Why don’t Hindus hurt cows? Because they consider cows “sacred”.
Why do most Indian politicians and civil servants rob their nation and individuals? Why do most businessmen cheat their nation by evading taxes?
Because we don’t believe that nation is sacred. The nation, several generations of Western-educated Indians have been taught, is merely an accident of mindless, meaningless history.
Then why did the Tilak–Gandhi generation become the first to think otherwise, ready to lay down their lives for their nation (not for a throne like the Rani of Jhansi in 1857)?
Because that generation has imbibed the biblical idea that nation was sacred. It was a purposeful, divine invention.
Until 1919, English was the language used in every session of the Indian National Congress – the embodiment of Indian nationalism. From 1920, under pressure from Mahatma Gandhi – a Gujarati – the Congress began the uncomfortable exercise of using Hindi (not Sanskrit). But the Hindi the educated Indians used was not that of Tulsidas’ Ramcharitmanas. It was the Hindi of the Bible translators, promoted via mission schools. The English language that created Congress’s intellectual culture was also created by Bible translators such as Tyndale and brought to us our modern, alien, (Jewish-Protestant) idea of the nation.
Doubt it? Of course, colonialism was bad . . . But no worse than preceding Muslim and Hindu rule. Why didn’t any of the earlier regimes ever produce even the concept of an all-India National Congress?
Empire versus Nation: Didn’t we have great empires? Yes, but an empire is the opposite of a nation:
- In an empire you are a subject: In a nation you are a citizen with rights and duties, privileges and responsibilities, opportunities and support.
- An empire taxes you without consulting you. A great nation is built on a biblical principle, “no taxation without representation”.
- In an empire, you exist for the state: in a nation, the state exists to serve you . . . because the Lord Jesus said that he had come not to be served but to serve.
Because nation is a moral concept, nationalism is a moral virtue. According to Bible, it was God who demolished human effort to build an all-encompassing empire in Babel. He then divided humans into ethnic, linguistic and geographic nations. That is why it was not the Vedas, Upanishads, Puranas, Manusmriti, Gita, or Ramayana, but a Bengali follower of Christ, Michael Madhusudan Dutt (1824–1873), whose poetry began cultivating Bengali nationalism.
But wasn’t Indian nationalism fuelled when Mahatma Gandhi launched the civil disobedience movement against the law banning Indians from making salt? Yes, it was. But who gave to Gandhi’s generation the idea that a nation’s laws ought to be just: in the interest of the ruled, not the rulers?
But wasn’t 19th-century nationalism born as a reaction against British racism? Specifically, because the British tried to prevent S.N. Banerjee from becoming an officer of the Indian Civil Services; lowered the age of recruitment into ICS to favour English young men; and made a racist law barring Indian judges from trying Europeans?
Indeed, such racist acts infuriated educated, upper-class Indians. But India had been racist (casteist) ever since the Aryans subjugated the subcontinent’s native people. Racist discrimination of lower-caste Hindus and tribals did not trouble our conscience until the Bible taught Banerjee’s generation (including through Macaulay’s penal code) that a nation is a moral community where everyone, including an alien, is equal before the law.
Why were Indians, educated in Christian colleges and British universities, enraged at racist discrimination in the civil services and legal system? Because the Bible’s worldview inspired and shaped the Educational Despatch of 1854 and created universities specifically to enable Indian students to acquire the merit and qualification to govern their own nation. Also, because the British Parliament had affirmed in 1833 and 1853 the biblical principle that India Civil Services must recruit on the basis of merit – not race, caste, nepotism or bribery.
A Religion Divides or Unites a Nation
Did pre-British empires fail to birth nationalism because they could not unite the nation through transportation (railways), communication (telegraph), administration (ICS), and just law (IPC)?
No, The European Union has much better transportation, communication, administration, legal systems, common market and a common currency. Yet, it is struggling to survive because, for over six decades, Europe’s secular elite have deliberately undermined nation and nationalism. In the Soviet Union, Communism crushed the idea of nation and the union fell apart in four decades.
In pre-British India, our problem was that we did not even have the language of nation and nationalism. Our religion precluded the very possibility of building a nation. A major factor was the Ashwamedha Yajna – the Horse Sacrifice. Our most prestigious and expensive religious ritual divided geographic India into such petty kingdoms that it became hard to sustain even huge empires such as Ashoka’s or Aurangzeb’s. The concept of uniting little kingdoms into a free and strong nation to resist foreign invasions never gained ground.
While a certain kind of religion divided India, it was another kind of religion that united kingdoms in England, provinces in Holland, and colonies in the USA into great nations. Take for example, the USA: England was governing 13 distinct colonies in North America, 5,000 miles across the Atlantic Ocean. It was a Christian Bible preacher, George Whitfield (1714–1770), who became the “first American” – a public figure, known, loved, and respected in all the colonies. America’s successful Revolutionary War began five years after his death. Why didn’t it end with 13 separate kingdoms?
Because, the preaching of men like Whitfield had triggered a Great Spiritual Awakening. It inspired Americans to revere and study the Bible, which gave them its peculiar idea of nation – just as it gave that concept to England, Holland and India.
In fact, it was an American president, Franklin Roosevelt, not Mahatma Gandhi, who prevailed upon Winston Churchill, Britain’s prime minister, to give up his Roman–Anglican idea of empire, in favour of the biblical idea of turning colonies into free “nations”. It was their 1941 agreement, known as The Atlantic Charter, which set the stage for Mahatma Gandhi’s 1942 Quit India Movement.
…To be continued
Published in the June 2013 issue of the Forward Press magazine