National Integration: Its Meaning and Importance
Before we begin a discussion on national integration, it will be better to understand its meaning. This term has two words: nation and integration. What do we mean by the term nation? A nation is a country with a unified socio-economic and political structure. It denotes a body of people who have a feeling of oneness, built on the basis of common history, society, culture and values. This feeling of oneness binds the people together in to a nation. In general terms it is this feeling which is known as national integration. National integration is the awareness of a common identity amongst the citizens of a country. It means that though the individuals belong to different communities, castes, religions, cultures and regions and speak different languages, all of them recognize the fact that they are one. This kind of integration is very important in the building of a strong and prosperous nation.
As we all know, India is a nation having great diversities. The people who inhabit this nation belong to different races, communities, and castes. They reside in different geographical regions and speak different languages. They believe in and practice different religions and have varied lifestyles. But with all these diversities, they all are Indians and they feel like that. They may have many religious identities such as Hindus, Muslims, Christians, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, or Zoroastrians. They may also be identified as Punjabis, Tamils, Malayalis, Bengalis, Manipuri, and so on, or South or North or North-East Indians. But their national identity is supreme.
National integration is essential for any nation with socio-cultural, religious, linguistic and geographical diversities. And for a country like ours, it is still more necessary. As we know, India is a very large country. We have the second-largest population in the world. A unique feature of our country is that all the major religions of the world are practiced here such as Hinduism, Islam, Christianity, Buddhism, Sikhism, Jainism, and Zoroastrianism. Can you identify religions from the symbols shown in the illustration below? There are more than one thousand languages that people of India speak. There are also great varieties in costume, food habits, and social customs. Geographically, our land is diverse and there are amazing differences in climate. Despite all these differences, India is one political entity. We have to co-exist with each other peacefully, respect the culture and religion of our fellow Indians. This is possible only when national integration is realised in true sense of the term. National integration is necessary also for the security and development of the nation.
National Movement and National Integration
You may recollect occasions when you read or you were told that India existed even in ancient times. Yes, India which we see today has been there since ancient times. But then it had been only a geographical entity, because it was divided into a large number of princely states. There were cultural similarities in those states, but it was not one united and integrated nation like it is today. It was for the first time during the British rule that India became administratively united. The British rulers annexed several princely states and established indirect rule on others. India became one geographical entity, but the feeling and sentiments of nationhood was not present among the people. The major strategy of the British rulers was based on ‘divide and rule’. They promoted communal division, especially among Hindus and Muslims. Their neglect of economic development of the people created many divides in the country.
It was during the national freedom movement that the feelings and sentiments of nationhood emerged and the need for national integration was realized. During that movement people belonging to different regions, religions, cultures, communities, castes and creeds joined hands to drive out the British power from the soil of India. Especially under the banner of the Indian National Congress, established in 1885 people from all the sections came together and compelled the British rulers to quit India. Since the British rulers had adopted the policy of ‘divide and rule’, the freedom movement was focused on forging unity in the people of the country. The leadership of the movement laid emphasis on equality, liberty, secularism, socio-economic development. When India became independent all these formed the main objectives of the new nation.