Girilal Jain gave legitimacy to Hindutva at a time when it had almost become a dirty word in the English press, equated with ‘communalism’, ‘fascism’ and worse by the rootless whizkids who have thronged this influential section of the Indian media
In an interview to The Times of India’s editor, Dileep Padgaonkar, published in the issue of Sunday last, writer V.S. Naipaul has remarked: “There is a big, historical development going on in India. Wise men should understand it and ensure that it does not remain in the hands of fanatics. Rather they should use it for the intellectual transformation of India.”
Girilal Jain, the former Times editor who passed away on Monday, was one such “wise man” who understood “the big, historical development going on in India”. And the wisdom showed, especially in the great journalist’s writings in recent years. It showed in the unapologetic way in which he defended and propounded Hindutva. For, to hit the nail on its head, the “big, historical development going on in India” is nothing but the development of the worldview of Hindutva.
Jain, a keen student of history and civilisations that he was, recognised this historical development for what it is. And at a time when it had almost become a dirty word in the English press, equated with “obscurantism”, “communalism”, “fascism” and worse by the rootless whizkids who have thronged this influential section of the Indian media, Hindutva acquired a good deal of legitimacy, thanks to the able and sophisticated way in which Jain elucidated it in the pages of The Times of India, The Business & Political Observer and other papers.
I think Jain’s greatest intellectual contribution lies in the area of the current debate on Indian nationalism. By showing, through persuasive argument anchored in solid historical facts, that the chief definitional characteristic of Indian nationalism is neither economic, political, religious or, much less, geographical, but CIVILISATIONAL, Jain at once knocked the bottom out of the theories of pseudo-secularists. And inasmuch as Hindutva is not so much a religious concept but an organising principle of the 6,000-year-old culture and civilisation nestling in the Indian subcontinent, Jain recognised that India, as the RSS founder, Dr KB Hedgewar, declared over six decades ago, IS A HINDU RASHTRA.
For our pseudo-secularists, India was born only on the midnight of Aug. 14-15, 1947. Moreover, in their warped outlook, India is not even a nation, but just a conglomeration of various nationalities, religious and linguistic communities, castes and sects, all of which only happen to be sharing a common geographical space. Although they wouldn’t admit it, these Hindutva-baiters’ understanding leads to the inexorable conclusion that India must thank the British for having brought her into existence.
As against these pernicious notions which find honourable and widespread advocacy in much of the English press, people like Jain insisted that the fundamental unity of India is civilisational. And since our civilisation predates the political independence of 1947 by three- times-1947 years, India’s national unity, too, is an ancient one. In showing this, Jain also showed how this civilisation – as against the civilisation of Islam, for example – has been quintessentially secular and integrative.
Of course, Jain lacked the scholarly depth and polemical brilliance of Arun Shourie or the street-fighting capabilities of Swapan Dasgupta, the two other major personalities in the English press who are fighting the battle, for Hindutva. Jain’s advocacy of a strong nation-state (which advocacy, it must be noted, underwent significant transformations in the course of his own intellectual evolution), or even his projection of Hindutva, also lacked social radicalism.
His writings even in his post-Times years were not marked by any strong sense of empathy for the poor and the downtrodden. It did not occur to Jain – and if it did, it was not reflected strongly in his writings – that Hindutva can help India’s renewal only if it inspires a massive societal effort to eradicate poverty, disease, homelessness and other wounds we see on the persona of Bharat mata. This, in my view, remained a major weakness in Jain’s worldview till the last.
Nevertheless, Jain remained an influential agenda-setter of debate in his time – to the extent that the English press can set the agenda in this marvellously and maddeningly varied land. (In an interview I had done for The Sunday Observer in 1987, he had told me how we in the English press harbour an exaggerated sense of self-importance.) It was a measure of his courage of conviction that he did not hesitate to write regularly, in his own name, for Panchajanya and Organiser, the Hindi and English weeklies of the RSS.
Lastly, I wish to comment on a very heartening aspect of even the sad event of Jain’s death. Tuesday’s papers reported that the BJP held a special condolence meeting at its headquarters which was attended by all the senior leaders of the party. Paying tributes to the veteran journalist, LK Advani said, “For me, it means the loss of a personal friend whose sage advice I always valued immensely.”
This gesture – the BJP’s condolence meeting as also Advani’s personal tributes – signifies much more than is apparent on the surface. It means that here is a political party which takes intellectuals seriously and respects them when they are respect-worthy. In ancient times, the enlightened among our rajas would seek the advice of sages. Indeed, our rishis had a higher standing in society than even the rajas. This, too, was one of the great things about our civilisation. Unfortunately, in modern India – especially in the post-Nehru period – neither have our political rulers cared much for the intelligentsia (in which I include both the English and, more particularly, the non-English intelligentsia) nor have our intellectuals risen to the heights of respect-worthy rishis.
Jain was far from being a rishi, but it is touching to know that at least one political party has paid a befitting tribute to a thinker-journalist. This, too, I wish to think, is part of the “big, historical development going on in India”.
Blitz, Bombay, 24 July 1993