Reply to ‘No place for extremes in India’s mosaic’

August 31, 2009 at 5:17 pm 3 comments

Ashutosh Varshney’s article ‘No place for extremes in the Indian mosaic’ (TOI-30th Aug) has opinioned that political parties with ‘ideological baggage is less likely to survive than pragmatic parties such as the Congress in contemporary India. He seems to be an advocate of the Congress’ ‘unity in diversity strategy which itself is against the nation building which needs to knit political and cultural boundaries together. Perhaps the survival credit extended to the Congress may be because the Congress won two consecutive elections. The Congress has survived under the banner of UPA-1 and UPA- 2. Ashutosh forgets that the same Congress’ pragmatism did not get it electoral seats or a majority to form a government by itself. Under Rajiv Gandhi it was almost washed away and under Sonia Gandhi it had sunk to a new low. So when did this ‘pragmatism’ start and when did it discard its ideological baggage – which it never had? It has a political baggage-consisting of a family centric mindset, a feudalistic outlook and a guilt of minority genocide. The Congress which mobilized the people for Freedom struggle is not the Congress we have today. The people were ready to be mobilized because they were hounded and persecuted by colonial powers and it was easy to give a call to throw away the foreign rule. So the task of mobilisation was easy. But the pauperized people had leaders like Nehru who a Kashmiri Hindu Brahmin by birth, an Englishman by education, and a Muslim by culture. So in him was a personalized ‘melting pot’ to lead the struggle. Unlike Gandhi who as a Bania had to earn a livelihood and realized the woes and struggles of the common Indian people. Both along with other middle class leaders wanted just not a State but a nation state. It is the same idea with which the Muslim leaders also demanded a separate nation state. Freedom and then Partition-whatever and whoever may or may not have been the architects are not the thrust of this write up.
A nation State needs an ideology of nationalism to hold it together especially India with its diversity. A loosely knit fabric cannot withstand the turmoil within and withstand the pressures from without. ‘The USA became a melting pot-it failed –so now US identity was alternately seen as a “bowl of salads”, where all identities remain, but in the same bowl, that is the US. But where is the dressing to cover it all’, asked the dissenters of the ‘Salad Bowl’. The result was Huntington’s WASP-but that failed to click so now it was Lisa Miller who seems to answer that query, “who are we”-she says “we are Hindu”(S.Gurumurthy in his article “Lisa Miller needs to rethink”) Exceptions do not make the rule. Why did the WASP identity fail? According to the Ashutosh it is now France which has become a ‘melting pot”. It is thus with great foresightedness that persons like Sarvekar and Vivekananda called for this boundary cementing-Ashis Nandy in ‘Partition and the Fantasy of a Masculine State’ (TOI 29TH Aug) points out ‘However, a nation state requires a nation and an ideology of nationalism’, He continues this premise by adding, ‘Simple, old fashioned, non ideological patriotism is not enough for it. More so if it is a republican state, led by new insecure, nervous political leaders worried about its diverse ungovernable citizens and psychologically not yet closely linked to the state’. He brings in the relevance of Savarkar, who though being an avowed atheist…. ‘had moved towards the idea of Hindutva, which refined the Hindus as a nation and Hindutva as their national ideology’.
France took a century to make its peasant people French men. India had a different history with its colonizers persecuting and thrusting the colonized into the colonizers’ religion and sapping the inner strength and resources. Thus India was left with an almost languished populace. Its different identities were collaged into a mosaic. Nehru further abetted the divisive identities by bringing in the reorganization of States whereby States were culled out on the basis of language. This is why the Ashutosh finds Indians as Bengali Indian, Tamil Indian, Punjabi Indian and so forth. Had we gone through the melting pot process we would have been molten gold-unified whole! But with each State based on language and not on resources and revenue threw up poor States and rich States-predisposing rift and rivalry. It is this which makes internal strife. For example a nation which cannot link its rivers so that floods can be avoided and water starved States can be replenished with water is not easy. As a Nation we are unable to share this natural resource-Water. The Congress has been unable to implement this inspite of being in power the longest period. So Nehru’s reorganisation of States was a disastrous strategy for nation building. It was not long ago that the Dravida Munetra Kazhagam was a separatist party because it built its cadre and formed its nucleus on the ideology of a separate Dravidanadu. Some of the North East States are toying with such an idea. Kashmir is functioning as though it is a separate nation though its finances are from India
