A turning point by Girilal Jain

Today’s is no ordinary Republic Day. It fol­lows a turning point in India’s history as momentous as achievement of Independence on August 15, 1947; a turning point, it should be noted, is not necess­arily a break. Independence itself was not a break from the past except inasmuch as leadership of modern India passed fully into Indian hands in every walk of life. Indeed that change too had been in making for decades. Indians had been moving up the ladder in the professions, ser­vices, trade and industry.

India would have been inde­pendent even if Mahatma Gandhi had not launched the Quit India movement. Britain stood ex­hausted at the end of World War II and had lost both the will and the capacity to maintain the empire. The process had begun with World War I which would explain partly the moves to concede self-government in India and efforts to appease Hitler.

Independence, as we know, was accompanied by Partition and a bloodbath. This clouded the perspective of many of us because under the influence of the British and the Mahatma we had persuaded ourselves that a change, in order to be beneficent, must be orderly and peaceful, which it seldom is. The vivisec­tion of Mother India, though painful, had become inevitable on account of the Muslim League’s intransigence backed by a Muslim upsurge and had a positive aspect. But for partition India would in all probability have witnessed a prolonged civil conflict which, as in the wake of the decline of the Moghul empire, could have led at once to the country’s fragmentation.

The present turning point has not been accompanied or followed by too much disorder or bloodshed. Though that has unhinged the dominant Westernized elite in control of the media and academia, it may hopefully not be too long before the cloud of misunderstanding and misappre­hension lifts and the reality comes to be seen in its true shape and perspective. In fact, that is already happening.

One indication of it is that spokesmen of the CP1(M) and the CPI have felt obliged to quote Swami Vivekananda, one of the master architects of Hindu resurgence, in order to rebut what they call the RSS-BJP view of Hinduism. The quotations are selective and torn out of context. But it is significant that they quote Vivekananda and not Karl Marx, Engels, Lenin, Stalin and Mao Zedong, as before. Hinduism has ceased to be an opiate of the people. The CPI(M) is also trying to own up Netaji Subhas Bose, a fascist in its earlier view, and Vande Mataram.

Just as India would have be­come independent even if there had been no Quit India movement, the Hindu assertion would have taken place even if the RSS-BJP-backed VHP had not launched the movement for the construction of the Ram temple at the Ram Janambhoomi site in Ayodhya. History has been mov­ing in that direction. Two points may be made in this regard.

First, Hindu renewal and as­sertion has been the most signifi­cant fact of the Indian scene since early 19th century; that was the logic of the demise of Muslim power, Moghul and post-Moghul; Independence was an expression of that renewal and assertion; Partition helped under­score and strengthen this fact; post-Partition independent India could not but be Hindu India whatever the description.

Secondly, just as the weakening of the British imperial power was to pave the way for the rise of the Indian National Congress, the decay of the Nehru order has to lead to the rise of a new ruling party. The freedom move­ment helped shape the Congress into a suitable instrument for governance of India. The move­ment for the Ram Temple and its offshoot will, hopefully, perform the same role in respect of the proponents of Hindutva.

The fact that the Nehru order was under strain since the Chin­ese attack in l962 and in visible decline in recent years is seldom recalled in the public discourse on the Ram temple issue. But that only shows how lopsided the discourse is.

The Chinese attack knocked down two myths – one, that communist states do not commit aggression which is supposed to be the peculiarity of imperialism, and, two, that the policy of peaceful co-existence could help avoid the need for military preparedness. If it were not for the bitter dispute between the Soviet Union and China, which obliged Moscow to befriend New Delhi, it would have put paid to the policy of nonalignment as such. That, however, only post­poned the demise. It materialized last year when the Soviet Union itself disintegrated.

Nehruvian socialism has been in deep trouble for quarter of a century. By 1967, it was obvious except to Marxists and fellow travellers that all that it had done was to have spawned a regime of corruption, slowed down econ­omic growth, degraded the coun­try’s public life and generated enormous tension in society.

The pursuit of these two policies has been a reflection of the partial nature of the Hindu recovery. A more confident Hindu psyche would never have spurned the US offer of cooperation and embraced the illusion of friend­ship with China in occupation of Tibet and allowed Pakistan to seek military parity with, if not superiority over, this country. Similarly, such a psyche would never have reconciled itself to an economic philosophy which would stunt the growth of the agricultural as well as the business community.

The bias among the elite against the business community has gen­erally been attributed to British Fabianism. It has deeper roofs in the Moghul-Nawabi culture. May I add that in the Ottoman empire, trade was so despised by the rulers that only minorities such as the Greeks and Jews engaged in it. And, of course, it was an important factor in the decline and fall of the Ottomans.

This un-Hindu disregard for power, economic and military, and the illusory belief that social equity is possible in conditions of economic weakness is also the product of minds nurtured in the tradition of Chaitanya’s bhakti movement which Bankim Chandra Chatterjee criticised in Anandmath. It is not an accident either that this tradition among Hindus has weakened since inde­pendence as Hindus have grappl­ed with the problems of the state, as it weakened among the Sikhs when they battled the Moghuls and the Afghans, or that it is invoked by all those who swear by a ‘composite cul­ture’ and are alarmed at the reintroduction of the kshatriya element in the urban Hindu’s personality.

As for secularism, supposedly the third leg of the Nehruvian tripod, two points have to be made. The first is the usual one. Which is that Hinduism is tolerant and, therefore, secular. This is valid and it is sheer dishonesty or naivety to suggest, as is being widely suggested those days, that Hinduism can admit of theocracy. That is a Muslim privilege which no one else can appropriate.

Secondly, the dominant con­cern of Hindus in the last 200 years has been with achievements in the secular realm – education, trade, industry, equality with the British before Independence and with the West since Indepen­dence. The upsurge I have been speaking about, in fact, relates wholly to the secular realm. It does not mean that our spiritual-religious heritage has no place in this scheme. But it means that Hindus have recognised once again, as they did in the past, that the secular realm has to be secured if a culture and a civilization has to flourish. Swami Vivekananda emphasized the importance of secular achievements and so did Sri Aurobindo.

Piety is the refuge of a defeated people deprived of a state of their own. Hindus, especially urban Hindus, have not been an exception to this rule. Inevitably, in view of the length of foreign occupation and rule, this psy­chology has not been easy to shake off. But it is being shaken off.

The transition shocks decent individuals who have got used to and even propagated as desirable feminity as the ideal Hindu trait. One can only marvel at their ignorance of Hindu mythol­ogy in which the female is not the feminine of their imagination.

When the communists moved into Beijing and proclaimed vic­tory on October 1, 1949, Mao Zedong said: “China has stood up.” When Pandit Nehru spoke at midnight on August 14, 1947, he said: “India awakes”, as if from a dream. Witness the dif­ference. The gap is now sought to be made up.

The Observer of Business and Politics, 26 January 1993

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