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The Indian National Project: Failures and Successes
Annual Review Issue
The Indian National Project: Failures and Successes
By Jill Starr
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This paper analyzes several strands of nonwestern Indian nationalist discourse as a response to British colonial subjugation of India and its consequential results. These nonwestern strands of Indian nationalism and their associated discourse historically and sociologically evolved in reaction to the British colonization of India. This paper analyzes both the failures and successes of the Indian national project of modern state formation within a distinct theoretical framework. This framework measures the extent to which nonwestern Indian nationalism in response to British colonial subjugation required certain liberally tolerant civic/political and social/economic equitable reforms to be incorporated into it in order to construct a liberated and tolerant modern multicultural state. The reason for its failure is primarily due to nonwestern Indian nationalism and its discourse being based upon an extremely exclusionary national theoretical framework. In other words nonwestern Indian nationalism and its discourse was premised primarily on Hinduism. Therefore, nonwestern Indian nationalism failed to imaginea manner in which India's numerous, diversified, non-Hindu, culturally conceived imagined communitiesand social groupings would also be incorporated into its future equitably.
Modern India and its leaders (past and present), due to India's colonial past, have lacked sustaining vertical and horizontal political and social legitimacy. Hence India is an unstable and weak democratic state in transition. Paradigmatic of most post-colonial states, modern Indian rulers maintain social control and political authority over the communities they rule by often resorting to coercive internal state security methods including despotic authoritarianism, secret police, and state surveillance. Post-colonial India has also been impotent in compelling its civil society to comply with Western models of secular styled democracy and constitutional rule of law. Additionally, India's civil society has been largely unreceptive in adopting Western-styled secular democratic governance. This is partially attributed to the British colonialists leaving many localized and scattered power vacuums in India when they departed. These have since been filled by local Indian rulers in many of India's more traditionally ruled decentralized rural village communities, which exist far removed from India's modern political capitol in Dehli.
The Indian national project and its nonwestern strands of Indian nationalist discourse that were a part thereof were as striking a failure as a success. Indian nationalism was, theoretically, a success insofar as it resulted in constructing an independent nation-state liberated from British rule. However, it was an equally striking failure insofar as it failed to construct a tolerant modern multicultural nation-state in which all cultures, regardless of race, religion, gender, and creed would be integrated into it (i.e., post-colonial India) equally. Consequently, the liberated independent post-colonial state of India as a national project failed in resolving its continuous intercultural contentions from Kashmir to Madras. Therefore, this paper argues that Indian nationalism was as striking a failure as it was a success when considering the extent to which post-colonial India brought substantially tolerant equality to its citizenry regarding both civic/political and social/economic human rights. Drastically failing to imagineIndia's future liberated national state identity as an integrated multicultural community respecting, and tolerating equally, India's many non-Hindu, culturally conceived imagined communities (Anderson, 1991) is the means by which the Indian national project fails in containing its present intercultural contentions.
By the mid-19th century, Indian nationalists responded to British colonial subjugation by developing their own distinct, nonwestern, anti-colonial national liberation discourse. Indian nationalism eventually culminated in several cataclysmic historical world events having modern day salience:
These three momentous world events forever impacted international foreign relations and political economy. Hence, analyzing the evolutionary historical development of British colonialism and nonwestern Indian nationalism as a response to it is crucial. Such insight is particularly instrumental in both understanding and resolving modern conflicts arising between Western European, liberal democratic states and nonwestern and/or marginally liberal democratically governed states in political transition such as India.
II. Anderson and Chatterjee's Contempory Salience
The contemporary salience of Benedict Anderson's book, Imagined Communities, and Partha Chatterjee's book, A Nation and Its Fragments, cannot be overstated, although the authors differ in their explanatory theories of nationalism itself. Notwithstanding, the conflagrations of worldwide nationalism and genocidal civil wars currently existing in nonwestern geo-political domains and their social spaces, such as in Bosnia, Kosovo, Kasmir, and elsewhere, neither have any end in sight nor many plausible political solutions for peaceful resolutions. Therefore, the nationalist theories put forth by Chatterjee and Anderson are extremely instrumental in assisting both political leaders and scholars in the East and West to better understand one anothers' political and cultural standpoints regarding these predominantly nonwestern nationalist movements for self-determination feeding on the fuel of nationalism.
Whereas Anderson explains the origins and spread of nationalism from a primarily Western European viewpoint, Chatterjee speaks of nonwestern nationalism. Understanding both the Western and Eastern views of nationalism is crucial for politicians and peacemakers. Yet, this bicultural understanding of nationalism, although very much needed within today's international relations and diplomatic purviews, has largely remained an unfilled void.
Anderson conceptualizes Western European nation-state formation positing that Western liberal democratically governed states formed primarily due to their intrinsic national superiority to the nonwestern cultures they conquered and colonized like India. Anderson also asserts that, as the Western European Imperialist powers conquered nonwestern peoples, it was the nonwestern cultures that eventually submitted to the Western cultural stance, as a result they were then brought under its sphere of cultural influence. Eventually, according to Anderson, Indian nonwestern culture assimilated itself into Western European culture by its adoption of Western beliefs and cultural values. However, if Anderson's theory was entirely correct, India would have remained under British colonial rule and this is obviously not the case.
A contemporary crisis that critiques Anderson's view on nationalism is modern France, a country taking great pride in its record for assimilating nonwestern immigrants. However, France is encountering grave problems, such as being accused of violating the human rights of its nonwestern Muslim minority in attempts to assimilate and integrate its immigrants into mainstream majority French culture. Recently, France's minority Muslim populations have strongly resented this French assimilation policy. The Muslim minority residing within France has been asserting their collective human rights and demanding greater cultural self-determination within France itself by rejecting French assimilation and its idea of imposing itself unwillingly on Muslim French citizens who are unwilling to espouse majority French national culture altogether. The French government is known for:
" weaving foreign settlers into the supposedly seamless fabric of French society. Unlike the multicultural approach of the United States or Britain, the aim of France is sufficiently to temper or blur the particular cultural and religious characteristics of the newcomer to make him indistinguishable (as far as possible) from the natives [French]. He may have dark skin or crinkly black hair, but he must come to accept the Gauls as his ancestors. He must eat French food, wear French clothes, observe French customs."(1)
Similar declarations make the French government's position clear in that Islamic and other nonwestern cultural immigrants are not easily tolerated within French constitutional law. In challenging this position, the Muslim leader Kechat responded saying:
"What is being asked of us is not integration but assimilation which requires us to leave our identity behind. Individuals can not be assimilated a community can not. A workable integration is one in which each party accepts the other as it is, with its own special culture. Our community is native born [French] and knows no other home...We have become part of the French family and accept our responsibilities to it. But we cannot be alone in making accommodations. As Muslims, our ideal is a totally Islamic society, but that is only an ideal. We know that in France, circumstances will not permit it."(2)
Hence Anderson's theory is very much analogous to this modern French assimilation policy. Anderson's book title, Imagined Communities, ironically, describes the current contentious cultural situation now existing in modern France. It also brings one's attention to the similar situation that existed within India during British colonial rule.
Both India then and France today, according to Anderson, are merely examples of an imagined community. In Anderson's conception of the imagined community, whenever the majority ruling culture becomes oppressively overbearing toward its minority population, there is great risk of genocidal civil war ensuing as occurred during India's partition. Such a scenario not is manifest today in Kosovo as well as elsewhere.
Although Anderson's work is very well articulated and accurately describes Western nationalism, it falls short of explaining nonwestern nationalism. Anderson's failure to explain how nonwestern Indian nationalists could have conceivably succeeded in liberating themselves from British colonialism by employing a nonwestern conceptualization of nationalism not based on Western cultural ideals is the means by which Anderson's model of nationalism has been viewed as eurocentric by some scholars.
Anderson positions the classic origins of nationalism as emerging from variant measurable mixtures of:
Unlike Chatterjee, Anderson fails to give proper attention to nonwestern nationalism and its methods that, unlike the secular civic nationalism of the West, heavily draw upon the use of ideology and theology as the primary means by which it spreads and operates. This point becomes especially salient today as we witness one once great empire after another being torn apart. Currently, in regions such as Africa, Iran, Iraq, Cyprus, and Sri Lanka, the fact remains that Western European secular democratic leaders seem incapable of fully grasping the importance theology plays within nonwestern law, diplomacy, and nationalism. For this reason, Western political leaders have very much failed to either respect the power, or to fully comprehend the social dynamics, of nonwestern nationalism and its methods for mobilizing citizenry. However, as Chatterjee points out, this fact should not be neglected when discussing the far-reaching implications of nonwestern nationalism today, especially in India. These implications often result in ethnic genocidal civil and tribal warfare, such as is manifest in Uganda and Kashmir. Since Britain has been a foremost Western imperialist power, Britain's imperialist nationalism in India will be exemplary of Anderson's model of nationalism and its associated imagined community.
Chatterjee, in choosing to analyze the nonwestern nation-state formation process as it occurred within colonial India, clearly elucidates that nonwestern Indian nationalists existed in India during British colonial rule and that nonwestern nationalism exists as a powerful social and ideological force today within Western and Eastern nation-states. As Anderson points out, all modern nation-states, even those with colonial roots, are merely imagined communities existing only because the adhesive social glue binding them together, at least for the present time, in the sociological imaginations of the uneducated masses in any nation-state. Anderson's idea of secular civic nationalism is an example of the strong social adhesive force binding together America's multicultural society.
