ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Is Nationalism a Boon or a Curse?

It would be wrong to see nationalism as either an unmitigated evil or a universal virtue. It can be both, a boon and a curse - depending on the circumstances two sides of the same coin. Nationalism tends to be negative when people confront each other along the lines of national divisions; it can be productive enough when social divisions and hostilities tend to be based on other identities, such as religion, community or ethnicity. Central to understanding the contingent variability of the role of nationalism is the need to see nationality as one identity among many that we all have.

Exactly two years before India’s independence, on August 15, 1945, in his last message to the nation, Subhas Chandra Bose wrote: “There is no power on earth that can keep India enslaved. India shall be free and before long”.[1] That confidence, based on a determined commitment to a great cause – of ending imperial domination of India – brings out a hugely appealing face of nationalism. It can inspire and motivate the people of a country subjected to the bondage of alien rule and to the internal loss of self-confidence that goes with such rule. Even the rousing statement about the inability of any power on earth to keep India enslaved, which Netaji articulated, can be seen in the context of the need to overcome what Rabindranath Tagore had called “the worst form of bondage” – “the bondage of dejection, which keeps men hopelessly chained in loss of faith in themselves”.[2]

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