Indias Nationalist Struggle Essay, Research Paper
What doesn t kill you makes you stronger
The creation of a national identity in India has been hindered by at least these three internal and external factors. First, British influence and rule have contributed to India s incongruity since long before Benjamin Disraeli officially proclaimed Queen Victoria empress of India in 1876. The alien British government was merely concerned with profits, not the greater well being of the Indian nation-state. Secondly, even if Indian identity were to be discussed without consideration of the British problem, India s struggle towards unity and national identity is forced to contend with religious conflict. Such a large land naturally carries great religious diversity and India is still in a state of unresolved inter-religious conflict. The cracking of India occurred in lieu of stable nationalistic unification. The children of Mother India divided themselves geographically, sorted by religion. This path is the opposite of one leading towards a national identity. Finally, if the idea of religious unrest is narrowed further, the Hindu problem alone can be seen as a hindrance to a national identity. The Hindu caste system prescribes inequality, which when compared to the American disease of racism can easily be seen in direct opposition to a singular national identity. What each society fails to notice is that when defining oneself as black or white, Brahman or untouchable, one can simultaneously define oneself as American or Indian. Herein the first signs of the strength of India become apparent as a result of a particular lack of national identity. Just as race issues in America shaped the United States, the struggles of unequal people have shaped India.
Out of such struggle is born the truths and peculiar strengths of India that afford the solution to creating a national identity for India by removing and overcoming the given obstacles. Under the unofficial leadership of Gandhi, the people of India were united. A common goal of freedom and self-rule bound people together, regardless of any differences, in defiance against the British. Individuals must have realized what was portrayed so well in the movie Gandhi. There is strength in numbers. This can be compared with labor unions in the manufacturing era of the United States. Alone, one has limited power of persuasion and a limited ability to exert control. When hundreds, thousands, and especially millions of people pool their efforts, the compounded power is unequaled. Without the British occupation of India, this power would have remained latent. Gandhi himself amplified the power of the Indian people, demonstrating to the entire world the strength of peace, via his plan of peaceful resistance and non-cooperation. If not for the strength of the united Indian people that was spawned by problems, Britain could still be there. In fact for a while at least, India held an identity by defining itself against the British. Just as religions are defined as compared with other religions, India was able to define itself. Compared to the government treatment of blacks in the United States, British force against innocent people people united them regardless of caste or color.
Marx said that religion is the opiate of the masses and opium is a powerful drug. Religion itself is also a very powerful force. Throughout history and modernity wars have been fought and human lives have been sacrifice to any number of inter-religious conflicts. India has not been exempt from the turmoil of being addicted to holding on to religious differences. Bapsi Sidhwa in her semi-autobiographic novel Cracking India narrates this conflict personally. She tells a tale of a time when one day best friends are just that, and even willing to die for each other. When however religious tensions are increased to the point of bursting, we are shown how the next day brother kills brother. One day Ayah is Ayah and Ice Candy Man is the Ice Candy Man. However, when the ball drops so to speak, Ayah becomes Hindu and Ice Candy Man become Muslim. Names are forsaken, so are faces. National identity is pitched aside by the wrath of religious identity as is friendship and brotherhood. It is difficult to see a strength built from such terrible conflict as the obstacle of religious difference. When considered in the light of the Chinese philosophy of Yin and Yang we must conclude that some strength is mustered in proportion to the depth of the aforementioned conflict. Perhaps the benefit was in the slight tempering of the heat of the conflict resulting from Hindus walking one way and Muslims walking the other. Geographic segregation simply provided a land barrier between people who otherwise would continue to kill each other. Easily comparable to the United States where the Grateful Dead so eloquently stated, shipping people back and forth, black goes south and white comes north, in this whole world full of petty wars, I got mine and you got yours. The literal cracking of India into Muslim and Hindu lands, although for political reasons was not perfect as we see on the news today, still had the effect of strengthening Hindu India and Muslim Pakistan and Bangladesh.
Next in the list of easily identifiable obstacles to Indian national identity that can be seen as strengths via the appropriate perspective, is the Hindu caste system. We can narrowly define caste as race. Race issues have shaped and plagued the United States forever. Inequality, regardless of morality or a lack thereof, is grounds for discontent and is a forceful motivator of man, as we have seen in the French Revolution. That all men are created equal is a philosophy that embodies the enlightenment and one that is incongruous with the caste system. If an untouchable truly believes that he is class and casteless and literally not as good as a Brahman, destined to rake and cover latrines with no opportunity, then there would be no issue. As this is not the case, especially now, the caste system by its very design was destined to fall from the beginning. Perhaps Gandhi began the Indian enlightenment by labeling untouchables the children of god.
The Hindu caste system can be seen as an obstacle to forming an Indian national identity but it must be equally noted that Hinduism itself is one of India s greatest strengths. The breadth of this strength is twofold. On one hand, as a part of Hinduism the caste system was and is an integral component of Indian culture. Hinduism is the religion of choice for more than 800 million people. Continuing with Marx s analogy that translates to a lot of poppy. Caste, being tied to Hinduism has had a profound influence on the lives of millions over its 3,500 year history. Hinduism s strength lies in its character of a social and doctrinal system that extends to every aspect of human life. Hinduism consists of whatever all the people of India have believed and done. This leads to a wide variety of beliefs and practices, some syncretized from other religions, leading to the religions longevity.
On the other hand the same caste system by virtue of its own injustice served to unite Hindus as Indian people. Eliminating caste differences legally prompted the elimination of castes sociologically. Hinduisms syncretic characteristics will allow it to evolve into a state of tolerance and equal opportunity. The removal of barriers to opportunity faced by the lower castes was in effect a result of nationalistic and enlightenment ideals. Without their having been inequality, the struggle for equality would not have taken place.
All of these barriers to national identity in one way or another actually played a role in strengthening Indian national identity. Many additional obstacles and corresponding strengths have participated in India s nationalist development. British influence, religious conflict and the caste system in particular all revolve uniquely around the rights of man. They originally blocked nationalism, then led to it. During the change, they all actually strengthened the creation of a national identity in India.