[This article is a major extract from my article "Sita Ram Goel, memories and ideas", written for the Sita Ram Goel Commemoration Volume, entitled "India's Only Communalist", edited by Koenraad Elst, published by Voice Of India, New Delhi, in 2005. It is dedicated to Sita Ram Goel, the great visionary without whom my books (and so many other important ones) would never have seen the light of day.
I am excluding from this particular blog the first section, dealing with my association with Sita Ram Goel, and the last section "Pseudo-Hindutva", dealing with the BJP, because the first would be too sublime, and the second too sordid, a subject for this particular blog, which is only intended to define Hindutva or Hindu Nationalist ideology, in detail and in my view.
Needless to say, today, in 2016, the article, written and published in 2005, may be a bit dated, and to some people some of the discussion may sound rambling or irrelevant. And my opinions, on some minor points, may have mellowed or become more refined. Nevertheless, as a preliminary and more or less comprehensive outline of my ideology, I want it on the internet.
I will only mention here, for reasons which will become obvious further on, the first paragraph of the article:
"I first became acquainted with Sita Ram Goel, or rather with his writings, in the late nineteen-eighties. I had gone to Savarkar Sadan, near Shivaji Park in Mumbai, to buy a copy of Nathuram Godse’s 'May It Please Your Honour' - ironical since Sita Ram Goel was a staunch admirer of Mahatma Gandhi. [The truth is, over the years, without blinding myself to his many faults, some of which cost the nation dear, and without losing my respect for Godse either, I have also acquired great respect for Mahatma Gandhi, and his life and philosophy, and their great relevance in an increasingly ruthless world. This may be difficult to understand if we think only in terms of black and white.]"
HINDUTVA OR HINDU NATIONALISM
Hindu Nationalist ideology is generally referred to as Hindutva - a word coined by Veer Savarkar, and later taken up by the Hindu Mahasabha (of which Savarkar himself was twice President) and the RSS. In the last two decades, the word has become a common word in Indian politics, bandied about by the likes of the BJP and the Shiv Sena and by their political opponents. Anybody and everybody interprets the word to his own convenience, but there can be no doubt about its basic meaning: it means an ideology for the defence of Hindu society, culture and civilisation.
The following is an attempt to elaborate on the ideology of Hindutva as a complete nationalist ideology from the point of view of three aspects:
I. Conventional Hindutva.
II. Cultural Nationalism.
III. Socio-Economic Nationalism.
I. CONVENTIONAL HINDUTVA
Conventional Hindutva is what is generally understood by the term Hindutva: an ideology for the defence of Hindu society and civilisation. As the word defence indicates, the first premise is that Hindu society and civilisation are under attack.
Societies and civilisations have been under attack from other societies and civilisations since the beginnings of time. It is a natural corollary of the baser side of human nature, and the vicissitudes of Time and Nature have seen the demise of many a society and civilisation.
But the Old Testament of the Bible for the first time introduced a new element: the destruction of societies and civilisations as a matter of religious ideology. The birth of Christianity, 2000 years ago, gave a final revolutionary touch by converting this local ideology (restricted only to Palestine, the land “promised” by Jehovah to the Jews) into an international imperialist ideology. A few centuries later, Islam followed suit. The two, between them, laid waste most of the earlier societies and civilisations of Europe, Western and Central Asia, and North Africa.
In the mediaeval period, Christian Imperialism took on a new form as European Imperialism, and destroyed the societies and civilisations of North and South America, and Australia, and did much damage (particularly political and psychological) in the rest of Africa and Asia. It was only when a similar ideology (Nazism) arose in a part of Europe itself, which sought to do to the rest of Europe what some parts of Europe had done to most of the rest of the world, that European Imperialism lost its steam. The centre of Christian Imperialism shifted to America. Today American Imperialism dominates the world with (apart from its military and economic clout) its three powerful ideological weapons: Proselytisation, Capitalism and Consumerism. In the process, Christian Imperialism also laid low another rival imperialism, which had raised its head for one century, Marxist Imperialism; and it is now in the process of trying to do the same to its more long-standing rival, Islamic Imperialism.
Hindu civilisation is the one civilisation whose inner greatness and resilience enabled it to withstand centuries of Christian and Islamic imperialist attack. It is in fact the last major bastion of the pre-Christian civilisations of the world.
For that very reason, Hindu society is today the single major target of all these Imperialisms, which are backed by powerful international forces. As Sita Ram Goel puts it at the very beginning of his “Hindu Society Under Siege”: “the death of Hindu society is no longer an eventuality which cannot be envisaged. This great society is now besieged by the same dark and deadly forces which have overwhelmed and obliterated many earlier societies. Suffering from a loss of élan, it has become a house divided within itself. And its beneficiaries no more seem to be interested in its survival because they have fallen victims to hostile propaganda. They have developed towards it an attitude of utter indifference, if not downright contempt. Let no Hindu worth his salt remain complacent. Hindu society is in mortal danger as never before.” (p.2)
This fact is clear to anyone who looks around with open eyes at what is going on all around, and who is clear-sighted and level headed enough to see, and honest enough to admit, the situation.
To illustrate this, let me quote from an article in the Indian Express (Sunday 13/6/2004) by Tavleen Singh, a journalist who cannot by any means be called a Hindu communalist (she points out, in the article, that she is “not a Hindu”), and who was always considered by Sita Ram Goel to be a typical secularist scribe, entitled “This Inner Voice Too Needs Hearing”: “…the word Hindutva is being used as a term of abuse…it is used mostly in pejorative terms…the debate appears no longer confined to the cloistered world of priests, or even the self-serving one of politics, it has expanded into a challenge to Hindu civilisation…the wider attack on Indian civilisation that this pejorative use of the word Hindu represents. It bothers me that I went to school and college in this country without any idea of the enormous contribution of Hindu civilisation to the history of the world. It bothers me that even today our children, whether they go to state schools or expensive private ones, come out without any knowledge of their own culture or civilisation…You cannot be proud of a heritage you know nothing about, and in the name of secularism, we have spent 50 years in total denial of the Hindu roots of this civilisation. We have done nothing to change a colonial system of mass education founded on the principle that Indian civilisation had nothing to offer…our contempt for our culture and civilisation…evidence of a country that continues to be colonised to the core? Our contempt for who we are gets picked up these days by the Western press…racism [is] equated with Hindu Nationalism. For countries that gave us slavery and apartheid that really is rich, but who can blame them when we think so badly of ourselves. As for me I would like to state clearly that I believe that the Indic religions have made much less trouble for the world than the Semitic ones and that Hindu civilisation is something I am very proud of. If that is evidence of my being ‘communal’, then, so my inner voice tells me, so be it.”
If Hindu society and civilisation are to be saved from annihilation, there is only one solution: Hindu consciousness must be aroused, a Hindu perspective and world-view must be cultivated, and Hindus must be educated, on the one hand, about Hindu civilisation and its rich heritage and its major contributions to the world in every field, and about the great sages, seers, saints, scholars, scientists, soldiers, artistes and statesmen, the individuals in every field who represent our past glory and heritage; and, on the other, about the forces out to destroy this civilisation, about the textual sources, ideologies, histories, strategies and present activities of these forces, and about the Hindu struggles against these forces and the Hindu heroes involved in these struggles.
It is also necessary to alert Hindus to the inner weaknesses which make Hindu society susceptible to these forces, the dangers of Secularism, the self-alienation among the Hindu elites and ruling classes and their indifference to, and contempt for, their own culture and civilisation, the breakdown of the defence mechanism of Hindu society, the perversion of certain Hindu values like tolerance, universalism and humanism, and the abandonment of certain other Hindu values like self-respect, rationalism and capacity for objective analysis.
Voice of India books have sought to do just this. Before Voice of India came on the scene, Hindutva discussion hovered around topics and issues which could be broadly subsumed under the headings “appeasement of minorities” and “discrimination against Hindus and Hinduism” in the Indian polity. The discussions were concerned only with the symptoms of the disease rather than with the root causes and the cure. Voice of India changed everything: it identified both the external forces as well as the internal weaknesses, and it offered the only cure: Knowledge of the Truth.
The only solution, according to Sita Ram Goel, was for Hindus to know the truth about the forces out to destroy Hindu society. Once Hindus knew the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, these forces would lose their self-righteousness, their self-assurance, and their vigour and potential for damage. Hindu society, on the other hand, would recognise its own potential and would regain the self-confidence to rise up again to take its rightful place among the comity of nations.
The only solution is, therefore, to propagate Sita Ram Goel’s writings and Voice of India publications, and the message and facts contained in these writings and publications, on a war-footing. An awakened Hindu society will do the rest.
II. CULTURAL NATIONALISM
Sita Ram Goel, at the very outset of his “Hindu Society Under Siege”, tells us: “there are many Hindus who are legitimately proud of Hindu art, architecture, sculpture, music, painting, dance, drama, literature, linguistics, lexicography and so on. But they seldom take into account the fact that this great wealth of artistic, literary and scientific heritage will die if Hindu society which created it is no more there to preserve, protect and perpetuate it” (pp.1-2).
In my 1993 book “The Aryan Invasion Theory And Indian Nationalism”, I have pointed out in detail how conversion to Islam and Christianity creates a process of cultural de-Indianisation. De-Hinduisation of Indian society, therefore, will inevitably lead to the demise of Indian culture: Hindu society must survive if Indian culture is to survive.
But the reverse is also true: Indian culture must survive if Hindu society is to survive. Hindu society would no more be Hindu society if it lost all vestiges of Indian culture or if it allowed Indian culture to die out. And Hindutva without Indian culture as its very basis is a meaningless exercise.
Before going further, let me clarify what exactly the words “culture” and “Indian culture” mean in our discussion in this section on Cultural Nationalism:
Culture does not refer only to “values”, “ethos” and “way of life”, which are really vague words, which can be made to mean anything. It refers to actual concrete culture. As I put it in the 1997 VOI volume, “Time for Stock Taking”, it refers to “every single aspect of India’s matchlessly priceless heritage: climate and topography; flora and fauna; races and languages; music, dance and drama; arts and handicrafts; culinary arts; games and physical systems; architecture; costumes and apparels; literature and sciences…” (p.227).
And Indian culture refers not just to the “cultural practices springing from Vedic or Sanskritic sources, but from all other Indian sources independently of these: the practices of the Andaman islanders and the (pre-Christian) Nagas are as Hindu in the territorial sense, and Sanatana in the spiritual sense, as classical Sanskritic Hinduism” (ibid).
Indian culture is the greatest and richest in the world. India (ie. the Indian subcontinent) is the only place in the world which is rich in all the fields of culture: natural (topography, climate, flora and fauna), ethnic (races and languages), and civilisational (music, dance and drama; lore and literature; art, sculpture and handicrafts; architecture; costumes, ornaments and beauty culture; cuisine; games and physical systems; religion; philosophy; social and material sciences, etc.). Its greatness lies in both factors: the richness of its range and variety, as well as its contributions to the world, in every single field of culture.
To give just a glimpse: in climate, we have the hottest place in the world, Jacobabad (in present-day Pakistan), but also, as per the Encyclopaedia Britannica, we have, outside the Polar regions, “the largest area under permanent ice and snow”. We have dry arid regions in the west, which receive no rainfall at all, and at the same time, the area, around Cherapunji in the east, with the highest rainfall in the world. And we have, in different parts of the land, a wide range of shades of climatic conditions between these extremes. The topography of India, from the most intriguing and diverse mountain system in the world, the Himalayas, in the north, through the plains, plateaus, mountains and valleys of the peninsula down to the Andaman-Nicobar and Lakshadweep island clusters in the south, also seems to leave no topographical feature unrepresented.
India’s forests and vegetation also cover every range and variety from the coniferous and deciduous types to the monsoon and tropical types to the desert and scrubland types. And India has been one of the primary contributors to the world in every kind of plant and forest products; to name only some of the most prominent ones: rice, a variety of beans, a wide range of vegetables including eggplants and a number of different types of gourds, fruits like bananas, mangoes and a range of citrous fruits, oilseeds like sesamum, important woods including teak, ebony and sandalwood, spices like black pepper, cardamom, cinnamon, ginger and turmeric, dyes like madder and indigo, important materials like cotton, jute, shellac and India-rubber, a wide range of medicinal herbs, etc., etc. Moreover, being strategically situated between, and sharing in, three different ecological areas, India shares countless other important plants and products with northern and western Asia on the one hand and Southeast Asia on the other. And, as a detailed study will show, it has indigenous equivalents, or potential equivalents, for a wide range of other non-Indian plants and products.
India’s fauna is the richest in the world: Robert Wolff, in the introduction to his book, “Animals of Asia”, tells us that “India has more animal species than any other region of equal area in the world.” But the richness is not only in comparison with regions of equal area. For example, India is the only area in the world which has all seven families of carnivora native to it, while the whole of Africa has five (no bears or procyonids), the whole of North and South America together have five (no hyaenas or viverrids), the whole of Europe has five (no hyaenas or procyonids), and, in Asia, the areas to the east and north have six (no hyaenas) and the areas to the west have six (no procyonids). Within the carnivora family of cats, India is the only area to have all six genera, while the whole of Africa has four (no uncia or neofelis), North and South America together, and Europe, have three (no acinonyx, uncia or neofelis), and, in Asia, the areas to the east and north have five (no acinonyx) and the areas to the west have four (no uncia or neofelis). In respect of snakes, India is the only area in the world to have all twelve of the recognised families, while the whole of Africa has eight, and both North and South America together have nine, and what is significant is that one of the twelve families (Uropeltidae or shield-tailed snakes) is found only in South India and Sri Lanka, so that India alone has twelve families, while the whole rest of the world put together has eleven. Of the three families of crocodilians, two (crocodiles and gavials) are found in India, one of them (gavials) exclusively in India. India is the richest area in the world in the variety of bovine species, second only to Africa in variety of antelope species, and second only to China in variety of deer species. The list is a long one. And India is not only a primary wildlife destination, it is also one of the important centres of domestication of animals, the most important of these being the domestic buffalo, the domesticated elephant, one of the two races of domestic cattle and the commercially most important bird in the world, the domestic fowl. The most ornamental bird in the world, the peacock, is also Indian.
