Nationalism in 20th century india by nauman55

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              Imagined Communities of 20th Century India: A Synthesis


IMAGINED COMMUNITIES OF 20TH CENTURY INDIA: A SYNTHESIS                                                2


Industrial Revolution in Europe marked the start of Modernity in European continent. The shift

from an agrarian society to an industrial-based economy brought changes in the socio-political

structure of human society. Nationalism was one of the byproducts of Industrial Revolution.

Many theorists have tried to define the emerging concept; Benedict Anderson is one of them.

Anderson stresses the imagination of society for nation-building process. However, the case of

20th century India had its own peculiarities. The presence of two opposite communities,

communal tensions, religious fundamentalism, Islamic resurgence, and poverty shaped the vision

of Jinnah, Iqbal, Gandhi, and Nehru. For many, their thoughts may seem primordial, but to have

a better understanding, it is necessary to understand the context and ground realities of their era.

All of them were probably modern in their thought process with few deviations, which need to

be understood and weighed accordingly. The theoretical concept could not be applied in totality

on all cases. From case to case, basis deviations are expected. The case of 20th century India was

different from its predecessors. This paper aims to analyze the imagined community of

postcolonial India in light of thoughts of abovementioned contemporary figures of Indian

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                  Imagined Communities of 20th Century India: A Synthesis

                                  Road to Modern Nationalism

       Human societies have been evolving since their advent. The earlier human settlements

like Gandhara, Indus, and Egyptian civilizations were mainly agrarian societies, and their

survival relied on availability of surplus grain. Thus, when the agrarian resources were unable to

meet the growing requirements, these societies were destroyed. The next phase of human

development was mainly despotic and imperialist. Romans and Persians laid the foundation of

great empires, but these empires always feuded among themselves. The whole empire also never

acted like a single body; the kings mainly used coercion and submission as tactics to hold on the

territories. However, since the conversion of Roman Empire to Christianity, religion occupied a

great status in uniting an empire. The Islamic caliphate is also an example of religion-based

empire. Yet, even all these religion-based societies were agrarian in nature and destined to

decline on exhaustion of economic resources. As a result, all these societies met similar sort of

ends. However, as per Armstrong (2002), 16th century Europe underwent major transformation

that changed the face of old agrarian society and shaped the new modern concept. The new

foundation of society was technology and industry, which got rid of the limitations of agrarian

surplus for existence of a society.

                           Synopsis of Benedict’s Imagined Societies

The Concept

       Nationalism is a product of modern times. Probably, its origin traces its roots to the

industrial revolution in Europe. Many writers and theorists have tried to define the nationalism.

However, according to Anderson (1991), the accurate definition of nationalism has remained a
IMAGINED COMMUNITIES OF 20TH CENTURY INDIA: A SYNTHESIS                                           4

dilemma for theorists. This lack of a scientific definition has distorted the modern concept.

Nevertheless, he defines the nation as follows:

       It is an imagined political community and imagined as both inherently limited and

       sovereign. It is imagined because the member of even the smallest nation will never

       know most of their fellow members, meet them, or even hear of them, yet in the minds of

       each lives the image of their communion. (Anderson, 1991, p. 6)

He further adds that a nation, despite its volume, is limited due to its defined boundaries.

Moreover, the concept of has evolved from acceptance of religious pluralism during age of

enlightenment. Nations always exist in a community, as people are willing to die for such

fraternity (Anderson, 1991, pp. 9-22). Before the dawn of nationalism, religion always provided

answers to people’s suffering. The language, religious communities, and dynastic realm were the

constituents of pre-modern societies. The Byzantine, Islamic, and even middle kingdom used

religion as ideological base of their empires. The monarchy was the other reason that held

society together. The complex marriage relationship of European monarchs is an example of

such acts.

The Evolution

       As Anderson (1991) explains, the realm of earlier thoughts started to change with the

apprehension of world. The change was evident in various writings of that time. People were

unconsciously referring to the imagined nationalist communities and concept. The economic

changes led to a shift in perception of people about their communities (Anderson, 1991). They

also gave printing press the honor of laying the foundation stone of modern society and concept.

The advent of printing press also propelled the reformation process in Europe. The Protestants
IMAGINED COMMUNITIES OF 20TH CENTURY INDIA: A SYNTHESIS                                            5

also utilized the print media effectively to reach out to the masses and gain an edge over their

theological adversaries. According to Anderson (1991), print media also laid the corner stone of

modern nationalism by providing access to millions and shrugging off the old antiquity myths.

Moreover, the evolution brought business propositions to all concerned and thus initiated the

proliferation of ideas to larger communities. This spread was unimaginable during the medieval

times (Anderson, 1991).

