Dialogue  July-September, 2006, Volume 8  No. 1


The fallacy of New India

Shankar Sharan

All great awakenings in India, all her periods of mightiest and most varied vigour have drawn their vitality from the fountain-heads of some deep religious awakening. Wherever the religious awakening has been complete and grand, the national energy it has created has been gigantic and puissant; wherever the religious movement has been narrow or incomplete; the national movement has been broken, imperfect or temporary. The persistence of this phenomenon is proof that it is ingrained in the temperament of the race. If you try other and foreign methods we shall either gain our end with tedious slowness, painfully and imperfectly, or we shall not attain it at all.

(Sri Aurobindo, 1906)

Although with the debacle of the BJP in the last Lok Sabha election the slogan ‘Indian Shining’ came to a retreat, nevertheless the idea that India is growing in stature on the world arena is an established one. It is undoubtedly so as far as some sectors of economy and technology, as well as a section of her population is concerned. In the event even some nationalist leaders now profess that there are ‘several Indias’ and one should look up to the young, confident, English speaking India than to bother to look at or address some ‘old India’.

This, at least, is also a left-hand recognition that there are problematic areas, other than the English speaking, young, IIT, IIM, BPO, NRI and transnational Indias. So what about the India which is not in shining categories? And, most importantly, in which discourse we shall take up the whole India along with all its strata and all its problem, including Kashmir; Assam; Islamic terrorists; separatists; foreign sponsored evangelists; NGOs as front of anti-India forces here and abroad; unemployed; all kind of law breakers; and criminals, gangsters and self-seekers masquerading as politicians. How far and which way shall we progress putting all our hopes to the happy-young- English speaking-professional India only? What about the rest?

The crucial point, however, is what this young-English India could so far do or can do with regard to vital political issues, as it remains innocent, blissfully ignorant or highly misinformed about ticklish political, historical and administrative problems? Surely it considers those problems not its direct concern, but that of the politicians’. The same politicians who in turn are not considered an inspiring lot at all. So, the question recurs with double force: who will take care of the politico-administrative-strategic-tactical issues the country is facing?

Therefore, having the economic-happening scenario of the upper class, Westward India as the perspective for academic or political discussion is flawed. Economic progress and abilities do not ipso facto make a country or community secure. In the age of Al-Qaeda and borderless terrorism even less so. Besides, for the last thousand years the Indians were never lagging economically and entrepreneurially whenever they were beaten and enslaved by external enemies. Please consider what the great historian Will Durant had concluded on the folly of Indians:

The Mohammedan Conquest of India is probably the bloodiest story in history. It is a discouraging tale, for its moral is that civilization is a precious thing, whose delicate complex of order and liberty, culture and peace may at any time be overthrown by barbarians invading from without or multiplying within. The Hindus had allowed their strength to be wasted in internal division and war; they adopted religions like Buddhism and Jainism, which unnerved them for the tasks of life; they had failed to organize their forces for the protection of their frontiers and their capitals, their wealth and their freedom, from the hordes of Scythians, Huns, Afghans and Turks hovering about India’s boundaries and waiting for national weakness to let them in. For four hundred years (600-1000 A.D.) India invited conquest; and at last it came.

(The Story Of Civilization:Part I, Our Oriental Heritage, New York: Simon and Schuster, 1964, p. 459)

Is it greatly different now? That we shall take up a little later. First, please note that when Mahmud, a Turkish chieften, became sultan of Ghazni, eastern Afghanistan in the year 997 it was a most poor state and India was incomparably rich. So rich that when Mahmud started marauding, slaughtering and pillaging ‘unprepared Hindus’ each winter and he filled his treasure with huge spoils from India; each spring he returned to his capital richer than before. In the end, historians write, “he became perhaps the richest king that history has ever known.”

