Prof. MSS Pandian of the Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi is presently a visiting faculty at the Centre for Comparative Literature, School of Humanities, University of Hyderabad. As part of the Silver Jubilee Celebration of the centre he is giving few talks. Today Prof. Pandian spoke on the “Violent Nationalisms” at the School of Humanities Auditorium, UoH.


During his talk Prof. Pandian spoke on how nation writes or creates its own ‘history’. He said that this is not the ‘past’ which happened but ‘ought to have happened’. He gave examples like how school textbooks especially of history and geography purposefully were re-written during 1960s. It’s more of ‘invented history’ or ‘stories’. He said education was under the state government but for the national cause the central government took it over. He said that the Indian national history is the Arian history. Later, he moved to the nation building and centralizing process of the country through cartography or map. He gave several examples and mentioned that there is always a crisis in terms of territory in India. Nations want marked and secure borders which work for the national integrity. He gave examples of Indo-China border which was marked during 1965. Here he referred to the Kargil border and the Kashmir issue.

Further, Prof. Pandian said that there was no ‘Indian territory’ as such before Independence as there were several princely states. He referred how people of Murshidabad, WB hoisted the Pakistani flag and people of Chittagong the Indian flag at the time of Independence. But while marking the border both went to opposite countries of their majority population and choices. Giving examples of water body between India and Pakistan and the chars (islands) between India and Bangladesh he said that idea of border is always incomplete. The nation concept also comes in contestation in India when few people talk of Buddhist past and few Vedic. Thus, all these are arbitrary formation, messy and incomplete.


Later, Prof. Pandian came to the language debate and stated how efforts of an ‘authentic’ and ‘national’ language has tried which lead its people to self-hate as they can’t participate in the national activities as compared to others. He also mentioned problems of religion, caste and so on. Thus all these contestations force its subjects to ‘prove’ to be ‘national’ especially in the case of Muslims. Further, nations involve into violence to control its people. But all these are unsuccessful projects and there can’t be one national identity or ‘ideal India’ as such as there are multiple identities. Even if the nations try to control the existing minor identities, new identities will always come up.

The talk was followed by fruitful discussion with the speaker.

Prof. Pandian is an alumnus of the Madras University. Prior to joining JNU he also taught at the Madras Institute of Development Studies. His areas of interests are Nationalism, Kashmir, Caste Movements, Tamil Cinema, Popular Culture and so on. He wrote many prominent articles and books and also the recipient of several fellowships, grants and honours.

In coming days Prof. Pandian will speak on many such issues. His next lecture is on 30-09-2013, 2.30 pm where he will speak on “Caste and Democracy: Three Paradoxes” at the New Seminar Hall, School of Social Sciences. This will be followed on 03-10-2013: “Theorising Nationalism: On Fanon and Renan” and on 04-10-2013: “Critiquing Nationalism: On Periyar and Tagore” both the days at 2:30 pm at the School of Humanities on the University campus.


By Abu Saleh, Research Scholar in the Centre for Comparative Literature