A country is run by its people. And to maintain unity in diversity for the country, there should be a sense of belonging inculcated amongst the citizens towards their country, and nationalism does exactly that. There is no one particular definition of nationalism, but the popular discourse is that nationalism is an ideology or set of beliefs that the people of the country follow to promote the interest of the nation above anything else. Usually, nationalism and patriotism are used as synonyms.
While both the terms help in developing a sense of love towards the nation, they both are fundamentally different. Nationalism is about the interest of the country, from economic development to cultural and social status, but patriotism, on the other hand, is more towards the love and affection for the country in terms of military power and defensive capabilities. While there is no prescribed definition for both the terms, the context with which nationalism and patriotism are used is quite different.
On the other hand, aggressive nationalism, usually called as jingoism, defeats the whole purpose of nationalistic feelings. Jingoism is less about developing a sense of belonging towards the nation among its citizens, but more about war-mongering and propagating hate towards enemy countries. Aggressive nationalism does not entertain critics and dissent. It is a one-sided sentiment, which does not, and more importantly, should not have a place in a democratic and a secular country.
Nationalism is at the core of Indian values and the democratic and the secular fabric of the nation. Indian freedom fighters who fought the mighty Britsh for more than 100 years were nationalistic and patriotic in nature. Nationalism is at the heart of India and its independence movement. It was because of nationalism that India could snatch freedom from the British and finally gain independence on August 15th, 1947. But the nationalism that existed during the freedom movement is quite different from the nationalism that we are witnessing in the 21st century.
The nationalism during the early 19th century was about gaining independence from the British. Nationalism then didn’t divide Indians into any lines. It developed a true sense of patriotism amongst the people and motivated them to come out on the streets and fight against the British’s atrocities on Indian soil. But the nationalism that we witness now is different from the previous one and not is a good way. Nationalism, due to misunderstanding by certain sections of the population, has made it a synonym for hate-mongering and communism. Nationalism now is being compared with religious and ethnic sentiments of people.
Nationalism has absolutely nothing to do with culture, religion or ethnicity of the people. Unfortunately, nationalism, instead of developing a sense of belonging in the people, has developed fear in the crowds, especially for the ones with dissenting and critical voices.
Nationalism has been turned into a tool and litmus test for people’ patriotism. This form of nationalism is sowing seeds for diving the country on ethnic and religious lines. Such type of nationalism, which create hate and animosity amongst the people against the ruling dispensation can no more be called nationalism. Its pure jingoism, which is harmful to the unit of the country.
Elections are fought in many counties in the name of nationalism. Leaders like Donald Trump, Vladamir Putin and Narendra Modi are proud nationalists who have propagated nationalistic feeling amongst the people to win their support. While this is good for the nation, but it is the responsibility of these leaders to make sure that nationalism is not turned into jingoism.