If the Congress mobilized the people in the pre-independence struggle on the call for Freedom now States are pulling on different sides with the demand for separate Statehood and State autonomy. A corollary of this is the proliferation of political parties. No country in the world has this number of political parties as in India. This has led to a weakened Centre. The Congress is in power though it is not the majority party it is not because it has shed its ideology-(because it had no ideology to start with) but as Ashutosh Varshney states because it is pragmatic. He overlooks the fact that the Congress is only leading the UPA a coalition based on yielding to the various logical and illogical demands of its allies. This has been given a terminology as ‘coalition dharma’. This is political pragmatism!
‘Stitching diversity together’ is fundamentally different from what the ideological right or left has sought in India’, asserts the author. But the stitching together the fabric –the tapestry that is India may not be the best method to unify a nation state because the stitches will give way in the long run. India is being pulled at its seams and is giving way…It is here that Hindutva becomes and is relevant. A cultural nationalism is the only strong binding way of a people. Historically India is lagging because of its unfortunate history. If countries are Islamic and countries are Christian- identities based on religion why is it that India cannot have its identify as a Hindu Rastra? This is a pan Indian patriotic nationalism and has nothing to do with a unified god and religion. For Hinduism unlike other Abrahamic faiths do not deny or disrespect other faiths. It is completely wrong for the author to even suggest that the Hindu nationalists (read BJP) have not been able to alter another ideological core; ‘the notion that India is a hindu nation, that Muslims and Christians must abandon their cultural specificities and melt into the Hindu pot” Here Ashutosh is completely wrong and has done a great injustice by not understanding what Hindutva is all about. The author forgets that the Constitution has safeguards for the cultural and educational specificities. No where in the world has minorities enjoyed this unhindered freedom. As an educator he must study what the Minorities status were and are in other countries including the European states and in the US. Hindu religion has neither persecuted nor wagged war nor thrust its religion on others. That is because the Hindu is secular to the core- believes in One God and different paths.’ Truth is One, but the sages speak of it by many names’. A Hindu believes that there are many paths to God Jesus is one way, the Quran is another’ (S.Gurumurthy) It respects all faiths and this explains why all faiths persecuted in the countries of their birth found India a cradle to nurture and grow. If this is ideological baggage one should say that this cannot be discarded for the sake of power. A nation state must be built on strong foundations-its people must be able to uphold the country and its Constitution at all costs. We cannot substitute secularism for pseudo-secularism-abet casteism, communalism and abet parties based on religion, and camouflage these under ‘secular forces’ does not make them secular. Secularism was hihjacked by the Congress and a phobia was created that Hindutva is a virulent Hinduism which does not tolerate other faiths. This is historically and presently untrue-by facts and the reality.
Casteism is now the base for a number of political parties. So to blame the Hindu nationalist that it defended the caste hierarchical structure is baseless. Today the Scheduled castes among its different sects practices Untouchability! The Christians uphold the caste hierarchy. In Tamilnadu the Vanniyars oppress and discriminate the Scheduled castes. A person cannot have divided loyalties. Is there a country wherein people are governed by different laws? Pragmatism of the Congress has operationalised into an appeasement policy-for the sake of votes-It certainly has a survival instinct .It has thrown to the winds the Constitutional Fundamental Rights of Equality. But the Congress has never been a respecter of the Constitution. Would the author bring this also under ‘pragmatism’? Power at all cost cannot be a guiding principle to be held out to parties which have lost the battle but not the war. Can a nation be shortsighted and discard -its heritage, its legacy, its culture and its guiding humanism-Dharma?
Dr Mrs Hilda Raja


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Quest for Justice-Dharma Teachers’Day Appeal to the Media

3 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Bill Bartmann  |  September 2, 2009 at 3:53 pm

    Great site…keep up the good work.

  • 2. Dr Mrs Hilda Raja  |  September 4, 2009 at 4:03 am

    thank you for that encouraging comment.It is a pity that most of media is biased and so too are the readers.The great Divide has jaundiced our vision.Ashutosh refers to the Hindus as extremists which is false.Hindus have never been extremists.It is not in their psyche and Hindu religion is Sanatana Dharma which gives no space for extremism.I wish Hinduism shows some muscle!

  • 3. Bill Bartmann-  |  September 9, 2009 at 7:26 pm

    Great site…keep up the good work.


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