Chatterjee elucidates, however, that India is a nation-state composed of many various nationalities all residing within the same geo-political domain. However, these divergent social groupings possess bipolar conceptualizations of their private and public distinct social spaces and rarely have many commonalities in cultural and theological beliefs. I strongly believe that neither the United States nor any other nation-state today genuinely possesses a single national identity. This owing to the historical axiom whereby many states, nations, and empires have been as easily deconstructed as they have been reconstructed. It would seem that the national social bonding adhesive of any country consists only of nothing more than Anderson's conception of an imagined community. If this is true, as Anderson posits, then the correct combination of particular social solvents are capable of dissolving the "nationness" bonding the peoples of any imagined community. This then could allow political messiahs to surface in attempts to form new nation-states according to their own conceptualizations of an imagined community. Examples of such nation-state transitions have happened many times during our world's history.
Anderson and Chatterjee do agree that the two predominant instruments of nationalism are language and print capitalism, however Anderson spends much more time discussing them. British colonialists considered indigenous Indians inferior. Chatterjee points out, however, that these two aforementioned nationalist tools were not exclusive to Western nationalists, but were also actively used by Indian nationalists in efforts to overthrow their Western oppressors.
Having discussed at length the manner in which Anderson vindicates the verity that America and other similar Western nation-states today are no more than imagined communities, I'd like to elevate the contemporary salience of this discourse regarding Anderson's imagined community to the realm of diplomacy and political international relations. The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), European Union (EU), International Monetary Fund (IMF), and the World Bank may also then merely be conceived of as merely global imagined communities. Global economic political organizations are, after all, like nation-states today merely composed of many various polarized concoctions and variant measured mixtures of liberal, conservative, and other ideological ingredients. Member states of these international global imagined communities such as the United Nations often merely put forth the outward appearance of being a liberal democracy in order to obtain international recognition from the powerful Western liberal "democratic" countries to obtain financial loans.
In reality, the United Nations is constituted of many member states that will probably never share in any single universal international identity, but will continue to profess to have one. Hence I suggest seriously reconsidering whether imposing liberal democratic, secular national values upon the unwilling subjects residing within nonliberal, nonwestern states is wise.
Global imperialism and the threat of Western military intervention such as the NATO's intervention in Kosovo was neither necessary nor was it the correct manner in which to achieve greater world peace. Such impositions of Western values on the unwilling human populations residing within nonwestern social spheres is not wisdom, as the recent proliferation of world terrorism and the bombings of both the Kenya and Tanzania U.S. Embassys manifest. These and similar political practices of imperialist international relations will never produce a 21st century in which international relations are more peaceable for our future world's posterity. In fact, a valid question is also how many years the United States has left before it also meets an untimely demise, similar to that of the Ancient Roman Empire, if it does not alter its present political, military, and diplomatic trajectory.
No analysis of Anderson's work would be complete without discussing "print capitalism." Historical revisionism and hegemonic control of the standards of any country's educational textbooks so texts no longer tell the truth about history, such as the American Indian genocide committed during the Jacksonian Era, should be neglected in studying nationalism. National poetry and literature is often written to extol one state or nation while positioning another as inferior.
Furthermore, powerful political interest groups in every country work to promote certain national news media coverage over other. Language can very much act as Anderson suggests, as an instrument for excluding one national group from another and isolating each group. Thereafter, the two groups cannot understand each another. The British and Indian cultures were eventually only able to engage in a national discourse that, of course, excluded the other. This single act greatly fostered the nationalism that occurred in India at that time between different competing national groups. Anderson also discusses how the diffusion of national identities globally through social contacts such as intermarriage and trade have been tools of nationalism. Now I turn to Chatterjee.
III. Chatterjee's Nonwestern Nationalism
Let no one be fooled, nationalism is about consolidation and ascent to power, nation-state building and exploiting for profit entire ethnic groups of any particular culture by those considering themselves superior. Therefore racism and nationalism are intertwined and interdependent upon each other for survival. In order to fully comprehend how the British failed in sustaining their colonial rule in India, it is necessary to understand that the British only conceived of nationalism in an extremely limited, ethnocentric, Western philosophical, unilateral sense. The British colonial conceptualization of nationalism was incapable of either comprehending or recognizing any nationalism not based exclusively on Western themes, models, and paradigmatic ideals. Therefore, the British were as unprepared as they were unable to fully realize and deal with what became to them an insidious, Indian, nonwestern, national, liberation-oriented social movement. Hence, they were unable to halt Indian nationalism before it was both overpowering and too late. Had British colonialists been able to recognizably conceive that there could exist a powerful, nonwestern nationalism not based purely upon Western cultural ideals, then perhaps the British would have been more prepared to do battle against it. However, due to Western European ethnocentricity, envisaging such a scenario was beyond British colonial abilities at that time and, largely, still is today.
This narrow, delimiting, Western conception of nationalism is referred to throughout this paper and represents the model of nationalism Anderson speaks of in Imagined Communities. As mentioned previousely, Anderson's nationalist model is used as the exemplary model of Western European nationalism espoused by the British colonialists during the their colonial rule in India. Chatterjee, however, analyzes nonwestern nationalism as used by indigenous Indian nationalists in their successful subvertion of British colonialism in India. Chatterjee, therefore, offers scholars of nationalism a much more solid understanding of the reasons why it is vital for Western powers to both respect and comprehend the cultural integrity of nonwestern traditional cultures. Chatterjee's point is that it is crucial for the Western powers neither to dismiss nonwestern cultures nor their theological views as inferior.
In response to Anderson's Western European ethnocentricity regarding his disputable claim that all future and past nationalism and its associated liberation movements in India and elsewhere were modeled solely from Western theoretical paradigms, Chatterjee states:
"I have one central objection to Anderson's argument. If nationalism in the rest of the world have to chose their imagined community from certain 'modular' forms already made available to them by Europe and the America's, what do they have left to imagine"?(3)
Chatterjee's statement does not invalidate Anderson's fundamental theme regarding the generalized instrumental tools used to spread nationalism rather it greatly augments it. Chatterjee gives scholars of Indian and other nonwestern nationalism a more productive model in which to analyze it. He also raises many new important questions about nationalism itself, such as asking whose imagined community is being conceived of simultaneously by which polarized social groupings? Also, in what manner do these divergent cultures conceive of constructing their own distinct imagined community relative to their rivals in their own individual and collective sociological imaginations and in which geo-political locales? Uncovering the answers to these and other important questions regarding nonwestern culture and nationalism is often a social science practice ignored by secular-style social scientists in the West. However, employing an overly zealous positivist model is extremely restrictive as well. Using a more culturally relative model, as I propose, would greatly assist Western scholars of the political and social sciences to better understand and resolve international relations disputes regarding nationalism as well as war and peace within nonwestern governed countries.
Chatterjee correctly elucidates the reason for which myriad polarized historical accounts exist with respect to India's colonial era, each offering different historical perspectives; Chatterjee believes these different historical accounts are entirely contingent upon exactly whose imagining the Indian colonial community being written of and when. Chatterjee also points out that the persons imagining these different and often bipolar Indian communities are imagining them in ways that extol and preserve their own specific culture by claiming that it is superior to another whether it be the British colonialists or the nonwestern Indian nationalists. Unlike Anderson, Chatterjee recognizes that language and print capitalism, as two traditional nationalist tools, have been used and abused over the centuries by the Western European powers and that they can successfully be used by nonwestern Indian nationalists, Kosovo Serbs, Albanian nationalists, Kurds, and others.
Chatterjee points out that nonwestern Indian nationalists had imagined an independent Indian state in a very nonwestern manner by using nonwestern cultural ideals, a notion Anderson rejects. However, history reveals that imagining a future liberated Indian nation-state free from British colonial subjugation was indeed imagined in a manner that was completely foreign to the Western British colonial mind. It is for this reason that Indian nationalists were able to take the British colonialists by surprise, so to speak, and subvert colonial rule in India.
However this was never an easy task since indigenous Indian newspapers and books underwent serious and grave censorship by British colonialists in attempts to silence and destroy their anti-colonial opposition. The Western European colonizers desperately tried to permeate Indian culture with their Western language, cultural beliefs, and ideals in further attempts to obliterate and strangle the indigenous Indian pre-colonial culture and its language. This has been a long vindicated verity of the first wave of Western European imperialist colonialism in India and South East Asia, among others, during that time period as the words of the Jesuit Priest Fermin de Vargus himself reveal:
"All these dusky races are very stupid and vicious, and of the basest spirits As for the mesticos and casticos, we should receive very few of them or none at all; especially the mesticos, since the more native blood they have, the more they resemble the Indians and the less they are esteemed by the Portugese."(4)
Eventually an anti-colonial national liberation discourse emerged within India as the leaders of this indigenous Indian nationalist liberation movement used their own nonwestern language, history, and theology to construct a nationalism specifically designed for excluding the Western colonial powers and their foreign mind from entering into it. This nationalism possessed its own intrinsic, private, nonwestern nationalist social domain and two spheres of influence, which I will discuss later in this paper. Having now discussed in length the background of Indian Nationalism, I now turn to the Indian National Project, its successes and failures.
