India is a nation of ‘unity in diversity’. There are wide variances in our cultural, religious and social spheres due to our multi-ethnicity. Over millennia, the Indian sub-continent had been populated by people both indigenous as well as those coming in phases over time. The popular belief is that the original inhabitants of the Indian subcontinent belonged to the first wave of the homo-sapiens who migrated between 70,000 to 100,000 years ago from the continent of Africa, probably in search of resources, especially food. Gradually the human societies started spreading across the globe and the Indian sub-continent being a resource-rich habitat became a popular destination. This trend continued even to the immediate past when the European adventurers started coming to India for trade and finally the British established its empire. Consequently the Indian sub-continent has always been rich in its diversity. So the concept of ‘One Nation’ has never been in the pshyche of the populace of this subcontinent.
If we look into history the concept of unity always existed in either one of the following three forms. The ‘geographical unity’ of the sub-continent existed in the concept where the vast region was referred to as ‘Jambudwip’ in old Buddhist literature, ‘Bharatvarsha’ in the Brahminical tradition or ‘Hind or Hindustan’ in the medieval ages. Here the geographical boundary of a large region with varied cultural, social and religious traditions was conceptualised as a country or nation. The second idea of the Indian nation was political when it was under the same ruler. However, this had been for a small fraction of its history of many millennia. Once when almost the entire subcontinent, except parts of extreme South of India, came under the Mauryan dynasty and again later it came under the rule of Emperor Akbar. But the third and the last idea of Nation-hood is more abstract. It is a concept or idea that encompasses all its diversity to emerge as a harmonious unity.
Perhaps the concept of ‘Nation’ as it emerges today was not there even in Europe where this concept gradually evolved after Renaissance. The modern concept of the Indian Nation has been influenced by the West. But it took an aggressive form when the entire populace united against the common enemy, i.e., the British imperialism, irrespective of our various conflicts of identities. But after independence the inner contradictions surfaced again leading to the partition of our country. Today the Indian sub-continent has been fragmented into many nations which are at loggerheads with each other. Each nation nurtures a very confined concept of Nationhood, where there is little respect for differences. We must remember that a militant Nation-hood or ‘Nationalism’ that aims to unite a heterogeneous population under ‘one umbrella’ denies our very strength that lies in our variety. This sort of Nationalism raises itself on a pedestal and denounces all others who do not conform to the same concept of ‘oneness’. It places one ‘Nation’ against another. It has been the reason for so many wars and so much bloodshed. Nationalism in its true sense must be able to foster friendship among nations and this will lead to internationalism where we must not only strive for our own united progress but promote friendly relations with all others so that we may all work together for the good and progress of the entire human civilisation.