There are three recognised races in the world (Caucasoid, Mongoloid and Negroid), and India is the only area in the world which has all three native to it: the Andaman islanders are the only true Negroids outside Africa. Sometimes, a fourth race, Australoid, is postulated (otherwise included among Caucasoids), and we have it among the Veddas of Sri Lanka. Language wise, six of the nineteen families of languages in the world are found in India, three of them (Dravidian, Andamanese and Burushaski) only in India. And the numerically and politically most important family of languages in the world, Indo-European, originated (as I have shown in my books) in India.
As a civilisation, Indian civilisation is the oldest continuous civilisation still in existence. As A.L.Basham puts it, in his “The Wonder That Was India”: “The ancient civilisation of India differs from those of Egypt, Mesopotamia and Greece, in that its traditions have been preserved without a break down to the present day. Until the advent of the archaeologist, the peasant of Egypt or Iraq had no knowledge of the culture of his forefathers, and it is doubtful whether his Greek counterpart had any but the vaguest ideas about the glory of Periclean Athens. In each case there had been an almost complete break with the past. On the other hand…to this day legends known to the humblest Indian recall the names of shadowy chieftains who lived nearly a thousand years before Christ, and the orthodox Brahman in his daily worship repeats hymns composed even earlier. India and China have, in fact, the oldest continuous cultural traditions in the world.”
India has been one of the most important centres of civilisation in the world in practically every age. We need not refer here to Indian traditions of fabled kingdoms going back into the extremely remote past. Even in the perception of the world in general, and scholarly perception at present, India was always a fabled wonderland: in (at least) the third and second millenniums B.C., the Indus-Sarasvati sites represented a relatively egalitarian and peaceful, highly organised, standardised and developed civilisation, with many features unparalleled elsewhere, and covered a far larger area and remained constant and relatively unchanging for a far longer period (nearly a millennium) than any other civilisation. In the first millennium B.C., the Arthashastra depicts an extremely organised civilisation which appears almost modern in many respects, and India was idealised and mythicised by writers from China to Greece. In the first millennium A.D., we had the golden period of Indian civilisation during the reign of the Guptas, at which point of time, according to A.L.Basham, “India was perhaps the happiest and most civilised region of the world”. And in the second millennium A.D., India was the desired land of dreams, in the quest for which half the world had the misfortune to be “discovered” by Europe.
And this civilisation has made primary contributions to the world in every single field of civilisational culture. To begin with, religion: India is one of the two centres of origin of the major world religions (the other being West Asia): Buddhism was at one time the dominant religion not only in East and Southeast Asia, but also in Central Asia and parts of West Asia, and it is increasingly being accepted as having been one of the major influencing factors in the initial formative stages of Christianity. Hinduism was the source of many religious trends (asceticism, monasticism, etc., etc.) in the past, and, even today, Hindu-Buddhist philosophies are acquiring an ever increasing following among thinkers and intellectuals all over the world, and Hindu religio-philosophical concepts and terms (guru, nirvana, karma, etc., etc.) are basic components in the international spiritual lexicon.
Science and scientific temperament are one of the defining points of a civilised society, and India’s contributions to the development of science in the world have been more fundamental than that of any other civilisation then or since. India, to begin with, invented the zero-based decimal system, without which no significant scientific development and advancement beyond certain rudimentary levels would ever have been possible in human society. This contribution is so very important, and so well illustrates the level of scientific thought-processes in India, that it needs to be elaborated in some detail here: to begin with, the first logical stage in the development of a numeral system in any primitive society would be the very concept of numbers (one, two, three, etc.). The second logical stage would be the representation of these numbers in pictorial form, eg. three pictures or symbolic figures of cows and two of sheep would represent three cows and two sheep. The third logical stage would be the shifting of the concept of numbers from concrete objects to abstract ideas: eg. the use of a simple symbol, usually a vertical line, to represent the number one. Seven vertical lines followed by the picture or symbol of a cow would represent seven cows. As the need for using bigger and bigger numbers arose, attempts would be made to create groups, as in the common method of keeping the score by drawing upto four vertical lines to represent numbers upto four, and then a fifth line vertically across the four to represent a full hand. The fourth logical stage would be the development of a base number; usually ten, on the basis of the number of fingers on the two hands used for counting. Egyptian civilisation was at this stage of development in its numeral system, which invented specific symbols for one, ten, hundred, thousand, ten thousand, etc. So, instead of representing the number 542 with 542 vertical lines, the Egyptians represented it with five repetitions of the symbol for hundred, four of the symbol for ten, and two of the symbol for one. [Incidentally, this still had the drawback of requiring symbols to be repeated as many as nine times; and the Greeks, who borrowed the Egyptian system, went off at a tangent, off the logical track, in their attempt to remedy this. They invented halfway symbols: additional symbols for five, fifty, five hundred, etc. The Romans, who borrowed the Greek system, went even further off the logical track: they tried to avoid even four repetitions by employing a minus principle. Thus, four, nine, forty and ninety were not IIII, VIIII, XXXX and LXXXX, but IV, IX, XL and XC. Going off at another tangent, the Ionian Greeks, the Arabs, the Hebrews, and others, assigned numerical values to the letters of their alphabet, the numbers one to nine represented by the first nine alphabets, the numbers ten to ninety represented by the next nine, and so on, creating a more concise but extremely illogical numeral system of limited utility.]
The fifth logical stage would be the avoidance of repetition of the base symbols by means of specific symbols to represent each number of repetitions. Chinese civilisation was at this stage of development in its numeral system, which had base symbols for one, ten, hundred, thousand, ten thousand, etc., as well as symbols for the numbers from two to nine. Thus, the Chinese represented 542 with the symbols for five, hundred, four, ten and two, in that order. The sixth and last logical stage would be a numeral system with a rigid place system and a symbol for zero. Indian civilisation was at this last, and highest, logical stage in its numeral system, with symbols for the numbers from one to nine and a symbol for zero, and a rigid place system, which made it possible to represent any and every number with only ten symbols. [Incidentally, the Mesopotamians and the Mayas of Central America had also hit upon their own versions of zero. But, as they had gone off the logical track in the earlier stages, their systems remained grossly unwieldy and illogical: the Mesopotamian system had an unwieldy base of sixty, but symbols only for one, ten and zero; and even a symbol to incorporate a minus principle, as in the Roman system. And the Maya system had a base of twenty, but symbols only for one, five and zero; and, to accommodate the calendar, the second base was 360 instead of 400].
India’s contribution of the zero based decimal system (and, incidentally, also of most of the basic principles in the different branches of Mathematics) represents a fundamental revolutionary landmark in the history of world science on par with the invention of fire, or the invention of the wheel. But this invention was no accident. The scientific temperament in India was so developed that it was inevitable that such a fundamental development should have taken place only in India. As Alain Danielou puts it (in his “Introduction to the Study of Musical Scales”), “The Hindu theory is not like other systems, limited to experimental data: it does not consider arbitrarily as natural certain modes or certain chords, but it takes as its starting point the general laws common to all the aspects of the world’s creation…” (p.99). Curt Sachs, on the same subject (in his monumental “The Rise of Music in the Ancient World - East and West”), refers to the “naïve belief of historically untrained minds that patterns usual in the person’s own time and country are ‘natural’…”, and contrasts it with classification in India which “starts from actual facts, but is thorough in its accomplishment regardless of practice” (p.171).
It was this scientific temperament which led the ancient Indians to go deep into the study of any and every subject, and to produce detailed texts on everything, whether on religious laws, rituals and customs (the vast Vedic literature: Samhitas, Brahmanas, Kalpasutras, Dharmasutras, etc.), philosophy (the Upanishads, and the sutras, commentaries, and other texts of the six Darshanas and the Buddhist, Jain and heterodox philosophies, etc.), linguistics (Panini, Yaska, and numerous Vedic and post-Vedic texts on Grammar, Phonetics, Etymology, etc.), medicine (the Samhitas of Charaka, Sushruta, Vagbhata, etc.), administration and statecraft (Kautilya’s Arthashastra, etc.), the performing arts (Bharata’s Natyashastra, etc.), and every other possible art, craft, technology and science, right down to the art of making love (Vatsyayana’s Kamasutra). No subject was beyond the detailed investigations of the ancient Indians. And basic texts, on any subject, themselves the culminations of long and rich traditions, were followed by detailed commentaries, and by commentaries on the commentaries. And there were well-established and regulated systems and forums all over the country for objective debates on controversial points or subjects. With all this, it is not surprising that Indian civilisation should have been the source of origin of so many things.
As an illustration of India’s role on the world stage, take the performing arts (music, dance and drama). A.C.Scott (in his “The Theatre in Asia”, p.1), writes: “It will be seen that stage practice in Asia owes a great deal to India as an ancestral source. Indian influence on dance and theatre which are one and the same in Asia was like some great subterranean river following a spreading course and forming new streams on the way”. Curt Sachs (in his magnum opus “the Rise of Music in the Ancient World - East and West”), tells us that Indian music “had a decisive part in forming the musical style of the East, of China, Korea and Japan, and…what today is called IndoChina and the Malay Archipelago. There was a westward exportation, too…Indian influence on Islamic music…the system of melodic and rhythmic patterns, characteristic of the Persian, Turkish, and Arabian world, had existed in India as the ragas and talas more than a thousand years before it appeared in the sources of the Mohammedan Orient.”(p.192). Elsewhere, he goes into more specific details about this fundamental Indian influence on the music and dance of China and Japan (pp.139, 145), Bali (p.139), Siam (p.152), Burma (p.153), and Indonesia (pp. 130-132). Alain Danielou (in his “Introduction to the Study of Musical scales”), tells us that the Indian “theory of musical modes…seems to have been the source from which all systems of modal music originated” (p.99), and goes so far as to suggest that “Greek music, like Egyptian music, most probably had its roots in Hindu music” (pp.159-160). India was the land of origin of a wide range of musical concepts and musical instruments, not only in respect of the musical systems of Asia, but even beyond : as per the “Guinness Book of Facts and Feats”, bagpipes (so characteristic of Scottish music), and hourglass drums (the talking drums or message drums of Africa), originated in India. India first recognised the division of the octave into seven notes, twelve semi-tones, and twenty-two microtones (the world has still to progress towards, and Indian music as it is practiced today has even regressed from, the microtones). The present classification of musical instruments into four classes (idiophonic, membranophonic, aerophonic and chordophonic) originated in India.
It was not only in respect of music, or of religion and sciences, that Indian influence on Asia, and thereby on the rest of the world, was “like some great subterranean river following a spreading course and forming new streams on the way”. This was the case in practically every field of culture. Indian sculpture and architecture spread eastwards and influenced the development of classical sculpture and architecture in the East and Southeast: the biggest temple complex in the world, the Hindu temple complex of Angkor Vat in Cambodia, is the most eloquent example. Indian lore and literature spread eastwards and westwards, leading to the development of new genres of literature: the traditional lore and literature of Southeast Asia are suffused with the spirit, themes and vocabulary of Sanskrit epic literature, while (apart from the scientific and technical literature on every subject), Indian literary techniques and themes, like animal fables and the tale-within-a-tale technique, among others, spread out westwards, and inspired the writing of classics like the Arabian Nights and the Greek Aesop’s fables. Indian board games, like chess and ludo (pachisi), among others, likewise, spread out east and west, the former becoming the national game of Asia (with local varieties, all of them with local names derived from the Sanskrit chaturang, in every country from Arabia to Korea and Vietnam), before acquiring its present international status. Physical culture of every kind, from systems of physical exercises and martial arts, to comprehensive systems of health like Ayurveda (including, apart from its varieties of oral medicines, also the panchakarma techniques, theories of dietetics, etc.), and Hathayoga (including, besides asanas, a range of breathing techniques, concentration and meditation techniques, a wide range of internal and external cleansing techniques, etc.), also spread east and west, giving rise to similar techniques elsewhere: Greek medicine is acknowledged by many scholars to owe much to Indian medicine, and the renowned martial arts of the East acknowledge their Indian origin. Indian cuisine is generally acknowledged to be one of the great cuisines of the world, and the greatest when it comes to vegetarian cuisine, and is gaining popularity worldwide, but what is significant is that food culture all over the world would have been poor indeed without India’s material contributions to the four tastes: sweet (sugar), sour (lemons, tamarinds, kokam and amchur), pungent (black pepper and ginger), and bitter (bitter gourds), as well as a wide variety of other spices and flavourings. In respect of clothes and ornaments, again, India’s contributions are of primary importance: cotton, the most important fabric in the world, originated in India, along with numerous important techniques, of weaving, dyeing and printing, basic to the textile industry. The use of diamonds originated in India: till the eighteenth century, India was the only source of diamonds, and the ornament and jewellery industry in India was a world pioneer in many ways. Beauty culture, the art of shringara, as described in great detail in the ancient texts, had developed very highly in ancient India, and India was the source of a great many kinds of clothing, ornaments, herbal cosmetics and applications, aromatic oils and beauty techniques.
But it is not only on the basis of past glories (although, as a civilisation with the only continuous tradition, the past is not a dead past but is an intrinsic part of our present identity), or contributions to the world (considerable, and even unmatchable, as they are), that Indian culture can be considered the greatest and richest culture in the world. Indian culture is the greatest and richest culture in the world on the strength of its glorious present as well: India is a complete cultural world in itself, both in respect of the fact that it represents every stage of development in culture (from the most sophisticated, right from ancient times, to the most primitive, even in modern times or as late as the twentieth century), as well as in respect of the fact that the richness and variety of its cultural wealth, in every respect, is so great that it need never look beyond its own cultural frontiers for inspiration, innovation and development in any field of culture.
