Rabindranath Tagore is one of the most notable pioneers in constructing and developing India's modern age literature. Tagore was involved in India's independence struggle. Various groups displayed their participation in their ways. Some chose violence as their medium, the others preached non-violence. Hope was the driving force for the involvement of the common people of India, mostly peasants, and farmers. Tagore used thoughts as the medium to reach out to them in the great war of independence.
India got independent from the Britishers in 1947. This freedom wasn't gifted to Indians by the Britishers. This freedom was a result of years of struggle by Indians. Furthermore, in these 100 years, every Indian fought colonialism in their ways. Some preached personalities like Bhagat Singh, Chandra Shekhar Azad, and Bose while others with politics like Nehru and Gandhi, and the intellectuals used their knowledge, their words, and books to raise their dissent against the British Raj. British Raj thought that the dissenting scholars were a threat to the integrity of the Raj. Tagore also debated and argued with other freedom fighters on varying ideologies about Nationalism. The famous debate over the Swaraj movement between Tagore and Gandhi is still widespread by the name of "The Great Indian Debate".
The following were a few of the postulates of the ideology of Tagore on Nationalism.
Tagore was the first non-European to receive the Nobel Prize for Literature, but many people today might not find his thoughts very noble. In his letter addressed to his friend A. M. Bose in 1908, he wrote that he would never let patriotism to come before humanity. In his book Nationalism, he said that Nationalism is a cruel epidemic of evil that is sweeping over the human world of the present age. In one of the essays 'Nationalism in India' from the same book, he explained why he had issues with Nationalism. In his words, a nation is the aspect of a whole population as an organized power. This organizational structure uses the community to become strong.
In this fight for power, the men are diverted from their ultimate object of happiness and creativity and rather focuses more on sustaining this organization. In simple words, the whole world is divided into pieces, and then the nations tend to fight with each other to gain power. The human world is made one; all the countries are losing their distance every day. Tagore had us also warned about this cruel phase of Nationalism. He warned us about Oppressive Nationalism and Compulsory Nationalism, which always end in war, conflict, and denial of citizen's rights.
The state is not sacred
The chants of "Bharat Mata ki Jai"( Hail the Mother India) became prominent during the independence movement. Nevertheless, Tagore didn't believe in worshiping the country. In his book Ghare Baire, the protagonist Nikhil says that he is willing to serve his country, but he will only pray to what is right and just as it is greater than the state.
"To worship my country as a god is to bring a curse upon it."
Nikhil speaks these words, but many who have read and studied Tagore believe that Nikhil was the alter ego of Tagore. Tagore also argued that when love for one's country becomes a "sacred obligation", disaster is the inevitable outcome.
Young Tagore had always favored dissent and disagreement for the development of society. According to him, conflicts and different notions are the most important for any country to grow. However, of course, the British government that considered itself the country's rulers did not agree with the idea of rising dissent in India. They had a big issue with Indians questioning their decisions.
To crush any dissent, they also used the draconian sedition law multiple times. This dissent that was evil for the British government was of utmost importance for Tagore. Not just the Brits, he even questioned the ideas and decisions of the father of our nation, Mahatma Gandhi. Gandhi did not consider it as his disrespect but a productive debate.
Tagore and Gandhi
The debate between Tagore and Gandhi is famous as "The Great Indian debate," India's two great minds shared their visions and ideologies. Being an intellectual was not considered an evil prospect at that time. During the non-cooperation movement, Gandhi asked Indians not to buy British goods and products and only consume Indian products. Then Tagore became the voice of the peasants and laborers. He argued that many Indians could not afford this lockdown (boycott of Manchester goods).
Indian Khadi clothes were expensive while foreign cloths were economical. In his essay 'Shodupaye', he wrote about how traders were receiving notice to boycott foreign goods, and many also faced violence post such notice. He also said that these people even considered their terror techniques in favor of the country. They claim that what is done for the sake of the country cannot ever be unjust, an 'adharma'!
According to him, the greatest curse upon the country is not foreign cloth but the quarrel within it. Nothing is worse than one section of the population enslaving the opinions of another through force and against their will. He considered Swaraj as mint and true freedom. According to Tagore, actual freedom is the freedom of the mind. Until one is not free to think for himself, he is not completely free.
Tagore rejected the idea of national history and said that we should all learn about World History and man's history. Wherein we talk about the origin of humanity and not about which king invaded which country and who remained in power. According to him, the past we are taught is the history written by the British and is not our heritage; we should all read about the idea of India and how India has been setting the example of unity in diversity throughout our history.
Tagore stated in his essay 'Nationalism in India' that the idea of Nationalism believes that 'our social structure is complete and we can move on to political freedom' The supporters of Nationalism think that the social rules and norms made thousands of years ago continue to remain relevant, which is why we hold responsible historical leaders and their decisions for all our miseries and shortcomings. In the same essay, he also claimed that we borrowed our history from others while suffocating our own history, which is no better than suicide.
Subversion of traditional education over colonial education
Tagore had objections to the education being given in schools and colleges, one of the reasons he never finished his schooling or graduation. According to him, we are taught that our nation is our god from our childhood, and it is more important than humanity. Moreover, until we do not outgrow that teaching, we cannot gain the idea of True India.
Coming back to the education system, he also said that whatever we learn is adverse, and the way it taught is also adverse. So, according to Tagore, the education we were receiving was not actual education but a wastage. Although it is important to note that Tagore was pointing towards the British style of education, he wanted India to take responsibility for its education system.
He collected funds from the National Council of Education and used his Nobel prize money to build Shantiniketan, an institution that encouraged open learning, clear thinking, and exploring one's ideology, not preparing the youth to be included in masses and pass their examination. In this institution, kids are not encouraged to become exam warriors but free-thinking warriors.
Divide and Rule-A parasitic engagement
As mentioned earlier, Tagore was against British rule but was also against the hardcore nationalism. The meaning of Nationalism in Tagore's words is quite different from the one we learn today. According to him, the very idea of Nationalism is the promotion of unity and brotherhood. It means a complete absence of hate between different communities. Nationalism, in his words, did not intend to invade the weaker one and annihilation of minorities. These parameters divide the country. The diversity in India is its identity and its Nationalism.
Tagore said that our country has tolerated different races from the first and that the spirit of toleration has acted all through our history. India has been trying experiments to evolve a social unity within which different people could be held together while relishing their own beliefs. Tagore, in one of his interviews, said, "Politicians travel to exploit this great fact and wrangle about establishing trade relationships, but my mission is to urge for worldwide commerce of heart and mind."
In worldwide 'Byadhi O Potrikar', he also wrote that if a religion teaches us to hate others, then such devotion will never help us to establish 'Swaraj'. He also wrote that if in a country, bigotry is driven by religion, then the country is bound to suffer. We have divided ourselves, and until we do not get rid of these differences and accept unity, we will remain slaves of the British or other Indians.
Crude Nationalism is like denatured alcohol; first, it makes you drunk, followed by making you blind, eventually killing you. However, If you see it as a political religion that stirs the hearts and wills of men and rouses them to service and self-sacrifice in a way that no purely religious movements have done in recent times, it seems even more toxic, for any nation.
Ancient India was a land where culture, philosophy, civilization, religion took their birth and reached on peak position. It is a blessed land with special various geographical up-downs. It was a place where different people with different cultures were assimilated into it. It faced several brutal invasions but remained firm and united. Because of its great past heritage, it gave the world great personalities who taught the world a lesson of unity, humanity, brotherhood.