       The advent of administrative languages like English also helped in creating a conscious

of nationalism. Their advent added further to the decline of imagined religious communities.

According to Anderson (1991), the case of American independence is different from others’

progress in nationalism; for instance, in South America, the induction of lower classes to politics

led to the spurring of national liberation from Spaniards. Thus, the aborigines were the given the

name of Peruvian citizens instead of natives and aborigines. Despite the non-availability of print

media, the nationalist concept was fatly evolving.

       However, Anderson (1991) says that the case of Spanish America differs from the

European and Asian states evolution in late nineteenth and twentieth century. The territorial

vastness and differences led to the adaptation of same boundaries like that of the colonial era.

The administrative units of colonial era actually converted to independent states. Different

factors like economy, territorial boundaries and liberation led to the independence of South and

North America (Anderson, 1991).

       According to Anderson (1991), the American liberation differed from its predecessors in

two distinct ways. Firstly, it never had the issue of language involved directly. Moreover,

inspiration was mainly drawn from the French revolution model. Anderson (1991) argues that
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old languages played a pivotal role in the nourishing of modern nationalist concepts. Different

peoples utilized the concept of language as the basis of their national identity. The Africans,

Arabs, Bohemians, Russians, and others utilized language as their basic concept of uniting

people. Languages are sources of intra, inter communication among the communities, and thus

play an important role in territorial boundaries. Without the same language, the concept of

sovereign states would be difficult to apprehend. Language barrier can alienate masses from the

main concept of territorial independence (Anderson, 1991).

       The American liberation poses a quite different picture from their European

contemporaries. The lower classes in Spanish America led the nationalist liberation with one

common language that existed between them. Nevertheless, their uprising was mainly due to

economic issues with Madrid. Similarly, the French revolution that marked the start of modern

nationalism also broke out due to socio-economic issues then the linguistic one. The French

revolution provided the blue print for other revolutions or liberation movements. The American

Revolution modeled French revolution, but it added the new imaginations of republican states,

nation’s states, citizenships, and sovereignty. These all cumulatively formed the model for

nationalism in nineteenth century (Anderson, 1991).

       The European monarchs in nineteenth centuries ruled over different societies, which were

very different from their monarch’s community. Some of these monarchs even established a

unified language to run the state of affairs in diverse communities without harming the native

languages. These unified languages started to evoke nationalist thoughts of their speakers. The

Romanovs now started considering the Russians while Hanoverians called themselves as English

based on their languages. The nexus of dynast and naturalization of Europe gave birth to official

nationalism or imperialism. The best example in this regard is czarist Russia and its Russification
IMAGINED COMMUNITIES OF 20TH CENTURY INDIA: A SYNTHESIS                                             7

of held territories as mentioned by Anderson (1991). The imperialism led to the colonization of

weaker communities. These communities were forced by their masters to subdue to their

cultures. These forced nationalist concept provoked the liberation movements and uprisings

against the masters, which led to the waves of liberation movements in mid twentieth century.

With the end of World War I, the existing dynasties of Ottoman, Habsburg, and Romanovs were

brought to an end. The evolution of league of nation finally marked the worldwide acceptance of

nation-state concept. Even the existing dynasties adopted the nation cloak instead of imperialist

cloak. The new states emerged on the world map after World War II and adopted a variation of

linguistic and political models to suit their requirement. As stated by Anderson (1991),

patriotism and racism were products of imagined communities, which are well defined by use of

language. Language played a pivotal role in assigning a theoretical community. Moreover,

Anderson (1991) mentioned that three factors namely nature of human being, its territorial

geography, and the past contributed to the provocation of anti-colonial uprisings.

Scrutiny of Imagined Communities

       Benedict Anderson tried to come up with a scientific definition of nationalism. He is

quite successful in drafting an acceptable definition. His main concept relies on intangibles,

which constitute a community and nation in larger scale. However, his thoughts are more of a

secular mindset and he did not allocated any space for intangible religious ideology. The case of

Muslim India is quite different from his secular imaginative society. Moreover, he completely

disregarded the Islamic concept of Ummah, which lays the foundation stones of many liberation

movements in Islamic world. Moreover, his prediction that the end of nationalism is not remote

was seriously dented by the fall of Marxist Russia and introduction of the term globalization.
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                                     The Case of South Asia

       Before proceeding further to discuss the modalities of Benedict’s imaginative society and

case of South Asia, it is deemed appropriate to have a brief discussion on the history of India.

Brief History of South Asia

       The history of India is older than the Greek and maybe even the Egyptian societies. The

excavation of Indus valley has revealed the remains of the 5,000-year old Indus civilization.

