MEERUT: Addressing the bi-centenary celebrations of the founder of Aligarh Muslim University, Sir Syed Ahmed Khan, at Aligarh Muslim University, former President Pranab Mukherjee on Tuesday said that “nationalism can neither be imposed by law nor implemented by decree or be enforced by a dictum”. He said that attempts to “redefine” nationalism were “unnecessary.”
Debate on nationalism
“There have been, from time to time, attempts to redefine nationalism. According to me, such attempts are unnecessary since our concepts of nationalism and national identity predate the modern-postmodern constructs of identity,” the former President said.
He sought to distinguish the Indian concept of nationalism from the idea of European nation-state.
“The concept of nationalism in the context of European nation states is a new phenomenon in Indian civilization,” Mr. Mukherjee said, adding that the British tried to enact the “foundation of Indian statehood in their concept”.
“Indian statehood is believed to have been in existence since long. Indian civilization is society-oriented and not politically dominated,” he said.
What is India?
Emphasising on the vastness and diversity of the country, he said, “What is India? The vast land of around 3.3 million sq km, with people practising seven religions every day, speaking 100 languages in daily life, bound by one Constitution, one flag, one identity. That is India.”
He pointed out that the AMU was “a perfect example of Indian nationalism and ethos, where students from different religions, ethnicity, linguistic backgrounds and culture integrate and work together in productive ways.”
He hailed Sir Syed as a visionary who was “far ahead of his time as he thought of empowering common people with modern scientific education at a time when India was a newly-colonised society and ignorance was prevailing.”