The idea of India
Eternal truth battles flummery and alien ideologies in the coming election.
Pondicherry: I am not really interested in writing about politics. Nor am I knowledgeable. I haven’t read or thought or understood enough to offer a reasonable view or mildly informed opinion. I don’t watch news channels so I am unaware of the everyday misconduct of political parties. Newspapers I read seldom and cursorily at that. But I do try to read more widely than what is ideologically promoted by one or the other newspaper. It doesn’t matter which you subscribe. In different degrees, they are all sold out.
Nevertheless, I have a few personal observations to make, which may mean little in the marketplace of political commentaries and expert opinion, but carry some small significance for me. To my mind, the coming elections are of great import for the future of Indian democracy and, critically, the nation’s self-discovery and self-becoming.
Elections 2014, as I see it, will have three competing ideas of India at fierce interplay:
One idea of India is entirely based on its physical geography and people and opposed to the “One Land and One People” concept. India is divided into parts, each with their particular set of political, economic and social (perhaps in that order) units, which impact on their vote-bank-worthiness, and determine their consequent categorization as winnable or otherwise. This idea views people in similar fashion -- divided by their multiple identities of language, caste, religion, economic status and so forth -- and selects groups to be silenced with crumbs for at least five years. Some adherents appease groups for political mileage while others genuflect to tottering millenarian ideologies. Indians are discouraged to look in the mirror as Indians first and all else besides. Nor does the idea cultivate healthy pride, love and dutifulness towards the motherland. How could it, when it dissuades people against self-uplift? It “saves” them with doles and abets a false sense of entitlement ... and more entitlement. It thrives on such dichotomies as ruler-ruled, us-them, this-that, rich-poor, capital-labour, Group A versus Group B; divisions that are aggravated and manufactured. Its beloved dichotomy is secular/ religious without understanding their meaning in the Indian cultural and philosophical contexts. Oneness in the Many is rejected as the Sacredness of the Physical Motherland. The idea of an Indian soul or Indian spirit is alien to this view in much the same way as its leading political proponents are alien to the country -- by birth or ideological affiliation, or by lacking knowledge of and interest in Indian cultural history.
The other idea of India is not an idea, representing a today-this-tomorrow-that mumbo-jumbo masquerading as vision. It is tawdry fashionability getting subordinate approval because of its soap-opera and pseudo-anarchic qualities. An idea-less view of India is so bereft of substance that by rights it ought to be swept away. Idea-lessness is perhaps more dangerous than Idea I because it militates against the spirit of India (despite the employment of nationalist imagery for television appeal). India has always believed in evolutionary change -- on the inside, at surface, and with individuals and society. The idea-less idea sells ersatz revolution. Real ones need bona fide revolutionaries. When grown people lavish an image of a broom for their idea of the future, need one say more about their cerebral station? (I read in the paper that another mob embraced the chappal. How low can it get?)
The third idea posits India’s self-discovery on the nation being seen with an inner eye. Its adherents cannot be swayed by superficiality but must look within for what makes and moves India. It acknowledges India’s rich diversity but as a phenomenon of Nature that abhors uniformity. Thriving on diverse forms, it simultaneously recognizes that this must struggle to find the deeper Unity and Oneness in spirit. India is greater than a physical landmass and inhabits a sacred geography powering a visible/ invisible unifying force. This idea concedes epidermal India is yet to shine but the glow of the eternal Indian soul cannot be long obscured. Adversities loom but are not beyond a decisive leadership. The idea urges Indians to work for themselves and not be passive recipients of government sops -- theirs or others. It impresses on them to reach the optimum of their potential and aid in national self-discovery. The Indian spirit is the ultimate truth of India, and Indians must discover and identifying with it. This idea of India discourages a dichotomous view of society and polity and promotes mutual fulfilment and harmony without appeasement. Rights and Duties are harmonized in the lofty ideal of Dharma, whose discovery is contingent upon the prior discovery of the dharma of a leader, of a citizen, a worker, a teacher, a student, a doctor, an engineer, a clerk, a manager, an officer, a soldier, an industrialist, a cleaner, an artist, an artisan, a mother, a child, a woman, a man: everyone who is an Indian. This idea of India, therefore, first asks you and me to discover ourselves.
Does Idea III currently exist as any political party’s foundational basis for India? I cannot be sure. Champions of ideas I and II indubitably are millions of miles removed from it. But, perhaps, there are others purveying an idea of India to the electorate that likely bears some resemblance to Idea III or at a minimum draws inspiration from it. Seek them, precious voters. For the truth of the idea to triumph though in all glory, its sympathizers must unambiguously join their political and ideological heft to it, abandon the venal residues of the trade, and ceaselessly persevere.
Editor’s note: Here’s wishing all our readers a very Happy Holi.