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Indrajit Borah
Date of Publish: 2017-01-24

Dr. Hiren Gohain, National Question and the Post-colonial India


Human life is not an innate process by itself, rather an integral part of a much bigger process. The contemporary guise in the public discourse is the intersecting point between the chronicling lines of the intellectual self and dominant socio-economic utility. The intellectual self of an individual is perpetual and the inherent expression of which reverberates the inner magnificence and fullness of life. Like, Dr. Hiren Gohain, thoroughly associated with the national question of Assam, is an esteem or perhaps enmity earned by impudence and sanity or a resolute being to endure humiliation of any kind. The cerebral province of Dr. Gohain has no bounds - he is cognizant enough to co-opt the precincts of deterministic analysis of society. The construal of the cultural idiosyncrasy in the social life of Assam is his dexterous analytical contrivance. On the other hand, the iterative process in the equation formulation between the legitimized reign of the socio-economic forces and befitting political narratives climaxes as the chronicling line of the socio-economic utility. Likewise, in contemporary developing societies, the planning for collective intervention or relative non-intervention cannot be impeccably quarantined from the prevailing socio-economic excesses amid avowed progressive and domineering line in the political discourse. At such a juncture, Dr. Hiren Gohain has also been the victim of an atmosphere cynical of the active intellectuals in the realm of contemporary India. However, sometimes, far away from the intellectual self, the reactionary defense in prioritizing the ideological affinity over even the ideology itself confines the progressive perspective of an ideological debate to the statist hegemony. Unquestionably, under the enormous breach between avowed progressive thought and translating that into collective accomplishment, the authoritarian vested interests slump the very rationales of public action.

The Social Science study without independent and methodological analysis is futile. Accordingly, history is no longer mono-causal but multifaceted academic methodology to include social and economic structures of society. Likewise, varying ideological trails have emerged in hypothesizing the comprehensive human intervention based on the understanding of the past and present. Professor Ashis Nandy describes Marxian theories of social structure is too mechanistic a model even if it has its own standing in historical prudence and have to be seriously debated whether one admits it or not. Historian Ramachandra Guha calls Marxist historiography, a valid, oversimplified and objective model of intellectual enquiry, albeit one which — with its insistence on materialist explanations — is of limited use when examining the role of culture and ideas, the influence of nature and natural processes, and the exercise of power and authority. In spite of these limitations yet to be fully addressed, the historical materialism could bequeath at least a methodological input to Social Science study. Likewise, the historical significance of different ideological imprints is different stages of social transformation and at the same time, the perpetual limitations of collective human intervention in the real world can never be repudiated.

The unitary narrative of nationalism insists on the primacy of national identity over identities built on subnational cultural allegiances like religions, castes, sects, linguistic affiliations, and ethnicities. As per Professor Ashis Nandy, as a general rule, nationalism fears other identities as potential rivals and subversive presences. Conversely, the cultural assimilation in social life is historically a dynamic process and it can not be inflicted administratively like an ordinance. Beyond the inexorable statist adjunct of nationalism, the impending conflict between the individualistic or communitarian aspirations and unitary narrative of nationalism has widely been prevalent in democratic societies. Whether overwhelmed by the mythology of conservatism, archetypically in post-colonial India, a dogma of exceptionalism awakened inseparably in the evolution of national consciousness among different communities within the constitutional nationalism. The hope for the right to cultural otherness itself is nationalism or different sub-nationalisms which is also a universal manifestation. The significant aspect is that even within the egalitarian state system, the homogenization motive behind exceptionalism has opened up the conflict between the universal human rights and cultural rights. Since the cultural right has to be executed within the periphery of the objective necessity of collectivism, it is also undeniable that the equipoise between the historical process of cultural assimilation and cultural relativism can only be accomplished by the Universalist value of rights. Likewise, the national question of Assam is not limited to mere an administrative problem of the state machinery like illegal infiltration. The political manifestation of the national question in Assam is rooted in the evolution of middle class as part of the greater socio-economic transformation process in India.

The capitalistic development can augment the productive capacities of human society to levels unimaginable under feudalism. In case of the old colonial states like India, the historical barriers in the road to capital formation process have been formed either due to the inheritance of feudal wealth or the accumulation of neo-feudal wealth sustained by a bureaucratic system. At some point of time, the topical change in political narrative becomes obvious, when the capital formation gets accomplished with belittling the feudal wealth accumulation process. In this backdrop, whether in search of the alternatives to the constitutional nationalism or within its periphery, generous allure of an ultra-nationalistic proclivity has become irresistible in the contemporary political discourse. However, distinguishing the progressive elements ingrained in the socio-economic underpinning of such discourses is the biggest challenge for social scientists. In the meantime, whether due to the presence of feudal remains or the impulses of the enterprising market forces, the substantial inequity by the monopolistic growth of capital is also equally bewildering. 