Being a fertile land India has always been an attraction to invaders. Aryans from Central Asia

invaded India and laid the foundation of a new society, known as the Hindu society. According

to Tamimi (2009), Hinduism is not a religion but a society, which adheres to centuries-old

norms. The Arians divided the society into four different castes and established a state. The land

of India was given a status of mother commonly called as Bharat Mata. The dates of these

ancient scriptures are around 1200 to 1400 BCE. Not much information is available on ancient

Hindu civilization except the enigmatic mythological accounts. However, Greek historians have

documented the clash of Alexander the Great with Raja Porous across the river hydaspus. The

first known state of India was Patliputra or Magadha. Asoka was one of the widely known kings

of this dynasty. The Indian subcontinent had merely remained a single state afterwards. The

Rajputs took over Rajuptana and somewhat similar petty states developed all along India.

Muslim Incursions

       The Muslim incursion in India started since the time of third Caliph Usman with limited

success. The Arabs had a major victory in 712 AD when Umayyad Campaign had over thrown

the Raja of Daibul (Modern Day Karachi), although Umayyad did not establish a permanent

province in conquered land. During the 11th and 12th centuries, India was attacked by Mahmud of
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Ghazni and Shahabuddin of Ghaur. However, the attacker never established a permanent

monarchy in India, but in 1206, a slave of Shahabuddin known as Qutb Ud Din established the

slave dynasty and laid the foundation of sultanate Delhi. Different dynasties followed the slave

dynasty; the last of them was Lodhi dynasty. The Lodhis were ousted by a Mongol Prince named

Babur in 1526 at the battle of paniput.

The Mughal Empire

       Babur laid the foundation of Mughal Empire in India. He was a descendant of Tamerlane.

During his survival quest form succession wars in Central Asia, he established a small kingdom

in Kabul. On invitation of governor of Punjab, he headed towards India and ousted Lodhi family

from the throne of Delhi. The Mughal Empire lasted for almost three and half centuries. The

Mughal Empire finally came to end by the British colonials.

Islam in India

       The caste system devised by Aryan was mainly a source of huge problem for the lower

classes of India. Islam intervention opened the floodgates to the subdued class of society. The

missionary works of Islam was mainly led by Sufis, who preached Islam in different parts of

India. Due to their missionary work, the ruling Muslim Minority would become a formidable

population in a few decades.

East India Company and Colonial Period

       India has always been a gold mine for other nations due to vast resources. Many attempts

were made to establish trade routes with Indian sub-continent. In 1492, the Portuguese

established a few merchant colonies along the coast of Kalikut. During the 16th century, English
IMAGINED COMMUNITIES OF 20TH CENTURY INDIA: A SYNTHESIS                                          10

merchants also acquired the trading rights from the Mughal Emperor. During the 18th century,

the vast Mughal Empire started to decline. The English East India Company started to increase

its influence and territorial reach by different tactics. The fall of Bengal to East India Company

marked the start of colonial age in India. By mid 19th century, East India Company had subdued

all its opponents and finally ousted the last Mughal Emperor in 1857 after the outbreak of great

revolt. A year later, India became a part of British Empire. In 1885, Indian National Congress

was formed for political representation of Indian peoples. The Congress was meant to be a

representative of whole India but was later overwhelmed by majority Hindus.

The Muslim Awakening

       Although both Hindus and Muslims disliked British colonization evenly, during the war

of Independence in 1857, both factions of society took part actively. The Muslims came under

scrutiny more severely as the ex-ruling class; probably it was very hard to negotiate with the

colonial masters. Moreover, they had a distinct international religious identity. The Muslim

clergy viewed the European masters as idolaters. The Indian society before colonization was a

plural religious society where many local religions and Islam existed in harmony. Mughal

Emperor Akbar tried to lay the foundation of a religious society where conflict on religious

grounds is almost impossible (Armstrong, 2002). However, in 18th century, the Mughal started

to decline and the Muslim community of India felt that they were a beleaguered minority unlike

their contemporaries in Anatolia. In order to keep themselves abreast with the changing political

structure, they needed to have an identity. This quest of identity as mentioned by Riaz (2003)

started in late 18th century. Few Muslim thinkers like Shah Wali ullah and Syed Ahmed Bralevi

approached the reformation on pure religious grounds. However, later philosophers like Sayyid
IMAGINED COMMUNITIES OF 20TH CENTURY INDIA: A SYNTHESIS                                             11

Ahmed Khan, Altaf Hussain Hali and Allama Iqbal approach was more rationale and in line with

modernity (Armstrong, 2002).

