Nationalism proved to be
very effective for the colonized people as it sparked up, in India, with the
start of World War 1, and in Southeast Asia with the growth of Western political and economic interest.
We hear about nationalism all the time, but I feel like not a lot of people
know what it means. Britannica defines it as “An ideology based on the premise that the individual’s
loyalty and devotion to the nation-state surpass other individual or group
interests.” (Kohn). Nationalism helps a group of people form a sense of unity
with each other, however, I think that nationalism could be a possible pathway
to war and violence. Nationalism played a large part amongst the colonized
people in India and Southeast Asia, and I hope to explore its impact on the
freedom of their homelands.

Let’s begin by discussing
the development of nationalism in India. Nationalism can be lightly traced back
to a rebellion called the Indian Mutiny in 1857. This mostly sparked from the
Sepoys refusing to use cartridges greased from pork or beef. According to our
document “The Indian Revolt”, “The overt ground of the general mutiny was offence to
caste feelings, given by the introduction into the army of certain cartridges
said to have been prepared with hog’s lard and cow’s fat. The men must bite off
the ends of these cartridges; so the Mahometans are defiled by the unclean
animal, and the Hindus by the contact of the dead cow.” (Hazewell). Many argue
if this was truly an act of rebellion, but I think that this was a nationalist rebellion
because the Sepoys rebelled because they were responding to an ignorance to
their culture and cultural values.

However, Indian nationalism
truly rose to prominence with the beginning of the first World War. Many
Indians decided to enroll in the British Army with the British promising that
they would allow India to self-govern itself. However, the British had no
intention of keeping this promise towards the Indians so when the Indians
returned home from war and didn’t see their promise fulfilled, things didn’t go
so smoothly. This led the Indians to react with violence, and the British to
create something called the Rowlatt Act which allowed protesters to be jailed.
Unified by this unlawful Act, many Indians gathered to protest, where the
British Army was given the order to open fire on the crowd, killing hundreds of
Indians. The gathering of Indians is viewed as an act of nationalism. The
British were not prepared for the unity of the Indians during this protest. “News
of the slaughter, called the Amritsar Massacre, sparked an explosion of anger
across India. Almost overnight, millions of Indians changed from loyal British
subjects into nationalists.” (Beck 454). This massacre truly made Indians
realize that they were fighting for their beliefs and their homeland.

Now the stage has been set for Mahatma Gandhi. Gandhi was
an incredibly figure for the nationalist movement in India. He unified Indian
men and women to stand for what they believe in without shedding a single drop
of blood. Gandhi preached that non-violent protesting is the only way to get
your point across. He stated, “I wanted to
avoid violence. Non-violence is the first article of my faith. It is also the
last article of my creed. But I had to make my choice. I had either to submit
to a system which I considered had done an irreparable harm to my country, or
incur the risk of the mad fury of my people bursting forth when they understood
the truth from my lips.” (Statement). His ideology amassed him millions of
believers and followers. Gandhi had a plan to weaken the British’s control over
India. “Gandhi
called on Indians to refuse to buy British goods, attend government schools,
pay British taxes, or vote in elections. Gandhi staged a successful boycott of
British cloth, a source of wealth for the British.” (Beck 455). His
boycotts weakened the British economy tremendously. In addition to boycotts, he
also promoted strikes and demonstrations. These also delivered a blow to the
British economy as well because it prevented trains and other means of supplies
from running. The British arrested many protesters, which only led to a bigger
response from the nationalist Indians.

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Arguably one of the largest displays of Indian
nationalism was at Salt March in 1930. Gandhi sent a letter with a wide-range
of demands and the idea that everyone in Indian society could identify with
them and become unified. (Kumar). Gandhi and his followers marched hundreds of
miles in unity as a sign of devotion to their cause and beliefs. Those in the
march were brutally beaten yet they kept marching. The world watched the Salt
March, and as a result, Gandhi won worldwide support for his cause. Before his
march, Gandhi had this to say, “I have faith
in the righteousness of our cause and the purity of our weapons. And where the
means are clean, there God is undoubtedly present with His blessings.” (Gandhi).
This statement perfectly embodies the nationalist movement and what he was
trying to convey with his march.

The last big push by the Indian nationalists
was the Quit India Movement. This was a movement that began in 1942 during
World War 2. The Indian Congress Committee, under the urging of Gandhi, called
for a British withdrawal. (Pariona). “Formed in
1885, the Indian National Congress dominated the Indian movement for
independence from Great Britain.” (Britannica). This
committee played a strong part in the nationalist movement to get rid of
British control of India. In one of his speeches, Gandhi outlines his
intentions for this movement. “Ours is not a drive for power, but purely a nonviolent
fight for India’s independence. In a violent struggle, a successful general has
been often known to effect a military coup and to set up a dictatorship. But
under the Congress scheme of things, essentially nonviolent as it is, there can
be no room for dictatorship.” (Quit India). At this point, the Indian
nationalists are finally ready to make the push for complete independence from
Britain. British officials arrested nearly everyone in the Indian National Congress,
and this set Indian into mass civil disobedience again. “‘The Quit India’ movement, more than anything, united
the Indian people against British rule. Although most demonstrations had been
suppressed by 1944, upon his release in 1944 Gandhi continued his
resistance and went on a 21-day fast. By the end of the Second
World War, Britain’s place in the world had changed dramatically and
the demand for independence could no longer be ignored.” (Making Britain). The
world had finally recognized India and at last, India finally gained Independence
from Britain.

Let’s not forget that
Southeast Asia also developed nationalism, and it was developed for a lot of
the same reasons as Indian nationalism was developed. Like India, a big
colonizer was the British, but there were also the French, Spanish, Dutch, and
Portuguese. These European powers wanted to expand, explore new markets and
trading routes, get raw material, and spread their culture and politics. “The
rise of modern nationalism in the region can be credited to capitalist
development, the availability of Western education, the adoption of vernacular
languages and the spread of the vernacular press.” (Vu). A lot of Southeast
Asian states were transformed into a modern nation state. A lot of small
nationalist groups formed a wanted to gain independence from their colonizing
power. We see this occur first in the Philippines and Burma. Due to the size of
Southeast Asia, it is hard to follow a specific nationalist movement, but one
could say that there were different types of movements such as communist,
political, or religious. The communists formed as a nationalist movement to
gain independence. “During this time, the Americans feared the expansion of
communism and thus, provided military assistance to the French in Vietnam,
However, in 1954, the French lost and they had to come to terms with the
communists. Indonesia is another country, which fought for its national
identity and gained independence from western imperialists.” (Development). This
movement helped the French realize that they really couldn’t maintain Vietnam,
just like the British finally realized they couldn’t maintain the Indians.
There were many other small nationalism movements and groups that were used in
order to push for the freedom of their homelands. Overall, you can draw a lot
of similarities between nationalism in India and Southeast Asia.

Without nationalism, none of
this would’ve been possible. Without it, India and Southeast Asia would have
just rolled over and shown their bellies to the European powers, and maybe even
to this day they could still be under foreign control. The idea of nationalism
gave these colonized people the idea to unify for a cause. And thankfully, these
nationalist movements in Southeast Asia and India gained a lot of followers
which helped with convey the message and power of their nationalistic cause. I
think that nationalism is effective because it employs a sense of pride and
identity. As an individual, you may not be able to make much of an impact, but
as a group, you can accomplish something as big as gaining your homeland’s


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