Points to note: richness of India in those times testifies the economic, technological etc. prowess of the Indians. But that did not make them secure. They were so ‘unprepared’ to face an organized and determined foe that he came each winter , “amused his men with full freedom to pillage and kill” and went away with unprecedented booty each spring – and the rich Hindus could do nothing about it! Even with the knowledge that the killer will return again in the winter. So what was lacking?

Hindus were not lagging in economy, science, jewels or fashion designs. They were just ‘unprepared’ to face such horrible foreign hordes that didn’t give a damn to principles, morality or any kind of niceties the Indian humanity cherished by habit. Is it any different today? Wait, don’t point to the big army, military equipments, defense budget or nuclear ability of this ‘shining India’. Time has moved on. 9/11 has shown that no army is needed to destroy thousands of people and property worth billions. Nearer home look at the Kashmiri Hindus, systematically forced to be hapless refugees in their own country. Or the Assamese Hindus who already consider themselves as ‘endangered species’ through the relentless infiltration from the Islamic neighbour. Or recall our silly un-preparedness in the face of the high jacking of IC 814. What the richness, or scientific-technologial, nuclear prowess of this country could do so far in all these respects? And yet the problems are not limited to those examples.

The bitter truth is, despite a valiant army and technological achievements the ‘preparedness’ of Indian ruling classes to face unscrupulous enemies, within and without, is as acute as ever. Which is why pinning our hope on young-English speaking-happening-rich India is a great folly. We are still vulnerable as we were earlier. Not only during 10th to 18th centuries, even in the 20th century Punjab was amiably dominated by the successful entrepreneurial Sikhs and Hindus, when in 1947 within months they were butchered and kicked from their homeland. They could not believe till it happened. Same for the Kashmiri Hindus, only it took years for being so. And the entire state, the Constitution, the army and judiciary could do nothing about them! More than three lacs Kashmiri Hindus were thrown out of their homes and the rest of India kept looking helplessly for sixteen years till the assorted international jihadis achieved their goal. The goal to secure the Kashmir valley for Islam only. Are they content now? No, they have already started moving to Jammu to enact the same. Similar designs are at work in border areas of Assam, Bihar and West Bengal.

So, we still have no answer to our determined civilizational enemies. Which is why even though we are sometimes called an economic power on international fora, yet no one gives any weight to our views on terrorism and diplomacy even in our surrounding geography. This is a hard reality. On every event of a successful terrorist attack we complain to the ‘world community’, point a plaintive finger to the well known enemy, ask our people to stay calm and wait for another attack to repeat the same ritual. In the meanwhile there is no preparation to answer the challenge or punish the culprits. Just a dirty quarrel among the ruling and aspiring politicos to snatch or share the spoils of the state power.

Our failure, therefore, has never been economic- entrepreneurial. So why bring this perspective to enthuse us? The failure has been all along in political, strategic, administrative and diplomatic fields. Yet, we do not address it. We do not make this as the perspective to proceed.

Saying ‘India can’ is a good advertising gimmick so far as cricket, bollywood, fashion weeks and engineering professionals (increasingly for export) are concerned. But, what about the possible response to another Kandhar highjacking? Another community such as Kashmiri Hindu becoming ‘refugees in their own country’? Another Kargil behind a naïve trust in a Lahore Bus? A successful attack on the Parliament? What answers the ‘India shining’ or ‘India can’ slogans give to such threatening, uneasy questions? We need to find answers mainly to such questions. The enthusiasts of ‘India shining’ deride the concerns of those who raise such questions, that for some people saying ‘India in peril’ is an obsession. This may be so, but brushing aside all uncomfortable questions is also escapism, to say the least.

They say the new, young, happening, English speaking India is imbued with ‘national pride’. But that means nothing if the very same class, or a part of it compels the govt to release most dreaded terrorists, who in turn would kill hundreds of innocent Indians, destroy property worth billions and demand chunks of Indian land to turn it in dar-ul-Islam.