       If we analyze these Muslim resurgence attempts as per Anderson’s (1991) philosophy of

imagined community, then the Indian Muslims had thought about an imaginative community

who had the same religious grounds, which may sound primordial to European nationalists. The

complete Muslim community was the base of subject thoughts and ideology. Unlike the South

American liberation, the threat of extinction was not socio-economic but dominated by religious

identity. Although different version of these reforms existed within the Muslim India, few

religious groups were in favor of plural religious India while political leadership of Muslims

were in favor of separate communal rights and later a separate state.

                  Story of Indian Liberation Movement with Life of Jinnah

       Muhammad Ali Jinnah was a son of a merchant and born in Karachi. He acquired his law

degree from Lincoln’s Inn London and started practicing in Bombay. Being a professional

lawyer, he was a man of great character and will (Bolitho, 1954). He joined the Indian National

Congress in 1906. As mentioned above, the Congress was formed to politically represent the

people of India, but in preceding years, it was realized that the only solution to the problem of

India is Swaraj-our own Government (Bolitho, 1954). The Hindus overwhelmingly dominated

Congress; in 1906, only seventeen members were Muslims. By the time Jinnah entered politics,

Indian Muslims were growing consciously for their identity. This idea of separate identity was

mustered by the Hindu movement of change in language in 1867 and later by Congress behavior

in partition of Bengal. The pro-Hindu behavior of Congress alienated Muslims from the

Congress. The Hindu domination of Congress led to the formation of Muslim League in
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December 1906 at Dhaka. Jinnah would play no active part in history of Muslim League until

this date (Bolitho, 1954).

       According to Bolitho (1954), Jinnah witnessed the growing nationalist extremism in

Congress, which finally led to the Congress decision of Independent Domain under secure

British pattern. In 1912, the reversal of Bengal partition marked a victory for Pro-Hindu

Congress and need for revision for Muslim League. In the same year, the Muslim League

proposed an alliance with the Congress for Swaraj (Bolitho, 1954). In his early political career,

he was inspired by Congressman Gokhale. In 1913, under persuasive campaign of Maulana

Muhammad Ali and Syed Wazir Hassan, he joined All India Muslim League. By this time, he

held membership for both Congress and Muslim League that was appreciated by Congress

(Bolitho, 1954). During this period, he became the ambassador of Hindu-Muslim Unity. He was

a strong proponent of the fact that together Hindus and Muslims can still make an independent

India. In 1915, he invited the Muslim League to hold a joint session with Congress as a show of

United Front, but his efforts did not prove as fruitful as he had expected. In 1916, the joint

session of Lucknow was another effort of Hindu-Muslim Unity by Jinnah. His efforts led to the

acceptance of separate electorates by Congress and meeting ended on warm note between the

two rivals political groups (Bolitho, 1954).

       By the time Jinnah was working hard for Hindu-Muslim Unity, the earlier expelled

hawkish elements of Congress made their way back to Party under the leadership of Gandhi. In

1918, anti-Muslim riots broke out due to slaughter of cow. It is worth mentioning that cow is a

sacred animal to Hindus. Gandhi had a different point in this regard; he added that even Muslims

and Christians would be forced to abandon the slaughter of cow in India. After the passing of

controversial Rowlat Act, Jinnah and Gandhi showed their resentments in different ways. Gandhi
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ordered a civil disobedience movement against the government. During this period, the

Jalianwala incident took place, which cost the lives of many and left numerous people injured

once the police opened fire on a protest, forcing Gandhi to abandon his movement (Bolitho,


         The close of World War I with the Treaty of Sevres was eminent. The Muslims of India

had a spiritual connection with Caliphate, and in order to save the caliphate, they started a

movement to save it. This movement is famous in history as caliphate movement. Gandhi

capitalized on the occasion and assumed the role of champion. Meanwhile, Jinnah kept himself

away from Caliphate movement. After analyzing the growing influence of Gandhi and Hindu

Nationalists in Congress and impotence of Imperial legislative league, Jinnah resigned from

both. During 1921 to 28, Jinnah distanced himself from the Indian politics. No detail accounts of

evolution of his thought process are available. In 1929, Nehru report emerged, presenting the

constitutional guidelines for United India. The moderate amendments proposed by the Muslim

League of one-third electoral representation and autonomous powers to Muslim majority

provinces were turned down by Congress led committee. The failure of two round table

conferences further added to Jinnah’s desperation on thoughts of Hindu-Muslim Unity. By the

time Jinnah was disillusioned, the separate identity of Indian Muslims was gaining grounds.