IV. The Historical Development of Nonwestern Indian Nationalism
The nationalism manifest today in India from Kashmir to Madras originated during British colonial rule. Before British colonialism emerged in India, India's diverse culturally conceived imagined communities had coexisted for centuries without the manifestations of both partition and ethnic genocidal civil war to the extent they occurred in 1947 or today. The evolutionary historical social developments eventually culminating in the partition of India date as far back as the 18th century. During the 18th century, British colonialists coercively spread open and penetrated India's geo-political borders and public and private social spaces against India's will. Siba N'Zatioula Grovogui claims Catholicism acted as a potent agent in actively undertaking this colonial task.
"This is most pronounced in 1493 when the Papal Bulls of Alexander VI promised spiritual salvation to all non-Europeans such as Indians and Africans under a European-dominated Christian world order. The pontiff at the time used the Iberian monarchies of Spain and Portugal to undertake this promised redemption to the 'Indian' people under imposed spiritual guidance, political domination, and unrestricted access to Indian territories and resources as necessary requirements of their so-called civilizing mission."(5)
"The Christian inspired universe established hierarchical and exploitative relations between its Christian subjects and the other [Indians/South Asians/Africans]. This system appropriated [Indians] as the objects of discourse to be 'settled down' [stripped of essential communal rights within the European dominated international order]."(6)
British colonialism engaged India's diversified indigenous imagined communities with a new confrontation arising from European expansion and its increasing exploitation of nonEuropean Indians. This exploitative relationship organized around a set of Western European values whose ideological philosophic system had arisen during the Enlightenment Era and has since served to politically guide the Western European praxis. In fact, Lorimer maintains this position regarding Indians and other non-Europeans:
"These so-called non-progressive races...they [to Lorimer] lacked Enlightenment Era's reason and science and indeed had not produced 'one single individual who has been distinguished in any intellectual pursuit'."(7)
For example, even prior to India's national liberation in 1947, the rights and privileges regarding the sovereignty and self-determination of India's indigenous cultural communities were completely controlled by the British colonial authorities. And later, during India's decolonization process, the high-minded Western powers established a protectorate over India. This British protectorate imposed Western conceptions of politics, economics, and universal human rights doctrines upon India's nonwilling subjects and indigenous communities. These Western cultural impositions took precedence over India being granted the civic and political human rights to construct a distinctly nonwestern political government domain in which nonwestern conceptions of communal, collective social, economic, and basic human rights could be incorporated without British intervention.
After Britain committed the aforementioned transgression of penetrating India, Britain proceeded to move forward with its ill-willed colonial plans for establishing full hegemonic ideological, economic, military, and political social control over India's numerous culturally conceived imagined communities and the constituents and rulers thereof. Employing both auspice and intrigue, Britain's East Indian Trading Company acted as the instrumental tool by which India's many indigenous, culturally conceived imagined communities were systematically pervaded by British colonialism. British colonialism attempted to absolutely rule India by establishing Western European social practices and principles very foreign to the majority of India's indigenous population. This is one reason why, in India, Anderson's concept of print capitalism emerged.
Print capitalism was used by both British colonialists and their Western, educated, Indian, elite counterparts as an avenue for spreading Western ideological concepts regarding liberalizing women's rights and spreading Western family values in India as Chatterjee states:
"It is the initiative of the East Indian Trading Company and the European missionaries that the first printed books are produced in Bengali at the end of the 18th century at the beginning of the first half of the 19th century English completely displaces formerly spoken Persian and emerges as the most powerful vehicle of intellectual influence."(8)
British colonizers efforts to convert India's indigenous Hindu communities to Western Christian family values was met with resistance from nonwestern Indian male nationalists:
"Nonwestern Indian nationalists ridiculed [Western family values] by performing theatrical political/cultural parodies portraying Western family practices such as: Westernized [Indian] families, Western cosmetics, immodest Western clothing/shoes, and Western educated Indian wives as vulgar, immodest, and as neglecting their traditional responsibilities towards their husbands and homes."(9)
An essay written by Bhudev Mukhopadhyay elucidates many of the problems British colonialists encountered in trying to Westernize indigenous Indian women. This was disturbing to male Indian nationalists who began their own campaign comparing and contrasting Western women's behavior to that of nonwestern traditional Hindu women. This brief excerpt regarding family values claims the former as inferior to the latter:
"Because of our [Indian indigenous] hankering for the external glitter and ostentation of the English way of life an upheaval is underway within our homes many reform movements are being conducted today; the education of women in particular is greatly being talked about. But we rarely hear of those great arts in which women were once portrayed [the great arts represented traditional Hindu femininity and culture and were revitalized by Indian male nationalists as the appropriate gender behavioral norms for indigenous Indian women.]".(10)
The book entitled Sunlight on a Broken Column shows how alien Western ways were inserted into the traditional nonwestern Muslim home. The book describes a Muslim family living in India during the time of British rule in which one sister marries a Muslim man later inducted into the British Civil Service. They then both travel to Western Europe. Upon their return, the younger sister, who remained behind in India, can hardly recognize her elder sister's Westernized personality. After witnessing a display of her sister's new Western style, such as attending diplomatic parties in European dresses and her new political stance, the younger sister, Laila, speaks of the estrangement she feels toward her sister after she returned from the West.
"Zahra had changed very much in her appearance, speech, and mannerisms she was playing the part of the modern wife as she had once played the part of the dutiful purdah [Muslim custom of secluding women] girl. Her present sophistication suited to her role as her past modesty had been. Just had she said her prayers five times a day, she now attended social functions."(11)
The official agents of the East Indian Trading Company (both British colonialists and their indigenous Indian elite allies) primarily preoccupied themselves with the imperialist task of incessantly invading and impregnating India's many indigenous, culturally conceived imagined communities with an alien ideal type of Western European seed. This task required the East Indian Trading Company and its collaborative agents (British and Indian indigenous elites) set in place a self-perpetuating expansive system.(12) This system would, thereafter, function to reproduce, implant, and then breed, Western European-styled institutional social structures inside India's indigenous, culturally conceived imagined communities for the purpose of dominating, subjugating, exploiting, and controlling them for monetary profit. Inserting these Western European-styled institutional social structures into India's numerous indigenous imagined communities was meant to further assist Britain in successfully implementing its ill-willed colonial plans for establishing absolute economic and socio-political hegemony over India in order to acquire great unmitigated economic profit by exploitation. Barrington Moore states that:
"In the middle of the 18th century the British were still organized for commerce and plunder in the Honorable East India Company and controlled no more than a fraction of Indian territory. By the middle of the 19th century they had become in effect the rulers of India, organized in a bureaucracy proud of its tradition of justice and fair dealing [sarcastically speaking that is since the company was] a company of 'merchants' not so easily distinguished from pirates on the one hand and a series of decaying Oriental despotisms on the other Pressing this sociological and historical paradox even further: from this equally unpromising amalgam there eventually emerged a [so-called Western state in India claiming to have] valid claims to democracy!"(13)
Britain's overall colonial plan to exploit and appropriate India of its land, labor, and natural resources eventually backfired when British colonialists mistakenly overstepped the boundaries of their own colonial foreign power and authority. Britain's East Indian Trading Company had originally penetrated India's nonwestern geo-political borders and public and private social spheres with the intent of expanding and protecting the profitable trading networks they had already established on India's subcontinent. These trading contacts bestowed unto the East Indian Trading Company increasing accumulations of enormous material and monetary wealth (by trading with India's merchant classes and with various members of both the Mughal and Vijayanagara Empires) in the early part of the 18th century.(14) However, during the mid- to late 18th century, agents of Britain's East Indian Trading Company not only demanded economic hegemony over India, but also demanded cultural, customary, and theological hegemony over India's numerous indigenous nonwestern imagined communities, their leaders, and their constituents. In other words, Britain expanded its original prime colonial focus in India from merely establishing economic hegemony over India's public worldly materialistic sphere by dominating and subjugating India for capitalist profit by exploitation to also establishing hegemony over India's nonwestern private social-spiritual sphere (familial, cultural, and spiritual).
British colonialists undertook this task by trying to conquer India's nonwestern imagined communal populations by imposing Christianity upon them along with Western European normative social standards of behavior. In doing so, both the British colonialists and their elite indigenous Indian collaborators had left themselves wide open to a planned subversion by Indian indigenous nationalists.
