Regional Consciousness in 19th Century India-A Preliminary Note

A MAJOR, and very delicate, problom that confronts the historian of nationalism in India relates to its definition. Nationalism is seen, almost invariably, as being co-derminous with the boundaries of the Indian State. This kind of ex post facto procrusteantion of nationalism, within the Indian context, introduees extraneous factors in what ought to be an intellectual exercise: the understanding of a principle of cohesion that transcended, even as it derived from them, the traditional units of social cohesion. It negates, on political grounds, the possibility of nationalism in India being other than Indian nationalism.1 This is a problem by no means peculiar to the study of nationalism in India. Given the elusi- veness of the subjective factor that alone makes possible the transformation of a conjunction of objective factors into the phenomenon called nationalism, it has not been possible to evolve objectively valid criteria for defining nationalism. For, in its essence, nationalsim is but a subjective phenomenon produced by varying combinations of objective factors. Very often during its nascence, and at times even in its maturity, nationalism is pitted against a particular political dispensation; it is, indeed, so often produced by the very fact of a group of people beng so pitted. In such situations, particularly during the early stages of such a confrontation, the very existence of a given nationalism becomes a political issue; it is simultaneously asserted and denied by people depending upon how they are situated in or inclined towards this confrontation. Should the recognition or otherwise of specific manifestations of nationalism be dependent on political validation rather than on intellectually valid criteria?

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