They say that among this new India a ‘growing religiosity’can be discerned. They participate in yatras, take to yoga etc. But this, too, were never wanting. The whole India had always having it as an unalienable part of its way of life. Only the Westernised, and Marxist India remained inimical or unconcerned. They are more or less still as apathetic, even though personally many of them observe religious rituals. So, the ‘national identity’ or ‘growing religiosity’ are not any new trends to suggest anything.

What about the so-called nationalist organisations and their political programmes? Do they have any better programme, ‘a larger cause’ that others don’t have? Bijli, sadak, pani are not political programmes. As a matter of fact, for quite some time in this country most political programmes are proposed and pursued by Islamic forces, Christian missionaries and leftist organisations. The nationalist leaders, of all hues, are almost entirely busy in securing seats of power and spoils. Just to enjoy, and not to work on political-administrative issues and taking any ‘stance’. Take, for instance, the rule and regulations for building constructions in the very capital of the country. Hundreds of thousands of constructions have come up in complete disregard of the prevailing regulations. Obviously, no one is interested in taking responsibility to enforce rules and order even though billions of rupees are expended on a huge administrative machinery of various state bodies. What it shows? That the ruling politicos are only interested in spoils and not in work-and-duties associated with the post they seek so jealously. So, why people with nationalist feelings should respond to calls of such leaders who have not even a minimum self-respect to at least conceal their lust for a profitable chair. Why a common patriotic Indian, anybody except a hired group or a set of lackeys will respond to their call for agitation on any issue? In fact, we are leaderless. The country is going on its own accord.

The FUNDAMENTAL problem of our country is the lack of leadership. It is not a matter of ‘new’ or ‘old’ India. It is not that young people want to ‘gain’ something from politicians. Individuals might do so, but the general public look for credible leaders and frequently feel disappointed. Also, it is not always a want of ‘answers’ to problems we face. Many a times we all know the answer, the problem being who is able to bell the cat. To take courage to implement a solution. For instance, removing Art. 370 or removing corruption or barring criminals from occupying political posts is an imperative everybody agrees on. But who has the ability, political-administrative skills and political will to do so? is the question. As Sri Aurobindo said most aptly:

Arguments and speeches do not win liberty for a nation; but where there is a will in the nation to be free and a man to embody that will in every action of his life and to devote his days to its realization in the face of every difficulty and every suffering, and where the will of the nation has once said, “This man and his life mean what I have in my heart and in my purpose,” that is a sure signpost of the future which no one has any excuse for mistaking.

(Bal Gangadhar Tilak , 1918)

We do not have real leaders. The present lot of leaders promise something, raise expectations on one thing and once in power begin singing a different tune. Of sheer escapism, ineptitude, passing the buck and plain un-concern. The political plank of Jansangh/BJP was never to ensure just a ‘good government’. But after ensconced in power they set aside all the policy change they have been demanding for decades from Congress governments. They started repeating the same phrases and inanities the other governments had been doing, courting wrong elements for votes, reservations, subsidies and talking with all kind of separatists and extremists without achieving any tangible results.

Therefore, how to forge an able leadership should be the sole concern of India at the present juncture. The rest will follow. Of course, the real leaders are not made on order or by arguments. But seeking wholeheartedly and speaking plain truths might help finding them.

People want to see a leader who for once care more for the country than for a seat here or there. ‘The aspirations’ of not only the ‘new India’ but all Indians also include to see a genuine leader of the country, of the state, a leader who does not fail to address the feelings of millions for want of courage or a way to do things. What we lack is strength. It is again pertinent to ponder what Sri Aurobindo said on the matter:

We in India Fail in All Things for want of Shakti

...we have all things else, but we are empty of strength, void of energy. We have abandoned Shakti and are therefore abandoned by Shakti.

...How many attempts have been made, how many movements have been begun, in religion, in society, in politics! But the same fate has overtaken or is preparing to overtake them all. They flourish for a moment, then the impulse wanes, the fore dies out, and if it they endure, it is only as empty shells, forms from which the Brahma has gone or in which it lies overpowered with Tamas and inert.

