Illusions of Nation and Nationalism
M C Raj
India cannot be divided at all. No human agency has the capacity to divide India. This is simply because India was never one and will never be one. This is the irony of Indian nationalism. Many regions, petty kingdoms were put together as one country for the colonial commercialism of the British. The British could do it only on the line of a nation as the nation-state was the in-thing in the emerging capitalistic form of governance. Later Japan and Hitler used nationalism for outgrowing their nations. Fascism developed unhindered. People loved it and citizens welcomed it. Now, at a time when the same capitalistic countries are dismantling the borders of the nation-state the illusion called India is trying to put together the dilapidated structures of a nation. This is once again for the same purpose that Japan and Germany propagated nationalism of the fascist brand.
Advaita philosophy very clearly spells out that the material world is only an illusion. The Supreme Soul Brahma is the reality. Much earlier, in the Ramayana period, there was Jabali who proclaimed that Brahma was an illusion and only the material world was real. Materialism was a philosophy of Carvaka/Lokayata that circulated at that time.
Nation-states developed in the West at a time when the spiritual notions of life were slowly given up and materialism started re-emerging. The material world became very important as Western nations started plundering them from innocent indigenous people all over the world. Karl Marx developed a dialectic materialism relating to the distribution of wealth.
Upholders of the idealistic philosophy of Advaita emerged on the scene as soon as they sensed that the British were giving up the material India from their hold. The illusion of India slowly started emerging as the material India that was precious in the eyes of those who believed that the material world was only an illusion. This is the dichotomy that one needs to understand the discourses surrounding nation and nationalism. There is, on the one hand, the deep desire to possess the entire material world that is seen as India. There is, on the other hand, a religious discourse that solidly backs the material intent. The religious discourse often camouflages the material intent of the proposer of nationalism. That is how fascism gains a popular approval. Nationalism is the illusion of a non-existent nation in the minds of the people. But it is simultaneously a material world that the proponents of nationalism want to possess.
The two sections of society that pose a danger to the advance of this type of Hindutva capitalism, symbolized by ‘Akhand Bharat’ are the Adijans (Dalits) and the Communists. They stand against all forms of capital accumulation, one by their natural inclination and the other by their ideological commitment to equal distribution of wealth and profit. Both have emerged from materialistic schools of thought. The Adijans venerate Earth as Mother and become natural enemies of Hindutva capitalism. The Communists owe their allegiance to Karl Marx’s and Engel’s dialectic materialism.
The Adijans stand as natural symbols of the opponents of Hindutva capitalism as they possess a national resource, that is, the labour of their body. They constitute an unequalled labour force in the country. If they are not subjugated through fascist discourses Hindutva capitalism has no chance of survival in the long run. However, Brahminism unleashed on the Adijans a multifarious technology of co-option and does not see them as a real danger by themselves. They will pose a substantial danger if they become educated independently. In such a case it will become inevitable that they join hands with the Leftist forces when they transgress the boundaries of temporary gains of political power. Therefore, India is not at all surprised that the Hindutva anti-nationals target the Adijans, especially in their educational enterprises. They have no qualms of conscience to usurp the reservation benefits of the Adijans through falsification of certificates in the Universities.
The Indian communists are branded as an unreliable stock when it comes to equal distribution of resources, which is the essence of governance. This is because the communist leadership in India not only happens to be in the hands of Brahmins but also because they do not allow easily the transfer of power into the hands of other weaker sections of society. They have appropriated to themselves the Brahminic legacy of intellectualism that also happens to be the hallmark of Communism. In the recent past, however, this appropriation seems to go through a metamorphosis and that gives much hope to those who have been living on marginal hopes till now. This hope of the periphery is a real and major threat to the Hindutva anti-nationals.
Fascism, be it that of Hitler’s, be it that of Mussolini’s, be it that of Modi’s, has a strong strategy of creating an illusion in the citizens that the nation is of paramount importance. They create the illusion that the borders, the military, the army, the production mechanisms, the rulers etc. are the essential elements of a nation. The one substantial thing they leave out in this illusionary nation is the people. The success of the fascists lies in the fact that the citizens begin to believe that there can be a nation without the people. This is the tragedy of the nation and nationalism. It is like the Chinese emperor who built the 6000 miles Great Wall of China and was ready to sacrifice alive 10000 citizens to make it a success. An emperor who was ready to sacrifice the people at the altar of the nation!!!
The final battle in the nationalistic trajectory will be between those who consider the idea of nationalism as illusion and those who affirm that such an idea is the ultimate truth such as Brahman, the Supreme Sour is true as against the material world. It will be between those who create a mirage of a nation as a source of final blessings to the citizens and those who want the people to lay their hands on the material wealth that legitimately belong to them. As long as education remains a mirage for the common people they will naively take the illusion of the nation as true and gleefully allow the free flow of wealth and profit into the hands of the Ambanis and the Adanis. At the end of it all, they will have neither the illusion of nation nor the material wealth of the nation. They will be arrested and put in jail when they wake up, they will be gang raped only for being women, they will be butchered if they belong to the castes that do not subscribe to fascism.
A Nation is an illusion. People are real. Nationalism is an illusionary discourse. There are many communities of people even in the contemporary world who live without these illusions of nation and nationalism. It may be worth picking up some precious lessons from such communities.