Swarajya spoke to Siddhartha Verma, a student of public policy at Cambridge University and an Indian Civil Servant. Verma’s video of ‘schooling’ Congress leader Rahul Gandhi on his statement, “India is not a nation but a Union of States”, has gone viral.
On being asked the reason behind him questioning Rahul Gandhi’s interpretation of the Indian state, he said that he first heard the Congress MP making the statement when he was in London giving a talk at Bridge India event. As someone interested in the history of India and in the process of discovering his own cultural roots, Verma found Rahul Gandhi’s idea of India being an artificial political entity that came about only 75 years ago, extremely alien.
He wanted to understand the logic behind Rahul Gandhi’s statement and hence, he tried to put his point across during ‘India At 75’ talk at Cambridge.
Rahul Gandhi, in his response, reiterated that he believes in his idea of India being a union of states. Gandhi tried to end the debate by saying that both should be okay with each other’s way of thinking on the topic.
Verma further tried to explain to Rahul Gandhi how India is a quasi-federal state and not a federation like the United State of America. The negotiations that took place between the Centre and states, in India, were different from the nature of negotiations that took place in the U.S.
Verma says that Rahul Gandhi told the audience that he is privy to the negotiations that took place at the time of independence since his grandfather was a part of it.
During the entire episode, Verma found himself surrounded by voices of denial and was constantly interrupted while putting his point across. However, he said, he was overwhelmed to see voices on social media who agreed with him and subscribed to a much older identity of India, which it is.
According to Verma, a student of public policy, Rahul Gandhi’s idea about India is flawed, from both historical and constitutional points of view.
During the interview, he said, “The Preamble mentions the term ‘nation’…Indian Constitution is unitary in nature, unlike USA which is federal in nature.” Quoting the father of the Indian Constitution, Dr B.R. Ambedkar, he said that India is an indestructible union of destructible states. The Centre has the power to make new states, and alter boundaries. So, Rahul Gandhi’s idea does not hold water constitutionally.
Historically, he quoted several examples from history highlighting the idea of a ‘rashtra’ was intrinsic to the Indian civilisational ethos. He said, “Without the concept of a nation in mind, how could Adi Shankracharya establish four maths across the length and breadth of India? During India’s independence struggle, the revolutionaries fought British colonial power to free a nation and not a region. Even Congress named itself the Indian “National” Congress because it had people from all over the country under its fold.”
He added, “Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel had a great role to play in bringing so many princely states together, but he could only do it because the people of those princely states wanted to be part of India. The rulers of the princely state could not have gone against the will of the people.”
While elaborating on his statement, “Constitution does not make a nation, a nation makes a constitution”, which he had spoken during his interjection, Verma said, “there is something more than a political or legal document that binds the nation together. Nations should have a composite culture, a common social cultural ethos, and values. Since, as Indians, we have a common ethos and values which find their origin in the dharmic foundations of the country, it is the reason why we have thrived as a democratic republic, unlike other nations in the Indian subcontinent or other colonies that have struggled to maintain democratic values. To maintain it in future, it is necessary to base our values on a deeper sense of history.”
On being asked if he feels scared that his statement might open him to all kinds of attacks from Congress supporters and trolls, Verma said that his stand is not partisan or political. It is a fundamental belief of every Indian. It was important for him to counter Rahul Gandhi on his flawed understanding because “unless we challenge ideas, they start to proliferate and turn into something big. After that, it becomes difficult to counter them with facts.”
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