Historian Irfan Habib on Monday said the concept of the Indian nation was born from the freedom struggle and not from the Rig Veda. He was delivering the first of a series of lectures on Mahatma Gandhi, organised by Safdar Hashmi Memorial Trust at Constitution Club of India.
Speaking on ‘Gandhiji and the National Question’, Habib said it was important to discuss the concept of Indian nationalism as people these days were being told about a “totally false nationalism”. Describing Gandhi’s evolving ideas through the years, he said, “Isn’t it time to celebrate Gandhi?”
“A country becomes a nation only when there is a serious effort within the country to constitute it as a political entity,” he said. “This concept of nation goes back to relatively recent times, particularly the French Revolution of 1789… The concept of Indian nation has really originated from the freedom movement, it does not come from the Rig Veda like the RSS seeks to tell us.”
The historian said that Gandhi “was religious but not sectarian”, in that he “wanted education to be conducted by mullahs, parsi priests and brahmins”. But he also felt that “Hindus must give concessions to Muslims”.
“Gandhi’s religious position was totally different from Tilak’s. To him, Islam was as important in political matters as Hinduism,” said Habib.He also said Gandhi valued “truth over consistency”.