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Dr. Ambedkar’s vision on Nationalism & National Integration

(University of Allahabad) 27 May 2020

Dr. B.R. Ambedkar was a prominent social reformer, and he is widely upheld as an emancipator of the untouchables. He appeared on India’s political canvas in the early 1920s and from then on remained at the forefront in the transformation of the country from shackled country to an independent one. He was keenly interested in reshaping India and to fulfill this set his aim he regarded the annihilation of caste as an essential step in making India a nation in the true sense.


Oxford Dictionary states that nationalism is the ‘identification with one’s nation and support for its interests, especially to the exclusion or detriment of the interests of other nations.’

 

He knew that India would never share the feeling of nationalism if a large number of its citizens remained branded as untouchables. Dr. Ambedkar’s view nationalism meant the expression of the inner unity of the people and the process of social assimilation. Dr. Ambedkar was of the view that the negation of casteism is what nationalism was all about.

 

In his book, ’Thoughts on Pakistan’ (1940) Ambedkar wrote –

 

‘…there is a difference between nationality and nationalism. They are two different psychological states of the human mind. Nationality means “consciousness of kind, awareness of the existence of that tie of kinship.” Nationalism means “the desire for a separate national existence for those who are bound by this tie of kinship.” Secondly, it is true that there cannot be nationalism without the feeling of nationality being in existence. But, it is important to bear in mind that the converse is not always true.’ [1]

 

Dr. Ambedkar was very realistic in his approach and knew very well that nationalism based on social justice would remain an illusion if it isn’t tied up legally to constitutional forces; hence he took so much pain to convert the notion of nationalism and social justice into the legal jargon. Justice K. Ramaswamy called Ambedkar a true democrat and a nationalist to the core on various grounds while he probed into the legal aspects of nationalism. Ambedkar waged a life-long war against evils like casteism, separatism, communalism, and linguistic differences, as he emphasized that these evils break up people into small units and go against the spirit of nationalism. At another level, Ambedkar viewed nationalism to be a form of spiritual occurrence which found its root in humanism. He was a firm believer in the fact that nationalism and patriotism were the two most important things needed to uphold democracy and equality in a country.

 

Blind worshipping of the motherland cannot be termed as nationalism and Ambedkar was quick to point out the same. He believed that the feeling of nationalism came from within and it would never be possible if the oppressed castes of this country would not feel at ease residing in it. It was only the political challenge that Ambedkar put forward that obligated congress to take notice of the national significance the problem of the schedule castes would pose and pushed them to adopt various measures which by and large contributed towards the strengthening of the feeling of nationalism in India.

 

While nationalism is a feeling, national integration is a process. The process of national integration is a complex one in a multi-cultural and multi-religious country like India. Integration in a word means amalgamation but this process becomes harder when we talk of this amalgamation at a national level because when we talk about national integration we take into account the whole society, law, polity, education, and economy. National integration is, in fact, the universal set of political, cultural, economic, administrative, and even emotional integration.

Dr. Ambedkar had sincere faith in a well oiled, cohesive society. He was a firm believer of the theory that if the marginalized section of the Indian society was mainstreamed and discriminatory traditions were abolished then the process of national integration would be promoted to a great extent. His views find reflection in the preamble of our constitution where every citizen of India is promised the equality of status and opportunity, thus promoting fraternity and through it the integration of the country.

 

The word ‘brotherhood’ is the moving spirit in the process of national integration and the word ‘fraternity’ is included in our constitution to promote the feeling of rapport among the citizens of the country. Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar believed that fraternity was made a reality in India when practicing the caste system became a criminal offense by the law of the country and maybe that is one of the most important steps that our constitution took towards the nation-building.

 

Another aspect on which Dr. Ambedkar was totally against was the north-south divide of India and he had a unique solution for it. He believed that if a state speaking the same language would be created then, in the long run, it would chalk out its separate identity so he suggested that the states should be divided into smaller units so that the feeling of national integration could develop over time. Even before India obtained its independence, Dr. Ambedkar tirelessly worked to bring about change for our unity and national integration. In the year 1928, he appeared before the Simon Commission and vehemently opposed the formation of provinces based on their linguistics. He had the notion that if that came to a pass then it would encourage local patriotism and group consciousness based on the region and it would thwart the cause of the development of common nationality in India and would further strike at the country’s stability.

 

To bring about social integration across the country Dr. Ambedkar went on the quest of social justice and his philosophy can be visualized in the ideals and policies of the Indian constitution. Dr. Ambedkar believed that social assimilation was an important component in national integration and the preamble of the constitution contemplated a new social order with ideal justice. For this, the founding fathers of our constitution, of which Dr. Ambedkar was the chief architect, provided all the citizens of India with economic, social and political liberty of thoughts, faith, expression, and opportunity so as to broaden the foothold of national integration in the country.

 

With the ultimate aim of national integration, Dr. Ambedkar looked into every sect and society in the country and tried to alleviate their problems. He did not ignore the plight of women from his thoughts and drafted many policies for their betterment and upliftment. Dr. Ambedkar visualized bringing about national integration through the democratic system as he regarded it as an effective instrument for the emancipation of the people. For Dr. Ambedkar democracy was not only a political doctrine but was a social doctrine as well. He believed that democracy is probably the best way to bring about national integration in a multi-ethnic, multi-cultural and multi-lingual country like India.


It is largely due to Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar’s vision of nationalism and national integration that today we stand united as a country. It cannot be an easy task to even visualize the concept of nationalism and national integration in a country like India with is a medley of so many cultures and languages but not only did Dr. Ambedkar visualized an integrated and united India but also made it a reality through his carefully analyzed and drafted policies. In Indian constitution is an example of the brilliance of the man and is a reflection of the ideas he had about nationalism and national integration. Dr. Ambedkar was truly one of the valuable gems India produced, and though his notions of national integration and nationalism didn’t appear in the limelight, what’s more important is his visualization and the actions he took towards making that dream into a reality came into fruition.


Reference:

[1] Ambedkar. B.R. (1940), Thoughts on Pakistan, Thakkar and Company: Bombay.

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