         Muhammad Iqbal, a philosopher cum poet, proposed a separate Muslim state in 1930

Allahabad Address. Jinnah was still in self-posed exile once the Government of India act

surfaced on scene and he was force to return to India. It promised federal constitution and

autonomy to provinces with representation of equal seats to minorities. Jinnah rejected the

scheme and said that without reaching an agreement between the communities, it is not possible

to implement. In 1937, elections were planned; Congress had started to prepare for the event
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since 1934. The Muslim League also dwelled in 1936. The Congress under the leadership of

flamboyant Jawaharlal Nehru had overwhelming majority in 1937 elections. Muslim league

failed to establish foothold even in Muslim Majority provinces. Finally, in 1937, Jinnah shrugged

off his own concept of Hindu-Muslim Unity and became an advocate of Two Nations theory. He

became vocal for a separate independent Muslim state. Allama Iqbal played a pivotal role in his

transformation. On March 23, 1940 while delivering a speech, he said: “It has been taken

mistakenly that the Muslims are a minority. They are not a minority. They are a nation by all

definitions. By all canons of international law we are a separate nation from Hindus.” Under his

charismatic leadership, the Muslims of India finally gained independence in 1947 after a long

political struggle.

                                   Jinnah’s Political Thoughts

        Jinnah was a modern liberal. During his early political career, he was an activist of

religiously plural India. He was a strong believer of constitutional methods. The term

constitution is itself modern in origin. Just like Anderson’s imagine communities, Jinnah

imagined a separate Muslim state based on religion, culture and ideology. Jinnah’s evolution to

an advocate was not an overnight event. During the early part of his career, he was a strong

vocalist of Hindu-Muslim unity and member of Indian National Congress. However, the rising

influence of Gandhi and Hindu nationalist in Congress forced him to reconcile his thoughts. It

almost took him a decade to shrug off his old ideas. From modern nationalism criteria, a nation is

not a boundary less entity. He and his contemporaries clearly defined the boundaries of his

proposed nation in Pakistan resolution of 1940. Jinnah’s idea was never primordial; rather it was

logical and in line with the modern concept of a nation-state. As per Anderson’s three pillars of

nation, namely census, map and museum, the Indian Muslims met all of them. Majority of the
IMAGINED COMMUNITIES OF 20TH CENTURY INDIA: A SYNTHESIS                                              15

population was Muslim, particularly in northern India, and they had particular map of their

independent states.

        Indian Muslims had a distinct history then that was different from their Hindu

counterparts. It is notable that from Hindus’ point of view, the Muslims’ historical hero was a

villain. Like Mahmud of Ghazni, Jinnah was a hero for Indian Muslims for his campaigns

against the idolater. On the contrary, he was villain for Hindus and portrayed as a looter of their

wealth. Similarly, Shiva Ji Marhatta was considered as rebel by Muslims against the Mughal

Empire. However, he was portrayed as symbol of freedom fighting for Hindus. Moreover, the

Muslim culture is entirely different from their Hindu counterparts. Their customs, marital

ceremonies, death ceremonies and even names are different from each other. In the presence of

so many distinctions, the Muslims were definitely a separate nation as assumed and prophesied

by Jinnah.

        One of the counter arguments could be the religion-based philosophy of Jinnah. During

the Age of Enlightenment in Europe, religion was quashed out of the common life and was given

a private affair status. Many antagonists argue that Jinnah’s political ideology was primordial in

nature as religion never constituted a part of modern society. In order to understand the Jinnah’s

philosophy, it is appropriate to first shed light on role of religion in Islamic society. Since the rise

of Islam in Arab, it has been a fundamental part of society. Any Islamic society cannot exist

without the support of religion as mentioned by (Armstrong, 2002). The concept of Ummah (the

united nation of believers) has always been a core of its political structure. The rise of Islamic

power has been attributed to following the religious path by Muslim scholars. The decline of

Muslims has also been concluded due to leaving the path of religion. The religious presence was

necessary for every Muslim empire. In the case of the West, the dawn of age of reason clashed
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with the oppressive clergy and led to blood feuds like 100 years war of religion, which

devastated the European continent. Due to these blood feuds associated with religion, the West

started to part its way from religion. Nationalism, being a product of European society, had no

space for religion. However, for Muslims in every part of world, religion holds the key for their

renaissance. It is also worth mentioning that Jinnah in his early political career was a great vocal

of Hindu-Muslim unity. He believed strongly in the religious plural postcolonial India. However,

the prejudicial behavior of Congress and aggressive fundamentalist Hindu Mahasabha changed

his mind in the latter part of his career. He was forced to change his point of view in this regard.

In the latter part of political career, he advocated the famous two nation’s theory. The nexus of

religion with politics is probably an innovation in modern nationalist thought process.

       In his book, Anderson (1991) also mentioned that language has a pivotal role in the

formation of modern nation. Muslims of India had special association with Urdu. Urdu evolved

from local languages. Its literal meaning is the language of army. With the passage of time, it

became the national language of Muslim India. Hindu nationalists had special hatred for Urdu.