Formulating nonwestern Indian nationalist liberation ideology required that indigenous Indian nationalists cultivate a way in which they could selectively incorporate certain necessary materialistic aspects (political, military, and economic) of Western modern culture into the nonwestern Indian national project and its discourse while rejecting others. By the mid-19th century, indigenous Indian nationalists had commenced a nonwestern Indian national liberation discourse and project in response to, and to counteract, all British colonial attempts to conquer, convert, and o denigrate India's public and private social domains. It was perceived to be many times more insidiously sinister, and it also was very embarrassing for India's indigenous male nationalists, to allow India's traditional culturally defined nonwestern private social sphere to be conquered and colonized along with also India's materialistic, public, political one. Chatterjee states the reason for this was:
"The [materialistic world] was a place where the European power had challenged the non-European peoples and by virtue of its superior material culture, had subjugated them. But it had failed to colonize [India's] inner, essential, identity of the East which lay in its distinctive and superior spiritual culture. That is where the East was undominated, sovereign, and master of its own fate. For a colonized people the world was a distressing [and embarrassing] constraint [especially for Indian males attempting to maintain their masculinity] forced upon it by the fact of its material weakness. It was a place of daily humiliation, a place where the norms of the colonizer had to be accepted No encroachments of the colonizer must be allowed [by Indian males if they were to maintain dignity under colonial oppressive conditions] in that inner sanctum. In the world, imitation and adaptation to Western norms was a necessity; at home, they were tantamount to annihilation of ones very [Indian male identity]." (15)
Hence Indian indigenous nationalists constructively framed a manner in which India's traditional, culturally defined private social sphere would be portrayed as necessitating both revitaliztion and recapture from British colonialists. Furthermore, India's materialistic worldly public economic domain (work, politics, military, and monetary profit) would eventually also have to become liberated by India's nonwestern national liberation movement as it was conceived by Indian nationalists. Chatterjee summarizes this new emergent nonwestern Indian nationalist discourse in referring to Western European reformation of certain abusive Indian cultural customs such as Sati to enhance human rights for women:
" in the phase of social reforms in the nineteenth century, we are tempted to put this [nonwestern Indian nationalist sentiment] down as 'conservatism', a mere defense of 'traditional' norms' [by Indian indigenous nationalists]. But this would be a mistake. The colonial situation, and the ideological response of nationalism, introduced an entirely new substance to these terms and effected their transformation. The material/spiritual dichotomy, to which the terms 'world' [India's nonwestern public political and economic sphere] and 'home' [India's nonwestern private sphere of family and religion] corresponded, and acquired a very special significance in the Indian [nonwestern nationalist discourse and] mind. The world was where the European power had challenged the non-European peoples and by virtue of its own superior material [public political, military, economic, and] culture, had subjugated them [Indians]. But it had failed to colonialize the inner [spiritual, familial, and cultural space], essential, identity of the East [Indian traditional culture] which lay in its distinctive, and superior, spiritual culture [the way Indian indigenous nationalists conceptualized it]."(16)
Thus nonwestern Indian nationalism can be conceived of as both a dialogue of resistance to and an attempted liberation from British colonial rule. It was also formulated as a nonwestern Indian nationalist discourse for the purpose of directing itself against the British colonial Western European pervasion of India's public and private social spheres. Furthermore, it acted as an anti-colonial defense against the constant insidiously asserted ethnocentric presumptions emanating directly from various members of India's indigenous, elite, Western-educated intelligentsia and from British colonialists. In this sense, Indian nonwestern nationalist discourse was developed in efforts to assault, undermine, and destroy Britain's strongly held obtrusive invasion on both India's nonwestern public and private social domains. Chatterjee clarifies this concept saying:
" [nonwestern Indian] nationalist ideology in its struggle against the dominance of colonialism and the resolution it offered was built around a separation of the domain of culture into two spheres-the material and the spiritual. It was in the material sphere that the claims of Western civilization were the most powerful. Science, technology, rational forms of economic organization, modern methods of statecraft, these had given the European countries the strength to subjugate non-European peoples and to impose their dominance over the whole world. To overcome this domination, the colonized people must learn these superior techniques of organizing material life and incorporate them within their own culture. This was one aspect of the national project [Indian national project] of rationalizing and reforming their people."(17)
Moreover, nonwestern Indian nationalism both fed upon and was fueled by its own intrinsic intolerance to Western European colonial attempts aimed at subverting the distinct, nonwestern, indigenous imagined community concepts of India's private and public social spheres.(18) Indigenous Indian nationalists had to subject their lives to the shameful embarrassment derived from their British colonial domination and subjugation within their daily public materialist social sphere in order to survive. However, they inexorably refused to relinquish to British colonialists any control over their Indian nonwestern private sphere.
"But this [nonwestern Indian nationalism] could not mean the imitation of the West in every aspect of life, for then the very distinction between the East and the West would vanish-the self-identity of national culture would itself be threatened. In fact, Indian nationalists argued that it was not only undesirable to imitate the West in anything other than the material aspects of life, it was not even necessary to do so, because in the spiritual domain the East was superior to the West."(19)
Undertaking this task required Indian nationalists to distinguish between Western Europe's worldly public materialist domain, consisting of modern economics, the military, and secular political liberalism, and India's, presumed by Indian nationalists, superior, private, Eastern, traditional Hindu, spiritual, and familial domain. Hence, nonwestern Indian nationalism in and of itself was a dichotomously paradoxical and vexing nationalist discourse. It attempted to fuse together two irreconcilably polarized social spheres into a single integrated national (public/private) social identity (manifesting Anderson's concept of the imagined community). It also tried accommodating all of India's numerously diverse indigenous, culturally conceived imagined communities. Since all such communities conceptualized their own distinct communal society structure in very often polarized ways, nonwestern Indian nationalist discourse eventually created many irreconcilable interethnic ideological differences between these various indigenous social communities, many of which remain today.
These cultural, theological, interethnic, and intercultural irreconcilable differences are more fully elucidated by analyzing the devastating consequences of India's partition in 1947 (between Hindus, Muslims and other cultural, social, and theological groupings). This is partially due to the British colonialists leaving India with a large power vacuum in 1947. Colonialism no longer acted as the social adhesive unifying force in India. Albeit oppressive, British colonialism was able to unify most of India's Hindu, Muslim, and other minority cultural and ethnic populations into Anderson's imagined community, at least temporarily.
In modern post-colonial India, the powerful central state apparatus has been unable to command loyalty from Indian's diverse locally ruled rural communities. This has given rise to many social contentions originating from power struggles between Hindus, Muslims, and other communities, another consequence of British colonialism leaving these aforementioned power vacuums. Competition for India's political power eventually culminated in the Indian-Pakistani partition in 1947. A primary reason for India's partition was that the first post-colonial Indian leaders had attempted to imitate in their own governance Western-styled secularized and, supposedly, "neutral" democratic governance in which all citizens are presumed equal, at least in political principle if not actual objective political practice.
In India and other post-colonial states, an instance where grave competition over which human rights should take preeminence over others (civil/political, social/economic, or basic human rights) exists between different ethnic communities and cultural clans, this can be indicative of forthcoming genocidal civil war and/or political unrest. Such conflicts originate and evolve from the dialectical tensions deriving from power struggles between centralized state political rulers and those they try rule over in localized, rural Indian village communities using a Western model of secular-styled democratic governance.
Furthermore, India's nonwestern nationalists failed to consider that constructing a strong, stable, multiculturally tolerant, viable nation-state required, and could only be effectuated after, establishing vertical and horizontal political legitimacy. Legitimizing state rule in post-colonial India was never truly achieved by India's first post-colonial political leaders as is evident by India's partition. Such legitimacy is only gained if a healthy dialectic relationship exists between those who rule and those they rule over. In other words, the Indian indigenous population needed to possess an ideal-type of single, shared, national, cultural identities with their rulers; this never occurred in India as it does today in the United States. Hence, India was a poor candidate for attempting to establish, as its first model of government, a verbatim model of the Western-styled, secular, liberal democratic government to begin with.
The problem derived from the fact that, in India, democracy had to become more flexible. The usual Western, secular, democratic, liberal, dogmatic model should never have conceivably been thought to be capable of taking a firm root in India without some noteworthy revisions. Generally speaking, seeking to establish and institutionalize a secular-styled Western democracy in India at that time was ludicrous. In India, establishing such a model for rule was bound to fail owing to the fact that India's citizenry and their affiliated imagined communities were then, and still are today, largely devoted to theology and its associated customs (primarily Hindu and/or Muslim). Implementing in India a Western-styled secular government was destined to fail and be met with much opposition and even terrorism. India's rulers needed then, and they need today, to slightly revise this dogmatically designed, principled, Western-modeled secular governmental system based solely upon separation of faith and state. What is needed in India is to establish a manner in which democracy can accommodate Hindu and Muslim theological practices. Theology in India needs to be an integral part of and incorporated into India's Constitutional Rule of Law. By doing so, the various Indian traditional customary practices of the Hindu and Muslim theologies that are explicitly human rights violations can be avoided by offering legal. constitutional protection against them.
I do however want to stress that constructing a workable theoretical framework for achieving a political and cultural balance in which India, the United States, and Britain can agree remains to be accomplished. The great question will remain if Western politicians, human rights advocates, traditional Indian nationalists, their associated Hindu theological leaders, Indian women, Muslims, and other minorities can all be reasonable enough to respect the integrity of everyone else's cultural/theological standpoints.
A further question is whether the West can avoid imposing its Christian values upon India's nonwestern theological culture and associated imagined communities. So far, neither any plausible philosophic nor political resolutions exist that can resolve these dialectic dilemmas and tensions existing between human rights diplomats in India and the West. Human rights, India's cultural and state sovereignty, and Western military intervention seem to be intermeshed in a dangerous manner for promoting Western human rights agendas in India and other nonwestern social/political domains. However, resolving these issues will greatly guide future war and peace in the 21st century. These issues need to be resolved rather than neglected.
