Thursday, 17 April 2014
India, Being Indian, Elections, And Being Hindu
This is the third article in the reality series...
We are, as a nation, 67 years young today, with our tumultous years hopefully well behind us. We, as a nation, are just coming out of a very demanding period in our life-cycle, and stand at a very critical juncture. As we head into these elections, we stand at a vital junction in our life-cycle. The rise, rise and rise of Narendra Modi has done one thing for certain : it has, yet again, exposed our weak underbelly; once again, we as a people stand stripped naked in front of the Whole Wide World. We stand stripped, and desnuded of all our pretentions, and our grandiose statement of focussing on the issues that matter.
In its place, we are seeing a sorry and sad spectacle that will no doubt be infintely saddening to The Foundng Fathers Of Our Nation. Yet again, the public discourse has shifted - and shifted decisively - from issues, problems and solutions onto the more mundane, pointless but infinitely more dangerous discourse around Religion, Personalities, Finger-Pointing and grand-standing. The problems - and how they will be solved - have all but dissappeared into the background noise. Please note that I am referring to the People Of India, and the voice on the street - and not political parties. Not yet, anyway. Not in this post.
Yet again, we are faced with a sad and depressing spectre of even the educated Indian focussing more on personalities and/or religion; hardly anyone I know has been willing to discuss the real problems, and their solutions - and who can deliver the said solutions. Almost always, it is always Mr XYZ ABC will deliver the goods - without any serious analysis or thought. On pure faith, and faith alone. Faith is fine; but this continued unwillingness to discuss the real issues and their solutions is a seroius cause of concern. What is even more worrisome is the admixture of partisan politics, religion and extraneous matters into this already dangerous potpourri.
Instead of asking solutions, we are analysing vote-banks; instead of looking at education, health etc we are look at the Muslim Vote; or the Hindu Vote; or the Dalit Vote; or the Brahmin Vote. Nothing has changed. This is not what The Mahatma, Jawaharlal Nehru and others set out to do. This is not what they lived and died for. This is not what they had strived for, This is not what they deserve. This might be what we deserve - judging from our frankly largely partisan, chauvinistic views; but this is certainly not what they deserve. The nation stands divided along caste and religious lines; the lines of religion and division are getting even more deeply etched into stone in our national psyche. The increasing hardline views of the population as is evident from street is now in danger of becoming a deep fault-line... At this point, it is important that we take a look at some of the statements of our Founding Fathers and Some Famous Indians
The Ganga, especially, is the river of India, beloved of her people, round which are intertwined her racial memories, her hopes and her hears, her songs of triumph, her victories ahd her defeats. She has been a symbol of India's age-clong culture and civilization, ever-changing, ever-flowing, and yet ever the same Ganga. She reminds me of the snow-covered peaks, and the deep valleys of The Himalayas, which I loved so much, and of the rich and vast plains below, where my life and work have been cast. Smiling and dancing in the morning sunlight, and dark and gloomy and full of mystery as the evening shadows fall, a narrow, slow and graceful stream in winter and a vast roaring thing during the monsoon, broad-bosomed almost as the sea, and with something of the sea's power to destroy; the Ganga has always been to me a symbol and a memory of the past of India, running into the present, and flowing onto the great ocean of the future.
And though I have discarded much of past tradition and customs, and am anxious that India should rid herself of all shackles that bind and constrain and divide her people.... I do not wish to cut myself off from the past completely. I am mproud of that great inheritance that has been, and is, ours , and am conscious that I too, like all of us, am a link in that unbroken chain which goes back to the dawn of history in the immemorial past of India - Jawaharlal Nehru
I am proud to belong to a religion which has taught the world tolerance and univerasal acceptance. I am proud to belong to a nation which has sheltered th persecuted and the refugees of all religions and all nations of the earth... Unity in variety is the plan of nature, and The Hindu has recognied it. The Hindus have discovered that the absolute can only be realised or thought of, or stated through the relative and the image, crosses, crescents are simple so many symbols - so many pegs to hand spiritual ideas on. The Hindus have their faults, but mark this - they are always for punishing their own bodies, and never for cutting the throats of their neighbours. - Swami Vivekanad, Chicago, 1893.
One look at the landscape of India today, in April 2014, is enough to convince anyone as to how far we as a people have gone from Nehruji's ideals; and how very, very far we as a people have moved from Swamiji's statements. I accept a lot has happened since the time of these 2 one a Legend and one a Great Souls, but this this mean that we move away so totally from the unity that once defined India? These divisions - Hindu / Muslim, Dalit/OBC/Brahmin - how is it that these are so deeply etched into our psyche now? Is deepening division the answer to ills of the past? Time to face the reality; it isnt the anwer. And time for some deep introspection into what we have become as a people...
In the words of Amartya Sen, The neglect of the Hindu Leaders of the major achievements of Indian Civilization, even the distinctly Hindu contributions, in favor of its more dubious features. Not for them the sophistication of the Upanishads, or the Gita, or Brahmagupt, or Sankar, or Kalidas, or Sudrak.... their nationalism ignores the rationalist traditions of India, a country in which some of the earliest steps in Algebra, Gemotry, Astronomy were made, where early philosophy - secular as well as religious - achieved exceptional sophistication...
Come to think of it, how many of us do indeed think of these things? What do we associate our religion with? The sophistication of thought, and the way of life it contains, or... This is a question that can only be answered by each reader for himself or herself. I for one, would like to believe that we Hindus all believe in the above, and not what Amartya Sen is insinuating. But if we dont, if anyone of us doesnt, please consider : what is Hinduism? And what is India? What defines an Indian? What makes us special?