To illustrate the first point: in mathematical science, ancient India conceived and analysed the mathematical concepts of zero and infinity, achieved a fundamental revolution by devising a numeral system which can represent any and every conceivable number with only ten symbols, and coined names for numbers of incredibly high denominations (a Buddhist work, Lalitavistara, gives the names for base-numbers up to 10 raised to 421, ie., one followed by 421 zeroes). And, at the same time, we have the Andamanese languages, which have not developed the concept of numbers beyond two: they have names only for “one” and “two”, which is in effect “one” and “more than one”, which is no numeral system at all, and represents the absolutely most primitive stage in any language in the world. Likewise, in music, our Indian classical music has, since thousands of years, developed a detailed theory of music, and used the richest range of notes (twenty-two microtones as compared to the twelve notes of western classical music), scales (every possible combination of the basic notes), modes and rhythms (the most unimaginably wide range of melodies and rhythms, from the simplest to the most complicated and intricate, with, for example, rhythms having even 11, 13, 17, 19, etc. beats per cycle, unimaginable outside India), and musical instruments (with the most intricate playing techniques in the world). And, at the same time, the absolutely most primitive form of music in the world is found among the Veddas of Sri Lanka: they possess the most primitive form of singing in the world, and, along with certain remote Patagonian tribes, are the only people in the world who “not only do not possess any musical instrument, but do not even clap their hands or stamp the ground”(Curt Sachs, “The History of Musical Instruments”, p.26). This is the case in almost every field of culture: on the one hand, India has the richest traditional cuisine in the world, one of the most highly developed traditions of architecture in all its aspects, and an incredibly wide range of costumes and ornaments, all of hoary antiquity, and, on the other hand, we have tribes who are hunter-gatherers and subsist only on wild berries, who live in caves, or who live almost in the nude.
And a glance at two representative fields of civilisational culture, religion and music, will suffice to make the second point clear:
The range of Indian religion, both in respect of philosophy and doctrines, as well as customs and rituals, is quite a complete one: every shade of thought and idea (theistic, atheistic and agnostic), from the most materialistic to the most spiritual, from the most rationalistic to the most irrational, from the most humane to the most barbaric, and from the most puritanical or orthodox to the most profane or heterodox, has been explored by the different schools of philosophy, different sects and different individual writers; and every kind and level of ritual and custom from the most primitive to the most sophisticated, from the simplest to the most elaborate, and from the most humane to the most ruthless, is found in one or the other part of India. The only common thread is the complete absence of intolerant imperialistic tendencies: if such ever arose in the history of Hinduism, they died out just as quickly. Therefore, also, Hindu India, before the rise of modern liberalism in the west, was the only safe haven in the civilised world for the followers of religions and sects persecuted elsewhere: Jews, Zoroastrians, Syrian Christians…in modern times, Bahais and Ahmadiyas. (That this proved costly in the long run, because of the failure to distinguish between religions and imperialist ideologies, is a different matter).
Curt Sachs (“The Rise Of Music in the Ancient World - East and West”, p.157) writes: “The roots of music are more exposed in India than anywhere else. The Vedda in Ceylon possess the earliest stage of singing that we know, and the subsequent strata of primitive music are represented by the numberless tribes that in valleys and jungles took shelter from the raids of northern invaders. So far as this primitive music is concerned, the records are complete or at least could easily be completed if special attention were paid to the music of the ‘tribes’…hundreds of tribal styles…”.
Then there is the folk music, the range and variety of which is mind-boggling: every single part of India is rich in its own individual range of styles of folk music, and the folk music of even any one state of India (say Maharashtra, Rajasthan or Karnataka, for example, or even Sind, Baluchistan, Sri Lanka or Bhutan for that matter) would merit a lifetime of study.
And, right on top, we have the great tradition of Indian classical music, which we have already referred to. Although the oldest living form of classical music in the world, and although it has evolved and developed over the centuries, losing and gaining in the process, Curt Sachs points out that “there is no reason to believe that India’s ancient music differed essentially from her modern music” (p.157 above). Many western musicologists (Alain Danielou, M.E. Cousins, Donald Lentz, etc.) have spoken about the superiority of Indian classical music over western classical music, but it is at least certain that Indian Classical music is one of the two most classical forms in the world.
Apart from the classical music, we have the other great tradition, of Vedic chanting and singing in its many varieties, best preserved in South India, and different varieties of Sanskrit songs, preserved in temples and maths all over India.
And in all the varieties of music (classical, folk, popular and tribal), we have the most unparalleled range of musical instruments in the world, unique in their range from the most primitive and simple to the most sophisticated and complicated in respect of techniques of making, artistic appearance, techniques of playing, and qualities of sound, in every type: idiophonic, membranophonic, aerophonic and chordophonic; monophonic, pressurephonic, polyphonic and multiphonic.
All this music and all these musical instruments were preserved down the ages by temple traditions, courts, courtesans, great masters and professional castes, musical institutions, and tribal, caste and community traditions. The twentieth century saw a consolidation of all this rich musical wealth due, on the one hand, to the invention of recording devices, and, on the other, to the enthusiasm natural in a modern India in the atmosphere of an independence movement. New generations of musicians and scholars, and government bodies like Films Division, Akashwani and Doordarshan, did a herculean job in studying, recording and popularising all forms of Indian music. New trends in classical music (eg. the gharana system, new semi-classical forms, including Marathi natya sangeet, etc.), new innovations (eg. the “Vadyavrind” orchestration of Indian melodic music, etc.), and new genres of popular music (eg. new forms of devotional music, of popular music like the bhavgeet genre in Marathi music, and Film music) added to India’s incomparable musical wealth.
This was about music. The same is the case in respect of India’s cultural wealth in every other field. The same sources: ancient texts, temple traditions, courts, courtesans, great masters and professional castes, institutions, and tribal, caste and community traditions, have combined to preserve lore and literature, dance forms, arts and crafts, architectural forms, cuisine, games and physical systems, etc. etc., and a detailed study will show that Indian culture is among the greatest and richest in the world in any and every individual field of culture, and the greatest and richest in the world in the sum total of culture.
But today, this greatest and richest culture in the world, which survived all kinds of challenges in the past, is being slowly and systematically wiped out or turned into a caricature of itself. And, if systematic steps are not taken soon on a war footing, it will soon be a faint and fading memory of the past. And not only will that be the end of Hindu society as we know it, but it will be a great tragedy for world culture as well.
It is necessary first to identify the forces and factors responsible for this. Tavleen Singh, for example, in her article already referred to, writes: “when I go to the Vishwanath Mandir in Benares and listen to the most powerful, magical aarti I hear from the priests that the knowledge of it will probably die because the temple is now controlled by secular bureaucrats”. To begin with, secularism is clearly one of the factors responsible for the gross indifference within Hindu society towards its cultural heritage.
But secularism, in this context, can be of three kinds: one, the goody-goody secularism of Mahatma Gandhi, which was based on an extreme and distorted understanding of certain intrinsic values in Hinduism, and which, although it succeeded in blinding Hindu society to the true nature of its enemies by whitewashing them liberally, and thereby weakened Hindu resistance, was nevertheless based on a deep pride in, and respect for, Hinduism and its culture. Two, the arrogant secularism of Jawaharlal Nehru, based on his westernised upbringing and perspectives, which combined the colonial white man’s contempt for Hindus and Hinduism with the colonial white man’s grudging admiration for some aspects of Indian culture. And, three, the secularism of leftist intellectuals, based on a rabid and pathological hatred for Hinduism and Hindu civilisation. This third kind of secularism has gradually come to acquire a monopoly over the term, and today it dictates the definitions and the contours of what is, and what is not, secular. Many writers, myself included, therefore, generally club extremist secularists of this kind as leftists, whether or not the term would be applicable to them in respect of economic beliefs. It is this secularism which froths at the mouth at the very idea that the Aryans could be natives of India, or that Indian civilisation is basically Hindu civilisation and that this civilisation contributed greatly to world civilisation, or that the Ramayana and Mahabharata are national epics which should be made familiar to all Indians (ie. to the younger generations), or that the Gupta period was a golden period in Indian history, or that Vande Mataram is a patriotic song, or that Savarkar was a great freedom fighter who deserves due respect, etc., etc.; and which is intrinsically committed to defend and support any, simply any, ideas derogatory to, or ideologies or forces inimical to, Hinduism or Hindu civilisation. It is this secularism which has acquired such a deadly stranglehold over the education system and the media that it has already produced several generations of a Hindu society which is largely ignorant of, indifferent to, and lacking in a sense of pride in, and attachment to, the Hindu roots of its culture and civilisation and the greatness of Indian culture - a society which is, therefore, very susceptible to forces out to destroy this culture.
The very lethal role played by this peculiarly Indian brand of secularism in the Indian body politic, very like the role played by viruses in the human body or by computer viruses in computers, has to be recognised as a fundamental factor in rendering Hindu society, civilisation and culture weak and defenceless against its enemies. But, at the same time, while this secularism is undoubtedly inimical to Hindu society and civilisation, it will be misleading to conclude that secularism is also inimical to Indian culture as defined in this section, and to rest satisfied with this conclusion:
Secular governments, from day one, have done a great deal for Indian culture by establishing institutions and awards, and organising periodic festivals and other activities, to promote different aspects of Indian culture.
A survey of eminent people active in different fields of culture - whether actual participants like dancers, musicians, etc.; or scholars engaged in studying, recording and filming different aspects of culture; or activists fighting to preserve our environment, wildlife, forests, cuisine, dances, musical styles and musical instruments, art forms, handicrafts, architectural styles and monuments, old manuscripts, etc.; or even lay people who appreciate or support all such activities - will show a very fair representation, perhaps even a preponderance, of secularist people. It is, perhaps, just such people that Sita Ram Goel, quoted at the very beginning of this section, has in mind when he talks about Hindus who are legitimately proud of different aspects of Indian culture, but who fail to realise that all this culture “will die if Hindu society which created it is no more there to preserve, protect and perpetuate it”.
In some fields, indeed, it is not just vaguely secularist people, but even outright leftists, who are active in the task of preserving aspects of Indian culture, particularly when it comes to aspects of tribal, folk or regional culture. This may be simply because much of their support base comes from the more marginalised, or less westernised, strata of society, or it may be because they see it as an ideological strategy to promote the “Lesser Traditions” of Indian culture, perceived to be in opposition, or at least intended to be propped up as such, to the “Greater Tradition” of Vedic or Classical Hindu civilisation, which is perceived to be promoted by the elite classes, or upper castes, or by Hindutva organisations. Similarly, we find outright leftists engaged in fighting issues of environment, wildlife conservation and deforestation. This, again, may be merely because of the issues of socio-economic ideology involved. But, whatever the reasons, the fact is that they are doing their bit for Indian culture.
We find leftists even in the fields of classical music and dance, and in the arts. That the leftist version of secularism is bitter, rabid and vicious in its hatred of Hinduism and everything connected with it is undeniable, but even, for example, in the notorious TV serial “Tamas”, which exemplifies these traits so well (I wrote an unpublished article detailing the many ways in which every scene in the serial exudes ugly anti-Hinduism and false leftist propaganda), we find soul-stirring music and songs steeped in authentic traditions of Indian music - to be contrasted, for example, with the pedestrian, pop varieties of Indian music we find in serials like Ramanand Sagar’s “Ramayana”, so dear to the hearts of Hindutva organisations.
Of course, let us not get carried away by the above facts: rabid hatred for Hinduism and Hindu civilisation is certainly not a factor likely to foster a love for Indian culture or a desire to preserve, protect and perpetuate it. And, there is no dearth of doyens of secularist practice who throw secular tantrums over even such perfectly innocuous Indian cultural acts such as lighting a lamp, or waving an aarti, to inaugurate a function. Moreover, the leftist concern for tribal or folk cultures, referred to above, does not, for example, prevent most of them from giving their unstinting support to the activities of the greatest enemies of these cultures, the Christian missionaries. Indian leftist secularism is an extremely sick and perverted ideology, which ever takes on newer and more sick and perverted forms, and the rule is that the sickest and most perverted form sets the standard. As rabid, and unreasonable, hatred knows no limits, it would be premature to presume limits to the depths to which secularism could sink, or to give any certificates to it.
Nevertheless, all said and done, if the greatest and richest culture in the world is in real and active danger of being set on the downward path towards extinction, it would be futile to be satisfied with merely laying the blame at the doors of secularism. In the particular case quoted by Tavleen Singh, for example, if the powerful aarti at the Vishwanath temple is in danger of dying out, it is not so much because the temple is controlled by “secular bureaucrats” - just “corrupt bureaucrats”, “indifferent bureaucrats”, or even simply “bureaucrats” would suffice.
In fact, with due respect to Tavleen Singh (whose thought-provoking articles have often inspired me with respect, even when I have sharply differed with many of them, since it is obvious that Tavleen Singh is at least genuine and true to herself in whatever she writes), it is not secularism (though secularism very definitely prepares the ground for it) which is responsible for the aarti at the Vishwanath temple, and literally millions of other cultural treasures, dying out. The true culprits are the very forces which Tavleen Singh supports in her articles (the article quoted by us profusely here is part of a series of articles in defence of the BJP government and its economic policies): the forces of American “globalisation”.
Ancient India classified all worldly priorities or activities into three categories: Dharma, Artha and Kama (a fourth category, Moksha, referred to an other-worldly priority). Kama, enjoyment of pleasures of all kinds (physical, mental, physiological, psychological and social) was the first priority of mankind; Artha, production and acquisition of wealth and possessions of all kinds, was a second priority necessary for the fulfillment of the first; and Dharma, Duty (towards any and every conceivable entity) or Righteousness (not in the sense of a holier-than-thou attitude, as the word is generally used, but in the original sense of doing what is right), was the guiding principle above both, regulating the production and acquisition of wealth and the enjoyment of pleasures, besides setting the standards for all other actions.