Therefore, I argue that India's partition was largely due to India's first political leaders failing to recognize the importance of incorporating safeguards into Indian law that would have prevented religious discrimination between Hindus, Muslims, Sikhs, and others before it was too late. It was inconceivable to think that a secular-styled Western democracy could achieve success in India. Today, the intercultural contentions in Sri Lanka, Kashmir, and Madras demand, to a large degree, some theological resolution. However, due to the Western "requirement" of so-called "third and fourth world states" having to placate Western powers by proclaiming themselves as a secular-styled democracy and the model of Western governance, this poses a considerable problem for Indian politicians. Indian politicians desire and need to obtain both international recognition and monetary loans from Western powers. It would greatly help the situation if both the World Bank and the IMF removed the requirement for obtaining loans that India must espouse a Western secular government as one of their conditions for obtaining necessary monetary benefits.
Whether India will placate its indigenous citizenry residing within its geo-political boundaries or appease powerfully persuasive Western financial architectures such as the IMF and World Bank to obtain Western economic developmental aid and international recognition will continue to exert and play a key role in international politics. These aforementioned issues will determine whether the modern Indian nation-state will continue to stay together and sustain its current cohesion between India's rulers and ruled.
India today is paradigmatic of many West African states where tribal kinship loyalties and local communal identities are completely disinterested and disassociated with their national state government and its pro-Western political agenda. The question posed is whether multicultural and multipolar theologically comprised nation-states, like India and Kosovo, will remain unified or eventually break apart, as occurred in the Indian-Pakistani partition of 1947 and in the former Yugoslavia. Since India's partition, many other former colonized states are finding it increasingly difficult to stay together.
If India continues on its present unilateral trajectory of ruling by using a false façade of democracy based on the Western myth referred to as multicultural neutrality, eventually India could be thrust into a future civil war and/or a partition. Notwithstanding, Indian nationalists attempted to forge a single national Indian state identity by, on the one hand, distinguishing it from and, on the other hand, merging it with Western European political liberalism and its spirit of free-market economic capitalism. They also tried constructing an imagined Indian community liberated from British colonialism intolerant of other cultures. It was exclusively created by nonwestern Indian Hindu nationalists. This Indian nationalist project and its methods largely failed to construct an integrated, national, political-social identity, tolerant of cultures besides Hindu, in modern post-colonial India.
Nonwestern Indian nationalist discourse, in response to British colonialism, was a war waged for more than one reason on more than one battlefield. It was a war waged on an intellectual, spiritual, physical, and materialistic multidimensional ideological battlefield. On its physical/materialist, national liberation battlefront, it was a war waged by Indian nationalists against British colonialists for the purpose of subverting British colonialism and, thereafter, reconsolidating and redistributing India's political power. On its intellectual battlefront, nonwestern Indian nationalism was a battle fought by Indian nationalists for both preserving and revitalizing Indian traditional Hindu culture and theological ritual practices. As a response, British colonialists themselves began establishing additional Western-style educational facilities both inside and outside of India for advancing their ill-willed task of destroying India's traditional culture and its customary social practices and replacing them with Western European social values, principles, and practices. As Chatterjee's said:
"Education and the history of India was nationally revised after the British established Western schools with Western revisionist leaning textbooks in India and education there changed radically as the Bengali literati was schooled in the new colonial education. Now Indians were taught the principles of European history, statecraft and social philosophy."(20)
In this manner, the Western European values were being insidiously inserted into traditional nonwestern Indian society through Western-style educational facilities established within India. Western values and social norms were taught through these Western institutions. Moreover, Christian missionaries began a scholarly discourse in India's Western-style university settings. Nonwestern Indian nationalists saw this as a cultural cue to revitalize their own Indian culture and reassert its dominance and social superiority. This was exactly what the Bengali Renaissance was ideologically about. Unfortunately, in choosing to resuscitate, revitalize, and rescue India's private, nonwestern, Hindu domain and its associated cultural rituals and traditions, many of the positive Western liberal reforms that had began to take hold, like enhanced human rights for women, were undone.(21)
The spiritual/theological, national liberation, nonwestern battlefront was one in which British colonialists, and many members of India's indigenous Western-educated intelligentsia, took strong reformist, religious positions allying themselves with Western Christianity in order to reform and capitulate the practices advanced by certain traditional Indian religious pundits. Western educated Indians tried reforming the Hindu cultural practice of sati (widow immolation), but India's predominantly male, nonwestern nationals began seeking new ways in which they could recast the former roles, meanings, and performances of such explicit Indian human rights violations.
The Indian male nationalists claimed these Hindu cultural rituals and practices were necessary for the salvation and liberation of the Indian nation and to reestablish India's traditional social identity for the creation of a future Indian state in a post-colonial liberated India. Keshab, an Indian, Western-educated, religious nationalist, after returning to India from London, did much damage to the liberal Western reforms emanating previously from the Indian, Western-educated elite. Rammohan Roy writes:
"It is true that the people of India have been satisfied in some manner with what they have heard of Jesus, but they have been disappointed in a far greater measure. For England has sent unto us a Western Christ. This is indeed regretted. Our countryman find that in this Christ sent by England, there is something that is not quite congenial to the native mind, not quite acceptable to the genius of the nation Why must we bow before a foreign product? Hundreds upon hundreds stand back in moral recoil from this picture of a foreign Christianity trying to pervade and subvert Hindu society and this repugnance" (22)
Only on the outside did the shape of nonwestern Indian nationalist ideology resemble Western European secular capitalism in both principle and practice, especially with respect to India's public sphere. This sphere was traditionally a purview socially dominated by indigenous Indian patriarchal males before British hegemony was established in India. However on the inside, Indian nationalist ideology resembled more the embodiment of rejuvenated nonwestern Indian traditional Hindu faith and its associated culture in both practice and principle.
Indian nationalist discourse ridiculed Western European ways to further undermine the Western ruling colonial authority in India. These cultural critiques manifested themselves in the form of Indian nationalist theatre, literature, political satire, textbooks, and paradigms of Hindu theological and scholarly university discourse. Traditional Indian Hindu culture therefore underwent a cultural and spiritual renaissance. Ridiculing the West in the form of political satires also greatly assisted Indian indigenous nationalists in rallying support to further sponsor the nonwestern Indian nationalist social movement. Indian nationalism was further disseminated by these Western cultural critiques amid India's many indigenous cultural social groupings, including elites, the middle classes, and peasants. However, in its rejuvenating traditional Indian culture, Indian nationalism greatly stifled efforts to reform and enhance the human rights of Indian women.
Rather, Indian nationalist discourse returned primary control of India's private nonwestern spiritual and familial social sphere to Indian patriarchal male figures. Such male figures were, in many ways, even more oppressive toward women than Western European males due to Indian male nationalists attempting to recapture and reassert the power they felt they lost to their British colonial subjugators. It was for this reason that indigenous male nationalists attempted to fully nullify the liberalized human rights standards and Western behavioral norms.
These Western reforms were primarily aimed at liberalizing and weakening the restrictive traditional stronghold that traditional Indian patriarchy had upon Indian women. Chatterjee states:
"Adjustments would have to be made in the external world of material activity, and men would bare the brunt of the task But the crucial requirement was to retain the inner spirituality of indigenous social life. The home was the principle site for expressing the spiritual quality of the national culture and women must take the main responsibility of protecting and nurturing this quality. No matter what the changes in the external conditions of life for women; they must not lose their essentially spiritual [feminine Hindu] virtues; they must not in other words, become essentially, Westernized. It followed, as a simple criterion for judging the desirability of reform, that the essential distinction between the social roles of men and women in terms of material and spiritual virtues must at all be maintained."(23)
In direct opposition to British colonialists, the nonwestern Indian nationalist ideology was aimed at constraining the freedoms and human rights for indigenous Indian women. This is illustrated by Banerjee, quoting a Western-educated, female, Indian nationalist defining her conception of the proper social gender role for Indian women.
"From the particular nature and capacities with which God had endowed women, it is quite clear that the subservience of women is God's will Even if you are at the point of death, you should never speak ill of your husband to others."(24)
Hence, male-dominated Indian nationalist discourse centered itself on constructing India's national liberation project in ways that marginalized and oppressed Indian women. This is due to Indian nationalism being an integral part of both India's public-social and private realms.
Recapturing Western liberal ideology regarding the control of Indian women was as important to Indian male nationalists as was liberating India itself. Formulating the appropriate nonwestern Indian national behavioral standards and the proper social behavioral norms for Indian women was a major project of male Indian nationalists. They eventually determined that the proper behavioral conduct for Indian women, with respect to India's national liberation movement, was to uphold traditional Indian culture and Hinduism (femininity and spirituality), requiring Indian women to relearn what was supposedly their true Hindu gender role (as it existed prior European hegemony in India).
