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  Mos t historians of Indian nationalism have argued that the Indian political nation, in a modern sense of the term, did not exist prior to the establishment of British rule. Whether or not such a nation lay unselfconsciously embedded in Indian civilisation and then gradu- ally evolved through history is a point that nationalist leaders and historians have incessantly debated over. Most recently, Prasenjit Duara has crtiqued such formulations as teleological model of Enlightenment Hi rory that gives the contested and contingent nation a false sense of unity.' There is, however, as of now, little dis- agreement that the Indian nationalism that confronted British impe- rialism in the nineteenth century, and celebrated its victory in the formation of the Indian nation-state in 194 7, was a product of colo- nial modernity (see chapter 3.1 for more discussion on this). As the self-professed mission of the colonisers was to elevate the colonised from their present state of decadence to a desired state of progress towards modernity, it became imperative for the latter to contest that stamp of backwardness and assert that they too were capable of uniting and ruling themselves within the structural framework of a modem state. So the challenge of nationalism in colonial India was twofold: to forge a national unity and to claim its right to self- determination. India has been a plural society, everyone agrees, with   various forms of diversity, such as region, language, religion, caste, ethnicity and so on. It was from this diversity that a nation [was] in making (sic), to use the phrase of Surendranath Banerjea, one of the earliest architects of this modem Indian nation. Agreeme nt among historians, however, stops here. How did the Indians actually imag- ine their nation is a matter of intense controversy and ongoing debate. At one end of the spectrum, Partha Chatterjee would argue that nationalism in India, which was assigned a privileged position by its Western educated political leadership, was a different , but a derivative discourse from the West.2 Ashis Nandy also thinks that Indian nationalism as a response to Western imperialism was like all such re pon e , haped by what it wa responding to . The alter- native version of univer alism rooted in Indian civilisation and pro- pounded by men like Rabindranath Tagore or Mahatma Gandhi- the counter-modernist critic[s] of the imperial West -was rejected by the Western educated middle-class India. While the alternative vision could unite India at a social rather than political level by accepting and creatively using difference, the Indian nationalists accepted the Western model of nation-stare as the defining principle of their nationalism.' C.A. Bayly (1998), on the other hand, has recently searched for the pre-history of nationalism . Indian nation-  alism he thinks, built on pre-existing sense of territoriality, a tradi- tional patriotism rationali ed by indigenous ideas of public morality and ethical government. But how those regional solidarities were consolidated into a broader cultural notion of India through their encounter with colonial rule and with each other is an issue of vigor- ous contestation. There were various influences and various contra- dictions in that process, variou levels and forms of consciousness. It is difficult ro construct a onc-dimen ional picture out of this virtual chaos. Yet, since a nation-stare was born, attempts have been made to reconstruct its biography. This does not of cour e mean that out- side this grand narrative of the evolution of main rream nationalism that asserted its dominance in the formation of the Indian nation state, there were no alternative narratives of envisioning the nation. The early nationalist school, as well as some of its later follower , while studying this process of nation-building, focused primarily on the supremacy of a nationalist ideology and a national consciousness to which all other forms of consciousness were assumed to have been subordinated. This awareness of nation was based on a com- monly shared antipathy towards colonial rule, a feeling of patrio- tism and an ideology rooted in a sense of pride in India's ancient  traditions. This school, in other words, ignored the inner conflicts within Indian society-which among other things, led to its division into two nation states- and assumed the existence of nation as a homogeneous entity with a single set of interests. In opposition to this, a new interpretation emerged in the Anglo-American academia and Rajat Ray has rather loosely labelled it as the neo traditional- ist school. 4 This new interpretation echoed the old imperialist assertion of authors like Valentine Chirol, that politicisation of Indian society developed along the lines of traditional social forma- tions, such as linguistic regions, castes or religious communities, rather than the modem categories of class or nation. The most im- portant catalysts of change in this context were the institutional innovations of the colonial state, notably the introduction of West- ern education and political representation. These new opportunities intersected with the traditional Indian social divisions and created a new status group-the Western-educated elite, which drew its mem- bers from the existing privileged indigenous collective , such as the bhadralok in Bengal, the Chitpavan Brahmans in Bombay or the Tamil Brahmans of Madras. The backward regions or the under- privileged groups that remained outside this limited political nation
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