Journal of Arts & Ideas, no. 14-15 (July-Dec 1987) p. 2.


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From the Editor

THE ANGLO-AMERICANS have got us used to the notion that India' means a state called the Union of India. The part of the world which was known as India and was a civilisational-cultural unity

has been renamed as South Asia or the Indian 'subcontinent'. The Americans prefer the former term so one can be certain that a cultural entity (i.e., India) will be reduced to a geographical one (i.e.. South Asia). This was unthinkable when the nationalist movement held sway in India. The days and the memories of the nationalist movement appear to be so distant that for many it is indeed difficult to believe that there was culture here which was shared by more diverse peoples than any other in the world and that they were proud of it. In a way the defeat at the hands of British imperialists made them aware of the need to define themselves. Mao Zedong had once said that it is useful to have an enemy. The Indian nationalist movement had an ememy. Perhaps for that very reason the Indian people asserted their identity and creativity at every level. The nineteenth century and the early years of the twentieth saw the dialectics of defeat in operation.

People are defeated but they cannot be defeated. Political subjugation by a foreign power was bound to lead (as everywhere else in Asia) the Indian people to assert their rights and their identity. We live in non-believing times, so that it is difficult for many people to believe that there was a nationalist, anti-imperialist movement in this country. Among some of our radical people a tendency of retrospectively reading the present into the past seems to have become popular. Some of them deny that there was a mainstream of the Indian nationalist movement. Colonialism has demaged our historical memory to such an extent that what could be legitimate nationalist concerns in any other society come to be branded as 'chauvinist' here. The Chinese, even the Cultural Revolutionaries, had no difficulty in seeing the role of Sun Yatsen in correct perspective. We seem to understand our Phules and Tilaks, Vivekanands and Gandhis, Narayan Gurus and Ranades wrong. Azads and Gaffar Khans are simply forgotten till they die or their birth centenaries are due. In these troubled times when Asian states and civilisations from Palestine to India are threatened, it is important to make the point how strong and volatile our anti-imperialism has been. Its vitality extended to the arts, theatre, music and literature. A vigorous anti-imperialism always reaches new cultural heights. Amikar Cabral has characterised national liberation as 'necessarily a cultural act'. This issue of the JAI examines various aspects of'national liberation as a cultural act' in India. There

2 Numbers 14-15


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