Indian male nationalists restricted Indian women's human rights by forcing them to conform to revitalized new nationalist mythological and oppressive Hindu traditional customs. Demonstrating the manner in which Indian women were imagined in the minds of nonwestern male Indian nationalists, Chatterjee states:
"The central principle by which nationalism resolved the women's question in terms of its own historical project up to the present day [revolved around] everyday life of the 'modern' woman--her dress, food, manners, education, her role in organizing life at home, her role outside the home specific solutions were drawn from a variety of sources--a reconstructed 'classical' tradition, modernized folk forms the legal idea of equality in a liberal democratic state [was] neither predetermined or unchanging, but its form was consistent with the system of dichotomies [between the private and public spheres shaping the overall Indian nonwestern] nationalist project."(25)
Therefore, Indian indigenous women were sent to specially built Indian educational facilities serving to instruct them in their proper gender roles. The redefinition and reassertion of these dogmatically rigid gender constraints upon Indian women, many of whom were previously liberated to a large extent by Western reforms, was quite an oppressive experience for most Indian women. New patriarchal oppression by Indian male nationalists towards women took the form of portraying Indian women as enlightened in thought, word, and deed relative to Western European women. In an essay written by Radharani Lahiri this is clearly manifest:
"Of all the subjects that women might learn, housework is the most important whatever knowledge she may acquire, she cannot claim any reputation unless she is proficient in housework."(26)
Many Indian male nationalists did, however, speak of the need for Indian women to become more educated. They believed Indian women needed to cultivate virtues such as chastity, self-sacrifice, and absolute submission to Indian men in the labors of sex. This ideological point of view forced an oppressive and revitalized Hindu gender role upon Indian women and established a new patriarchal oppressive order upon Hindu women. In fact, Indian women ended up under the domination and subjugation of Indian male nationalists rather than the British colonialists.
Another reason for which Indian nationalism was so psychologically bent on forcing strict traditional Indian patriarchal standards upon Indian women was that it was a way in which male Indian nationalists could explicitly reject Western European Christian values. This was especially prevalent after the British sent many indigenous Indians to be educated in England, where they saw the inconsistencies in Christian beliefs and actions. Clarifying this point is Western-educated, Indian, religious nationalist Keshab speaking about Britain's Christianity and its being preached yet not practiced:
"[There he saw] vast amounts of poverty and pauperism so much moral and spiritual dissolution, and physical suffering, caused by intemperance [and in referring to British colonialist criticism of the Indian caste system he says he did not] "expect to find in this country caste. Your rich people are really Brahmans, and your poor people are Sudras [untouchables, the lowest level of social outcasts in the Indian caste system]."(27)
Keshab, in his farewell address when leaving London, continued:
"Christian life in England is more materialistic outwardly than spiritual inward In England there is hardly anything like meditation and solitary contemplation."(28)
Male Indian nationalists viewed British missionaries as insulting both their distinctly Indian cultural integrity and the honor of Indian traditional theology (Hinduism) within Indian culture. Indian theological customary practices were polarized to those encompassed within Western Christianity. Sacred Hindu religious textual scriptures became merely another battlefront for which Indian nationalists waged war with Indian, Western-educated elites and competed for power. In debating whether practices such as sati should be legalized in India, the reality was that both British and Indian male nationalists were merely concerned with trying to sustain holds on their social power apparatus instead of seriously caring about real issues of human rights reform for Indian women.
Therefore, many of India's exceedingly abusive practices towards women were recast and reestablished while the British colonialists turned a blind eye. These Hindu rituals were, presumably, reestablished by male Indian nationalists to protect India's nonwestern civilization from being both obliterated, polluted, and culturally strangled by British colonial attempts to convert it to Christianity and Western European social standards as Lata Mani states:
"Tradition was thus not the ground on which the status of women was being contested. Rather the reverse was true: women in fact became the site on which tradition was debated and reformulated. What was at stake was not women but tradition."(29)
Chatterjee also agrees stating:
" irrespective of wealth and social status, until the middle of the 19th century, of the use of Western cosmetics and jewelry, of the reading of novels [such Western activities were] considered a useless and expensive pastime .the literature of parody and satire in the first half of the early nineteenth century was prompted by a straightforward protection of 'tradition'[Indian post-colonial] nation."(30)
The next section will more intensely inquire into the social development of nonwestern Indian nationalist discourse as a response to British colonialism in India.
V. The Social Dynamics of British Colonialism and Indian Nationalism
Chatterjee, in his primary objection to Anderson, argued that not all types of nationalism are based on Western European models:
"I have one central objection to Anderson's argument. If nationalisms in the rest of the world have to choose their imagined community from certain 'modular' forms already made available to them by Europe and the America's, what do they have to imagine ?"(31)
Therefore it is presumed that, since Indian nationalism had indeed managed to subvert British colonialism in India, nonwestern Indian nationalist discourse struck British colonialism in its heart when it was not looking. Obviously, Britain had a great deal of monetary wealth to lose if it lost colonial rule of India. Therefore, we can deduce that it was not a case of British colonialists in India merely neglecting to guard their Indian treasures that led British colonialism to its demise. After all, it was Britain, with the assistance of the Mughal Emperor at the time, that established certain official civic and political positions in Bengal, such as diwani, for protecting colonial monetary interests.
Hence, nonwestern Indian nationalist discourse was a conversation that was not easily understood by Western European colonial minds. Although British colonialists had managed to establish full hegemonic control over most all indigenous Indian public space (such as India's political administration and economy), Britain was neither able to colonize India's nonwestern social-spiritual sphere nor understand it. It was within this unconquerable Indian social sphere that an anti-colonial, nonwestern Indian liberation discourse was able to freely emerge and subvert British colonialism. To successfully accomplish the ethnocentric task of both civilizing and converting members of India's various indigenous, culturally conceived communities to Western theology and Christian values, Britain employed many missionaries. These missionaries continually assaulted the cultural integrity and honor of India's private and public-social spheres. To the growing populous of marginalized indigenous Indians, especially those from the lower social classes who had gained nothing by British colonialism, such cultural colonial insults served only to increasingly alienate them from the West.
By the mid- to late 19th century, Britain's central power consolidation over India had already lost much of its 18th century hold over India's political, economic, ideological, and military domains. This was due to many emerging political power struggles. These struggles and their shifts indicated the social turmoil increasingly erupting amid almost every social and cultural group within India's geo-political borders. Chatterjee refers to this changing Indian sociological atmosphere as India's:
"'Passive revolution' [in which] the historical shifts in the strategic relations of forces between capital, precapitalist, dominant groups, and the popular masses, can be seen as a series of contingent, conjectural moments New forms of dominance of capital become understandable, not as the immanent suppression of earlier contradictions, but as parts of a constructed hegemony, effective because of the successful exercise of both coercive and persuasive power In the Indian case, we can look upon 'passive revolution' as a process involving a political-ideological program by which the largest possible nationalist alliance is built up against the colonial power. The aim is to form a politically independent nation-state. The means involve a series of alliances--within the organizational structure of the national movement, between the bourgeoisie, and other dominant classes--and the mobilization of this leadership--of mass support 'from the subordinate classes.'"(32)
Hostilities increasingly erupted between the East Indian Trading Company's appointed colonial provincial magnates and members of India's displaced Mughal and Vijayanagaran aristocracy who ruled before them. Clashes between those who ruled and those they ruled occurred more regularly within all of India's social and discontent expanded throughout India. In addition, the British colonial expansionist invasion of India's divergent and distinctly defined, culturally conceived imagined communities became increasingly met with resentment, resistance, and revolt.
Analyzing British colonization of India reveals the exact manner in which Britain officially and systematically set in place a self-perpetuating, formal system of dominance, subjugation, and power consolidation. British colonialism was specifically established in India for the purpose of dividing in order to conquer and then exploit and/or obliterate India's co-existing indigenous cultural communities and their constituents. Developing such an extremely elaborate and official colonial system of dominance and subjugation required British colonialists to first contrive a manner in which they could consolidate and concentrate power for their own profit. Specifically, British colonialists wanted to place the sources of India's social power in the hands of the colonial few in lieu leaving it in the hands of India's many indigenous, culturally conceived imagined communities. Michael Mann states:
"In its most general sense, power is the ability to pursue and attain goals through mastery of one's environment. Social power carries two more specific senses. The first restricts its meaning to mastery exercised over other people Power is the probability that one actor within a social relationship will be in a position to carry out his own will despite resistance."(33)
"In most social relations both aspects of power, distributive and collective, exploitative and functional, operate simultaneously and are intertwined. Indeed, in pursuit of their goals, humans enter into cooperative, collective power relations with one another. But in implementing collective goals, social organizations and a division of labor are set up. Organization and division of functions carry an inherent tendency to distributive power, deriving from supervision and coordination. For the division of labor is deceptive: Although it involves specialization, of function at all levels, the top overlooks the whole."(34)
Hence British colonial elites contrived ways in which they could permanently consolidate power among themselves by establishing a collaborative intercolonial discourse with Indian indigenous elite (religious leaders, property owners, traders, and other community leaders). Intercolonial discourses occurred in numerous sociopolitical dimensions for more than one agenda. India's nonwestern nationalist intercolonial discourses, whether Eastern or Western in origin, started as an ideological response to British penetration of India and attempts to dominate India's indigenous society. Moreover, there was always more than one strand of intercolonial and anti-colonial discourse occurring simultaneously within any one or more of India's variant multidimensional social structures.
