SAO has merged into
flagship of the International Press Syndicate.

- Suresh Jaura
Publisher and Managing Editor


0712 flag pakistanSectarian violence in Karachi is just another chapter in Pakistan’s long history of violence against minorities, has afflicted Pakistan virtually from its moment of birth...


U.S. allies in Europe, Asia and the Middle East, smiling through their teeth, are feverishly hoping that Washington will maintain its security commitments. The Russians are ... . . ..   


A US revaluation of its Af-Pak policy appears likely under Trump... It is, however, unlikely that US AfPak policy under Trump will be ‘more of the same’. Crucially, Pakistan’s role in supporting terrorism in Afghanistan . . .


Escalation of hostility may become a thermonuclear WWIII.


Non-Muslims in violent conflict areas to enhance the security...


With approval of power plants, conflicts have arisen ...


Growing support for suicide terrorism


SOUTH ASIA: Of Nationalism and Love - Part III

AddThis Social Bookmark Button

By Shivam Vij *

Poets as politicians

I am reminded of Bengali polymath Rabindranth Tagore’s lectures on nationalism. Tagore wrote songs for the Indian freedom movement, but he was critical of nationalism as he encountered it in his travels across the world before World War II. For Tagore, a nation was nothing more than a population coming together for an organised “mechanical purpose”, and yet he said this purpose became associated with selfishness, which can be a “grandly magnified form” of personal selfishness. It is ironic that one of Southasia’s greatest intellectuals was decrying the evils of nationalism just as so many Southasians were about to get a freedom that would only make us more nationalist.

Whether in Kashmir, Balochistan, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Tibet or East Turkistan, not to mention the quarrel between India and Pakistan, the common thread among Southasian conflicts is ‘mainstream’ majority’s refusal to admit that their blinkered nationalism remains unquestioned and unresolved. Admitting to any fault in nationalism is seen as an admission of the nation’s failure, and to deny existing failures we make sure our respective states succeed in repressing those who don’t identify with our respective flags. What do we need to rise above this grand collective manifestation of personal selfishness?

Nationalism is so much a part of our personal identities that, for many people, exposing it for what it is seems a personal insult. The arguments against the right to self-determination predictably follow. Writing in The Express Tribune, Pakistani columnist Ejaz Haider offers a typical example:

Balochistan is indeed Pakistan’s internal issue. Those who want Balochistan to secede from Pakistan will get the state’s full reply. That too, given how states behave, is a foregone conclusion. Hell, states don’t even let go of disputed territories and care even less about whether or not people in those territories want to live with them.

In response, political scientist Haider Nizamani gave three examples of nation-states readily parting with territory: the separation of Slovakia from the former Czechoslovakia; the Canadian government’s non-violent handling of the Quebec sovereignty movement, allowing a referendum which the movement lost by a thin margin; and finally, the impending Scottish referendum in 2014 to part ways with the UK, in response to which London isn’t sending soldiers to eliminate the Scottish Nationalist Party.

In the three examples Nizamani cites, many people seem to appreciate that the nation-state deserves to be nothing more than an organising, administrative principle. But how do we make Southasian people realise as much?

Aql ke madrase se uth, ishq ke maiqaday mein aa – Rise from the seminary of the mind, come into the tavern of love – wrote Sufi pir and poet Shah Niaz. The most powerful rendition I have heard of those words is by the Karachi-based qawwals Fareed Ayaz and Abu Mohammed. Arguably the best qawwals alive, they hail from Indian Hyderabad but have traditional roots in Delhi. When I met Fareed Ayaz in Delhi some months ago, he knew Old Delhi better than I did. Since he was 12 years old, he has visited India every year, often several times a year, except for years of war. Such is the spell-binding power of their music that it melts the barriers between India and Pakistan. “What is Sufism?” Fareed Ayaz asked me, before answering, “It is nothing but the love of humanity.”

Aql ke madrase se uth, ishq ke maiqaday mein aa – as I hear them sing these words and explain their import, their message strikes me as the best answer to our great problem. Our minds are conditioned to think of our nations as maps and flags rather than collections of actual people. If only we can love humanity rather than maps, we’d all be much happier. 

What would be the implications of acting out of love rather than the dictates of the nationalistic mind? Solutions that seem fantastical – open borders, shared sovereignty, trade-driven integration, regional autonomy – will suddenly begin to seem possible and real if we can put our love of humanity above our love of abstract nationalism. This is not about creating an Akhand Bharat (‘Greater India’) but about the Akhand World we have divided with cartography and nationalist myth-making.


* Shivam Vij is a writer and journalist based in Delhi. He is @DilliDurAst on Twitter. This essay is dedicated to Ilmana Fasih, an ‘Indian Pakistani’. This was first published in Himal Southasian on 19 June 2012.

Click to Read Part I

Click to Read Part II

QR Code

QR Code








We provide advertisers access to one of the largest and emerging South Asian markets.


Our goal is to be a comprehensive source of news and views on South Asia, India and Canada.


Since July 2001, South Asian Outlok Publisher and Columnists have been honoured for their work.

2008     2005   2004

Find us on linkedin
Follow Us