American Imperialism, or “globalisation”, has its three arms, corresponding to the three priorities (rather like the situation in many mythologies where there is an evil counterpart corresponding to every good entity), Proselytisation corresponding to Dharma, Capitalism corresponding to Artha, and Consumerism corresponding to Kama. It is these three arms of American Imperialism (backed by America’s economic and military clout) which are responsible for India’s cultural crisis.
Now Dharma, Duty or Righteousness, does not mean religion, which refers to a belief system. In that sense, Hinduism is not a religion, but a veritable Parliament of religions or belief systems. We have already described the range and variety of belief systems which are included in the Hindu ethos: there is simply no single belief, ritual or custom, which can be cited as constituting the common factor between all Hindu groups, the absence of which places any group outside the Hindu pale. [Some people try to postulate caste as such a common factor, also because this serves to divide some particular offshoots of Hinduism from the rest; but this fails to explain many things; for example, whether large sections of Christians in the South, who still function, after decades or even centuries of conversion, as brahmin Christians, dalit Christians etc., are to be treated as Hindus who have never converted to Christianity, or as Christians.] This raises two questions: how, in the absence of a common factor, do we decide that some particular religion is outside the Hindu pale? And what, in the context of our discussion here, do religious conversions have to do with dharma?
Actually there is a common factor in that all Hindu groups follow belief systems originating in India. The Indian constitution, also, recognises this as the distinguishing point when it puts only those Indians outside the definition of Hindu, who follow religions which originated outside India. [There is a further distinction among the Indians who follow religions originating outside India, not mentioned in the constitution: these Indians include both non-Hindus (eg. Jews and Zoroastrians, who were never Hindus; whose ancestors were non-Indians who sought refuge in, or migrated to, India in the past) and ex-Hindus (eg. Muslims and Christians, who were originally Hindus; whose ancestors were converted to Islam and Christianity in the past).]
And religious conversions have everything to do with Dharma: whatever the meaning of the word in other contexts, it means religion when used in phrases like Hindu dharma (“Hindu religion”) and dharma parivartan (“religious conversion”). Moreover, even in the regular sense of Duty or Righteousness, a conversion from any Indian religion to Islam or Christianity represents a change in Dharma, since in every case it represents a change to the world-view of an intolerant, imperialist religion, and amounts to abandonment of basic concepts of Duty (towards ancestral traditions, religion and culture, etc.).
Conversion to Islam or Christianity inevitably leads to a process of total cultural de-Indianisation, which I have described in detail in my book “The Aryan Invasion Theory and Indian Nationalism” (p.29-31), and I will only repeat the conclusion here: this cultural de-Indianisation “is not only in respect of names, languages and scripts, music, dance, and architectural styles, but even in respect of aesthetic and philosophical concepts, and social manners and styles (from styles of greeting to styles of eating). It must be remembered that ultimately every religion is rooted in the cultural and environmental ethos of its land of origin. If Hinduism uses rice, coconuts, bananas and plantain leaves, arecanuts, tulsileaves, turmeric, etc. as the materials for its religious rituals, these are all Indian materials….This same rule applies to the entire range of customs and rituals…”.
Muslim Proselytisation on any significant scale is a thing of the past (despite some much publicised incidents like Meenakshipuram, since Arab money alone, in the absence of other necessary factors, cannot bring about mass conversions; and conversions, if any, of stray individuals to Islam are, like the conversion of any stray individual to any belief system, a matter of personal conviction, not to be confused with organised Proselytisation), but Christian Proselytisation, backed by unlimited media power and finances from America, is going on at a more furious pace than ever: large scale conversions are going on all over the country, not only in new tribal areas like Arunachal Pradesh (till now the only non-Christian tribal bastion in the North-east, Christians have multiplied from less than 0.5% in 1961 to nearly 19% in 2001, not including crypto-Christians, and the figure is rising steadily), but in vulnerable rural and urban poor areas throughout the country, particularly in Orissa and in the South, and even in Kashmir: the Indian Express, 6/4/2003, carries a detailed news report about the large-scale conversions of Muslim youths to Christianity by American evangelists in Kashmir. It is clear that Christian Proselytisation is not just as sinister a threat as ever, but a very much more sinister threat than it ever was before.
Now, most Muslim communities in India are communities which converted centuries ago. The same is the case with Christian communities in certain, particularly coastal, areas. Their culture (de-Indianised or otherwise) is, therefore, in many ways, an intrinsic part of our modern Indian ethos, and these communities are an intrinsic part of Indian society. But the same very definitely cannot be said about the neo-convert Christian communities, springing up all over the country, who deserve absolutely no quarters. Proselytisation in this day and age is totally unacceptable and unforgivable, and deserves to be fought with the same ruthlessness with which it functions: absolutely nothing is unfair in the war against Proselytisation. And it is for the traditional Muslim and Christian communities in India to decide whether they want to reciprocate the Hindu attitude of live and let live, or whether they want to identify themselves with, and support, the Imperialist forces of Proselytisation in their offensive against Hinduism.
In this context, the report in the Indian Express, referred to above, mentions certain significant facts worth noting: more than 12,000 Muslims have been converted to Christianity recently, and the report tells us: “Though conversions have not encountered any resistance from Muslim organisations, it has led to tensions between Kashmir’s native Christians - a miniscule community of 650 - and the enthusiastic evangelists. The native Christians are increasingly getting vocal against the outsiders. ‘This type of conversions aren’t good for local Christians who have shared a cordial relationship with Muslims here for centuries…’, says Pastor Leslie Richards, a native protestant living in Braen, Srinagar…”. This raises certain questions: first, when Kashmir is supposed to be in the throes of Islamic terrorist activities, and yet there is no reaction, from either Muslim organisations or the Islamic terrorists, to the large-scale conversion of Muslims to Christianity, what does it say about the Islamic nature of the terrorists, their real target, and the identity of the real bosses who control, and finance, both the missionaries and the terrorists? Second, when will Christian communities and organisations in the rest of the country learn to emulate the reactions and attitude of the native Kashmiri Christians? And, third, when will Hindus learn, from the above situation, to appreciate the sinister threat posed by Proselytisation in this country, and the need for Hindus to cultivate an image of themselves which will motivate these communities and organisations to do so?
Conversion is one of the main destroyers of native culture: it automatically cuts off sections of Indians from their cultural roots, and, in the case of Christianity (and Islam), there are specific ideological doctrines which demonise the cultural ethos of the converts’ former state, and require that they be systematically abandoned or drastically modified. But all this applies only to the converts, not to Indian society in general. The other two ideological arms of American Imperialism, however, strike at the whole of Indian society.
Ancient India recognised Artha (pursuit of wealth) and Kama (pursuit of pleasures) as two of the three priorities in life, but only when regulated by the third priority: Dharma. The American ideologies of Capitalism and Consumerism, however, represent the unbridled pursuit of wealth and pleasure respectively. Dharma, by any definition is passé: neither morals, principles or ethics, nor sentiment, respect for ancestral traditions, consideration for contemporary mankind in general, or concern for the heritage of the future, has any value whatsoever: all are “outdated” concepts which cannot be allowed to stand as obstacles in the path of the acquisition of wealth or the enjoyment of pleasures.
Capitalism, or the ideology of the unbridled pursuit of wealth, is destroying culture on an unbridled scale, on three fronts: at the level of cultural activity, at the level of actual commercial activity, and at the level of Authority.
At the level of cultural activity, to begin with, countless cultural activities, seen to be non-lucrative or less lucrative, are being abandoned all over the country. Others are being severely compromised in order to keep, or make, them lucrative: compromise in materials or techniques used, shoddiness in workmanship or performance, short-cut methods, etc., which are resulting in loss of natural spontaneity, cultural authenticity, technological expertise and performance satisfaction, which, in turn, gradually leads to the degeneration and further abandonment of cultural activities. All this is affecting various fields of culture: musical forms and styles, musical instruments, dance forms, architectural styles, art forms, handicrafts, traditional crops, culinary items, etc.
At the level of actual commercial activity - businessmen, industrialists, traders, etc. at all scales and levels - the destruction of culture for profit is more to be expected: large-scale exploitation and destruction of forests; large-scale driving of India’s faunal species to extinction by the destruction of their natural habitats as well as by poaching and killing for commercial gain; pollution of rivers, environment, etc.; destruction of beaches for sand quarrying and mountain systems for stone quarrying; destruction of architecturally important heritage structures, sites and areas for commercial construction, etc.
But it is at the level of Authority (ie. the elected representatives of the people from local to national level, the bureaucrats from top to bottom, the police, the judiciary, etc.), where major decisions, and action, can be taken both for the preservation and development of culture as well as for the prevention of its destruction, that the evils of capitalism - or Money as God - have taken on the most destructive forms. Today, if big business, industrialists and traders, can lay the country to waste for profit, it is because those in authority, at every single level, have become completely purchasable. For the appropriate price, not only are blatantly destructive illegal activities winked at, but laws are even changed to accommodate these activities: reserved forest areas are dereserved, restrictions on construction activities in specific areas (coastal areas, wooded areas, ecologically sensitive areas, urban areas reserved for cultural activities, urban heritage areas, etc.) are officially withdrawn, and so on. In fact, governments also function as big business, in the name of Development, or in the name of increasing `government revenues, by way of big hydro-electric or other projects (like the Tehri and Narmada projects at the moment, or the much publicised, and fortunately aborted, Silent Valley project in Kerala in the past) or outright commercial activities (like Mayavati’s aborted Taj Corridor project, or the Mufti government’s amusement park project in Pahalgam), and India’s flora, fauna, ecological and environmental ethos, and architectural heritage, continue to be wiped out with (as the Times of India report, 10/10/2003, on the amusement park in Pahalgam, puts it) “Terminator-like efficiency”.
Moreover, those in authority have always been responsible for the protection and preservation of culture: this was the role played by kings and rulers in ancient India, who patronised and encouraged cultural activities of all kinds. Even after the advent of Islam, and all that it entailed in matters of the ruthless destruction of infidel cultures, many Muslim rulers, including most of the Mughals, did a great deal in preserving and perpetuating many aspects of Indian culture, for which they often received the flak of Islamic theologians. In many cases, in fact, they developed such a deep respect and attachment for some aspects, that they even tried to appropriate credit for them: in respect of Indian music, for example, Alain Danielou (“The Ragas of North Indian Music”, p.5) points out that “Amir Khusrau (AD 1253-1319)…wrote that Indian music was so difficult and so refined that no foreigner could totally master it even after twenty years of practice”; and the Muslim attachment to Indian music grew to such an extent that it led to the invention of stories about “how the various styles of Northern Indian music were developed by musicians of the Mohammedan period…Under Moslem rule, age-old stories were retold as if they had happened at the court of Akbar…Such transfer of legends is frequent everywhere. We…find ancient musical forms and musical instruments being given Persian-sounding names and starting a new career as the innovations of the Moghul court”. The sum of it is that many Muslim rulers also contributed in the preservation and perpetuation, and even the enriching, of many aspects of Indian culture.
The British rule in India, which did introduce many negative factors (such as a system of education, which, in the words of A.C.Scott in “The Theatre in Asia”, p.51, led to “the rise of a class of young prigs for whom it became the done thing to denigrate everything Indian in an attempt at blind imitation of the customs and attitudes of western people”, whose effects on Indian society have only deepened and multiplied with the passage of time), also consciously did a great deal in preserving arts and crafts, monuments, old manuscripts, etc., and encouraging scholars engaged in the detailed study and meticulous recording of different aspects of Indian culture. Official British records, and the works of western scholars from the colonial period, are even today an incredible source of information in diverse fields.
The dawning of independence from British rule in 1947, and the accession to power of “secular” rulers eager to demonstrate their distance from anything “communal” (ie. Hindu) did not change the picture very greatly, since many of these rulers did have some pride in Indian culture, or at least those aspects of Indian culture which were perceived as not likely to attract the “communal” label, and consequently did quite a bit for those aspects of Indian culture, eg. they established institutions and academies for the study, recording, preservation and popularisation of those aspects, instituted awards to honour eminent people and scholars in different fields, organised festivals, etc., to encourage and popularise those aspects, etc. That many of these facilities became the preserve of leftists, and became hotbeds of politics rather than of cultural activity, is a different matter; but institutions such as Akashwani, Doordarshan and Films Division did a truly wonderful, Herculean job in recording and popularising India’s immeasurable wealth of music, dance, etc.
However, the concept of Money as God has now changed all this: for perhaps the first time in India’s long history, there is now no real official support for Indian culture. In the last decade or so, perhaps coinciding with the advocacy and adoption of new policies of economic “reforms”, it is now passé for governments to do anything concrete to protect, preserve, record or perpetuate India’s traditional culture, or even to aid and encourage individuals or organisations doing so. Institutions established in the post- Independence era are being literally starved for funds, or funds are being used for any purpose but to achieve the original aims and objectives, or, simply, the very aims and objectives of these institutions are being changed; in any case no new activities, except occasional pedestrian “cultural” projects of a political nature, are being undertaken: the institutions are being slowly transformed from cultural to commercial institutions, in line with the “changing times”. What is infinitely worse is what is happening to the detailed records of the research, documentation and collection undertaken by these institutions, in the not so distant past, to preserve, popularise and perpetuate different aspects of Indian culture: these archival records - print, tape, or film; or actual physical objects - are suddenly becoming an eyesore or an embarrassment, or simply a financial burden, to a cash-conscious leadership with a “reformist” eye on the “globe”. A standard sequence now is as follows: state-funded museums, libraries and archives - or at least the records in them - slowly become rare or inaccessible, in different ways, to the (lay or scholarly) public eye; often “constraints of space” force the authorities to remove these records from their protected environments and dump them in ill-maintained godowns, to rot and decay, unseen and forgotten; and, occasionally, mysterious fires break out in the places which house these archives, destroying invaluable and irreplaceable records (including those pertaining to the golden age of Indian movies), then to be forgotten forever - all these events, incidentally, make available valuable land and funds for more lucrative commercial purposes. The persons in authority are too busy saving, or making, money - for themselves, or, if they are to be believed, for the public coffers - to care.