British colonial discourse was constructed specifically to consolidate and control India's land, labor, and natural resources for profit. In order for British colonialists to accomplish this task, they had to first establish a collaborative intercolonial discourse between themselves and Indian indigenous elites who, at that time, held India's power themselves. Therefore, British colonialists needed to offer Indian indigenous ruling elites a new, unprecedented reward for partaking in collaborative intercolonial discourse. Rewarding India's indigenous elites for willingly selling-out their own kinship clans and communities was a seemingly simplistic task. Such a task entailed merely offering to Indian indigenous rulers the unique opportunity to engage in humankind's never-ending struggle to acquire the most glory, wealth, and power relative to others. Thomas Hobbes wrote in Leviathan:
"It is true that certain living creatures, as bees and ants, live sociably one with another, which are therefore by Aristotle, numbered amongst the political creatures whereby one of them can signify to another what he thinks expedient for the common benefit. And therefore some man may perhaps desire to know why mankind cannot do the same. To what I answer: First, that men are continually in competition for honor and dignity, which these creatures are not; and consequently, amongst men, there ariseth on that ground, envy and hatred, and finally war; but amongst these [ants and bees] not so. Second, that amongst these creatures, the common good differeth not from the private [goals of the individual] But man, whose joy consisteth in comparing himself to other man, can relish in nothing but what is eminent "(35)
Hobbesian philosophy seemed to have been on target, since offering Indian indigenous leaders the reward and opportunity to engage in turncoat behavior toward their own people managed indeed to establish collaborative efforts with British colonialists. This collaboration between Indian leaders and British colonialists worked well as a central component upon which Britain's entire colonial plan was constructed.
These British intercolonial collaborative discourses with Indian natives were centered on multidimensional ideological issues, many of which were previously discussed. Debates about such issues became the central stage upon which different colonial actors and collaborators would enter to engage in reform discourses. Both sad and ironic was the fact that, although most reform matters dealt with women's human and civil rights, Indian nationalists and British colonialists were never truly concerned about reforming such. With respect to women's rights in India, women were neither the subject nor the object of such debate. They were merely the grounds for engaging in these collaborative intercolonial discourses.
Intercolonial discourse centering on issues of women's rights and reform was, at times, explored from both a Western and Eastern stance. These discussions, thus, became the avenue for which competing political interest blocs would spy on one another and establish various contacts for forwarding their own political agendas in India. Establishing these intercolonial discourses was therefore central to both Indian nationalists and British colonialists, since it offered avenues for them both to establish and expand their power domains and social collaborative networks. Therefore, it is not surprising that many Indian theological pundits of Hinduism predominantly engaged in these discourses, since the debates of reform heavily revolved around Indian theological issues and Western secularizing thereof. This debate continues today between India and the Western powers and also afforded Indians (Muslim and Hindu) previously unprecedented opportunities for establishing their own controlling power over rival social communities.
Opportunistic Indian elites collaborated with British colonialists who, thereafter, assisted them in exploiting and subjugating their own cultural clans and communities. Collaborative discourses between colonialists and Indian native rulers also became a popular scheme for the purpose of destroying so-called "dangerous classes" and those communities and individuals vehemently opposed to British colonialism, European principles, and exploiting India. The method worked best to forward British colonialism in India by giving it a path of penetration into the social space of the exact indigenous Indian communities they desired to conquer and destroy without having to resort to using massive military force (dominance without hegemony based upon a discourse).
Psychologically speaking, it can be said that establishing such a discourse was successful primarily because it filled the void many Indian elite had in desiring to maintain their previously held power. Upon the arrival of British colonialism, these Indian leaders decided, at least temporarily, it was better to share their power than loose it entirely. This was until mid-19th century when the fore of the Indian National Liberation Movement and its nonwestern anti-colonial discourse really got underway.
A second requirement for Britain establishing formal systems of hegemonic control over India's numerously diverse indigenous imagined communities consisted of establishing an official colonial policy based on coercive, state-controlled assimilation. Such policies required that India's imagined communities merge themselves into one state identity. Such forced assimilation was the means by which colonial power was further centralized and consolidated in the hands of both the colonialists and their indigenous Indian collaborators.
From the early to mid-19th century, collaboration existed between the British colonialists and Indian elite. However, it later became apparent that Indian collaborators not only wanted more equality and power than that held by their British counterparts, but they also wanted equal access to the most powerful political positions in India's colonial government.
By the mid-19th century, an anti-colonial Indian national liberation movement in India began its subversion of British colonial rule. Furthermore, Indian's indigenous leaders and former British collaborators began severing themselves from their former love affair with selfish British colonialists who were unwilling to share their power. Indian nationalists then began consolidating political power and wealth in India, leading India into additional power struggles.
Hence, the alliance between British colonialists and their Indian counterparts was short lived. The British colonialists had no intention of either relinquishing or conceding their power to Indians.
Eventually, the points of intersecting contentions between British colonialists and Indian nationalists became inevitable and, in 1947, culminated in India's liberation and partition. What is interesting to notice is that the British colonialists, blinded by their lust for power in establishing their colonial control in India, had not conceived that their collaboration with Indian indigenous sectors would lead to colonialism's demise. Perhaps there is wisdom in the saying that it is best to keep one's friends close but ones enemies closer. Further examination of the alienation, unnatural relationship, and collaboration between British colonialists and Indian elites vindicates this verity when examining colonial institutional practices such as:
Practicing social injustice against native Indians and peasants in the colonial court of law was an everyday affair during British colonialism of India. Later, the post-colonial Indian state began employing oppressive forms of domination and subjugation upon their own population identical to those the British colonialists had for controlling and exploiting members of India's lower classes.
Some scholars of nationalism argue that the same Indian nationalists who once proclaimed the great importance of preserving and revitalizing India's cultural integrity and its associated theological customs were not concerned about saving Indian culture at all. They argue strongly that many Indian nationalists were concerned instead with overthrowing British colonialists to take control of India's secular political and economic domains themselves. Notwithstanding, the secular contentions between Hindus and Muslims during the disintegration of British colonialism in India cannot but make one wonder what the real agenda of many Indian nationalists was. Indian politicians today continue to proclaim India to be a Western-styled democratic state, but is it really in its practices of objective political and human rights realities?
British colonialism forever altered Indian traditional society by transforming it into a Western-orientated, free-market led economy. Michelle Maskiell states:
"Changing economic conditions during the Raj, however, led to concomitant transformations in women's and men's work, alterations that were molded by colonial discourses as much as described by them. New technologies for agricultural processing, such as flour grinding, rice husking, and oil pressing, created substantial change in the gendering of work. Poorer women lost their jobs when mechanical grain processing was introduced and employment in these new factories went almost exclusively to men."(36)
In sum, India's post-colonial political establishment actually re-established much of the revolving door dominance and subjugation policies of the British in India. Competition over basic living necessities further pit one imagined community against another within India itself; eventually these communities became blinded by their lust for power and greed, similar to the British colonialists. In the confusion and competition for basic human necessities, the people began loosing their sense of humanity in daily struggles for survival. The social pressures to conform to either the Hindu or Muslim political and/or social groupings within India became too great for most to withstand and neighbors pillaged and murdered one another.(37) India's new political elite also became incapable of getting along. This eventually led to India's partition in 1947.
What are the most important lessons learned from India's experience with nationalism and colonialism? What can the Western and Eastern powers learn from their intercultural engagements? Insofar as the British, Western-minded imperialists are concerned, their failure in India, hopefully, taught them the importance of respecting and comprehending the social dynamic machinery of nonwestern Indian culture. This was evidently very foreign to their Western European minds. British ethnocentricity eventually led British colonial rule to an untimely demise.
In retrospect, British colonial rule in India and nonwestern Indian nationalism each failed to establish "good government." Britain and Indian nationalists, each fueled by their own nationalism, tried reproducing the Western model of secular democratic governance in India. Another lesson learned by the Indian/British experience is theology, although it is separated from state relations and policies in the West, should not have to be separated from state policies made in nonwestern-governed states. Not doing so only served to oppress women and the poverty stricken social classes in Indian society. Doing so will help foster true democracy in India not impede it as many Western scholars believe.
The Western secularized governmental model is not and should not be the only acceptable form of internationally recognized government for non-liberal states to ascribe to when seeking to obtain international acceptance. This has always been a paradoxical problem for relations between Western and nonwestern states such as India. Britain and Indian society greatly differ and so will their ideas for formulating a national state identity. The creative needs and ways in which India's diversified imagined cultural communities conceive of their ideal community and good government should be respected.
Britain imagined the colonial state of India as one multicultural national identity and ideologies of citizenship the way they are conceived of in the West. However, this was hardly the case. Therefore, there arose a "clash of civilizations" inside India's geo-political borders and social cavities owing to the bipolar ways in which Western, state-centered theory engaged with nonwestern Indian nationalists concepts of good governance and national citizenship.
Before British hegemony in India, regardless of one's primordial clan, one could still maintain multiple loyalties. One could remain a member of the Hindu community, yet still be a member of the international trading community in Bombay. Thus, members of different imagined communities could hold multiple high-status positions within their own community while still maintaining other positions as businesspersons and/or religious leaders. Members of divergent communities did not have their basic human rights violated by other different imagined communities to the extent they did after British colonialism and its later subversion by Indian nationalism. Thus, to a large degree, it was irrelevant whether one was Hindu or Muslim because one could simultaneously remain loyal to a communal clan and other necessary imagined Indian social communities.
However, after the British appeared in India, members of one tribal community and/or different imagined cultural communities within India had to chose between loyalties (either to the British Crown or to their own particular culturally imagined community). A Muslim could no longer trade with Hindus in the mid-1900s due to religious discrimination. Moreover, both Hindus and Muslims had to become loyal to the British Crown and work in its Civil Service to rise within the ranks of its Western, ethnocentric hierarchy. In other words, people, regardless of their ethnic background, could no longer maintain multicommunity membership status in India.
