Amalendu Guha ( Marxian Historian 1924-2015)
From His EPW Feb 1979 Article
A Nationality is a stable community of culture, historically evolved within a definite territory, on the basis of common economic ties and language and , also often with one or more of other such common factors. A nationality so defined, had in some cases, its rudimentary beginnings in consolidated most cases, were integrally linked with the rise of capitalism
It was also a movement with definite ideology and programme. Basically anti feudal in character, such national movements tended to culminate establishment of bourgeois democratic states so that thereon could be an unhindered dev of capitalism on the basis of widened and protected national markets.
It was thro British colonization that the ground for similar national movements was prepared in India. The purpose was to bring India into the orbit of world capitalism so that exploitation could be intensified.
In India protection of home market against foreign domination emerged as a slogan. To promote their own interests, these classes rallied popular support behind them, by exploiting spiritual sentiments based on a community of culture. This happened both at the regional and AI levels. Alongside of Indian nationalism one often heard of Bengali , Marathi or Assamese nationalism as well. These nationalisms sustained and were in turn sustained by indian people's common struggle against British.
All parts of India and all Indian nationalities did not come under British rule at one and the same point of time. Nor were they at the same stage of socio economic development when they did. This unevenness was bound to leave its imprint on the manifestation of nationalism at the various levels, both in terms of chronology and in terms of emotional content and identity.
Two tracks- Great nationalisms on AI Plane and little nationalism on a linguistic regional plane. Great nationalism emerged as the ideology of the nascent pan Indian big bourgeoisie who wanted an appropriate share of growing india wide home market for themselves ..They also wanted independent unitary state to secure it....The INC represented great nationalism in its original undiluted form during 1885-1917 years.
Little nationalism emerged as the ideology of the region based small bourgeoisie and stood for exclusive control of the regional markets by their respective middle classes. The concept of unitary national state was not a suitable ideal for little nationalism. It looked forward a multi-national state with a federal set up that would guarantee substantial regional autonomy to each national identity. In its extreme and late form in exceptional cases little nationalism st0od alternatively even for secession or dual citizenship and sovereign political status.
How were great and little nationalisms inter related? In the course of their historical evolution, they in general moved in unison, continually tending to merge with each other, but on occasions they also tended to dash headlong against each other in opposite directions. On the whole in the anti imperialist struggles they moved in the same direction, and overlapped each other. thus they got intertwined.
Indian National movement since 1917 involved a series of compromised between great and little nationalisms so that all nationalist forces could be consolidated to achieve the common objective. Gandhi with his concept of linguistic provinces ushered in this process. The dominant class view on the national question, as a result went substantial changes in favour of and towards recognition of multi-national interests both before and after independence.
It was in this process as worked out above, that castes , tribes and local communities were being absorbed into larger entities along either of the two above mentioned tracks. The little nationalities too were imperceptively getting integrated with a still larger national entity- The Indian nationhood in the making.
In the Indian context there was and is also a growing understanding that only by eliminating bourgeois distortions could a basis for true nationalism be found- also that one's loyalty to regional culture is quite compatible with true nationalism and internationalism once class exploitation is removed from the scene.
.....there is no administrative or military short cut to achievement of nationhood. Indian nationalism and the associated process of state formations are still in the making. Today the only way to deemphasize the tribal exclusiveness as well as regional differences in religion, castes and ethnicity is to realise the importance of cohesion of respective regional communities.
To conclude, India is a multi- national state which is not dominated by any particular nationality. No single nationality has an absolute majority in India, so far as the numerical strength is concerned. No single nationality dominates all facets of power and influence either. Besides, all nationalities developed a historic sense of unity in course of common struggles against the British rule, and they were found keen to retain this sense of unity even after Independence. In the process of economic transition, hundreds and thousands of workers from different lingusitic groups became intermingled.
The Indian working class therefore stands as such above parochial little nationalism as above aggressive great nationalism. In its conception true nationalism can absorb what is good in little nationalism and stands also for internationalism. It stands for indian unity within the multi- national state of India. It looks forward to a united India organised on the basis of the recognition of Indian multinationality- federal principles of state organisation with single citizenship and protection of democratic rights of all national minorities and their languages all over India, including the right of self determination
(Original draft presented as seminar paper at Shillong NE Hills Univ on sep 1,2 1978)