Capitalism, or the ideology of the unbridled pursuit of wealth, would be only half as effective in destroying Indian culture down to its roots, without its sister ideology, Consumerism, or the ideology of the unbridled pursuit of pleasure:
Consumerism is, in a sense, an anti-ideological ideology. The very essence of this ideology is that ideologies, principles, morals, ethics, sentiments, etc. don’t matter: pleasure is the only thing that matters. But pleasure can mean many things. The Bhagawad Gita classifies most things into three basic categories: satvik, rajasik and tamasik. Satvik pleasure is the pleasure a person gets by doing good things which give pleasure to, or relieve the pain of, other people, or which are for the general betterment of the world. Rajasik pleasure is the pleasure a person gets by doing things, good or bad, which give him pleasure or relieve his pain, without reference to its effect on other people or on the world in general. And tamasik pleasure is the pleasure a person gets by doing bad things which give pain to, or destroy the pleasure of, other people, or which are to the general detriment of the world.
Here, at the moment, we are concerned with the effects of the pursuit of pleasure on culture. There appears to be no particular way in which the pursuit of satvik pleasure can pose a threat to Indian culture. The pursuit of tamasik pleasure can pose a threat to anything and everything: in respect of culture, it takes the form of vandalism, of any kind or description, of monuments, heritage sites, the environment, manuscripts or other records, etc., or deliberate sabotage of cultural activities, or of attempts to protect those cultural activities, purely for the perverted pleasure it gives. This is clearly perverted or criminal activity, and has little to do directly with the ideology of Consumerism.
Consumerism is the unbridled pursuit of rajasic pleasure. The ideology closest to it, in the annals of Indian history, is the philosophy or ideology of Charvaka, the ancient Indian sage, whose philosophy can be summed up in his principle rinam kritva ghritam pibeta, “borrow money and drink ghee” (somewhat similar in sense to the English saying, “eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow you die”), and who believed that the main purpose in life should be to maximise pleasure and minimise pain (a view shared by the mainstream philosophies, as well, which considered Kama to be one of the main priorities in life), without the constraints of Dharma (which were required by the other philosophies). He rejected the idea of any afterlife, heaven and hell, or rebirth, and held that existence began and ended with this one single life on earth. [Of course, it is possible to reject the idea of any kind of afterlife, and yet to believe in the need for some kind of constraints, if for no other reason than for the smooth working of the material world].
Consumerism is even more of an opium of the people than religion. And it is much more powerful than Charvaka’s philosophy could ever have been, since it is being propagated by media, more immensely powerful than anyone could ever possibly have imagined in the past, which can enter right into the homes of people in the most remote corner of the world (shades of Orwell’s “Nineteen Eighty-four”), and dazzle them with visions of pleasures to be enjoyed in the form of sensual entertainment and material possessions of every possible kind. The brainwashing potential of this psychological bombardment is total: today, increasing numbers of Indians, in their millions, are becoming so increasingly obsessed with the pursuit of - and addicted to the unceasing enjoyment of - forms of sensual entertainment and material possessions which (their minds have been conditioned to believe) provide pleasure, that they are as likely to have the time, energy and inclination to bother about what is going on all around them, as a drug-addict would. Consumerism, in the first instance, is therefore a powerful tool of Capitalism in the destruction of culture: while money can only buy outward allegiance, psychological brainwashing can sap resistance and demotivate opposition more fundamentally and effectively.
But, Consumerism is not merely a neutraliser of resistance and opposition to the Capitalist destruction of culture. As an arm of American Imperialism, Consumerism in its own right is as powerful as, or perhaps even more powerful than, Capitalism, as a destroyer of culture: the forms of entertainment to which Indians, from the most tender and impressionable age, are becoming addicted, and the material possessions which are becoming objects of obsession, are not just characterised by their sensual and material nature or their ability to obsess, they are characterised by the fact that they represent American culture and ideas of culture.
Today, American music and dance; American clothes, styles and fashions; American food and food culture; American lifestyles and work-culture; American ideas of art, humour, morals, etiquette and entertainment; and all things American (or Indian clones of all these aspects of American culture, or Americanised caricatures of aspects of Indian culture), are being marketed, or brainwashed into the brains of Indians, all over India - and not just among elite sections of urban society, as in the past, but among all classes of people in every remote corner of India, due to the ever-increasing reach of the all-pervasive media. [American culture here means western in general, but American in particular; and includes anything and everything, whatever its origin, which is accepted as an approved part of American culture, or becomes the fashion there: whether African musical instruments and styles; Chinese, Mexican or Lebanese cuisine; or Spanish pop songs. Even Indian personalities, ideas or things become respectable when they acquire the stamp of approval of America: as Tavleen Singh puts it in her oft-quoted article, “Young Indians have taken to yoga because it has come back to us from the West and because Madonna swears by it.”]
The lethal effects of this brain-washing are evident everywhere. To take the popular and influential field of Indian film music: films in Hindi, as well as in regional languages, at least till the late sixties (though very rarely after that), produced great and immortal music directors, singers, and poets, who did great work in tapping all kinds of musical sources to produce a beautiful and vibrant new genre of Indian music. However, there has literally been a Dr.-Jekyll-to-Mr.Hyde transformation in this field. Now, not only are poetry and melody a thing of the past, and vulgarity, hype and noise the order of the day, but there is a determined trend of westernisation in every respect: western tunes are lifted or copied almost note for note; western, and electronic, musical instruments have almost edged out the Indian instruments from the race; western forms and styles of music, and methods of voice production, dominate the landscape; and natural voices (and even the falsettos which had become the bane of Indian film, and light, music in earlier decades) are being replaced by voices with artificially cultivated, blatantly western accents. And even classic songs from the Golden Age of Indian Film Music are not spared: “remix albums” present versions of old hits, so grossly westernised and vulgarised as to be blasphemous.
And it is not just film music (or similar modern genres of popular music like the bhavgeet genre in Marathi music): today, the westernising trend is evident everywhere. The literally thousands of varieties of traditional ensembles of musical instruments, all over India, used for accompanying processions and to grace festive occasions, are rapidly becoming a thing of the past, replaced by western or electronic bands. The traditional dandiya-ras programs, with which the whole of Gujarat, and Gujarati-present areas all over India, reverberated during the Navratri festival, are being replaced everywhere by “disco-dandiya” programs; and the Bhangra of the Punjab is giving way to “Bhangra-rap”. Vande Mataram is known, not in the solemn Akashwani version, or the stirring version in the old Hindi film Anand Math, but in the ghastly, westernised version composed by AR Rahman; and we find similar ghastly westernised versions of many other national or regional patriotic songs, and even of bhajans and devotional songs (especially among elitist classes, and among the followers of the many young, westernised, modern swamis and babas mushrooming everywhere). The list is a long one.
Today, an ever-increasing number of Indian children are becoming more familiar with the latest western, or Indian “remix”, hit or “album”, than with their own traditional music and dance: a glance into any house, almost anywhere in the country, will very likely show the smallest child avidly watching, and imitating, the gyrations, gestures and expressions of the performers in some “remix number” or the other. The effect is depressing: to narrate a personal experience, my sister is a teacher in an English medium school in South Mumbai managed by a Gujarati trust, and with a predominance of Gujarati students. When she joined the school around eleven years ago, she was fascinated by the way in which even the smallest Gujarati children were capable of performing the most complicated and intricate group dandiya-ras performances, almost like professionals, as a matter of course and at the shortest notice. Rejoining the school again after a gap of a few years recently, she finds a sea change in the present stock of Gujarati students, who seem as unfamiliar with the art as any normal group of non-Gujarati students anywhere else.
And it is not just music and dance: an ever-increasing number of children and youth, all over the country, are becoming more familiar with the different aspects of American, or western, culture, than with those of the traditional culture of India, or even of their own particular communities: pizzas, Chinese food, tacos and McDonald’s burgers; the latest American slang, the latest western mannerisms and expressions, styles of eating and greeting, and of expressing emotions and sentiments (“yessss” with clenched fist upraised, special “days” of the year for different categories of loved ones, bouquets and cards for every occasion, etc.); the latest western clothing, fashions and styles; the latest Barbie-dolls and western toys; the latest western trends in cars, films, TV serials, cartoons, partying, sports, hobbies, destinations, and anything else; and the latest, or even the traditional, heroes and icons of the western worlds of music, sports, films, fashion, business, history, politics, etc. If some of these aspects are current only among elite classes, they have produced Indian clones which cater to the other classes.
All this progressive westernisation (or Americanisation) and de-Indianisation of greater and greater numbers of Indians, and particularly of the younger generations, is slowly leading to the demise of more and more aspects of India’s culture. Several people, including western scholars, have repeatedly expressed their acute distress at the fatal neglect of their rich culture by Indians. For example, Dr. James O’Barnhill, retired Professor of Theatre Arts, Brown University, USA, in an interview to the Organiser (5/3/1989), lamented: “I am sad to note that Indians know very little about their folk arts or the artistes…using this medium (TV) to destroy one’s own originality and to spread foreign culture is dangerous…the intellectuals…should recognise the fact that their own culture is dissolving like delta in the sea”. [This, it may be noted, was in the days of Doordarshan, when private and foreign TV channels had not yet arrived on the scene]. When he had visited Gujarat some years earlier, he had met a Bhavai folk drama artiste who knew 200 plays. But, this time, the oldest Bhavai artiste knew only 65 plays: “Between two generations, 135 Bhavais were lost! Nobody bothered to record them. They were lost forever”. This was in 1989. What must be the fate of the traditional Bhavais today, in 2004? And what will be their fate in, say, 2014? And it is not just a question of one particular form of traditional folk theatre, it is a question of literally millions of aspects of Indian culture which are being allowed to die out, or being systematically decimated, at a break-neck pace.
The question may be asked: does all this really matter? After all, change is in the nature of things, so why bother about what may be part of a natural process of change? And there are many more important things to achieve, and problems to solve, in this world; so why interfere with what may be part of the process of progress and development?
Well, the facts of the case have been set out, in short but (I hope) comprehensively, in the above pages. To sum up, we have two basic facts: one, Indian culture is the greatest and richest culture in the world, and also the culture which represents the oldest continuous civilisation; and, two, this culture is being systematically decimated, or callously allowed to die out. So, the answer to the first question is: yes, it matters. It matters very much, and it matters almost more than anything else in the world. On a personal level, of course, it is natural, and perfectly right, for every individual to be more concerned with problems that beset him personally. But, on a larger level, this matters more than anything else.
As to the second point, it is true that change is a part of nature, and this applies to culture as well. No-one lives his life, in every way, exactly in the same manner that his grandfather lived before him - and, nor must his grandfather have done so before him. But such natural cultural changes (apart from purely technological changes) take place in the culture of a society over the course of time, during which (apart from desirable changes wrought by internal processes of evolution and refinement) the natural influences of other cultures are assimilated into the native ethos. Culture everywhere has been, and should be, a process of give and take; and even as Indian culture has contributed more to the world than any other culture, it has received a great deal from the world as well: to take just a single example, consider the extremely important position of potatoes and chillies, natives of the American continent, in Indian cuisine. [But even in these natural circumstances, a conscious and self-respecting society, with a rich culture of its own, should see to it that this leads to the enrichment, and not to the replacement, abandonment or pollution, of any aspect of its culture. And where, for some reason or the other, some aspect of culture dies out, it should be recorded in detail for future reference and use. The tragedy of Indian culture is that, in spite of the fact that the aspects of its culture, which are being callously allowed to die out, are so rich and beautiful, no efforts are made to record them for posterity.]
But, what we are seeing here is not a natural process of change as described above. We are seeing the most powerful forces of Imperialism that the world has ever seen, the forces of American Imperialism, out to transform the world in its own image, and in the process destroying all other cultures with the help of its powerful ideological weapons (Proselytisation, Capitalism and Consumerism), and the world is too overwhelmed, by the psychological force of these weapons, to resist, or even to care. There is nothing “natural” about it.
As to the final point, there are many very important (as distinct from more important) things to be achieved, and problems to be solved, in this world; but surely it cannot be anyone’s contention that they will be achieved, or solved, by destroying rich cultural traditions, or allowing them to be destroyed? And why should the destruction, of rich, and beautiful, cultural traditions, be, in any possible way, a part of the process of progress and development? Or, again, why should cultural westernisation, or Americanisation, be equated with the process of progress and development?
In the past, much evil, injustice and damage has been done in the name of religion; but even more evil, injustice and damage has been done, and is being done even now on an ever-increasing scale, in the name of progress and development. As a result of many of the half-baked, ill-thought of, or plainly mercenary, things which take place in the name of progress and development, the world not only becomes vastly poorer of large parts of its rich heritage, which is lost forever, but it often has to pay a heavy price for it (the lethal effects of deforestation, industrial pollution, and mega-urbanisation, for example, are already apparent; and will become so clear in the days to come, that even the most determined opponent of social and environmental concerns will be compelled to note them; by when, of course, it will be too late, since some things become irreversible after a point of time), and the results, even otherwise, are often pathetic, tragic and depressing:
An article by Soutik Biswas, “Modern Cultural Clashes” (Asiaweek, 5/3/1999), details the results of a decade of efforts, by governmental agencies, at “improving the lot” of the Andamanese tribals, by way of social and welfare policies and programs. The government, in the initial days, had followed a more or less “hands-off” policy: regular contacts with the, till then practically isolated, tribes began in 1974, but they were sporadic and primary. After 1990, the contact expeditions became a regular affair: “In one case, Indian politician BP Singhal led a parliamentary committee to the tribal heartland, met some people wandering on the trunk road, offered them toffees, suggested giving them raincoats, and asked them to pose for photographs”. In 1997, “officials brought a young tribe member to the capital of Port Blair for medical treatment. He spent three months convalescing in the hospital, where he was put up in a separate cabin outfitted with a TV. Doctors and authorities lavished him with attention and gifts, they took him on drives, gave him special food.” This boy “carried back the tales of the good life in the city to other tribe members”. The article describes the results: within one year, from October 1997, more than 2000 tribals had migrated out from their habitats, lured by the fairy tales; and a sordid sequence of events, described in the article, took place over the next one-and-a-half years, as the tribals stepped out from backwardness into the modern age. The article, published in March 1999 (already more than five years ago), concludes: “Now it may be too late to ensure the tribe members live in a protected environment. Recently, those who landed in Shantanu village were wearing dirty donated clothes, eating fried snacks and rice, and singing popular Hindi ditties they had learned from watching television. On the trunk road that cuts through their heartland, others were stopping vehicles to ask for food. ‘At this rate’, says Acharya [head of the Port Blair-based Society for Andaman and Nicobar Ecology], ‘they will turn up as beggars and servants and prostitutes.’ That would surely be a sorry epitaph for one of the world’s proudest hunter-gatherer tribes.”
