore as many aspects of this wonderful planet as possible. Service to the ecosystem, knowledge & a scientific temper without senseless jingoism & bias is what true nationalism stands for. Period.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Better to be patriotic than nationalist. Quite a big difference.

      Like

    • There’s a huge difference between being a nationalist and a being a patriotic. Especially in a country like India. Ask 90% of population in kashmir what nationalism means to them and then compare that to some other state and you’ll get a different answer.

      India is very diverse, culture, language, etc is different from north india to south india.

      Like

  28. alternative:

    Like

  29. HAPPY INDEPENDENCE DAY to all. Whatever it is, wounded, hurt, with warts, with people reeking of selfishness, with squabbles, with shit, with dirt, it is ours …

    One doesn’t discard one’s mother just because she can only afford a torn saree….

    Liked by 1 person

    • One indeed has the right to discard the mom if her rules or activities cause misery, destruction & devastation to the child. Respect for a mother is earned and blind worshipping is as much a facade as nationalism.

      Like

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