India therefore Needs Shakti Alone

The deeper we look, the more we shall be convinced that the one thing wanting, which we must strive to acquire before all others, is strength – strength physical, strength mental, strength moral, but above all strength spiritual which is the one inexhaustible and imperishable source of all the others. If we have strength everything else will be added to us easily and naturally. In the absence of strength we are like men in a dream who have hands but cannot seize or strike, who have feet but cannot run.

(Bhawani Mandir, 1906)

The problem, therefore, is in our character. We start something, announce something and then in no time ‘the impulse wanes’. So there is no need to put down or exclude ‘old India’ or sing futile songs in praise of new, English speaking, happening, young India. Also, that is not our tradition to cast away the old just because it has become weak. Those who cherish Indian culture and tradition, and for that reason oppose, say, a Valentine’s Day celebrations or fashion parades are not always zealots or dogmatists. Nor are they arguing to ‘hold back time’ in a ‘technology driven world’. But the world is not merely business, economy and NRIs. It is also family values, moral concerns, mental and moral health of the younger generation, administrative-political skills, terrorism, barbaric fatwas, totalitarian thoughts, nuclear blackmail, war of nerves, organized religious conversions by inducement, infiltration on borders, lynching of our jawans and carrying them as dead cattle by a neighbouring country’s militia, forbidding to sing national anthem in ones own country, etc are also part of this ‘world’. And these things are not addressed by technology alone. Otherwise the USA, UK or Israel might not be having so many nightmares.

‘Growing Muslim solidarity’ is not a new trend at all. Islam is above all a political ideology. Its leaders merely wait for opportune moment to assert. At present, it is for the lack of Hindu voice that they have grown restive. The sway of secularism on all parties, demonstrated after six years of Vajpayee government, gave them encouragement to assert more and more. Till the year 1999 there was a lurking doubt that there is a party opposed to ‘more equal’ Islamist postures. The refrain of ‘pseudo secularism’ gave such doubts. After 2004 it was over. Hence the new assertion. It is but the absence of a Hindu voice that encouraged ‘Muslim solidarity’. For the same reason the secularists, too, after recapturing institutions, are having a field day and propagating whatever anti-Hindu substance they like.

Our tradition (even any other country) never gives economy precedence over polity. It never asks to give primacy to foreign trade, take pride in exporting your bright youth while neglecting villages and motherland, and leaving old parents on monetary doles. Either this or that: profess the Western, utilitarian, materialist way of thinking on economy and society; or the Indian, Dharmic way. Technology might be the same for all humanity but the world outlooks differ fundamentally. If we are not capable of reconciling problematic situations between Indian and Western, let us have it as a problem to solve and desist from having a pointless mixture.

The taking of bad, wrong or ‘decentralized’ issues occurs because there is no centralized issue given to patriotic Indian youth. If the political, social leaders keep mum on crying, pleading Kashmiri Hindus, on Art. 370, on singing of Vande Mataram, on Islamic terrorism, on infiltration in Assam, West Bengal and Bihar, on the Pope’s intervention in Indian lawmaking, on the plights of Gudia, Imrana, and various fatwas contrary to the law of the land and common sense, on whitewashing history in textbooks, on rising pan-Islamist expressions in Indian politics, then what the hapless youth would do? The youth is seething in resentment on all the ‘secular’ discriminations against Hindus but sees no way to fight, no leader to guide him.

This brings us back to the FUNDAMENTAL question: the lack of leadership and how to try to fill this gap. We are facing a number of proxy wars. Not only at borders and on railway stations and busy market places waged by various jihadi outfits; but also in cultural, ideological and religious wars. At all the places: political institutions, educational institutions, media and international fora as well. These wars cannot be won merely by upward sensex numbers and growing exports. At every front we need able leaders. Let us find them, because

...in politics the victory is to the side which can marshal the largest and most closely serried number of such [social] units and handle them most skillfully, not to those who can bring forward the best arguments or talk the most eloquently.


 Dialogue A quarterly journal of Astha Bharati

Astha Bharati