Social Scientist. v 23, no. 263-65 (April-June 1995) p. 69.

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Indian Nationalism 1885 -1905: An Overview

Historiogaphy on nationalism in the period 1885-1905 often tends to view its development in terms of clear-cut categories within a linear scheme of social and political issues. Hence one finds the preponderance of categories like modern-traditional, reform-revival, pro-British/loyalist-nationalist, etc., all of which are used as binary opposites. However, the development of nationalism has never been so clear-cut and well-defined. On the contrary, the intricacies, complexities and ambiguities in the social and political stands that the Indians took over the national question have often belied such sharp divisions. Elements of contradiction and ambivalence are seen to pervade contemporary attitudes, beliefs and values. The developing changes in social and political consciousness in the late nineteenth century colonial India, as in any period of transition, 'often betrayed uncertainty in the comprehension and interpretation of the true nature of the forces that were dictating such changes'. It is with reference to the whole corpus of such deviations and slides, the intended and the sotnewhat unintended moves, suppressions, assertions and evasions, and the collusions and collisions when faced with the national question that one can get a true picture of the various paths and trajectories that nationalism traced. Such shifts and slides were not accidental, but as we shall see, were demonstrative of the very historical logic of the process by which nationalism had to make its presence felt in India.1

Nationalism was not a given category, as many nationalist historians would have us believe. It is not enough to study nationalism simply'in terms of theoretical models derived from the West, or by equating it solely with anti-imperialism. In fact, Indian nationalism emerged out of contested visions involving a whole context of strands, conflicts, combinations and permutations among many imaginations which evolved over time. Since the physical boundaries of India were more or less accepted from early nineteenth century, the central question that involved the nationalists in the period under discussion and later, was 1iow to constitute the nation within this general boundary'. Nationalisthistoriography which takes the Indian nation as given and assumes that leaders like Gandhi and others awakened the sense of the suppressed nation - which after the removal of the alien power was represented by the nation state - tends to adopt an approach which takes away the evolutionary complexities of Indian nationalism. Similarly the Cambridge school, deriving

* Indian Administrative Service, CEO, Jagdalpur, Bastar (M.P.).

Social Scientist, Vol. 23, Nos. 4-6, April-June W5

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