Nation is an abstract construct, they are just some lines on maps that you and I are bound by. These random lines could either be the result of some bloody battles or of some geographical restrictions or of some calculated decisions that resulted in some form of agreement between some titular decision makers of their time.
A young Indian child grows up with the stories of the Independence struggle; standing in attention when the National Anthem plays on everyday in their school assembly; pledging devotion to the country and striving for the well being of all Indians, their brothers and sisters; watching the parade on the republic day; waving flags, chanting slogans and giving or listening to speeches on the Independence day.
I still remember that the portion on Bhagat Singh, Sukhdev and Shivaram Rajguru was wilfully omitted from our history syllabus in Class 9th because the stories were too impressionable for the young minds and would steeply highten the hatred against the British that was already being built up as us teens proceed to know more and more of the struggles of our national heroes. It was a small portion and everyone in the class must have read it on their own. As anticipated, we were enraged.
I think it is well established that regardless of the government in power. A young Indian is raised to be a Nationalist but as the child graduates school or as they get exposure to philosophy and literature of various writers. Then mandated social studies part of their schooling starts to fade away from their memories, the youngster starts to question the idea of Nation
पंछी, नदियां, पवन के झोंके,
कोई सरहद ना इन्हें रोके।
सरहदें इंसानो के लिए है,
सोचो तुमने और मैन, क्या पाया इंसाँ होके।
(Birds, Rivers and Gushes of wind,
The boundaries don’t stop them.
Boundaries are for humans
What have you and I gained by being humans?)
These national award winning lyrics by Javed Akhtar talk of transcending boundaries and demand a serious thought. The lyrics are beautiful & powerful which deserve the award.
These lines compliment the idea of nation being an ‘imagined community’ as Benedict Anderson vividly and rightly postulates, The youngster starts to question the ideas that they have learnt in school thus far. Is nation really that important? How am I similar to someone living 4000 kilometers away from me in different geographical conditions, who speaks a different language, who wears different clothing, and worships a different God? How is she my sister? my devotion rightly placed?
The youngster also comes across the theories of what an egalitarian society should be like- a state with no currency and no government; an Auroville, where community lives and works together with each other and for each other. Why do we need someone to govern us? What’s the real intention of these political elites? They probably want to keep the power with themselves, rule us autocratically while we chant our slogans, sing our songs and wave our flags. They want to distract us from the real issues.
Eleanor Roosevelt once famously said, ‘Learn from the mistakes of others. You can’t live long enough to make them all yourself’. I propose a minor correction. ‘Learn from the mistakes of others. Sometimes you can’t afford to make them all yourself.’
Afghanistan stands as a glaring example. For 20 years, the US trained the Afghanistan Army, pumped weapons, artillery and soldiers into the country. Now, they might have done a shitty job! We can debate about their exit strategy, the profiteering that their Arms industry did over decades and the mess that they made of this country but what raises an eyebrow is what was Afghanistan Army doing while this takeover was happening? Why did they not put up a fight? We hardly heard of any casualties from their side? Their American commanders must have fled but how did they not fight back? Why did it look like a smooth takeover?
They probably were never even aligned over the idea of an Independent and sovereign Afghanistan.
Would the same happen if something similar were to happen in India, or the US, or France or China?
Most definitely not. The armed forces of each Nation would fight back, the youth of the country will join in. They might face defeat but nevertheless, they will join the fight, lay down their lives if required, the generations to follow will pen down the stories, make movies about it, write poems, sing songs and praises of their ultimate sacrifices.
Now we can go in circles and ask what is the worth of all this ?
But I would end by quoting what Ravish Kumar famously said in his acceptance award for the Magsaysay.
‘Not all battles are fought for Victory. Some are fought to tell the world that someone was there on the battlefield.’
Harsh is a lawyer turned MBA from IIM Ahmedabad who indulges in marketing for paisa and writing for passion. He is keen on sociopolitics of the current day with a deep retrospect into the history.