Thursday, 22 January 1998

Indutva-Moderation the Key to Harmony

(Originally appeared in the 1990s in the Times of India, as published in M. D. Nalapat's book "Indutva", Har-Anand Publications, 1999)

Balasaheb Thackeray, who has asked for a national monument to be built at Ayodhya, has moved closer to the country's ethos than those who seek to set up a house of worship there that would exclude 15 per cent of the population. Just as Indian epics are watched on television by people of different faiths, so should the birth—place of Lord Ram follow the “Palayam” example. This is the locality in Trivandrum where a mosque, church and temple coexist in close proximity with each other. The Nehruvians despised Indian epics as unworthy of attention in school curricula. They relegated Lord Ram to a religious ghetto, forgetting that his example was relevant to all. If the universality of his teachings is accepted, then a national monument will have greater empathy with his example than one which admits only a part of the population of his beloved land. While the invaders from Persia, Turkey and Central Asia who colonised India a millennium ago were aliens, those from here who converted to the new religion were not. These individuals have as much claim to the ethos of Lord Ram as do the rest. The Nehruvians followed the British example of distrusting the majority community, hemming it in with restrictions. As a reaction, many Hindu organisations fall into the error of abandoning the country's traditions in favour of the Pakistan model, where only one creed is regarded as superior, and the others are discriminated against judicially, socially and electorally. Indeed, it is not just non-Muslims who suffer in Pakistan. So do Shias, Ahmediyas and those Sunnis who do not come from Punjab province.

Economic Progress
By their agenda of seeking to demolish two more houses of worship and replacing them with temples, certain organisations here are copying the Pakistanis or the south Afghans in their exclusivism. Thackeray is spot on: what the country needs is economic progress. This can take place only in an atmosphere of social harmony, where no segment feels discriminated against.
Apart from a 25—year freeze on the Kashi and Mathura disputes, even in Ayodhya care should be taken to work out a solution that has the consent of all major groups. The events of December 6, 1992 damaged social stability and affected the country's equity in regions such as the Gulf and South-east Asia. It was no accident that the pace of reforms slowed soon after the bitter harvest of the Babri demolition.

Greater attention to the precepts of Lord Ram would have reinforced the trueism that two wrongs do not make a right. Even should the Babri Masjid have been built on the ruins of a demolished temple, that is no justification for repeating the crime of the invaders by a second pulldown. The virus of religious exclusivism needs to be exorcised from Muslim, Christian, Sikh and Hindu organisations, so that the composite culture of this land is celebrated rather than mourned. Such a development is one of the two pre-conditions for rapid economic growth. The other is the evolution of a post—Nehruvian governmental structure that frees Indians from the restrictions of the colonial period. 

Basic Tenets
By, in effect, belittling the Indian ethos articulated by Sardar Vallabhai Patel and Abu] Kalam Azad in favour of an outlandish amalgam of Fabian socialism, Marxism and European royalty, Nehruism, in fact, nourished communalism rather than weakened it. In particular, it drove many within the majority community o believe that the new regime regarded them with as jaundiced an eye as the Mughals and the British did. Also, during the Nehru era the Mughal-British restrictions were added on to Mahatma Gandhi had pointed out to the AICC in 1947 itself that "Controls are responsible for much of the corruption that is rampant today". Fortunately, he was not alive to witness the extent of his mistake in assuming that "After me, Jawaharlal will speak my language". Restrictions proliferated, and as a result by 1997 a Swiss diplomat estimated that $ 80 billion were held in Swiss banks by Indian nationals. While other countries have recovered some of the loot taken abroad by their citizens, in India W. N. Chaddha and Ottavio Quatrocchi have so far been able to escape.

That, of course, is Nehruism. Tough laws on paper and zero enforcement, except on the politically inconvenient. Such people are hounded even if they are innocent. An example is Haryana, where a graduate of the Nehru school is bankrupting his state by pretending that alcohol does not exist. Of course, this policy puts cash into the pockets of officials and politicians, rather than into the exchequer the way "immoral" schemes such as the VDIS or the legalisation of liquor will. Another example of the continuation of the Mughal-British—Nehru policies comes from Kerala, where the CPM government has proposed legislation to take over all major Hindu temples. Quite apart from the CPM's claim to being an atheist organisation, it is difficult to see the logic in singling out one community’s religious places for state control when churches and mosques have (correctly) been left free. It is this anti—majoritarian definition of "secularism" that has fuelled an inflow into Hindu exclusivist organisations. Sadly, the religious exclusivists, the Nehru school graduates and the Left have many basic tenets in common. All shy away from the catholicity of outlook that is needed to create the medium in which growth can thrive. Instead, they accept the Afghan-Pakistan model of intolerance. In its place, they need to heed the new reasonableness of Thackeray, or the words of Atal Behari Vajpayee, who understand the centrality of social harmony to this country’s progress. Respect for India will not flow from a repeat of past barbarity but from the rise of national income to a reasonable level.

Core Traditions
Hopefully, the government that emerges out of the 1998 polls will continue the shift away from Nehruism and fashion a system that regards Indians as mature enough to take their own decisions. If those belonging to this subcontinental race can be considered mature in countries such as the United States or the United Kingdom (where they have outperformed the rest), then why not in their homeland? As a part of such a 21st century focus, the new government needs to actualise India’s nuclear weapons potential. True, there will be sanctions and protests from followers of Neville Chamberlain in the US and the EU. However, in a few years these countries will realise that the Indian Ekalavya is no longer willing to cut off the nuclear thumb, and will take its place as the equal of the other five nuclear states. Only then will India be able to give a significant contribution to its future democratic allies in a possible future confrontation against fundamentalist or hegemonist states.

Rather than follow Afghanistan, Pakistan and other exclusivist states in their fanaticism, India should remain true to its core traditions and stress the Indutva that make this land of Mother Teresa, Abdul Kalam and Baba Amte unique. To do otherwise would be to besmirch the memory of Lord Ram.

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