More than 70 years after Independence from a foreign power, we are still floundering about in waters muddied by warring politicians.
Lack of knowledge is not a sin. But choosing ignorance as the preferred state of being is certainly so. Various kinds of knowledge, in differently modelled retrieval systems are available to us. While search engines and the internet have taken over as an easily accessible knowledge bank, in our country traditional storage systems such as oral memory have regressed.
The Lalithasahasranama describes the Mother Goddess as “Ichcha Shakthi Jnaana Shakthi Kriya Shakthi”. This denotes the progression from the desire to do something, to actually doing it, via the important stopover of Jnaana Shakthi or knowledge of how to carry it out. Mere desire remains as pleasant and ineffectual as a dream. Lack of a goal can send one meandering through some very wonderful but also some murky places. The preferred railroad from desire to actualization should only be on the tracks of knowledge. This is applicable to all action.
India was one of the richest nations in the world—commodity wise as well as scholarship wise. When our native knowledge bank was depleted, losing our wealth was a given. Thanks to a domestic tiff, Raja Jaychand invited the marauding Ghori into India. He wanted the foreigner’s help to fight Prithviraj Chauhan, who had snatched away Jaychand’s daughter, who was a more-than-willing runaway bride.
Chauhan defeated the enemy more than ten times, letting him go free after each battle. Chauhan refused to learn about the ruthless persistence of the invader from this experience. Those who died for him seemed to have died in vain as their leader did not consolidate his victory.
The people of Indian were seen as “softies” whose wealth and liberty lay supine to be looted. True, many invaders who came into India developed a connection with this soil. The invaders stayed on to rule and build up the mighty Mughal empire. As is the case with many ruling dispensations, even though there were some cruel exceptions, others took on the earth tones of this land into their soul.
It was a sense of adventure and economic ambition that brought the Europeans and the British to the golden beaches of India. The ubiquitous wealth, a varied spectrum of greens of vegetation, pristine water bodies, beautiful women and the innate “Athithi Devo Bhava” (the guest is God) philosophy of the trusting Indian rulers only served to whet the greed of the Westerners. India was thought of by them as a private fund to dip into to improve their lives “back home” across both warm and cold seas. Those who came as traders manipulated their way into becoming rulers.
Indians became, in effect, enslaved in their home country. As was the case with Jaychand, there were enough native toadies to ensure a smooth imperial rule in the country. An uncannily similar situation was in place in the neighbouring country, China. The Middle Kingdom that was heaven on Earth was slowly changing into an opium dazed nation.
To call the Freedom Struggle of India entirely a non-violent movement is to delete both the bravery of Bhagat Singh and other bravehearts who turned to weapons to drive out the British. The hacking of the subcontinental landmass into two nations and three geographical segments, based on religion was expectedly followed by a senseless mass killing in an effort to prove the supremacy of each warring religions. The killings may have died down but the ghost of the Two Nation theory continues to raise its monstrous head from time to time. Until this ghost is exorcised and laid to rest permanently, the lack of trust among Indians will remain a troubling reality.
The British left our shores on 15 August 1947. Subsequent administrations in India have failed to heal the aftershocks caused by the amputation of partition, and have not yet succeeded in bringing about a working cohesion among the various religious groups in India. In our nascent democracy, Parliamentary and Assembly seats often get doled out on the basis of religion and caste. No political party in India has the will to skip a possible victory for one five-year term victory so as to attempt to usher in an era of merit and competence.
The national motto of “Satyameva Jayate” should not be limited to the emblem on top of the Ashoka Pillar and on government stationery. We satisfy ourselves with the less pungent diet of rosy perception, rather than the harsh tones of Truth. The recent universal lockdown thanks to the Covid-19 virus has given all of us time for introspection.
More than 70 years after Independence from a foreign power, we are still floundering about in waters muddied by warring politicians. The Hindus are certainly one of the oldest people of this land. In their way of life, a pantheon of thirty-three crore of divinities co-exist, largely peacefully. The disadvantage of such a philosophy is the huge chance for disagreement. The far greater advantage is the awesome plurality of choice made available by the philosophy.
Given such a milieu, it is easier to pick a few basic tenets that are to be followed, rather than looking for consensus and applying the things agreed upon. Our culture calls for a democracy wherein everyone agrees that action needs to be focused such that starvation, poverty and violence get exterminated from society. Certain unpleasant realities have to be recognised and addressed, rather than wished away till after the next election.
Civil disobedience led to an inherent flouting of the law. Even after Independence this scoff-law mindset results in a feeling across society of freedom from accountability for one’s actions. India has adequate resources to feed its citizens if the production and distribution are streamlined. Yet, there is need for population control, but this is a tar baby that no political outfit dares to touch upon. This is because of the fundamentalist slant in all their previous decades.
The heart-breaking visuals of a large number of individuals walking to their villages, with nothing but frantic hope and starvation with them should serve as a grim reminder that India will soon have the largest population on Earth.
There are Indians who have done brilliantly, most often in other countries. There are umpteen photo ops where India is extolled. But in the gathering of world nations, despite our vast number of human beings, our voice is less than what it ought to be, the equal of the United States and China. Hence the need for change in this grand old country such as would ensure that our sad history does not ever get repeated.
Lakshmi Bayi is a writer living mostly in Kerala.