Don't stuff the idea of India down our throats

Suraj Kumar Thube
Suraj Kumar ThubeApr 03, 2016 | 23:24

Don't stuff the idea of India down our throats

What does one mean by the word "India"? Does it have only one meaning? What does it mean to call oneself an Indian, or rather, the more pertinent question is: who is an Indian? Is there any monochromatic form of nationalism that encompasses the views of all the people living within this territorially bound landmass called India?

These are the questions that need to be deliberated upon in the present day context, as the plurality and diversity of the idea of India has been receiving a severe jolt from the majoritarian forces. The need of the hour is to talk about and indeed celebrate the motley ideas of India and not to obliterate them.


Let us be very clear from the outset that the word India was never an indigenously developed word but can actually be attributed to Greece. Before the arrival of the Muslims, inhabitants of South Asia never used this word to identify the region.

India derives its name from the river Indus, currently flowing through Pakistan. The Sanskrit word for the river is Sindhu. As a result of the difference in language, this province which was ruled by the Persian empire of Iran was called as Hindos, where "S" got replaced with "H".

Is there really any truth about the much romanticised phrase of "unity in diversity" in the Indian case?  

Later the Greeks, borrowing the word from Iranians, called the river Indus and the region through which it flows, India. How many Indians today take pride and feel indebted to the "outsiders" for coining the term, at a time when the same outsiders are looked down upon by the majoritarian fanatics for sullying their idea of India?

To put another fact on record, the first Christian community came to India in 52 AD, the same century when Christianity was born, and the first Muslim mosque can be traced to 647 AD at a place called Kodungallur in Kerala, during the same century when Islam was born.


This was a time when there was no such entity called as India and was miles away from the narrow, blinkered and xenophobic idea of India that is getting rampantly perpetuated all over the country today. To call people "outsiders" is to do a great disservice to the remarkable association they have had with this country.

At present, the dominant view is: force "them" to integrate with "us" on "our" terms and conditions. To make matters more worse, this also includes people from the Northeast, Kashmiris, Adivasis and all those who don't adhere to the ideology of those who are in a numerical majority.

Even if people don't believe in the divisive ideology directly, it has its effect indirectly on sundry groups that have an increasingly tough time to prove their Indianness. We, the so-called "enlightened souls" should deliberate over some pressing issues: why is it that nobody really makes a genuine effort to understand how all these groups perceive India?

Is there really any truth about the much touted and romanticised phrase of "unity in diversity" in the Indian case? The inquisitions can be further specified. To reminisce Benedict Anderson's "imagined community", do we really think of providing any kind of physical, moral or financial succour to people outside our local community?


Why does it always happen that living a comfortable life in urban areas makes us completely oblivious to the predicaments of farmers and their daily miseries? Can we ever think of calling a Manipuri film or Assamese song as the ones that represent India, as we so often and instantly do in the case of Bollywood, which supposedly is the only repertoire of Indian films and music?

The same prejudicial, stereotyped and grossly biased understanding of an Indian can be further seen in cases where children wearing Pakistani T-shirts get targeted as anti-nationalists. The same set of misguided people will have absolutely no problem in children sporting a Manchester United T-shirt. The inane, dogmatic thought stems from such innocuous display of one's fundamental right, which further gets exacerbated on a broader level, a level where things get out of control and the prospects of normalcy and preserving unity become a distant dream.

The idea of India is in its pluralism, diversity and multiplicity of its views on myriad topics of religion, culture, society and politics. The idea of preserving the purity of one nation, one culture and one religion is a deeply regressive and retrograde idea in the times of globalisation and multiculturalism.

To understand these eternal bonds with the "outside" world, Sidin Vadukut, in his amazingly witty and poignant book called The Sceptical Patriot, tells us only to look closely into our daily lunch boxes. For example, A yummy mash of potatoes with the help of chilli pepper, the so-called pride of Indian spices, were actually brought to India by the Portuguese. What then really remains anything Indian about it?

A glorification and not the suppression of the multiple origins and ideas of India should be the ultimate goal that all Indians should strive for.

Last updated: April 04, 2016 | 18:00
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