JNU fiasco: What is Nation and Nationalism?

The fiasco in the Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) in New Delhi over what the authorities called "anti-national" protests by the students and subsequent action against them has snowballed into a massive controversy. Many have dubbed the students as "anti-nationals" and brought charges of sedition against them. The critics of the right-wing BJP and its affiliate bodies have raised their voice in favour of the students against who police action was taken.

But what exactly 'nationalism' is? The concept has been explained by scholars in various ways and there is no objective way to look at it apart from roughly calling it 'love and loyalty toward's one country'. But that is more of patriotism when one expresses his love for a politically defined territorial identity called a country.



A nation, on the other hand, is a much more complicated concept and can be conflicting and overlapping, even between two individuals of a same country. Here is how some scholars have defined nation/nationalism, which is a subject of great debate in today's India ruled by the right-wing---whose idea of nationalism has found itself at odds with the Nehruvian legacy.

Karl Deutsch (1912-92): "A nation is a group of people united by a mistaken view about the past and a hatred of their neighbours"

Ernest Gellner (1925-95): Nationalism is "primarily a political principle that holds that the political and the national unit should be congruent"

Benedict Anderson (1936-2015): A nation is an "imagined political community"

Ernest Renan (1823-92): "The existence of a nation is a daily referendum, just as the continuing existence of an individual is a perpetual affirmation of life"

Miroslav Hroch (1932): "I use the term ‘nationalism' only for extreme cases, where expressions of national identity extend into overestimation of one's own nation and hatred towards others"

Carlton Hayes (1882-1964): "Loyalty and attachment to the interior of the group (namely the nation and homeland) are the basis of nationalism"

Hans Cohn (1891-1971): "Nationalism is a state of mind, in which the supreme loyalty of the individual is felt to be due to the nation-state"

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