Non-Violent Nationalism and Fundamental Change

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Nationalism as a concept is defined by the formation of a distinct identity for a certain population in terms of their religion, ethnicity or class differences. This term was used to describe the rise of movements along these distinct lines. Since then the connotations of the word may have changed over time but its essential meaning has remained unchanged.

The term in essence refers to two varying sentiments. Broadly speaking, the first of these is a sense of identification with a certain nation based on ethnic, cultural or religious bounds. The second is a sentiment of loyalty to the nation as defined by these ethnic, cultural and religious bound. While the first only serves as a unifying factor in most cases, the second also serves as a rallying call for mass political mobilization. This has been obvious especially in the years immediately after the Second World War during the time of the disintegration of Colonial power structures and the subsequent creation of a bipolar world.

The concept of the non-violent movement was introduced to these anti-colonial movements early enough. Gandhi, the tiny, old man of Indian politics came up with the idea of a non-violent independence struggle. This was a struggle which initially rooted itself in a secular context but gradually became known as essentially being a Hindu Nationalist movement.

Gandhi¡¦s initial thrust had been towards unifying Indian natives under this banner of non-violence in order to garner support for an ouster of the British from India and an overhaul of the Indian government structure. What this meant was that Gandhi was looking for a ¡¥fundamental change¡¦ in the structure and hierarchies of the Indian state. This is highlighted in his writings: ¡§The state after withdrawal (of the Colonizers) will depend largely upon the manner of it. If, as you assume, they (the Colonizers) retire, it seems to me we shall still keep their constitution and shall carry on the government.¡¨

Gandhi was then visibly looking for a structural uprooting of the British / Colonial system and aimed to replace it with one more contributory to the state and, hence, less extractory in nature. This for him was the fundamental change in the system that was required for a successful transformation from a colonized to an independent state.

Gandhi¡¦s method of achieving this change was through the practice of nonviolent passive resistance. ¡§Passive resistance is a method of securing rights by the personal suffering; it is the reverse of resistance by arms.¡¨ ¡§The force of arms is powerless when matched against the force of love or the soul.¡¨ Passive resistance then was to be followed at all times in order to achieve the goal of independence, and more importantly of fundamental change.

However, even though Gandhi gave great lip-service to his non-violent nationalism, even this peaceful movement eventually descended into excessive amounts of violence and bloodshed which even the calming influence of Gandhi could not control. His appeals for nonviolence were met with bubbling enthusiasm but normally translated into an extreme disregard for the ¡§force of love or the soul¡¨ as mentioned above. Even when Gandhi preached the unity of the Hindus, Muslims and Sikhs in one united India, mass murders were conducted on the basis of religious and Muslims and Sikhs were not the only perpetrators of this hatred.

The weakness of Gandhi¡¦s nationalism lay in his assumption that the religious identities of the people were assimilatory. He failed to recognize that his own philosophy was so deeply based in Hindu tradition that it appeared overtly Hindu Nationalist on close observation. This basis in Hindu tradition allowed it to become an easy target fro detractors.

A similar pattern was also visible in the South African movement against Apartheid. The intellectual leaders of the movement preached the very ideals that Gandhi espoused. They continued to preach the same concepts...
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