“The value of identity of course is that so often with it comes purpose.”
A simple statement once made by Richard Grant, actually conveys a very powerful message. Human beings have and will always try to identify with or build themselves an object or an idea to identify with. Identity, as described in the Oxford Dictionary, is the characteristics determining who or what a person or thing is.
This abstract commodity indulges a sense of uniqueness as well as a sense of unity in a person. Additionally, it makes the individual responsible towards his morals and his community, with which, he shares his identity.
Identity plays and important role in building a nation. Thus exists the idea of national identity; the sense of belonging to one nation. It promotes nation as a cohesive whole, as represented by distinctive traditions, culture, and language. It also tends to give rise to a host of other ideas that people tend to incline towards.
For example, expressing one’s national identity in an extreme fashion. This usually is marked by the feeling that their nation is the most glorious of all and paves way to unchained and blind loyalty towards the nation. This extremist ideology is termed as chauvinism, an irrational belief of superiority. But if directed towards positive love for nation, having a sense of attachment and devotion to the motherland, National identity forms the basis of Patriotism.
For a country to prosper, it is important that it maintains internal and external stability. And that is only possible when its citizens have mutually shared respect and love for each other. National identity and patriotism as two important factors that help build such a mentality in population and take the nation on the road to development and peace.
Concept of National Identity and Patriotism
Benedict Anderson, a notable historian and political scientist, has defined nation as an ‘imagined community’. It implies that a nation is formed on the basis of many factors that many individuals come together and imagine. The foundation of this imagination is the deep-rooted camaraderie that the people share with each other. No matter the size of the country, or the foul exploits and inequality that might prevail in the community, it is this imagination that binds them together. Quoting Anderson to solidify the statement,
“Over the past two centuries for so many millions of people, not so much to kill, as willing to die for such limited imaginings.”
As earlier mentioned, national identity is a social concept that man generated which includes self-categorisation and effects. When a person categories himself as a part of a nation, he is affecting his emotions by inculcating the sense of belonging, identification and emotional attachment to the idea of nation.
These emotions charge the individual positively, which is not only beneficial to himself, but to the community as a whole. He is able to generate acknowledgement from his fellow citizens, which comes in the form of recognition, appreciation and motivation. This reinforces his feelings and makes him work selflessly towards the betterment of his nation.
National identity builds as a collective phenomenon which stems from the nation’s history. Beliefs, values, assumptions and expectations are networked around the society and mould a person’s perspective towards himself and the world.
But the concept of patriotism has fluctuated down the timeline of our nation. When the first signs of maltreatment’s began to erupt during the early British rule, those who revolted against them were considered to be the first patriots. Subsequently, the idea of patriotism that was prevailing in the pre-independence society was those who selflessly fought for the freedom of the nation.
Figures emerged all around the countries with ideologies varying from radicalism to non-violence, but a common goal of eradicating the colonial rule in the country. Contemporary to them, there existed patriots who worked for the empowerment of the oppressed in the existing Indian communities.
Two examples would be Raja Ram Mohan Roy and Ishwachandra Vidyasagar, who worked in the fields of social upliftment and educating the masses to help develop the community socially. Once they were successful, our independent nation was not yet devoid of enemies.
The torch of exemplary patriotism was passed down to the soldiers of our nation, who laid down their lives in wars to maintain the sovereignty of our nation. By the end of the twentieth century, the definition of patriotism was included those who contributed in the development of India socially, economically and technologically and defended the nation and national interests against anti-national organisations.
Instilling National Identity and Patriotism
India has been a model example of unity in diversity. It is a land where people practice almost all the religions in the world, speak variety of languages, celebrate a ton of festivals and follow multiple heritages and traditional practices. To bind such a country into a nation where cultures vary every few hundred kilometres, it is important to establish a common ground which will instil national identity amongst the citizens.
The preamble of our constitution defines an Indian citizen as sovereign socialist secular democratic. Hence, using specific religion, language, cultures and traditions is beyond the thought to be used as a factor to inculcate national identity. Instead using geographical, historical and abstract ideas as symbols do the work.
The most important of all of these symbols is the national flag, designed by an ardent freedom fighter from Andhra Pradesh, named Pingali Venkayya. The national flag had risen in the face of a huge crisis, the atrocities of the British Raj. It had united the oppressed Indians across the length and breadths of the nation to rise against the evil and achieve a common goal of independence.
