Saturday, January 4, 2014
Syed Kashif In this turbulent age of nationalism and patriotism I often remind Rabendranath Tgore and his ideas of love and universal brotherhood. Not only the roar of ‘Indian nationalism’ has always tempted me to recollect his ideas but also it provides me some moments of relief as I dream of that in place. Tagore was the great humanist. His huge love for humanity sometimes left many people to doubt his patriotism as he used to criticize the ways and patterns of protests against the British rule. For instance, his opposition of Swadeshi movement and noncooperation movement of 1921 provided the ground in this regard. He was as much humanist that he even could not bear the smell of hatred in any movement or voice. He had doubt that those movements may result into hate for man against man. To avoid the blame of lack of patriotism Tagore said, ‘It is not that I do not feel anger in my heart for injustice and insult heaped upon my motherland. But this anger of mine should be turned into the fire of love for lighting the lamp of worship to be dedicated through my country to my God. It would be an insult to humanity, if I use the sacred energy of my moral indignation for the purpose of spreading a blind passion all over my country’ (quoted in the introduction written by Ramchandra Guha for ‘Rabendranath Tagore: Nationalism’, published by Penguin Books India, 2009: xxviii). In short he believed that the kind or the ways of protest was paramount to insult to the virtue of humanity or blot on the idea of love and universal brotherhood. However, Tagore’s resistance against the pattern of freedom struggle in general and ideas of Gandhi ji in particular is another issue of debate which I am not dealing here. But this is obvious that he was as patriot as Gandhi ji and any other Indian for that matter. He had no disagreements on the ultimate goal of freedom struggle which was for getting rid of alien rule. Tagore was not against one nation in particular, but against the general idea of all nations. In other words he was not against the nation per se. But he opposed the idea of organizing people in the name of nation. He argues, ‘it is the aspect of the whole people as an organized power. This organization incessantly keeps up the insistence of the population on becoming strong and efficient…….for thereby man’s power of sacrifice is diverted from his ultimate object, which is moral, to the maintenance of this organization, which is mechanical’ (Tagore: Nationalism 2009: 73). He bluntly criticized the western nationalism. He put that in the above context as he argued, ‘all the great nations of the Europe have their victims in other parts of the world’ (ibid. 69). ‘He believed that colonialism was the product of nationalism and therefore he called it menace. He adds, ‘nationalism is a great menace. It is the particular thing which for years has been at the bottom of India’s troubles. And inasmuch as we have been ruled and dominated by a nation that is strictly political in its attitude, we gave tried to develop within ourselves, despite our inheritance from the past, a belief in our eventual political destiny’ (ibid. 74). Here it is clear that Tagore was very much wary of the spread of western idea of ‘nationalism’ with which India was getting affected due to the presence of British in India. He was categorically against the idea of uniting people in the name of ‘nation’. He believed that India had never been one nation and therefore he opposed the propagation of it and undermining the diversity of India. Therefore, while delivering his lecture in the USA he said, ‘We in India must make up our mind that we cannot borrow other people’s history, and that we stifle our own we are committing suicide. When you borrow things that do not belong to your life, they only serve to crush your life’ (ibid. 71). In the same plain, Tagore said, ‘India has never had a real sense of nationalism. Even though from childhood I had been taught that idolatry of the Nation is almost better than reverence of God and humanity, I believe I have outgrown that teaching, and it is my conviction that my countrymen will truly gain their India by fighting against the education which teaches them that a country is greater that the ideal of humanity’ (ibid. 70). It can be said that the teaching which Tagore wanted to be unlearned is still in existence in India. Still we have not learnt that unlearning is as important as learning. Even after so many years Indians have not adopted the lesson which Tagore taught them. Indians are yet in the illusion of ‘India’ while thrashing the humanity which Tagore kept above all. All these are significant because it is Tagore who wrote the national anthem of India and ironically Indians did not embrace the ideas of Tagore himself or say Indians did not follow the path of ‘nationalism’ which Tagore chosen. His love for humanity or universal brotherhood can be seen in his famous argument, ‘There is only one history—the history of man. All national histories are merely chapters in the larger one.’ (ibid. 65). Thus we can say that Tagore was not against the idea of nation but against ‘nationalism’ which carries along the substances of superiority and inferiority. He loved his country as he was a patriot. In other words, Tagore was a patriot who loved his country without being nationalist. In the country of such an enlightened thinker if we speak of jargons like ‘India First’ or ‘Secularism means India first’ or ‘Vote for India’ this is nothing but a shame. We sing his song as our national anthem but how unfortunate is this that we even do not bother to know what the idea behind his love for the country was. We have made his love of the land vey dwarf. Had Tagore been alive now, he would have certainly detested the cheap ‘nationalism’ which our leaders speak for. And yes, people may doubt my love to country after reading this article as some misunderstood Tagore’s love for the motherland. All these happen because we have conceived that for loving the mother land we have to be ‘nationalist’. But I declare I love my country and I am not a nationalist.