‘Tagore’s nationalism was inclusive and objective’

March 18th, 2009 - 2:50 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, March 18 (IANS) “Why Tagore?” a young mathematician asked Ramchandra Guha, referring to a newspaper column in which he had spoken of Rabindranath Tagore, Mahatma Gandhi, Jawaharlal Nehru and B.R. Ambedkar as the “four founders” of modern India. The author-commentator’s response was that “Tagore’s nationalism was inclusive and objective”.
“The nationalism that Tagore and Gandhi followed did not give privilege to any religion. It was inclusive and objective. I think Tagore and Gandhi had the privilege to examine moral power without political accountability,” Guha told a packed ampitheatre at the India Habitat Centre Tuesday night.

He was in conversation with Foreign Secretary Shivshankar Menon at the launch of “Nationalism” by Rabindranath Tagore, a Penguin modern classic imprint. The book, a comment on the internationalism and the country’s engagements with foreign powers, has a detailed foreword by Guha.

Guha said Tagore’s reputation, within India and outside it, suffered parochial possession of one province - Bengal. His poems, plays and novels were written in Bengali and set in Bengal, but in his non-fictions, letters, essays, talks and polemics, he wrote extensively on the relations between cultures and countries of the world.

Quoting litterateur Humayun Kabir, Guha said: “Tagore was an intellectual who went out on his cultural mission for restoring contacts and establishing friendships with people of other countries without any specific, educational, economic or religious aim unlike Nehru, whose travels were political. This gave his brand of nationalism an inclusiveness - he saw through the euphemisms.”

“Tagore could denounce the nation of the west, while acclaiming the spirit of the west. Europe had produced imperialism and militarism but also justice and liberty. One must resist the former but retain the later,” Guha said.

Menon said Nehru’s ideals of inclusive and a higher nationalism were inspired by Tagore.

“The governance of the 50s was based on this inclusive nationalism which was characterised by good values, liberty spirit of equality and knowledge that were drawn from Tagore’s ideology,” he said.

Countering Guha’s assertions that the Indian parochialism and obsession with domestic concerns like election was creeping into the larger policies, Menon said: “Foreign policy does not deepen parochialism, it helps open up. Nehru ensured that there was conviction in foreign policy and parochialisation of internal policies has not affected how our neighbours think of us”.

Tagore’s “Nationalism” is priced at Rs.199.

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