For them, it was the language of the oppressor. In 1867, the Hindus started a movement to give

official status to Dayonagri handwriting. The Congress government after the election of 1937

also instituted the Dayonagri handwriting as the official language. This prejudice alienated

Jinnah and other Muslim from Congress and Urdu became a lingual identity of Indian Muslims.

In short, Jinnah’s political thought might be said primordial due to the influence of religion.

However, for clear understanding of his thought process, it is necessary to understand Islamic

political philosophy. The Muslims of India qualified in all respect as a separate nation. The

British government also admitted the same during their rule.
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                             Iqbal- The Modern Islamic Reformer

        Armstrong (2002) mentioned that the Islamic world was mesmerized by the rise of West.

The shift from old agrarian society to the modern industrial society had given the West enormous

power to sustain their existence. The flight of capitalism needed market and raw material for its

progress. Islamic world lied at the strategic location all around the globe and became a source of

prime interest for the European nations. One by one, Islamic countries fell to the hands of

colonial powers. This evoked a crisis of identity in Muslim World. Many reformers in different

parts of Islamic world suggested reform to keep abreast with the growing European power. In

India, the reformation movement started with the decline of Mughal Empire. Many reformists

came up with different ideas, some were purely religious and orthodox, while some were

modernist in approach and emphasized right blending ratio of modernity with religion. Iqbal

belonged to the later cult of reformers. According to his philosophy, Islam was just as rational a

religion as Western society. According to him, the West has acquired modernity at the cost of

religion. The secular Western ideology was bound to collapse and World War I was an example

of this. As per his thoughts, with the right blend of modernity Islam had answers to all the

problem of humanity. Iqbal philosophy of Khudi or self was close to Sufism.

        Iqbal was a proponent of Two Nations theory. The two Nations theory existed before

Iqbal and Sayyid Ahmed Khan laid the foundation of this theory. As per this theory, the Muslims

of India are distinct and separate from their Hindu contemporaries. However, Iqbal gave the idea

of a separate Muslim State with defined border in his famous Allahabad address of 1930. He


        I declare that the protection of the separate identity is in the best interest of Hindus and

        the Muslims. Since the Muslims of the sub-continent are a separate nation with their
IMAGINED COMMUNITIES OF 20TH CENTURY INDIA: A SYNTHESIS                                           18

       distinct culture and religious values and they wanted to have a system of their own liking,

       they should be allowed to live under such a system in a separate state comprising of

       northwestern frontier Province, Sindh, Punjab and Baluchistan.

Iqbal also negated the one nation prospect and homogenous India, during one of his addresses he

said: “India is a continent of human beings belonging to different languages and religions. To

base a constitution on the conception of homogenous India is to prepare her for civil war. I,

therefore demand a separate Muslim state in the best interest of the Muslims of India and Islam.”

Iqbal was mainly a philosopher and inspired by dream of an Islamic renaissance. He advocated

the rational Islam. His ideology may seem primordial to a Western scholar as he emphasized on

nexus of religion and modernity. The Western concept of Nationalism has no binding by religion

and is secular in nature. While Iqbal thought of a nexus or correct blend of religion and politics.

He was a thinker and inspired by idea of Islamic resurgence. For pure western student, his

concept of religion and politics together may sound medieval. However, from the point of view

of a student of Islamic History, he lined up in the queue of modern Islamic reformer.

       Iqbal’s thought was not limited to India only, although he provided a territorial border for

a separate Muslim state. His main idea was of Ummah, the universal Islamic community. At this

time, he may sound a little absurd compared to the modern nation-state concept. However, recent

introduction of globalization and evolution of European Union is validating the practicality of his

thought process.

       In other words, Iqbal was a great philosopher and provided Muslims with the thought of a

separate state. He provided the idea and Jinnah executed it with precision. From the history of

20th twentieth century, he might seem primitive, but recent evolutions in human society have

proved that he was a man ahead of his time.
IMAGINED COMMUNITIES OF 20TH CENTURY INDIA: A SYNTHESIS                                            19

                                  Gandhi-The Hindu Mahatma

       Mohan Das Karam Chand Gandhi is famous in Indian politics history as Mahatma

Gandhi or Bapu (Father). He had a very particular philosophy, inspired by Henry David Thoreau

and Leo Tolstoy. His Life was a mere struggle and he had a strong belief on truth (Sat). During

his stay at South Africa, he came to know about harsh realities of colonialism as stated by

(Gandhi, 1969). After his arrival in India, he joined the Congress and in few years became the

linchpin of Indian Liberation movement.