The tragedy, described above is so great that no words can even begin to describe it. It will not be an exaggeration to say that the day on which the last of the Andamanese tribals breathes his last breath will be one of the blackest days in our modern human history, in more ways than one. Indian culture will be very much the poorer, by one of its three native races and by one of its six native language families, apart from the different other aspects, most of them probably unrecorded, of Andamanese culture (although I recall seeing a Films Division documentary, “Man in Search of Man”, long ago on Doordarshan, which provided some glimpses of Andamanese culture, including some strains of their music). But, apart from that, it will show how “progress and development” can be as ruthless as “religion”: if the natives of Tasmania were ruthlessly wiped out from the face of this earth, in mediaeval times, in the fanatical name of religion, the natives of the Andaman islands will have been ruthlessly wiped out from the face of this earth, in modern times, in the mindless name of progress and development. Moreover, it will also show how far the world has progressed since those mediaeval times: the world, today, is just as blissfully ignorant of, or (even if it were to be brought to their notice) callously indifferent to, the fate of the Andamanese, as it was, then, to the fate of the Tasmanians.
The tragedy in the Andaman islands is a pointer to what is happening to India’s tribal and folk cultures, and even to the tributaries of the mainstream classical cultures of India. Even if the analogy may not be an exact one for many reasons, the sight of millions of Indians abandoning their glorious culture, and striving to become pathetic clones of the west, is not very different, in principle and substance, from the pathetic sight of the Andamanese tribals “wearing dirty donated clothes, eating fried snacks and rice, and singing popular Hindi ditties they had learned from watching television”.
If Indian culture faces the same fate as the culture of the Andamanese tribes, it will be a historical tragedy of indescribable proportions. The only thing which can avert this tragedy is Indian society in general waking up to a consciousness of its roots, and deciding that the survival of Indian culture, in all its richness, really matters more than anything else. Even the survival of Indian society as Hindu society, in my opinion, is incidental to the survival of Indian culture in all its richness: if Hindu society is willing to let it die out, or be polluted or decimated, and prefers to itself survive, howsoever richly and prosperously, as a cultural clone, even a “proudly Hindu” one (whatever that may mean under those circumstances), of whichever society (currently it is western society in general, and American in particular) is dominating the world at the moment, then Hindu society itself deserves to perish “unwept, unhonoured and unsung”.
What India requires is a Nationalist ideology in which the need to protect, preserve and perpetuate Indian culture, in all its richness, is a central point of faith and action. As pointed out in the very beginning of this section, Hindutva without Indian culture as its very basis is a meaningless exercise. As I pointed out even earlier, in the Voice of India volume, “Time for Stock Taking” (1997, pp.227-8), a true Hindutvavadi should feel deep pain and impelled to take strong action, not only when he hears of issues of conventional Hindutva discourse, but also “when he hears that the Andamanese races and languages are becoming extinct; that vast tracts of forests, millions of years old, are being wiped out forever; that ancient and mediaeval Hindu architectural monuments are being vandalised, looted or fatally neglected; that priceless ancient documents are being destroyed or left to rot and decay; that innumerable forms of arts and handicrafts, architectural styles, plant and animal species, musical forms and musical instruments, etc. are becoming extinct; that our sacred rivers and environment are being irreversibly polluted and destroyed…..”. [Incidentally, even as I was typing this out, I noticed a truly, and incredibly, macabre coincidence: the above volume was published in October 1997; the introduction is dated 16 October 1997. The Asiaweek article (dt. March 5, 1999) quoted earlier, relates that the very first incident in which the Andamanese tribals started migrating out of their isolated habitats, to their eternal doom, took place on 21 October 1997.]
Hindutva is not a narrow ideology. As I clarified in an interview to the Free Press Journal, 5/5/2002: “Indian culture being the greatest and richest is not a narrow or chauvinistic idea; it is a demonstrable fact. It would be chauvinistic if it acquired an imperialist tinge: that other cultures are inferior and Indian culture must dominate over or replace them. In fact, I am opposed to even internal cultural imperialism. The idea that Vedic or Sanskrit culture represents Indian culture and that other cultures within India are its subcultures and must be incorporated into it, is wrong…..all other cultures native to this land: the culture of the Andaman islanders, the Nagas, the Mundas, the tribes of Arunachal Pradesh, etc. are all Indian in their own right. They don’t have to be - and should not be - Sanskritised to make them Indian”. Vedic and Classical Sanskrit culture, is, of course, the pan-Indian representative face of India’s ancient civilisation, and that fact is not negated by the equally valid fact that all other native Indian cultures must be given their due. [I will go further here. In my 1993 book, “the Aryan Invasion Theory and Indian Nationalism” (p.33), I have, rightly in that context, criticised the secularist media for the “calculated glorification of Urdu, of Lucknowi tehzib, of the Mughals, of gazals and qawwalis, etc.”. But the truth is that all this is also a part, and a rich part, of our modern Indian ethos. In fact, it is old classics, which depict this culture, that I most look forward to when old Hindi film classics are shown on TV channels!].
And it is not only in the negative sense - of not being cultural imperialist - that Hindutva stands out against cultural imperialism. In the above volume (“Time for Stock Taking”, p.227), I put it as follows: “Hinduism is the name for the Indian territorial form of worldwide Sanatanism (call it Paganism in English). The ideology of Hindutva should therefore be a Universal ideology:…[it] should spearhead a worldwide revival, rejuvenation and resurgence of spiritualism, and of all the religions and cultures which existed all over the world before the advent of imperialist ideologies…”. Perhaps a rather ambitious idea, when the going is increasingly getting tougher, by the day, in India itself - but, nevertheless, that must be the ultimate dream of Hindutva.
Finally, Hindutva is not opposed to any other particular culture as such: it is opposed to cultural imperialism which leads to the imposition of one culture to the detriment of others; it is opposed to the destruction and extinction of rich, diverse and beautiful aspects of the rich cultural heritage of mankind. Western, or even American, culture, are not, in themselves, enemies of Hindutva: they have assumed that position today because (religious and cultural) Proselytisation, Capitalism and Consumerism are, today, the weapons of American Imperialism; and the havoc and the destruction they are causing, to the cultural heritage of India and the rest of the world, is lethal and irreversible.
The true cultural spirit of Hinduism is encapsulated in the following words of Mahatma Gandhi: “I don’t want my house to be walled in on all sides and my windows to be stuffed. I want the cultures of all lands to be blown about my house as freely as possible. But I refuse to be blown off my feet by any”. The tragedy today is that the culture of only one land is being allowed to blow about; and it is not a wind, but a whirlwind; and it is being allowed to blow everyone off their feet, never to stand up again. The aim of Hindutva should, therefore, be to see to it that India remains firmly and proudly rooted in its own richly diverse culture, even as the cultures of all lands (including America as much as every other) blow freely about in the true Hindu spirit:
Hindu individuals, thinkers and activists, should: (1) take up the task of identifying the different fields of culture, and (2) set up well-funded and systematically organised apex institutions, one in every single field (eg. music, dance, cuisine, architecture, wildlife, environment, games, etc.), (3) which will draw up detailed action-plans to gather, classify, record, and document in detail everything concerning that particular field of culture, from every part of India and every possible period, (4) take measures, and conduct campaigns to arouse the conscience, and culture-consciousness, of Indians everywhere, (5) and take steps to see to it that every single aspect of the culture of every single part of India is protected, preserved, popularised and perpetuated as part of a living heritage (and where that is not possible, at least documented and recorded in detail, and kept alive in the national memory), and that, in every field of culture, ample scope is made available for inspiration and further development from within India’s diverse sources.
But, while the inspiration and ideology behind the above exercise should be Hindutva, the apex institutions should function not on the basis of vote-bank politics or pedestrian jingoism, but on the basis of a purely objective and academic outlook. For example, in all the activities connected with the field of music, politicians and political considerations of any kind, should be severely kept at arms length, and only musicians, musicologists, passionate music lovers, and considerations of Music as an end in itself, should have the first as well as the final say in every matter.
As pointed out earlier, there are countless committed activists in the fields of ecology and environment, wildlife preservation, folk or tribal culture, music and dance, handicrafts, etc. who may be ideologically indifferent, or even hostile, to Hindutva. There are also numerous scholars, Indian and foreign, who do serious academic research, or film-makers who make documentary films, on different aspects of Indian culture (in their personal capacity, or for different organisations, or for Films Division, or even for foreign TV channels like Discovery or National Geographic). There are many people, in their individual capacity, doing wonderful work in diverse fields: eg. Sunderlal Bahuguna, who initiated the Chipko movement, Avinash Patwardhan, who has invented a flute which plays the 22 shrutis of ancient Indian music (Indian Express, 16/5/1999), Pandit Nikhil Ghosh, who has taken up the mammoth project of preparing a complete Encyclopaedia of Indian classical music (The Times of India, 18/12/1990), Dr. Jayant Narlikar, the well-known scientist, who has taken initiatives in encouraging scientific studies on the engineering marvels incorporated in Indian architecture, etc.
Any person, who, in effect, does anything to genuinely protect, preserve or perpetuate any aspect of Indian culture, deserves respect and gratitude for it (at least to the extent called for by the extent of his contribution); and, at least to that extent, that person must be regarded as a benefactor of Hinduism and Indian culture, and therefore also of Hindutva - regardless of his ideological leanings, or his attitude towards aspects of culture other than the one he is interested in, or his attitude towards Hinduism or the Indian ethos as a whole; and even if he is a bitter opponent of Hindutva - more than any avowed supporter of Hindutva whose ideas of Hindutva are restricted to the world of vote-bank politics.
But it is time for genuine Indians, who are proud to call themselves Indian, to take up the task. And it is even more imperative for genuine Hindus, who are proud to call themselves Hindus, to take up the task on a war-footing.
III. SOCIO-ECONOMIC NATIONALISM
It is absolutely necessary that Hindutva must have a socio-economic ideological agenda for the nation. Apart from the obvious point that Hindutva would be only half a nationalist ideology if it has nothing to say on national socio-economic issues, there are three compelling reasons why it is imperative to have a clear-cut Hindu Nationalist socio-economic ideology:
One: today, after the demise of the Soviet Union, the USA is the sole super-power in a “uni-polar” world. We have already, in the previous section, referred to American Imperialism, with its three ideological weapons (Proselytisation, Capitalism, and Consumerism) backed by the military and economic clout of the USA, and the destruction being wrought by it all over the world. The destruction described was in the fields of the cultural heritage of India, as of the rest of the world. But, it must be realised that the motive behind this destruction is not cultural vandalism: the destruction is merely an incidental, if inevitable, result of the spread of the ideologies of Christian fundamentalism, Capitalism And Consumerism. And if the USA is propagating these ideologies all over the world, it is not because the thinkers and philosophers in America sat together and concluded that this was the ideal way to spread peace and happiness all over the world, but because the over-all effect of the spread of these ideologies is the tightening of the political and economic stranglehold of the USA over the rest of the world. In short, the ultimate motive is Profit: all imperialisms ultimately boil down to Economic Imperialism. In these circumstances, a Nationalist socio-economic ideology is necessary to safeguard India’s economic interests from economic imperialism from any quarters, and to realise the dream of a rich, prosperous, peaceful and happy India. And to protect Indian culture, as well.
Two: in the present world, which is getting more and more ruthless and cynical, idealism of any kind is becoming a rare commodity. People usually become concerned with the larger issues that affect the greater good, or future, of humanity (or the nation), or which pertain to matters of high ethics or ideals, in only any one of two circumstances: either when they are personally affected, and stand to gain or lose personally from them (even perhaps have a personal axe to grind in the matter), or when they are genuinely motivated by noble intentions, compelling ideals or passionate dreams, or consumed (to whatever degree) by a passion for Truth and Justice. But, even in the latter case, physical, mental, emotional, financial or social tensions or injustice are factors which can seriously affect the enthusiasm, commitment and outlook of even the most enthusiastic idealist. The erstwhile idealist can become an anarchist; or he can lose all his enthusiasm and idealism and become a cynical “realist”, either losing all interest in his former ideals and “outgrowing” idealism as such, or learning to use his erstwhile ideological platform for personal gain. For the sake of idealism - any idealism, not just Hindu nationalist idealism - an equitable and just socio-economic order is imperative. Every Indian must feel free to dream of a better world, and to strive hard for it, with his mind free of oppressive tensions, and his head held high.
Three: the ultimate basis of any ideology must be Truth, and the ultimate aim Justice. And, all issues of Justice can be broadly classified under two heads: Cultural Justice and Socio-Economic Justice. But, the fact is that vested interests, throughout history, have always conspired to place these two categories in mutually antagonistic slots: to put it in simple (even simplistic) terms, the advocates of cultural injustice have always positioned themselves as champions of socio-economic justice, and the advocates of socio-economic injustice have always positioned themselves as champions of cultural justice. The conflict, which should have been between Wrong and Right, has been converted into one between Left and Right: forces supposedly fighting for the oppressed are motivated more by a pathological and rabid hatred for Hinduism, and forces supposedly fighting for Hindutva are motivated more by deeply entrenched vested interests and rabid antagonism to ideas of socio-economic egalitarianism. There is always an unspoken agreement between the two sides to maintain this state of affairs; and genuine thinkers, idealists and activists have to ultimately fall in line, on this side or that. It is time for Hindutva to break out of this vicious circle, and to start representing Right against Wrong, rather than Right against Left.
