The Paradox of Nationalism

The process of evolution from Hindutva to nationalism

Since BJP led government has came to power in centre almost two years ago several debates are taking place in academic and political circles and the most pressing debate is about the nature of “Indianness” which according to BJP could be called “Nationalism”.

The latest debate on Nationalism is as confused and vague as it has been the case with most of the debates with BJP and its ideological fraternity in past also. The immediate reason behind this nationwide debate has few political reasons and one of them is to build an alternative ideological legacy to confront the ideology of Congress and Communists before next general elections so BJP could have something to offer to people more than Development as slogan of “Development” alone is not enough for food for thought.

Since decade of 90’s when the surge of BJP as right wing party begin to start  in Indian politics it took the route of religio cultural definition for Nationalism and in the garb of cultural nationalism the “ Hindu first” identity was provoked among people of country to connect their unconscious mind of civilizational continuity with theory of persecution in medieval ages from Islamic invaders to create a political space for right wing ideology and this experiment was successfully applied for decades and in these years BJP surged ahead and in less than three decades it occupied the larger space of Indian polity and in 2014 when the dream come true for this right wing party to get the majority on its own in lower house of the country Loksabha the new era begins not only in Indian politics but Indian society as well because the centrist political force in Indian polity has almost evaporated and the bipolar ideological division of left and right  is very much visible from politics to society .

The majority mark for BJP has put it in a fix also because they are on the crossroad to define their identity and role in politics and society and very cleverly BJP want to project its paradox as the paradox of national identity and nationalism.


On the issue of Nationalism BJP find herself in rock and hard place because their ideological fraternity want its political party to play the role of Modern day Hindu Alexander or Medieval Hindu King Shivaji who is on the expedition mission with a clear intent of Civilizational push but neither it is Ancient world nor the medieval world and BJP as a political party has its limitations and obligations before internationalized and globalized world. This dilemma of BJP and its ideological fraternity has made the whole debate of Nationalism with full of paradox.

BJP find herself in rock and hard place because as Hindutva is always defined as cultural entity but from the core of the hurt it always has religious tinge and symbolism the same case is very much true with new form of “Nationalism”.

BJP has realized that brand Hindutva is losing its sheen and it is no more an attractive and sellable brand before new aspirational young India as it was two decades ago so repackaging is required for the party to attract more people who are neutral to any ideology but have no problem to be called   nationalist but here the real paradox of BJP emerges. How to define the civilization with modern day concept of Nationalism.

Although BJP and its ideological mentor RSS has always maintained that their definition of “Nationalism” is different from the western concept of “Nation state” concept which derived from Westphalia treaty in 1648 and ruled as prime political ideology till Second World War when the concept of Multi Nationalism, Internationalism and globalization started to take shape in global politics. But on the contrary when RSS and BJP give a hard push for their Nationalism they find themselves stuck in the debate thrown on them from their adversaries who define the Nationalism in modern day context of nation state where race, religion, language or geographical boundary binds the people in into one nation.

RSS and BJP have never been able to articulate the  difference  between  Civilization and   state to impress the people who are not part of this debate although RSS and BJP both want to replace Civilization with Nation but their rhetoric and narratives are outdated .

In modern world we have two concept of Nationalism ( Although they are not the Nationalism in classical terms but in Indian context it can be used as an example)  before us one is the concept of USA which is founded on the values and principles of modern world with a  promise to take the humanity into different era which is still in the process of evolution.

The second concept is Israel who has successfully intermingled its civilizational antiquity and identity with modern day realities of statecraft.

If BJP and RSS want to evolve or present any other model before world they should have first defined it properly. Because Civilization is the process of evolution and multiple cultures, religions, races, language, identities flourish into it from time to time and one common thread which keeps continuity alive and keep it intact for several of years should be the main subject of research.

The USA has shown the model to the world that love and devotion for national flag, Constitution, sports and feeling of self pride to see the consumers across the world purchasing the goods of USA companies and the aspiration and character to see their country as holding the power in every sphere of life, could be the one way to nurture the oneness and feeling of nationalism among the people of country.

Israel has adopted the modern day statecraft but have given the space to its identity and civilizational antiquity in society and to some extent in polity also   but to not get consumed by this aspect so much as it create strife or imbalance in society to hamper the prospects to achieve the glorious future on the foundation of past.


There are certain realities and limitations in modern day international relations which is more globalized and exposed to each other and in these stark realities it is almost impossible to be relevant with nostalgic and rigid attitude to define the Nationalism with old rhetoric and narratives.

In Indian context right wing politics is standing on the crossroads and if   more rigid and stubborn attitude will be followed  to become exclusive  cultural right the more chances of frustration and isolation will emerge because only one thread binds the modern day India with its Civilizaional antiquity is its “ Spiritual” depth and spirituality means broadening the mind and brain to stretch it further to create more space into it to accommodate more new ideas   and overcome the fear of losing the identity before some new ideas or cross culture intermingling. Even in Mahabharat it was not the battle for kingdom but the proliferation of new ideas of Krishna to some other unknown places and before this in Ramayana Ram too reached out to new races and people who were unaware of the culture and politics of Aryavarta.

In the whole history of India since ancient days whenever Indian rulers accommodated the new ideas their overall growth had been in direct proportion to their openness and on the contrary whenever they become fearful and went in the cell their geographical and cultural growth shrunk to unlimited level.

If India has to define herself in new perspective it could be the “Spiritualism” with modern day statecraft.  India is more than a Nation is a confederation of amalgamation of process of evolution of civilization with different ideas and philosophies and the depth of spirituality is the only common factor in all of them and other than this common factor if any other factor was considered to define its identity the more fault line will emerge and tension will simmer rather than unity.

The academic discourse and debate for National identity is not unadvisable but it should be done in modern context to take the nation forward not to stuck in past to go backward.