18 February 2016, Gopal Guru delivered a lecture on ‘What is the Nation?’ to kick start the lecture series on nationalism. The talk took place at the Pink Palace as part of JNUSU-JNUTA led students’ protest against the arrest of Kanhaiya Kumar and sedition charges against 8 students from the University.
Gopal Guru started his lecture by distinguishing between an emotional and argumentative basis of response to nationalism. He prioritised the argumentative basis over an emotional one as it is well-reasoned and profound. He went on to say —“People are being misled! Can you define nation by constructing an ‘other’…An enemy as devilish and dangerous?”

Nation, to him is based on aspirations and promises— Aspirations of the people and the nation’s promise to its people. The aspiration is to bring India together by eliminating the division of Bahishkrit and Parishkrit India. The constitution embodies these aspirations hence there is a close connection between the nation and the constitution. He went on to discuss, distinguish and link state, nation and government. He talked about Ambedkar’s graded sovereignties and symbolism of Bharat Mata in depicting what nationalism is. Guru proposed an alternate symbolism of the ‘Chakra’, derived from the Asoka Chakra as a symbol of Samata or egalitarianism.
“We’re an argumentative collective, not an emotional collective. You are an argumentative being, there is no pressing urgency for slogans.”— Professor Guru emphasised.

“The state has become more prominent than the nation. People are defining nation as per their convenience. The inability of the bureaucracy and the civil society to respond to the aspirations of the nation has led to the tension between nation and state. State is the essence; government is just a manifestation of the state. We need an assertive notion of the state. We need to interrogate— how has nation redefined and reshaped our life, how has the quality of life been as part of a nation. Nation is an initial condition, not an absolute condition. And it is not to be placed at the same level as humanity.”— Professor Gopal Guru concluded.

Professor Janaki Nair from CHS who had inaugurated the lecture series interpreted the nation as ‘a possibility’ based on Professor Guru’s lecture. According to her, Guru discussed constitutional nationalism and differentiated between ‘good’ and ‘bad’ nationalism.


Picture sourced from The Indian Express

The entire lecture can be watched here https://m.youtube.com/watch?feature=youtu.be&v=DLT92ve1DVI

Aakanksha D’Cruz is a student at CPS and works for The Informer.


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