       His ideology of state is mainly more philosophical than realistic. He believes that the

pursuit of truth overrides the political loyalty. In particular, Dharma requires selfless action

without any expectation of rewards. Non-violence formed the core of his political philosophy.

Gandhi’s thought were mainly anti-colonial. He disliked the superiority complex of European

masters. His Satyagarh (quest for truth) approach included tactics like civil disobedience, boycott

etc. According to him, truth is not presume but earned. Ahinsa or No-injury is a norm, not a

technique. As per his philosophy, the opponent’s temporary embarrassment should not be taken

advantage of. He perceived a religious-pluralist Indian dominion.

       For many, Gandhi was a true nationalist leader of India who demanded Swaraj (Own

rule). His approach of non-violence was in line with liberal democratic thoughts. His philosophy

can be explained by different modern uprisings against the unjust state. The civil disobedience

movement launched by Gandhi in 1918 is an example of his constitutional methods and non-

violence. The movement was abandon after the Jalianwala massacre. This might indicate that

Gandhi might have miscalculated the cost of civil disobedience. Whatever the consequence may

be, his struggle was mainly democratic.
IMAGINED COMMUNITIES OF 20TH CENTURY INDIA: A SYNTHESIS                                           20

       Gandhi presumed the Indian Nation as communitarian-pluralist as mentioned by (Ahmed,

2002). His active participation in caliphate movement was proof of his belief. However,

Gandhi’s political career has contradictions to his pluralist-religious ideas. During the anti-

Muslim riots in 1918, he threatened Muslims and Christians to abandon the cow slaughter in

India or they would be forced to do this (Bolitho, 1954). These contradictions leave a question

mark on his political philosophy. For antagonists, these actions of Gandhi may have a connection

to the controversial enigmatic Hindu doctrine of Chankaya.

       Gandhi was more closely a nationalist reformer. His imagined community of United

India was based on territorial boundaries that are deeply rooted in Indian History. India had

always been a religious plural society. There were many religions like Jainism, Buddhism and

Sikhism, which originated in India. However, because of communion effect, almost all of them

were absorbed into Indian culture. Islam was the only religion, which kept its distinction

throughout the Indian history. Since colonization, Muslims of India had fears of a Hindu

backlash. Many of the Muslim scholars thought that as per modern democratic ideology the

majority Hindus would dominate the formidable minority in postcolonial nation. The main roots

of Muslim insecurity were probably not from Congress as Muslims were also members of this

party. However, the Hindu fundamentalists and nationalists were gaining grounds in colonial era.

The shudhi and shungton movements led by Hindu nationalist supplemented their fear of

isolation. The Congress, however, never associated itself with the Hindu nationalists. However,

Hindu nationalists had a formidable undercover support from few congress leaders. Gandhi

probably could not address this communalism up to the satisfaction of Muslim populace. His

imagination of a religious-plural India was ditched mainly due to hawkish Hindu elements.
IMAGINED COMMUNITIES OF 20TH CENTURY INDIA: A SYNTHESIS                                            21

       In the economic point of view, Gandhi was a strong proponent of Sawadeshi concept.

The concept mainly relies on indigenization of Indian economy from grass root level. Gandhi’s

economic vision met stiff resistance from his heir, Nehru. The economic vision of Mahatma was

dubbed as unreal. Probably, Gandhi belonged to an orthodox school of thought and had not

envisaged the need of an industrial society to sustain sovereignty. Gandhi’s agrarian economic

model of independent India was an outdated primordial concept.

       In short, Gandhi’s enigmatic philosophy of independent Indian dominion was mainly

nationalist in nature. However, his approach towards achieving the goal was more philosophical.

From the modern point of view, he was a true Indian nationalist who hated racialism. Although

he parted, his way from Congress idea of constitutional reforms, his main emphasis on

registering of mass protest on a non-violent basis was the solution to achieve Indian


                      Jawaharlal Nehru- The Secular Indian Visionary

       Jawaharlal Nehru was son of Motilal Nehru. He was born in a rich family and his father

was a founding member of Indian National Congress. He got his education from different

renowned institutions of England. During his childhood he was inspire by the stories of freedom

fight of 1857 to 58 as narrated by (Stanislaw, 1998). He joined the cause of national liberation

with Gandhi.

