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This statement caused an upheaval, because if nationhood requires people living in one particular geographical boundary to follow one culture, speak one language, have one faith, then claiming nationhood for India was not a very smart thing to ask for. However this vision of nationhood was not Indian. This vision can be applied to a model nation that emerged as a nation, which was not how India was born. This was not the vision shared by the India’s national movement. Our movement laid foundation to a newer approach- Unity in Diversity.
India’s asymmetrical federalism recognises that every state is unique. It supports more than one cultural identity. Democracy is used to deal with regional parties bringing up ethnic issues. India has created a new model to deal with diversities. This model is best described as a state-nation. It accepts that geographical boundaries or political differences don’t need to coincide with cultural boundaries. It suggests that it’s natural for a group of people who share a common territory and culture, to have their own state.
A nation can basically be defined as a large group of people with strong bonds of identity. National identity is typically based on common language, culture, history, religion or ethnicity. India declared itself as a nation, having its own constitution and its own set of cultures and traditions. India stated its secular nature in the constitution. Indians practised their own traditions, spoke their own languages and thus gradually, parts of India declared their desire to have their own set of rules and regulations and function accordingly. The reason people come together to form a nation is because of a common factor that gives a sense of belonging. Nation can be described as a sentiment, nation is an emotional concept.
India is a union of states. The whole of India is not a sum of all the states but larger and more. And these states are not in any way independent and autonomous entities but merely parts. India is not a conglomeration of independent nations. It is a state that has formed by many nations wanting to grow and exist within. We have nations right from Kashmir to Kerala, Assam to Maharashtra, Gujarat to Rajasthan who have come together to be a part of a state. They don’t seek independence; they just seek a way for flourishing independently.
By stating India as a state, we have also acknowledged the un-independent and non-sovereign nations residing within India on whom never will any national identity or a national religion or a national language will be imposed under the notion of nationalism. For example, regarding the autonomy issue of Kashmir, India will not be threatened by the idea of its autonomous functioning but instead but provide the same to every state.
India has accepted secularism and allowed Indians to follow any faith of their choice. India allows Hinduism to be Hinduism, Islam to be Islam and every other religion to be themselves as long as they do not try and enter into an area which they shouldn’t be concerned about.
Indian states have the status of cultural-linguistic-social-democratic nations. Even though they correspond to one central government, they also create their own autonomous governments.
We have been defining India as a nation of many states as we believed that a strong central administration and weaker states can strengthen India as a nation. We have been glorifying India’s Unity in Diversity whereas when you observe closely, India is actually a Diversities in Unity. We have a thousand differences at the core that it had not been for India would have separated us into nations.
When we state that India is not a nation of many states, but a state of many nations, the word state can be translated and interpreted into two separate instances. When several states come together, a nation is born. When a nation is formed of many states, its nature is federal, which means that each state has a lot of freedom of its own. Each state may have its own laws and jurisdictions. Thus by the term ‘A nation of states’, we understand that it’s just a confederation of many states. In such a form of nation, every state has its own pride. In India’s case, too, we see numerous cultures, traditions, cults, languages which are peculiar to each and every state. Thus we could say that our states are nothing short of separate nations. India could have been a federal nation, but in our constitution, our states have limited laws so that although the states enjoy freedom, we are all bound by a strong national fervour.
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