In short, it is time to evolve a Hindu Nationalist socio-economic ideology which will try to be a model and inspiration to the rest of the world, and to future generations of the human race; and which will take mankind as a whole further on the path “from untruth to truth, from darkness to light, from death to immortality” and from animalism to divinity. True evolution is to be measured, not in terms of technological and material progress and development, which are taking place at a breakneck, and continually accelerating, pace, but are only converting humans into a more and more organised, powerful, sophisticated, technologically advanced and materially evolved species of ruthless, selfish, self-centred, cold-blooded and mechanical animal, but in terms of spiritual progress which will make humans more and more humane, considerate, thoughtful and compassionate divine beings. [To put it in a different way: tomorrow, if a race of aliens, infinitely superior in comparison to the most advanced section of earthlings of that time - as proportionately superior, in the sense of technologically advanced, materially rich and militarily powerful, as, say, the present-day Americans are in comparison to the present-day Andamanese people - were to arrive on earth (admittedly an extremely hypothetical situation), how would we expect to be treated by them? Would we respect them, as genuinely superior and advanced beings, only on the strength of their technology, material wealth and power, if it were accompanied by their treatment of us with the same ruthlessness with which man treats other animals, conquering humans treat conquered peoples, masters treat slaves, the pigs on Orwell’s “Animal Farm” treated the other animals, Big Brother’s System treated the citizens in Orwell’s “Nineteen Eighty-Four”, or, indeed, Jehovah of the Old Testament treated mankind in general or the Jews in particular? Or would we respect them if they also proved to be spiritually advanced: infinitely more humane, considerate, thoughtful and compassionate than human beings?].
It is not my claim here that I am any authority on Economics or Sociology, or am in any other way qualified to try to provide a blueprint for a Hindu Nationalist Socio-Economic Ideology. In spite of that I am going to express my strong views on the subject.
To begin with, what should be the model for such an ideology? To be truly Hindu, it may appear axiomatic that it should be in some way derived from some Hindu model. But, the central aim should be to formulate objective norms of Socio-Economic Justice, and not to dig out precedents in Hindu texts or Hindu history. Such precedents, if any, would obviously be most welcome, but they would not be a prerequisite.
In any case, while countless useful points can be picked up from our ancient texts - when even a text like the Bible can provide some gems, the number of useful quotations and hints that could be culled from our Sanskrit treasure-house of texts is beyond count - what do we have by way of general models that could be held up as ideal? There are firstly the models presented by the various Dharma Shastras (the most well known of which is, of course, the Manu Smriti), further illustrated in the myths and legends in the Puranas and the Mahabharata; there is the model visualised in the phrase “Ram Rajya”; and, finally, there is the model described in the Artha Shastra. But how valid are these models? An examination of these models in detail shows that all of them without fail give importance to the supremacy of Laws rather than the supremacy of Objective Justice. And, there is very little egalitarian or just, either in the laws themselves (many of which have obviously been established by deeply entrenched vested interests), or in the principle of the absolute supremacy of Law which lies behind them.
But, at the same time, in spite of all the inegalitarianism and injustice which permeates the laws and the stories which illustrate the application of these laws, there is a thread of basic humanitarianism which runs through the gamut of Indian civilisation, which makes India appropriately qualified to show the path to the rest of the world at this crucial juncture in human history - not on the basis of Hindu precedents, but on the basis of this basic humanitarianism developed to its full potential. [AL Basham, incidentally, has the following to say about the Indian ethos: “At most periods of her history India, though a cultural unit, has been torn by internecine war. In statecraft, her rulers were cunning and unscrupulous. Famine, flood and plague visited her from time to time, and killed millions of her people. Inequality of birth was given religious sanction, and the lot of the humble was generally hard. Yet our overall impression is that in no other part of the ancient world were the relations of man and man, and of man and the state, so fair and humane. In no other early civilisation were slaves so few in number, and in no other ancient lawbook are their rights so well protected as in the Arthasastra. No other ancient lawgiver proclaimed such noble ideals of fair play in battle as did Manu. In all her history of warfare Hindu India has few tales to tell of cities put to the sword or of the massacre of non-combatants…There was sporadic cruelty and oppression no doubt, but, in comparison with conditions in other early cultures, it was mild. To us the most striking feature of ancient Indian civilisation is its humanity.” (pp.8-9)].
The basic foundation of this Hindu Nationalist Socio-Economic Ideology must be based on the philosophy and principles of Mahatma Gandhi, which best represent this basic humanitarianism developed to its full potential. [Incidentally, a phrase “Gandhian Socialism” was cooked up by the erstwhile Jana Sangh, when it broke away, in 1980, from the Janata Party formed in 1977, and formed the Bharatiya Janata Party. It evoked plenty of derision even among its supporters, and rightly so: the BJP is, was, and will always be, bitterly antagonistic to any and every form of socialism, and its intrinsic incompatibility with Mahatma Gandhi is an open secret; and there is no doubt whatsoever that whatever things the BJP would have done, in the name of Gandhian Socialism, would have been neither Gandhian, nor socialist, in any sense of the terms. The phrase was clearly just one more cynical vote-catching gimmick, and was abandoned with alacrity when it failed to deliver the goods in 1984. I myself, at the time, was biased against Gandhi, and, consequently, was ill-disposed to examine his philosophy with an open mind. But, a rational and objective approach shows the perennial relevance of Gandhian principles, at least in the formulation of a just and equitable socio-economic system.]
The basic principles of this Gandhian socio-economic ideology may be summarised as follows:
1) Primacy to the spirit of (humanitarian) Justice over, or even in opposition to, the letter of the (religious/social/traditional/statutory) Law.
2) Swadeshi, or economic nationalism.
3) An administrative system which governs the least, and with the least interference; and which provides public utilities at the least cost to one and all; and which provides full protection, security and aid to every citizen - regardless of race, religion, caste, sex, profession, or any other mark of identity - from fear, terror, injustice, insecurity, crime and oppression, from hunger and want, and from diseases and natural disasters.
4) Simple Living [a) Simple lifestyle. b) Curbs on wastage, extravagance and ostentation in public and personal life. c) Principle of small is beautiful. d) Proximity to nature, and conservation] and High Thinking [a) Idealism. b) Open, free and honest society. c) Emphasis on hygiene and cleanliness, and civic-mindedness. d) Sense of Duty. e) Dignity of labour. f) Compassion towards, and love for, all living beings].
5) Primacy to the interests of the poorer and more oppressed persons in society, and to the benefit of the greatest number.
Today, every single one of the basic principles, mentioned above, is rejected outright by the intellectual and political powers that be; or else these principles are followed only in the breach as hypocritical leaders and intellectuals continue to speak in terms of all-round progress and development, and socio-economic justice, even as they advocate and follow socio-economic principles, philosophies and policies which blatantly violate those concepts.
Let us examine, as briefly as possible, the relevance of the above basic principles, or the different ways in which the present set-up and trends are moving in the direction opposite to these basic principles:
1) The first basic principle, enumerated above, is the primacy of the spirit of Justice over the letter of the Law. This is important because Law has not always been synonymous with Justice in this world. A blind belief in the sanctity of the Law, and in the power of Authority to enforce the Law, has always been fostered by different entities (eg. by different kings, governments, civilisations, religions, priesthoods, etc.) to establish, and maintain, their stranglehold over their followers or subjects. Every Authority, the Taliban leadership in Afghanistan as much as the democratic government in the USA, believes, or claims, that its system of Law is the best in the world. But the truth is that most laws are formulated, established and enforced by vested interests, and, throughout history, laws have, more often than not, been used more to perpetrate injustice and exploitation than to establish Truth and Justice. Even the seemingly most impartial and objective laws are susceptible to willful technical misinterpretations. The western or “modern” system of Justice, as much as any other, is notorious for its great capacity for manipulation and injustice. [There is an American serial on the Star World channel, “The Practice”, which depicts the gross injustices that take place in the American system, where heinous crimes - murder, serial killings, rape, cannibalism, to name a few - go unpunished because the judges, lawyers and juries conclude that even open-and-shut cases do not merit convictions if there are technical - sometimes incredibly, trivially technical - grounds for acquittal; while even openly innocent people are convicted on equally technical grounds. The serial, incidentally, defends and justifies such a system]. Similarly, in India, rules and laws (and, especially in modern contexts, “discipline”) have always been, at the very least, instruments for the victimisation of sincere people, for the benefit of vested interests, and for the legitimisation of unjust or wasteful systems and activities.
There is no doubt that a lawless society cannot be an ideal: laws are absolutely necessary for the smooth running of society; but only when they are formulated, and administered, on the principles of Truth and Justice, and guided by logic, common sense, and principles of common humanitarianism. There should be no place for blind and unthinking dogmatism. Gandhi always believed in following the inner voice of conscience over the letter of the law. He led agitations against unjust laws (the salt satyagraha is a case in point) and unjust legal systems, and, in spite of his known conservatism, strongly rejected accepting even the authority of scripture “if it is in conflict with sober reason or the dictates of the heart…when it supplants reason sanctified by the still, small voice within”, if it is “opposed to the fundamental maxims of morality…[or] opposed to trained reason”: according to him, “in Hinduism, we have got an admirable footrule to measure every Shastra and every rule of conduct, and that is Truth” (quoted by Arun Shourie in “Hinduism - Essence and Consequences”, ch.11).
The most, if not only, objective way of judging, from the point of view of the inner voice, whether a law is just or unjust, or, on any point of conflict of interests, which side is in the right, is by placing oneself in the place of the affected person, or of both the conflicting sides in turn (even when one of the two sides is one’s own self), and applying the principle (often attributed to the Bible, but found in many other places, among them in the sayings of Confucius and in the Mahabharata): “do unto others as you would have them do unto you”. Of course, this principle must be applied honestly and objectively, and it must be clarified with the addition “if you were in their place”, else it is perfectly possible for people to justify unjust acts while claiming that they are applying this principle. This can be illustrated by the well-known fable about the fox and the stork: the fox calls the stork for supper, and serves the food (porridge or soup) in a flat dish, and the fox merrily laps up his food while the stork stays hungry. To pay him back, the stork then calls the fox for supper, and serves the food in a thin, long-necked pitcher, and this time it is the fox who starves while the stork enjoys his meal. In this story, however, the fox could always claim that he was following the above principle: he would have liked to be served in a flat dish, and so he also served the stork in a flat dish, and therefore he did unto the stork as he would have had the stork do unto him! This is, obviously dishonest logic: the fox, if he had placed himself in the place of the stork as a stork rather than as a fox, would have realised that the stork would want his food in a thin, long-necked pitcher. The same kind of dishonest logic is demonstrated by missionaries when they strive to convert Hindus, for example, to Christianity: if asked whether they would like to see Christians being converted to Hinduism, they would naturally reply in the negative; but if asked whether they would have liked to see Hindus being converted to Christianity if they themselves had been Hindus, they would reply in the affirmative on the ground that Christianity is the only true religion, and conversion to Christianity is salvation from hell-fire!
It is inevitable that, human nature being what it is, there will always be dishonesty in the application of principles. The point here is that the spirit of impartial and objective Justice and Truth are more important than the letter of blind Law. And this should be the most fundamental principle of any Hindu Nationalist socio-economic ideology.
2) Swadeshi should naturally be the cornerstone of any national socio-economic policy, leftist or rightist. But, today, this basic mantra of our pre-Independence era has been thrown to the dogs. An article by Jay Dubashi, entitled “Into Foreign Hands” (The Times of India, 17/1/2002), puts it in a nutshell: “For India, independence meant transfer of power from an alien to the local political class….But things are different now. The state is in retreat everywhere, and power is being transferred from the political class to the business class….first to the Indian business class and through it, to foreign business led by multinationals. The transfer of power to the foreign business class has been going on for the last ten years. I call this reverse transfer of power. Power, which was wrested from foreigners 50-odd years ago, is passing back into the hands of foreigners once again, with the active collaboration of our new political class….Ten years from now, maybe five, almost everything that is currently in the name of the Indian state will pass into the clutches of the international business class, through their intermediaries in India….Everything that is Indian will cease to be Indian. Indians will serve their new foreign masters as diligently as their fathers and grandfathers served the British before….The real story is that India and Indians are being betrayed by this new class just as they were betrayed by another new class fathered by Thomas Babington Macaulay two centuries ago. This time the new class is being fathered by multinationals and their agents, the World Bank, IMF and WTO, the new tribal leaders of Globalisation. India is being colonised once again with the help of our new political class and history is repeating itself with a reverse transfer of power, first as national betrayal, and then as a colossal national tragedy in the making”. Dubashi names banks, insurance, steel, power, petroleum, airports, ports and harbours, railways, highways, “and finally defence industries”, as some of the major areas which will pass into the hands of foreigners. But the virus has spread even further: the media and education system, retail trade, the fishing industry….foreigners and foreign firms are even sought to be appointed on the Planning Commission, and (as per reports in the Times of India, 28/9/2004) islands in Lakshadweep and the Andamans are to be leased to “private and international operators”. The country and its people are being sold into economic slavery with a thoroughness and a completeness which would have shamed the proverbial Jaichand, Mir Jafar or Quisling.