Thus British colonialism created a new in India. This resulting required "choosing of loyalties" caused social conflict and hostilities leading to India's partition and genocidal war.
Thus the high-minded political ideas espoused in the West regarding the great urgency of constructing a single, unified, national state identity from so many imagined communities is more the building a utopian pipe dream than a strategic reality to chase after. In objective procedural practice, although political liberalism and secularism in democratic government makes the claim it is "neutral" and indifferent in its support of one imagined community construct of "the good life" over another, this is not necessarily the case. Nonwestern states should not be presumed by Western powers as capable of undertaking a quick political transition from being a theologically based government with social communal values to a secular democratic one without cultural contentions occurring. Such "shock therapy" does not work in geo-political areas whose rulers and governments were not brought up on Western political philosophical principles.
The survival of the various imagined communities nonwestern governed states can be destroyed by promoting the wrong types of capitalist development projects. This can lead to additional power struggles between minority and majority cultures until, eventually, one of the many cultures emerges as victor and defines a "state system" of governance.
A state's rulers and the imagined community they rule over must have complementary goals or the state itself will fail. India's many multipolar imagined communities and their citizenry each pursued different ideas of what they considered to be the good life during and after British colonialism in India. Each possessed bipolar ideas regarding their social identities and tolerance of others.
India, as a modern state constructed on a Western-colonial model of governance, has failed. It failed in its in ability to recapture the seemingly peaceful coexistence in India prior to European colonialism. India's continuing cultural theological crises and civil wars in Madras, Kashmir, and Sri Lanka have also failed in reconciling India's noncolonized inner spiritual domain with a secular, Western, materialistic, external, worldly one.
This paper also analyzed the manner in which these new forms of state hierarchy and patriarchy continue to subjugate India's social civilian society, primarily women. New forms of dominance and subjugation in India and elsewhere also bring with it new opportunities for anti-colonial discourse, a discourse that can undoubtedly lead to another partition and/or ethnic genocidal civil war.
It is my hope by elucidating the failures of India's national state formation project, I have demonstrated the manner in which a new model for bringing peace and tolerance can be negotiated within post-colonial India. Such a model can be the beginning of another more productive, nonwestern discourse within India that can bring the post-colonial Indian state to full maturity and transforming it into a tolerant, multicultural, integrated community.
1. The Economist Vol. 11 (1996) pg. 93
2. Foreign Affairs Vol. 10 (1996) pg. 79
3. Partha Chatterjee, A Nation and its Fragments., Princeton University Press, (1993)., pp.5.
4. Benedict Anderson, Imagined Communities, (1983:193).
5. Siba N'Zatioula Grovogui, Sovereigns, Quasi Sovereigns and Africans., Minneapolis, MN, University of Minnesota Press., 1996., pp.8-9.
7. Ibid., pp.70-71.
8. Partha Chatterjee, A Nation and its Fragments., Princeton University Press, (1993)., pp.6-8.
9. Partha Chatterjee, A Nation and its Fragments., Princeton University Press, (1993)., pp.122.
10. From the book entitled, Recasting Women (1990:241). Indian male nationalists reinforced traditional Indian nonwestern customary rituals upon Indian women. And in doing so, Western efforts to reform and enhance the human rights of indigenous Indian women were stifled and turned back as cultural practices such as Sati were reestablished within nonwestern Indian nationalist discourse. Such discourse portrayed the women being coerced into participating in Sati or widow immolation, as national heroines upholding India's traditional Hindu customary norms. These "national heroines" were both sad and, ironically, falsely portrayed as glad and willing to give up their lives to uphold Indian national cultural practices. Indian women were also portrayed by Indian male nationalists as superior to Western Christian women because, supposedly, Indian women possessed a moral and spiritual superiority. Nonwestern Indian nationalism was both oppressive towards women and neglected to address the substantive human rights issues plaguing most Indian women. Instead, nonwestern Indian nationalist discourse categorized indigenous Indian women as either friends or enemies of the Indian national liberation movement by measuring the degree to which they adhered to the principles and practices of Indian, nonwestern, traditional Hindu culture and its rituals (those primarily oppressive for women such as Sati).
11. For more see book entitled, The Mottled Dawn by Attia Hossain (1992)., pp.140., Penguin Books, NY.
12. For more information, please refer to Robert Latham's book entitled, The Liberal Moment. (1997) Columbia University Press N.Y.
13. Barrington Moore, Social Origins of Dictatorship and Democracy., (1966)Beacon Press., Boston., pp.310-312.
14. Cited from Essay entitled, Nationalisms in Modern World history., India's Mughal Empire was primarily 'Muslim' and had existed in Northern India whereas the Vijayanagara Empire was primarily premised upon 'Hinduism' and/or similarly related religious sects and was established in the Southern part of India.
15. Cited from Chatterjee's essay in Recasting Women entitled, The Nationalist Resolution of the Women's Question (1990), Rutgers University Press NJ., pp. 238-239.
16. Cited from Chatterjee's Essay in Recasting Women entitled, The Nationalist Resolution of the Women's Question (1990), Rutgers University Press NJ, pp.238-239.
17. Partha Chatterjee, A Nation and its Fragments., Princeton University Press, (1993)., pp.6-8.
18. As in most colonial imperial conquests of the British, they were never merely satisfied with exploiting the people and lands they had unjustly conquered. British colonialism tended to also include explicit attempts to "civilize the natives." Both sad and ironic is that Britain today still has yet to fully comprehend the reasons for which its colonial conquest of India was met with such resistance and later subverted by nonwestern Indian nationalists. British colonialism met its demise by failing to sustain control over the Indian population and its territorial lands due to Britain's refusal to allow the natives they colonized to continue unhindered in their daily traditional customary cultural practices. The British, rather, continued to denigrate and intrude, while also trying to convert Indians to Christianity. They tried to turn them away from their own distinct nonwestern cultural principles and practices associated with their indigenous cultural and theological rituals by portraying them as brutal beasts. The more the British attempted to reform nonwestern Indian practices, such as Sati, purdah, child marriage, divorce, remarriage, infanticide, and women's rights associated with India's inner private domain, the stronger Indian nationalist impetus was in its resistance to this colonial domination and subjugation. Thus it is illumined that nonwestern Indian anti-colonial national liberation discourse as a response to British colonialism was successful by gaining Indian independence from British rule (1947). However, scholars should question whether nonwestern anti-colonial Indian nationalist discourse would have emerged to the extent it did if the British had not insisted, to the extent they did, to conquer and colonialize India's private spiritual and familial domain rather than only India's materialistic and public worldly domain.
19. Cited from Chatterjee's Essay in Recasting Women entitled, The Nationalist Resolution of the Women's Question (1990), Rutgers University Press NJ., pp. 238-239.
20. . Partha Chatterjee, The Nation and its Fragments., (1993) Princeton University Press., NJ., pp.88.
21. Partha Chatterjee, The Nation and its Fragments., (1993) Princeton University Press., NJ., pp.182-200.
22. Partha Chatterjee, The Nation and its Fragments., (1993) Princeton University Press., NJ., pp.40-41.
23. Cited from Chatterjee's Essay in Recasting Women entitled, The Nationalist Resolution of the Women's Question (1990), Rutgers University Press NJ., pp. 233.
24. Cited from Sumanta Banerjee's Essay in Recasting Women entitled,, Marginalization of Women's Popular Culture in Nineteenth Century Bengal., (1990), Rutgers University Press NJ., pp. 165.
25. Cited from Chatterjee's Essay in Recasting Women entitled, The Nationalist Resolution of the Women's Question (1990), Rutgers University Press NJ., pp. 243-244.
26. Cited from Chatterjee's Essay in Recasting Women entitled, The Nationalist Resolution of the Women's Question (1990), Rutgers University Press NJ., pp. 247.
27. Partha Chatterjee, The Nation and its Fragments, (1993) Princeton University Press., NJ., pp.38.
28. Ibid., pp.39-40.
29. Cited from Kumkum Shangari and Sudesh Vaid's Introduction of book entitled, Recasting Women., (1990), Rutgers University Press NJ., pp. 18.
30. Cited from Chatterjee's essay entitled, The Nationalist Resolution of the Women's Question, from Shangari and Vaid's book entitled, Recasting Women, (1990), Rutgers University Press NJ., pp. 247.
31. Partha Chatterjee, The Nation and its Fragments., (1993) Princeton University Press., NJ., pp.5.
32. Partha Chatterjee, The Nation and its Fragments., (1993) Princeton University Press., NJ., pp.212.
33. Michael Mann, The Sources of Social Power., Cambridge University Press Vol I., (1986)., pp.6.
35.. Cited from John Sommerville and Ronald Santoni's, Social and Political Philosophy., Anchor Books., (1963) pp.150.
36. Essay written by Michelle Maskiell entitled., Embrodering the past: Phulari textiles and gendered work as "tradition" and "heritage" in colonial and contemporary Punjab, printed in the Journal of Asian Studies, (May 1999), pp.2-4 of 20.
38. To better understand the intense emotional pressures that caused Indian communities to completely loose their sense of humanity, refer to the book entitled, A Mottled Dawn (Fifty Sketches and Stories of Partition) by Saadat Hasan Manto, (1997) Penguin Books.
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