The Country and Nationalism

(Translated from Bengali. Dec 4, 1909 - On Nationalism, pp.488-490)
THE FOUNDATION of nationalism is the country not race, religion or anything else, but the country alone. All other elements of nationalism are secondary and contributory, it is the country that is primary and essential. Many mutually antagonistic races may live in a single country. Goodwill, unity and friendship have perhaps never existed among them, but what does it matter? When there is one country, one Mother, unity is bound to be realised one day; the union of many races will forge a single strong and invincible nation. Religious beliefs may differ, religious communities may be in perpetual conflict, there may be no harmony or hope of harmony, but even so there is no cause for alarm. One day, harmony must surely prevail by virtue of the powerful magnetism of the Mother incarnate in the country; by hook or by crook, through negotiation, force or appeasement, communal divisions will be submerged in a feeling of fraternity and love of the Mother. A country may have many languages, brother may be unable to understand brother, we cannot enter into each other's minds; impenetrable walls stand in the way of uniting our hearts and have to be surmounted with much effort. Still there is nothing to fear: where there is one country, one life, one stream of thought running through every mind, by the force of necessity a common language is sure to emerge. Either the predominance of an existing language will be accepted or a new language will be created which all will use in the Mother's temple. All these obstacles cannot impede us for ever; the Mother's purpose, the Mother's attraction, the Mother's inmost desire cannot fail, it overcomes and destroys all obstacles and oppositions and is triumphant. We who were born from the same Mother's womb, who live in her lap and return to her elements when we die, in spite of a thousand inner discords will unite at her call. This is the law of Nature, this is the lesson we draw from the history of all countries: the country is the foundation of nationalism and this relation is unfailing. Where a country exists, nationalism is bound to arise among its people. In one country two nations cannot persist for ever, they must eventually unite. On the other hand if the country is not one, the race, religion and language may be the same, but it is of no avail, independent nations will emerge one day or the other. By federating separate countries you can create a great empire, but not a great nation. At the collapse of the empire, independent nations again come into being; often that inherent natural separateness is itself the cause of the collapse.

But even if the result is inevitable, man's effort, man's intelligence or lack of it speeds up or delays the realisation of the inevitable process of Nature. Unity has never been achieved in our country, but there has always been a pull, a tendency towards unity which throughout our history has drawn the different parts of India together to make them one. There were some major obstacles in the way of this natural endeavour: first, the regional diversity; secondly, the Hindu-Muslim conflict; thirdly, the lack of a vision of the country as the Mother. The vast area of the land, the difficulties and delays of communication and the diversity of languages have been some of the main factors responsible for regional disunity. Thanks to the advances of modern science all these obstacles have weakened except the last one. Despite the Hindu-Muslim conflict Akbar succeeded in unifying India. Had Aurangzeb not succumbed to bad impulses, under the pressure of time, by force of habit and through fear of foreign aggression the Hindus and Muslims of India, like the Catholics and Protestants in England, would have become permanently united. As a result of Aurangzeb's folly, today at the instigation of a few unscrupulous English politicians the fire of conflict has been kindled and refuses to die out. But the major obstacle is the lack of a vision of the country as the Mother. Our politicians were often incapable of having a vision of the Mother in her totality. Ranjit Singh or Guru Gobind did not see Mother India but Mother Punjab. Shivaji and Bajirao did not see Mother India but the Mother of the Hindus. Other Maharashtrian statesmen saw Mother Maharashtra. During the Partition of Bengal we too had a vision of Mother Bengal. That was an undivided vision and therefore the future unity and progress of Bengal is assured. But the unified image of Mother India has not yet been revealed. The Mother India we worshipped in the Congress with many hymns of praise was imaginary, an attendant and a cherished slave-girl of the English, a monstrous illusion decked in foreign trappings. She is not our Mother; but behind her, hidden in a deep, dim light, our real Mother was all along drawing our minds and hearts. The day we have seen the image of the Mother in her indivisible reality, when enthralled by her beauty and grace we feel a passion to dedicate our lives to her work, on that day this obstacle will vanish and India's unity, freedom and progress will become easy to achieve. The differences of language will no longer be an impediment; we will keep our own mother tongues and yet accept Hindi as the common language, thus eliminating that barrier. We shall be able to evolve a real solution to the Hindu-Muslim conflict. For want of a vision of the country as the Mother, the urge to do away with this obstacle has not been strongly felt; that is why the means has not been found and the conflict has continued to worsen. But her true and indivisible image is needed. If in our yearning for the vision of the Mother we seek her as the Mother of the Hindus, the basis of Hindu nationalism, then we will fall into the old error and be deprived of the full flowering of nationalism.