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The Saffron Book

Subnationalism is a refuge sought in the search for an identity. It is an adversary of nationalism.


14. Subnationalism

Dear Aao
I am glad you contacted me when you were in Delhi and we were able to have lunch together. I liked your frankness without which perhaps I would not have had an opportunity to discuss the subject of what I call, Subnationalism. I agree with you that ethnic as well as regional identity can be a powerful inspiration and, when not allowed to have its say, can cause frustration. But every inspiration does not have to lead to separation of the region from the rest of the country.

The first attempt must be to satisfy the impulse within the national boundaries. Remember, economic viability as well as defence capability are also factors that should not be overlooked by a region. Otherwise,one might find oneself seceding from one country only to be swallowed up by another. Coming to economics, the world trend is for larger markets. When this is not possible within the national territory, the tendency is to combine with neighbours. The European Union (EU) is an outstanding example of mature nations being prepared to give upsome of their sovereignty for the sake of economic betterment. For instance, we all know that the EU has adopted a common currency (EURO) and before long the prestigious German Deutsche Mark and the proud French Franch may cease to exist.

In order to keep personal relations out of our dialogue, let me not cite any of the seven sister states of the north - east as an example and confine my references to other states. In India, the subnational sentiment has mostly crystalised around language although it can have other overtones like a racial identity as in the DMK movement and its Dravidian pride.

The emotional mainspring of regionalism is similar to the inspiration of nationalism. For the average person, it is easier to relate to one's region, its language and culture than with a country of subcontinental size. It can also be true that, at a given phase in time, regional leadership may have a greater appeal than the national leadership. Thiru C.N.Annadurai had more appeal in Tamilnadu than the then prime minister Lal Bahadur Shastri or Indira Gandhi in her early years as Prime Minister. Local or regional grievances, like the feeling of neglect in Assam, also play their part.

However, the Indian experience is that the centripetal or unifying appeal has proved more powerful than the centrifugal push of division.Until the sixties, the Dravid Munnetra Kazhagam stood for seceding or separating from the rest of India. Over the years however, it has changed and is today as loyal to the Constitution of India as any other party. There was also a time when there was a stirring for attaining Sikhistan, later for Khalistan, among some politicians in Punjab. The state suffered untold agony and widespread terrorism in the eighties.Yet, today no one questions the place of Punjab in the federation of Indian states.

The Assom Ganatantra Parishad (AGP) was the electoral offshoot of the All Assam Students Union with its separatist inclination. But, over the years, the AGP has matured into believing in the unity of India.Subnationalism can lead to the breakup of a country as has happened inYugoslavia or the land of southern Slavs which has already broken up into Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia Herzegovina and the rest led by Serbia. However, Yugoslavia, did not have a binding or a unifying factor as, for instance, is the Hindu ethos in India. Given the presence of such a unifying factor, it should not be difficult to sublimate the subnationalist sentiment into change it into nationalism.

Let me clarify that when I refer to the Hindu ethos, I exclude its religious overtones. I am really trying to give a label for easy reference to the vast river of Indian history and the many gardens of culture it has watered across the subcontinent. While the gardens might have their own share of thorns, you would agree that the lovely flowers have far exceeded the ugly weeds. Or else the Indian civilisation would not have endured over the millennia.

While Russia has a national ethos, neither the Soviet Union nor its predecessor the Czarist empire had it. The Central Asian, the Caucasian and the other peripheral republics were really colonies conquered by the Czars. They were then legitimised as equal republics after 1917 by the communists who swore to be anti-imperialist. The Soviet Constitution, which was passed in 1924 had, in one of its articles, provided for are public to secede from the union.

While the communist leadership was egalitarian, certainly not racialist, the white people at large continued to harbour a mild contempt for their Asian fellow countrymen. In many ways, communism was opposed to nationalism and many Russians felt that some of the republics were a drag on their country.

In contrast, deep down south in Kerala even simple village folk feel strongly about ensuring that Kashmir remains an integral part of India.This is without ever having been anywhere near Kashmir or ever having met a Kashmiri. This kind of sentiment was not widespread in Russia. Lo and behold, under the leadership of President Mikhail Gorbachev, the republics were spontaneously, as it were, set free. So much so that there was no bitterness whatsoever and, if anything, there is an occasional voice heard in favour of the republics coming back to the old union. This is not to discuss the Russian syndrome but merely to show, by contrast,what a binding factor the Hindu ethos is in our country.


The Saffron Book
Prafull Goradia
Introduction
1. Awake and Unite!
2. Why The Saffron Book?

Sooraj
10. Small States
3. Vision
4. Economic Face
5. Abolish Casteism
6. Bride Burning, Divorce
7. Rape, Prostitution
8. Revolutionising Education
9. The Constitution

Nationalism
11. Nationalism
12. Pan-Islamism
13. Communism
14. Subnationalism
15. Casteism

Hindutva
16. Hindutva is Dialectical
17. Origin of Hinduism
18. Medieval Phase
19. Modern Resurgence
20. Not Fundamentalism
21. Not Fascism
22. Tolerance
23. Strengths
24. Weaknesses
25. Opportunities
26. Threats
27. Individual Brilliance

Hindu Paradoxes
42. Idolatry
43. Fatalism
44. Double Standards
45. Masochistic Fringe
46. Fifth Column
47. No Soul before Birth

Christians
48. Proselytising Unwelcome
49. Myth of Divide and Rule

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