MS University’s Tagore chair public lecture series organised by the Faculty of Arts was revived after ten years on Thursday with a lecture by political theorist and Professor Bhikhu Parikh on ‘Tagore Critique of Nationalism’.
In his address, Parikh laid stressed on how Tagore criticised the idea of nationalism at a time when nationalistic movement had just arrived in India. “Three people made immense contribution in the making of modern India, Gandhi, Nehru and Tagore. We look at Tagore in the realm of culture where he called the Indian culture synthetic and composite. He criticised the nationalism and called it an evil epidemic because he said that nationalism was associated with other things like capitalism, military conquest, imperialism, pursuit of self-interest and others,” said Parikh.
Talking about Tagore’s idea of nationalism, Parikh remarked that Tagore considered that nationalism led to replacing the reality made up of the people of a nation by an abstraction of the nation itself. “The nation is an abstraction, is what Tagore said. He said while we have to talk about the people of a country, we talk about the country.
The people of India become India. This abstraction is also replicated again in the roles of the individual citizens. A man with many capabilities and capacities is reduced to a man with a single role. Nation is an organisation where human beings are reduced to outcomes of abstraction.” Through Tagore’s critique of nationalism, Parikh stated “a country is not given, it is gained”. He also put forth his criticism of Tagore’s critique by saying that despite Tagore criticising the idea of nationalism, his view of India was also a view of a nationalistic person. Parikh added, “Tagore would have never understood anti-national.”
Parikh is a Padma Bhushan awardee, member of the Britain’s House of Lord and a former vice-chancellor of the MS University of Baroda.