India, the coming together federal state



India is a state-nation rather than a nation-state. Discuss.

Which is what Professor Ashutosh Varshney did during a discussion organized by the Asia Society Mumbai on Thursday, with me as a moderator.

First, what’s the difference? Nation-states were largely a 19th European construct. They were top-down affairs with one region often subduing others and imposing religion, language and often culture. France and Germany are exemplars. This was often violent and largely done in a non-democratic environment.

State-nations, explained Varshney, are bottom up creations with various regions binding together to form a united polity. The United States is broadly an example. So, so far, is India.

India was always a federal entity given its diversity, its constitution and its democracy. The original Hindutva advocates argued for a unitary state grounded in a common Hindu based polity. But the requirements of democratic politics meant that even when the BJP came to power, it ended up following policies closer to those of a state-nation.

The point Varshney stressed is that the state-nation idea assumes that relations between the centre and the states are not a zero- sum game. If New Delhi is a mess, it doesn’t mean the state governments are going to be beneficiaries. “Both centre and state can grow strong,” says Varshney.

But there are many, especially in Delhi and the central government, who worry India will be like the European Union rather than, say, China or even the United States. And that this will mean a weak India, forever tied up with some chief minister’s concerns, unable to put up a united front in anything.

Varshney says otherwise. “A state-nation creates a sense of belonging among its people even while simultaneously giving political guarantees for diversity and minorities,” he says. The point is it can still create a loyalty to the Centre which allows it to create a single economic space, push a nationalist foreign policy and all the stuff a nation-state does so well.

Is there evidence that such a sense of belonging among Indians exists? Varshney shows there is, noting that survey after survey shows that 80 per cent or so of Indians are proud or very proud to be Indian and only about 20 percent put their regional identity ahead of their national one. The first is beaten only by the US and Australia. The second is remarkable for any country of its poverty, diversity and democracy.

Varshney attributes this to many factors like the army, the bureaucracy, the freedom struggle, cricket and Bollywood. But such nascent nationalism can only grow as India urbanises and it’s middle class grows. I suspect its best corporations could also be icons for this new Indian sentiment.

India’s federalism, once shown to work, could well prove a model for countries like Indonesia or Myanmar or Pakistan with similar diversities. All three, one might add, are countries where the military have or are engaged in large-scale operations against swathes of their own country to bring them into the national mainstream. As Varshney points out, while India faced simultaneous secessionist insurgencies in Kashmir and Punjab in the late 1980s, this till only represented 3 percent of the population.

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  • http://www.facebook.com/prakashjaiswal.401 Prakash Jaiswal
  • Parmanu

    The TV show argument is interesting. Yes, we can learn much more about animals from a well-crafted documentary than a visit to a zoo. But this can’t be the only reason to visit a zoo; we do so because the visit is also a social experience, like going to the cinemas, to a game, or to a concert. I may be able to watch all the movies at home, but I’d still want to go to the cinemas.

    Zoos will go out of existence if they become socially unacceptable or uninteresting. And I do not see anything that’s taking us in that direction.

    [Reply]

  • Surendra Chowdhry

    The unity of India got fragmented the day India got Independence. During the period of struggle for independence India ignored that a common language would have been a string for all to cling on, but it stayed busy to end the Empire. Jawahar Lal Nehru realised this at the very early stages of Independent India and pushed the philosophy of three language formula,with Hindi being the main string, which died at very early stages. The reason, the politics had already started playing a part in creating a new India. The traits of divide and rule which the Empire successfully translated into an Industry, got cloned by the Indian politicians, hungry to conquere and rule. Knowing fully well that the division strategy the Empire established was to rule, whereas the new Indian politicians were in such a hurry that they conveniently forgot that they were suppose to serve India and very soon were engulfed to rule India. They realised that more they become instrumental to divide India more they will be able to rule. Back in their minds they always had an immortal idea and attitude of running Kingdoms and dynasties. India being fragmented the days of Bharat when it had 300 Kingdoms, the “genes” filtered through the Moghal days and Imperial era. Over half a millenium of foreign rule could not eradicate the fragmentation, understanding well that this was a tool to rule and not to serve. Modern India knowing fully well the disastrous outcomes to follow this formula got hung over and the hunger to rule created linguistic states which in turn helped create dynasties. The Nehru-Gandhi dynasty (Poor Mahatma, his name is linked without having any link), Shiekh Abdullah dynasty, Chautala dynasty, Laalu dynasty, Mulayam Singh dynasty, Badal dynasty and many more to come……..

    What India needs, apart from lots and lots reforms, a will to remove all the borders of all the states and divide the country in straight lines like USA and Australia, not giving them any lingual names, just generic names. A common single language to create a single string for everybody to latch on………

    I donot think that will happen because our “genes” have not been reformed and we have to end up to create 300 Kingdoms. An opportunity for a foreigner to once again invade India and to rule India. I don’t think it had been a bad Idea to be ruled by Mughals and the British. I rest my case…..

    [Reply]

    balaji Reply:

    note more important aspects also :—- less production of all types of goods leads to less export and lower quality education or no education leads to less IT export and lessen technical development, which all combines finally to affect income of country then leads to bad economical health and so meaning is bad economical health is main reason behind non-functioning of any nation………..

    [Reply]

    balaji Reply:

    non — functioning of defence system and other systems of any nation :—-

    less production of all types of goods leads to less export and lower quality education or no education leads to less IT export and lessen technical development, which all combines finally to affect income of country then leads to bad economical health and so meaning is bad economical health is main reason behind non-functioning of defence system any nation………………………..

    [Reply]

    Sam Reply:

    Your assessment is mostly correct. I just disagree with your your last statement.

    [Reply]

  • balaji

    non-functioning of any nation :–
    less production of all types of goods leads to less export and lower quality education or no education leads to less IT export and lessen technical development, which all combines finally to affect income of country then leads to bad economical health and so meaning is bad economical health is main reason behind non-functioning of any nation………..

    [Reply]

  • balaji

    non — functioning of defence system of any nation :—-
    less production of all types of goods leads to less export and lower quality education or no education leads to less IT export and lessen technical development, which all combines finally to affect income of country then leads to bad economical health and so meaning is bad economical health is main reason behind non-functioning of defence system any nation………..

    [Reply]

  • balaji

    non — functioning of defence system and other systems of any nation :—-

    less production of all types of goods leads to less export and lower quality education or no education leads to less IT export and lessen technical development, which all combines finally to affect income of country then leads to bad economical health and so meaning is bad economical health is main reason behind non-functioning of defence system any nation………..

    [Reply]

  • balaji

    non — functioning of defence system and other systems of any nation :———

    less production of all types of goods leads to less export and lower quality education or no education leads to less IT export and lessen technical development, which all combines finally to affect income of country then leads to bad economical health and so meaning is bad economical health is main reason behind non-functioning of defence system any nation………..

    [Reply]

  • balaji

    non — functioning of defence system and other systems of any nation :————–

    less production of all types of goods leads to less export and lower quality education or no education leads to less IT export and lessen technical development, which all combines finally to affect income of country then leads to bad economical health and so meaning is bad economical health is main reason behind non-functioning of defence system any nation………..

    [Reply]

  • balaji

    non — functioning of defence system and other systems of any nation :——————-

    less production of all types of goods leads to less export and lower quality education or no education leads to less IT export and lessen technical development, which all combines finally to affect income of country then leads to bad economical health and so meaning is bad economical health is main reason behind non-functioning of defence system any nation………..

    [Reply]

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    India, the coming together federal state : Foreign Hand…