The Inclusive Nationalist

The Inclusive Nationalist

News: The article discusses Lala Lajpat Rai’s views on India’s nature of Indian polity and its country’s secular ethos.

Facts:

  • Lala Lajpat Rai was a national leader who championed ‘unity in diversity’
  • Lajpat Rai was an advocate of an assertive Hindu politics, exemplified by his participation in the Punjab Hindu Sabha in 1909 and Hindu Mahasabha in the mid-1920s.
  • But his vision of Hindu politics was very different from the exclusivist Hindu nationalism.
  • In 1915, he proclaimed that “religious nationalism” was a “false idea”, embodying a “narrow sectarianism” which could never be “truly national”.
  • For him religion was a matter of individual faith which must not interfere with the common civil life of the country.
  • He pronounced that Indians, whether Hindu, Muslim, Christian or Parsi, were a common race. Indian Muslims were descendants of the Aryan race who had merely converted to Islam and they continue to be influenced by their ancestral Aryan-Hindu culture.
  • He talked of a larger distinctive Indian culture that consists of India’s diverse peoples, emphasising “Unity in Diversity”.
  • For Lajpat Rai, Akbar was a role model whose memory ought to inspire Hindus and Muslims in building nation’s future by combining not just the best of the two cultures, but also the best of Western culture.
  • He favoured a heterogenous culture for India as ‘one religion and one tongue’ would be a revival of the medieval idea of one empire, one people, one church.

Even after Lajpat Rai turned to the Hindu Mahasabha for numerous complicated reasons, he never renounced his commitment to India’s religio-cultural diversity.

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