GUWAHATI, Oct 7 - �The strength of a democratic society is proportionate to the capacity to accommodate divergent views, as dissent is part of the democratic system,� said Dr Udayon Misra while delivering the 14th Brajamohan Sarma memorial annual lecture on the topic �The nationalism debate in India: Then and now� here today.
�The question of nationalism figured prominently in the constituent assembly debates which were held under the shadow of Partition. There, speaking on the resolution on India as a republic moved by Jawaharlal Nehru, Ambedkar focused on the need of social freedom along with political freedom,� Misra stated.
Analysing the current debate on nationalism, Misra said, �Actually, when the debate centred on sedition, patriotism and nationalism started occupying centrestage in the country�s media the year before last after certain happenings in the JNU, many of us wondered as to what could be the reason for this to happen more than seventy years after the nation gained independence.�
He said that there seemed to be an atmosphere of uncertainty accompanied by a feeling that the foundational values of our republic as enshrined in the Constitution were being increasingly challenged and ideas relating to opposition and dissent, which always marked the Indian polity, were now being seen as moves aimed at breaking up the nation.
Asserting that the strength of a democracy is proportionate to its capacity to not only accept differences in viewpoints, but also to accommodate them in the body fabric of the nation, the eminent educationist said, �The feature of acceptance is, one feels, very central to the debate on nationalism and patriotism because it accepts the premise that a nation is a conglomerate of viewpoints united together with a common purpose, which is often referred to as the corporate will of the nation. Therefore, it would be totally erroneous to see sedition when some of these viewpoints happen to jar with the version of patriotism and nationalism propagated by a certain section of people.�
Moreover, pointing out the perception of Rabindranath Tagore on nationalism, he said, �Many will find a lot to disagree with what Tagore said about nationalism. But, the point to be noted is that at a time when the nation was charting out its freedom struggle, Tagore�s views on nationalism were not seen as anti-national or seditious. Rather, Gandhi engaged in a highly intellectual debate with the poet on these issues, all the while asserting that the political struggle against the British needed to be speeded up through active non-cooperation.�
Taking the point of Assam and the Northeast, Misra said, �No understanding of the Indian nation-state would be complete without taking into account its experience of the northeastern region, which has not only posed some of the earliest and most potent challenges to the nation-state, but which has also brought to the fore issues relating to the federal nature of our polity.