       Nehru vision of Indian nation-state was not much different from Gandhi’s version. The

claim of Indian nationalism by Nehru and Gandhi qualifies all the modern definitions of a nation

and state. However, Nehru’s thought on economics were different from Gandhi. His spiritual

father believed on self-reliance and Sawadeshi concept. According to Gandhi, the harmonious

self-reliance of Indian Villages should form the base of postcolonial India. Nehru’s vision was an
IMAGINED COMMUNITIES OF 20TH CENTURY INDIA: A SYNTHESIS                                             22

inspiration of Stalin’s socialist ideas. In 1945, due to differences of approach, Gandhi accused

Nehru of being unfaithful to the Sawadeshi concept. Nehru in return termed Mahatma’s vision as


          Nehru was a practical secular mind. At one stage, he stated about religion:

          Religions have helped greatly in the development of Humanity. They have laid down

          values and standard and have pointed out principles for the guidance of human life. But

          with all good they have done, they have also tried to imprison truth in set forms and

          dogmas. (Stepaniants, 1989)

The statement of Nehru clearly indicated his inclination towards modern secularism. The

Nerhruvian vision of independent India was mainly secular.

          Nehru was inspired by socialist ideas. He thought that capitalism has resulted into the

increase in poverty particular in India. During one of his statement, he stated:

          I am convinced that the only key to the solution of world’s problems and India’s

          problems lies in socialism and when I use this word I do not use it in a vague

          humanitarian way but as a scientific economic doctrine … I see no way of ending the

          poverty, the vast unemployment, the degradation and subjection of Indian people except

          through socialism. (Das, 2001)

His socialist thoughts were not a mere copy of Soviet ideology. Rather, he added an Indian blend

and industrialization. Nehru’s vision was a political and economical sovereign secular India. His

economic model of an industrial society was a proven modern concept. He was a great visionary

and planner of his time.
IMAGINED COMMUNITIES OF 20TH CENTURY INDIA: A SYNTHESIS                                            23

       The Contemporaries figures of 20th Century India and Imagined Communities

       The modern concept of Nation-state and Imagined communities of Anderson has no

space to accommodate religion as a pillar of nation-building process. The case of India is

different from Europe as well as South and North America. Jinnah was a firm believer of a

modern religious plural society, but his bitter experiences of Hindu prejudice had force him to

change his mind. Still, he never vowed for theocratic dominion, his quest was for a liberal,

democratic country where Muslims can experiment about blending the modernity and Islam. His

concepts were not secular but liberal Islam. Iqbal, on the other hand, was a great vocalist of

Islamic resurgence. His vision was more pan-Islamic then western. His synthesis was on

rationalization of religion and self- reformation. From a modern nationalist point of view, he may

sound primordial, but for a student of Islamic history, he is a modern reformer. Gandhi was a

nationalist and strong believer of religiously plural independent India. Nevertheless, his agrarian

economic model for independent India was outdated. His political philosophy was enigmatic and

somewhat more spiritual. Non-violence and civil disobedience are hallmark of his core concepts.

He accepted the modern nationalist thought but added a Hindu mythical touch of dharma and

Satyagarh to it. In the contrary, Nehru was secular and socialist in ideology. Unlike Gandhi, he

believed on political and Industrial sovereign India. His political thoughts on Indian Nationalism

were same as that of Gandhi.


       Nationalism is a by-product of capitalism and industrial revolution. The case of India is

different from all other examples of nationalism. No other country like India had such distinctive

communities based on religion. The role of radical element in India was also formidable than

other communities. The historic tall political figures of 20th century India were all modern in
IMAGINED COMMUNITIES OF 20TH CENTURY INDIA: A SYNTHESIS                                          24

their thoughts with deviations from the pure European political thought. Every one of them

perceived postcolonial India in their own perspective. All of them satisfied the basic definition of

Anderson’s imagined communities but differed in nation building process.
IMAGINED COMMUNITIES OF 20TH CENTURY INDIA: A SYNTHESIS                                        25


Ahmed, I. (2002). The 1947 partition of India. Asian Ethnicity, 9-28.

Anderson, B. (1991). Imagined Societies: Reflection on origin and spread of Nationalism.
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Armstrong, K. (2002). A short history of Islam. New York: Modern Library.

Bolitho, H. (1954). Jinnah : Creator of Pakistan. London: John Murray (Publisher) Ltd.

Das, S. (2001). The Nehru years in Indian politics. Edinburgh: University of Edinburgh.

Gandhi, M. K. (1969). The Story of my Experiment With Truth. Ahmedabad: Navajivan
      Publishing House.

Riaz, A. (2003). Nations, nation state and politics of Muslim Identity in India. Comparative
       Study of South Asia, Africa and Middle East, 22, 53-58.

Stanislaw, D. Y. (1998). Commanding heights. New York : Simon and Schuster.

Stepaniants, M. (1989). Nehru, the man and his vision. In Nehru-Philosopher and Humanist (pp.
       1-8). Delhi: Unesco House.

Tamimi, M. J. (2009). Hinduism in South Asia: Myth and reality. Research Journal for South
     Asian Studies, 221-241.

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