The national flag is not only an iconic representation of our nation, but it also acts as the spirit of our nation. Hoisting the flag to mark an achievement is not only a proud moment for the individual who does so, but for the whole country who share the same pride with him.
Be it soldiers capturing enemy bunkers, mountaineers reaching summits, sports personalities winning the first place or reaching the moon. Every time the tricolour is unfurled in such situations, it sends an immense feeling of pride across every Indian heart.
In the similar way, our national anthem as well as our national song binds the country into one melodious harmony. The verses penned by two of the greatest figures of literature’s Rabindranath Tagore and Bankim C. Chattopadhyay, captures the essence of the nation and the responsibility which each and every citizen has towards it.
Additionally, our leaders decided to create more symbols and ideologies that would function as the said ‘common ground’ to instil national identity. The peacock, the tiger, lotus and the lion capital- all are the said examples that every Indian should be familiar with and must honour.
While passive devotion and love for one’s nation arises out of national identity, proactive display of selflessness towards the nation will only be undertaken by a patriot. Patriotism is an attribute that is derived from the deep empathy that lies within every human being. In some it is active, while in some, it is dormant.
Patriotism can hence, only be induced in a person once he understands that his well-being lies in the well-being of the others. If from a tender age, a person is made aware of the rich heritage of our country, the struggle for independence and the sacrifices that people have made for their nation, they will start valuing the moral of selflessness and keeping the nation first.
The brightest and the most successful of the leaders that have emerged be it during the 100 years of war that we fought for our freedom or developing our nation into a powerful economy, they all have patriotism as a common aspect of their personality.
The ideas of national identity and patriotism have existed for centuries together on this planet. The first nations that had developed in the western segment had initiated this ideology and ever since, it has been always utilized to cater to the public interest. But the flow has not been smooth. There have been many a issues that have arisen and challenge the viability of national identity and patriotism.
Ethnic Identity is one of the major threats to national integrity, especially in our country. The varieties of ethnic groups that exist in India have often come into conflict when it comes to empower their ethnic identity. The history bears witness to the Khalistan Movement that originated around 1971 amongst the Sikh diaspora.
It was subdued by operation Bluestar but it cost us our first woman prime minister’s life. Even in the modern times, there are separatist organisations continuously batting for country-hood of their ethnic states in the north-east. The ULFA, Naga National Council, NLF Tripura, etc. are some examples.
Another problem that arises is due to immigration. India has seen two massive scale immigration’s, one on the western front during the partition, the other on liberation of Bangladesh in 1971 on the eastern front. Immigration leads to in-flow of people from other countries or regions outside the governance of the nation they are arriving in. They bring their own lifestyles and culture with them, which may or may not be shared by the people of the country.
It gets difficult for a nation to encourage the immigrants to develop a national identity. For India, it has not been a big problem since both the times, immigration had occurred from parts of territories that once belonged inside its borders. So the cultural gap was not unbridgeable. Still, the fact that immigrants might be considered outsiders and stand a probability to be alienated looms as a threat to a healthy national identity.
Globalisation also is a major challenge to national identity. This ideology promotes ‘global community’ through various actions like foreign exchange, trade, tourism and education. It instils the sense of common values that the people of the world possess and view themselves world citizens.
While morally, it sounds very compelling, this trend makes it difficult for the prevalence of national identity as it undermines the importance of being a citizen of your own country.
Finally, the aspect of a person’s civil identity clashing with his national identity can cause a massive problem in keeping the integrity of a nation. The biggest example of this is the Kashmir issue, which has been exploited by both the contesting countries and remains unresolved.
Today, after more than seventy years since we were liberated from the colonial rule, India has once again come under fire of multiple crises. Ranging from security issues like terrorism, Maoism, civil riots to social problems like poverty, unemployment, women’s safety to economic scams and corruptions.
There is a plethora of maladies that India suffers from. This is not because modern Indians are devoid of a national identity. Every Indian, no matter where he is, will never deny his origins and nationality. But that is not enough for us to solve the problems. We have to take responsibility and become self-driven in tackling the issues that we face today. Our ancestors fought the British so that we could live in an independent nation.
The patriotism that they had in their blood, serve as a model source of inspiration for us. Our main goal is to free our nation from the socio-economic issues that are eating through it from the inside. Simultaneously, we should also focus on developing our nation so that it can stand as a world power and commands the respect of other countries around the globe.
And for that to be achieved, the youth should be selfless, self-driven and sedulous. It should be clear in their mind- Serving the nation, is serving ourselves.