Nationalism proved to bevery effective for the colonized people as it sparked up, in India, with thestart 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 peopleknow what it means. Britannica defines it as “An ideology based on the premise that the individual’sloyalty and devotion to the nation-state surpass other individual or groupinterests.” (Kohn).
Nationalism helps a group of people form a sense of unitywith each other, however, I think that nationalism could be a possible pathwayto war and violence. Nationalism played a large part amongst the colonizedpeople in India and Southeast Asia, and I hope to explore its impact on thefreedom of their homelands.Let’s begin by discussingthe development of nationalism in India.
Nationalism can be lightly traced backto a rebellion called the Indian Mutiny in 1857. This mostly sparked from theSepoys refusing to use cartridges greased from pork or beef. According to ourdocument “The Indian Revolt”, “The overt ground of the general mutiny was offence tocaste feelings, given by the introduction into the army of certain cartridgessaid to have been prepared with hog’s lard and cow’s fat. The men must bite offthe ends of these cartridges; so the Mahometans are defiled by the uncleananimal, and the Hindus by the contact of the dead cow.” (Hazewell).
Many argueif this was truly an act of rebellion, but I think that this was a nationalist rebellionbecause the Sepoys rebelled because they were responding to an ignorance totheir culture and cultural values.However, Indian nationalismtruly rose to prominence with the beginning of the first World War. ManyIndians decided to enroll in the British Army with the British promising thatthey would allow India to self-govern itself. However, the British had nointention of keeping this promise towards the Indians so when the Indiansreturned home from war and didn’t see their promise fulfilled, things didn’t goso smoothly. This led the Indians to react with violence, and the British tocreate something called the Rowlatt Act which allowed protesters to be jailed.Unified by this unlawful Act, many Indians gathered to protest, where theBritish Army was given the order to open fire on the crowd, killing hundreds ofIndians.
The gathering of Indians is viewed as an act of nationalism. TheBritish were not prepared for the unity of the Indians during this protest. “Newsof the slaughter, called the Amritsar Massacre, sparked an explosion of angeracross India. Almost overnight, millions of Indians changed from loyal Britishsubjects into nationalists.” (Beck 454). This massacre truly made Indiansrealize that they were fighting for their beliefs and their homeland.Now the stage has been set for Mahatma Gandhi. Gandhi wasan incredibly figure for the nationalist movement in India.
He unified Indianmen and women to stand for what they believe in without shedding a single dropof blood. Gandhi preached that non-violent protesting is the only way to getyour point across. He stated, “I wanted toavoid violence. Non-violence is the first article of my faith.
It is also thelast article of my creed. But I had to make my choice. I had either to submitto a system which I considered had done an irreparable harm to my country, orincur the risk of the mad fury of my people bursting forth when they understoodthe truth from my lips.” (Statement). His ideology amassed him millions ofbelievers and followers. Gandhi had a plan to weaken the British’s control overIndia. “Gandhicalled on Indians to refuse to buy British goods, attend government schools,pay British taxes, or vote in elections. Gandhi staged a successful boycott ofBritish cloth, a source of wealth for the British.
” (Beck 455). Hisboycotts weakened the British economy tremendously. In addition to boycotts, healso promoted strikes and demonstrations. These also delivered a blow to theBritish economy as well because it prevented trains and other means of suppliesfrom running. The British arrested many protesters, which only led to a biggerresponse from the nationalist Indians. Arguably one of the largest displays of Indiannationalism was at Salt March in 1930.
Gandhi sent a letter with a wide-rangeof demands and the idea that everyone in Indian society could identify withthem and become unified. (Kumar). Gandhi and his followers marched hundreds ofmiles in unity as a sign of devotion to their cause and beliefs. Those in themarch were brutally beaten yet they kept marching. The world watched the SaltMarch, and as a result, Gandhi won worldwide support for his cause. Before hismarch, Gandhi had this to say, “I have faithin the righteousness of our cause and the purity of our weapons. And where themeans are clean, there God is undoubtedly present with His blessings.” (Gandhi).
This statement perfectly embodies the nationalist movement and what he wastrying to convey with his march.The last big push by the Indian nationalistswas the Quit India Movement. This was a movement that began in 1942 duringWorld War 2. The Indian Congress Committee, under the urging of Gandhi, calledfor a British withdrawal. (Pariona). “Formed in1885, the Indian National Congress dominated the Indian movement forindependence from Great Britain.
” (Britannica). Thiscommittee played a strong part in the nationalist movement to get rid ofBritish control of India. In one of his speeches, Gandhi outlines hisintentions for this movement. “Ours is not a drive for power, but purely a nonviolentfight for India’s independence. In a violent struggle, a successful general hasbeen often known to effect a military coup and to set up a dictatorship. Butunder the Congress scheme of things, essentially nonviolent as it is, there canbe no room for dictatorship.” (Quit India). At this point, the Indiannationalists are finally ready to make the push for complete independence fromBritain.
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, unitedthe Indian people against British rule. Although most demonstrations had beensuppressed by 1944, upon his release in 1944 Gandhi continued hisresistance and went on a 21-day fast. By the end of the SecondWorld War, Britain’s place in the world had changed dramatically andthe demand for independence could no longer be ignored.” (Making Britain). Theworld had finally recognized India and at last, India finally gained Independencefrom Britain.
Let’s not forget thatSoutheast Asia also developed nationalism, and it was developed for a lot ofthe same reasons as Indian nationalism was developed. Like India, a bigcolonizer was the British, but there were also the French, Spanish, Dutch, andPortuguese. These European powers wanted to expand, explore new markets andtrading routes, get raw material, and spread their culture and politics. “Therise of modern nationalism in the region can be credited to capitalistdevelopment, the availability of Western education, the adoption of vernacularlanguages and the spread of the vernacular press.” (Vu).
A lot of SoutheastAsian states were transformed into a modern nation state. A lot of smallnationalist groups formed a wanted to gain independence from their colonizingpower. We see this occur first in the Philippines and Burma.
Due to the size ofSoutheast Asia, it is hard to follow a specific nationalist movement, but onecould say that there were different types of movements such as communist,political, or religious. The communists formed as a nationalist movement togain independence. “During this time, the Americans feared the expansion ofcommunism and thus, provided military assistance to the French in Vietnam,However, in 1954, the French lost and they had to come to terms with thecommunists. Indonesia is another country, which fought for its nationalidentity and gained independence from western imperialists.” (Development).
Thismovement 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 inorder to push for the freedom of their homelands. Overall, you can draw a lotof similarities between nationalism in India and Southeast Asia.Without nationalism, none ofthis would’ve been possible. Without it, India and Southeast Asia would havejust rolled over and shown their bellies to the European powers, and maybe evento this day they could still be under foreign control. The idea of nationalismgave these colonized people the idea to unify for a cause.
And thankfully, thesenationalist movements in Southeast Asia and India gained a lot of followerswhich helped with convey the message and power of their nationalistic cause. Ithink that nationalism is effective because it employs a sense of pride andidentity. As an individual, you may not be able to make much of an impact, butas a group, you can accomplish something as big as gaining your homeland’sindependence.