Indeed, the capitalistic development in the industrialized world was initiated during the period of primitive feudal structure when these societies did not have democracy and civil liberties. Today, the reincarnation of such transition to industrialism through the primitive accumulation is not possible in the old colonial states like India. Whereas, even in the western democracies, the democratic institutions through state intervention in “demand management” could sustain significant levels of employment, investment, output and productivity, and thereby trim off typical accumulation under capitalistic development. So, the Golden Age of Capitalism is nothing but the moderation overwhelmed with the democratic voices against the primitive motives for accumulation. However, such historical chronology in the west makes it certain that within the democratic institutions of independent India, the capitalistic development through a compromising formulation namely mixed economy had historically been an unchartered path. Even the established capitalists’ consent on such a compromising formula through historical Bombay Plan is similarly ironic. On the eve of achieving complete Jamindary abolition phase of the land reforms within few years after independence, tumbling political charm of conservative Swatantra Party is plausible. In the face of revolutionary policies like Nehru’s land reforms, the left politics had also considerably lost its vigor and alternative political space. Actually, there was no stout alternative to compete with the consensual mixed economy.

Just by analogizing the western chronology of capitalistic development, today, we cannot retrieve our primitive feudal structure within the realm of democratic society. Besides, the centuries of colonial rule could make us realize the savagery of imperialism. Unsurprisingly, the fear psychosis apprehensive of the capitalistic malice overwhelmed to the extent of our intellectual domain. Conversely, if the capitalistic development is a historical inevitability, then what are the aftermaths of the alternative reigns just because of the fear psychosis? As a definite consequence, the neo-feudal class formed just after Jamindary abolition became a major socio-economic force. The closed equation of mixed economy was utilized even by the established capitalists and ironically became the impediments to the capital formation process. The feudal and the neo-feudal elements of the society could influence the bureaucratic system so as to secure the accumulation of feudal wealth. In this process, the populist and election-centric plans prepared only to sustain the bureaucratic system could overturn suitable reforms in the system. Concomitantly, the devaluation of institutional propriety agonized the downtrodden, common citizens and even the middle class of the country. Hence, the cultural conservatism and post-imperial statist alternative to capitalistic development – both are detrimental to capital formation in reality. Even if for a brief term, the neo-feudal formation in post-colonial India could halt the inevitable capitalistic development, which is a historical challenge for any conservative feudal structure. As part of post-colonial India, under the bureaucratized public money driven underdevelopment, the economic aspect of the national question of Assam was completely neglected. In the face of inequity in the central planning, the obstacles to the development of indigenous capital of Assam were not even recognized.

The middle classes ideally adore nationalism but also begin to see it as a needless constraint on the pursuit of individual self-interest. In such a state of impulsiveness, the individualistic arguments become influential in the face of ineffective collectivism in practice, which often theorize corollaries to prevailing realm. Predictably, amid primitive sufferings under the anarchical administrative system also, an enterprising middle class could successfully develop capital and the authoritarian legacy of feudal or neo-feudal wealth could be challenged. And, the legitimization of the ensuing socio-economics forces is part of the political process. In the offshoot of neo-feudal authoritarian elements, the contemporary political narratives of romanticism to imbibe the feudal inheritance replicate the changing state of the socio-economic equation. It can be clearly understood that such capitalistic development must be a progressive element as per Marxian interpretation as well. The neo-feudal alternative formulations in the parliamentary democracy are certainly not progressive. The answer to the romanticism of conservative feudal elements is certainly not the neo-feudal bureaucratic system. Indisputably, the revivalist trend cannot reverse the historical path and get back the perceived golden days, likewise cutting short of the historical path sidestepping the capitalistic development cannot bestow us with any egalitarian system. Because, the contrarian forces of the capitalistic outcomes are buried in the process of development itself. We cannot have any other powerful means in this struggle except the institutional accomplishment of democracy.  

Indeed, the national question is the most perplexing subject in Social Science. Over the years, the political dilemma on the national question at the very core of Marxian philosophy has ended up with mere disapproval of ultra-nationalist tendencies instead of devoting towards a decisive alternative to it. The insurmountable intellectual province hegemonized by Dr. Hiren Gohain has already captivated the national question of Assam. There can be no second thought that unless the vicious cycle of underdevelopment is resolved, it is impossible to address the national question. However, the populist growth plans that gone astray in the governmental superstructure in post-colonial India have also fueled national consciousness. Thus, the vicissitudes are imminent in the path of progress, even if these are transitory manifestations of the very dynamics of socio-economic forces. The historical significance of the national question, even if arisen in the middle class consciousness out of the quandaries imposed by the infiltration issue, will certainly be there to stay.

Indrajit Borah

( Indrajit Borah is a freelance writer based in Delhi. He takes special interest in public policy analysis. He can be reached at indrajitborah@yahoo.co.in. The views expressed are the author's own )


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