The other aspect of this anti-swadeshi trend is that import duties and restrictions are being increasingly reduced or eliminated, and foreign goods are flooding the market. The general effect of this trend is that Indian industries are having to face a situation not unlike the one they faced during the days of British colonial rule, when goods from the British manufacturers were allowed to flood the markets while the ruling (then British, now “Indian”) administration did its best to maim and cripple the local industries to eliminate competition for the imported goods. Indian industries are slowly but surely being wiped out. As Dubashi points out in another article, the common people, and particularly the middle classes, dazzled by the vistas of imported goods flooding the market, and consumed by the consumerist frenzy, see no reason to oppose this new colonisation: it is only when the effects of this flood start taking a toll on their own particular jobs and means of livelihood, and render them unable to enjoy the consumerist goodies, that they wake up, at least to their own plight if not to the larger issues involved; but by then it is obviously too late.
The increasing foreign invasion, in the name of “liberalisation” and “reforms”, is also taking a toll on public utilities and services that are enjoyed by the common man. To take an example, the nationalisation of banks in India was an important step in opening up the services of banking to the poorer and common public. Savings were encouraged, and banking came within the reach of the common man. By allowing foreign and private banks full entry into the market, and allowing them to pull off the cream of the deposits and business, fully free of any social obligations, the task of public sector banks has been made doubly unenviable: today the totally unencumbered foreign and private banks are cornering all the profitable and elite business, making it indispensable for public sector banks to shed their social obligations and become elitist in their own turn, in every way, if they want to stay alive without conking out, even while they continue to be handicapped by crippling political chains which they are never likely to be allowed to shed (political interference, caste-based reservations, etc.). The results: firstly, banking is becoming an increasingly complicated and elitist activity. Even opening a bank account (earlier, all that was required was an introducer and the minimum amount) is becoming more and more complicated and expensive, and the number of charges and costs, and red-tape and rules, that a bank is, increasingly, having to impose on account-holders, is making the holding of a bank account increasingly difficult for the common man. Secondly, banks have long since ceased to be a source of employment. And thirdly, poorer and lower middle class customers are increasingly being driven into the arms of co-operative banks, and the security of their bank deposits is no more a matter of certainty. This is the case not only with banks, but with all public activities, where the entry of foreign, and elitist private, entities is taking many services out of reach of the common man, closing down employment avenues, and generally making life more and more complicated and insecure for him.
Dubashi, in the above article, writes: “Surprisingly, very few Indians are aware that a transfer of power on this scale is taking place. They think that the economy is only being liberalised, without realising that it is being globalised too, for the two go together…”. However, Dubashi is wrong here: actually, the economy is only being globalised on a war footing, it is not being liberalised; and the two, liberalisation and globalisation, do not necessarily go together. It is time, first of all, to stop the blatant misuse of certain words: just as everything cultural originating in, or accepted by, America is treated as representative of “the times” (and automatically makes other things “outdated”), so also everything economic dictated by America through its puppet world bodies is treated as representative of “liberalisation”, and every kowtowing to these dictates is treated as representative of economic “reform”. But “liberal” means “free”, and “reform” means “make better”. Is it axiomatic that the things that are happening today, in the name of liberalisation and reform, are making society, or the people who constitute that society, economically freer or better off?
What is happening, as already pointed out, is that the economy is being made liberal in India only for foreigners: foreign business interests, backed by massive resources, unencumbered by political chains and crippling bureaucratic procedures, and with the active collaboration of the political classes, are eating up their local “competition”, killing or taking over local industries, and creating more and more unemployment. This is certainly not making Indians economically freer or better off. Incidentally, apologists of the system in the media, and there is no dearth of them, often provide examples, such as the recent hue and cry in the USA, and the west in general, over the issue of out-sourcing of IT jobs to India, to show how this globalisation can be made to turn to our advantage if pursued in the right manner. But this, in fact, illustrates the point being made here. The industrialists and big businesses in the west, which are outsourcing jobs to India, are not doing it out of love for India or Indians - they are doing it to improve profits. The losers are the common people among the western population, and the gainers are the more elitist and “upwardly mobile” sections among the Indian population. In essence, it is simply an illustration of the capitalist maxim, “elites of the world, unite! You have everything to gain”. The common people among the western populations, moreover, have less to lose, when the law of the jungle is made universally applicable, than the common people among the Indian population.
Indians fail to realise the dangers of what is taking place, because they are hypnotised by the American economic model. But the American economic model is based on the principle of the law of the jungle (as depicted in phrases like “the survival of the fittest”, “might is right”, “the winner takes all”, “history is written by the victor”, “fish eats fish”, “it’s a rat-race”, “someone has to sacrifice”, etc). It represents an economic lifestyle which is possible only in a grossly unequal and inequitable world, where the overwhelmingly major proportion of the limited wealth and resources of the world is necessarily enjoyed by a small minority of people, and which, therefore, actually rationalises, ideologises and glorifies gross inequality and inequity. The vast majority of the population is kept drugged and brain-washed with the opiums of religion, politics, entertainment, and traditional vices; or kept in check by the power of establishmentarian intimidation, by “the rule of Law”, or by plain selfish greed: the ultimate dream of any individual in this controlled, and thought-controlling, world, becomes, not to work for a just and equitable world, but to work to be on “the right side” of the dividing lines of an unjust society and world - to join, gate-crash into, or be co-opted into, the ranks of the privileged few. The “upwardly mobile” sections among the middle classes have few objections to the developing scenarios within India, since, apart from sharing in the general capitalist dream of themselves being part of the privileged few in an unjust and unequal world, “the ultimate aim of this greedy new class [as Dubashi puts it] is a job in New York or London”.
A Swadeshi ideology which places the economic interests of India and the common Indian at the top of its agenda has to be the basic cornerstone of any Hindu Nationalist economic agenda.
3) The issue of what is truly “liberal” goes deeper: to be truly liberal or free, the state should allow every citizen to live his life as he wants; and all economic activity (within the country) to take place freely, and wealth to be created without hindrance or bureaucratic controls, red tape and interference, subject to only the following conditions: that nothing criminal takes place, that there is no injustice done to anyone (ie. that everyone’s rights are protected, and no-one’s rights are violated, whether of the individual or of the society or nation in general) in the process, and, of course, that the state gets its reasonable share in the wealth that is created, in the form of increased revenues. At the same time, the state should concentrate on providing efficient public utilities and facilities to one and all at the least cost, and to make life as free, smooth, easy and simple as possible.
On the contrary, the modern economically “reformist” state is actually becoming more and more illiberal and totalitarian, more and more like the Big Brother state in Orwell’s “Nineteen Eighty-four”, where every single citizen is identified, numbered and classified, and a sharp watch and surveillance, and control, is kept on every action and activity. No individual can start out on any economic activity, even the most simple activity for the basic purpose of earning his livelihood, without the express permission of the state in the form of licences, registrations and permits; and this is followed by a permanent process of meaningless, endless and mandatory paperwork, red tape and procedures, with all the attendant bureaucratic hassles, harassment and corruption, even as the state tightens its vice-like grip over every aspect of his life. At the same time, the state increasingly shrugs off its responsibilities in respect of providing public utilities and facilities to the common citizen, on the ground that “it is not the business of the government to do business”.
As already pointed out, one way for totalitarian forces to keep the general populace in a state of submission is to keep them drugged and brain-washed with the opiums of religion, politics, entertainment, and traditional vices. But that is one half of the strategy: the other half is to keep them in a permanent state of harassment, which will leave them too tired to care about anything except getting back to their opiums. Hence, for example, the emphasis is not on increasing tax collections, but on creating newer and newer taxes (the latest is service tax, an earlier one was TDS, and the next one in line is MODVAT) - with more and more complicated rules, formalities, forms and procedures; complicated calculations to be made; official red tape to be gone through; books, records and files to be maintained; official deadlines to be met, professionals to be paid and officials to be appeased, etc. - and on bringing more and more people into the “tax net”: hence also the emphasis on having everyone acquire a PAN (a permanent Income Tax account number) and file returns, even if they are salary earners whose tax gets deducted at source, or if they are people whose income is so far below the taxable limit as to be negligible.
Apart from the Big Brother angle, the other motive behind making procedures more and more complicated, and the reach of the state more and more intrusive and all-pervading, is to increase the scope for unlimited corruption. Corruption is a worldwide phenomenon, but India is among the nations where blatant corruption has become an accepted part of life. Any position in any government office is a passport to wealth: not just in revenue departments (income tax, sales tax, customs, octroi, excise, land revenue, etc. etc.), but in any office connected with any central or state government, or local municipal or village level, administrative activity. In any of these offices, there is a long line of people to be paid before the smallest and most trivial job can be done. And the whole thing is so open as to practically be the official procedure. Positions, postings and transfers in the more lucrative departments and areas are, therefore, purchased and sold for prices which can, in many cases, go as high as crores of rupees.
Needless to say, no criminal activity, however heinous, is out of bounds in a society where corruption is so blatant, and governmental agencies are so all-powerful and purchasable. Far from providing freedom, security and aid to one and all, the administration is itself the biggest source of fear and terror to the common man: a common piece of wisdom is that it is better to climb the steps of a funeral pyre than to climb the steps of a police station, a court or a government office. Nothing strikes terror in the common or middle class man so much as the sight of a policeman or other law-enforcing official approaching him, or the receipt of an official letter or notice from any government agency: these are recognised as greater extortionists and terrorists than the actual criminal classes who go by those names. [The rare incorruptible or honest person has to either change himself, or learn to keep his eyes and mouth shut; or else be victimised or hounded out]. Apart from that, they are instruments of terror in the hands of equally corrupt and all-powerful politicians, to be used not so much against their political opponents as against the common man, or against anyone else, who rebels against or exposes the system.
Even otherwise, the common man who crosses a railway track, or who transgresses some minor rule, is more likely to be caught and looted or punished by the guardians of the law, than the gangster or mafia don, the trafficker in drugs or women, the adulterator of food, medicines or other materials, or any other genuine criminal, who, more often than not, would enjoy their protection. In such an atmosphere, in a society where administrative corruption is accepted, by one and all, as “natural” and inevitable, any kind of crime is not only possible but natural and inevitable. And, today, crime of any and every kind flourishes in every part of the country.
This is hardly surprising when we consider that the rot starts from the very top: when some top leaders in the last BJP-led government were caught on camera accepting bribes, the entire force of the law-enforcing agencies was unleashed on the Tehelka news agency which carried out the exposure; and in the present Congress-led government, out-and-out criminals occupy ministerial posts. The commonest politician is, at the least, a “karodpati”, and more often than not, he is not even a tax payer. And the more criminal the leaders and rulers, the more draconian and illiberal the powers they give themselves, and their government agencies, to victimise, loot and terrorise the common man. Writing on one such new finance ministry circular which authorises income tax officials to confiscate property of anyone suspected of evading taxes, Tavleen Singh (“His Right to Attach Property”, The Sunday Express, 10/10/2004), makes some sharp observations:
“What the finance minister has done is give petty, and usually corrupt, officials the right to march into your home or mine and take it over if according to his assessment, we haven’t paid enough taxes….we never before had a Finance Minister who believes he has the fundamental right to trample upon our rights in the name of tax collection. The most they did in the past was ‘raid’ those they suspected of evading taxes. A barbaric enough practice in a country that fancies itself as civilised, but baby stuff compared to what Chidambaram now orders his goons to do….the Finance Minister has also decided that tax inspectors will be held responsible if they fail to ‘attach’ in advance the property of a possible defaulter. Draconian is too mild a word for what the Finance Minister is up to, but we must remember that this is the man who once gave us TADA and the Defamation Bill. There are other reasons to fight for our right to property, and they concern the poorest of the poor. Because Indians do not have the right to own property, policemen and municipal officials routinely confiscate and destroy property belonging to pavement hawkers, rickshawallahs and streetchildren. These are people who constitute what our politicians like to call the ‘weakest sections’ of the society, so let us have no qualms in acknowledging that the Prime Minister’s move to introduce reservations for ‘weaker sections’ in private companies is for political and not compassionate reasons. Had any Prime Minister one ounce of compassion for the ‘weaker sections’, he would have arrested officials and policemen who steal from pavement hawkers and rickshawallahs….Meanwhile, I have a proposition for P Chidambaram. If he insists on going ahead with the mad idea, then let us begin in Parliament. Let every Member of Parliament’s declaration of assets be scrutinised not just by the Finance Ministry’s unreliable policemen but us. Let us find out how men who began their career in politics with a few hundred rupees to their name became owners of lakhs and crores worth of assets. I am willing to bet that men who have declared themselves worth only a couple of lakhs will be wearing watches that cost more than that. Let us set up a citizen’s tribunal before which the MPs can appear and have their assets publicly scrutinised. Let us ask them the sort of questions tax inspectors ask when they barge into people’s homes: How much is that shawl, that pair of shoes, that bangle for? Who paid for these things? Where are the bills? Can you prove they were heirlooms? If not, we hereby attach your property. If our elected representatives are prepared to go through with this kind of exercise and if our ministers and wives also come forward to explain how they acquired their crores worth of assets, then it would be fair for the Finance Minister to go ahead with the draconian new measures. Otherwise, it is time he woke up to the reality that India is no longer an economic dictatorship, and can never be. All he will achieve through his madcap schemes is to widen the roads of corruption. The only people who must be thrilled by his new measures are the tax inspectors. Does P Chidambaram not understand this?” [An article in The Sunday Times, 17/10/2004, “Is the raid-raj back to hound the taxpayers? The FM has provided corrupt IT officials a opportunity to unleash terror”, lists four other new measures by the Finance Minister - an amended section 285BA to the Income Tax act, changes in the TDS reporting techniques, a new section 277A, and changes relating to the Gift Tax , and corollaries - which can promote a reign of terror and corruption].
It is very clear, Tavleen Singh’s expressions of hope or wishful thinking (“India is no longer an economic dictatorship, and can never be.”) notwithstanding, that P Chidambaram understands very well what he is doing and what it will entail: in the name of “liberalisation” and “reforms”, India is steadily marching towards Orwell’s “Nineteen Eighty-Four”, and while the ones who will suffer the most are definitely the “poorest of the poor” and the “weaker sections of society”, every other citizen who desires to work, earn and live in peace will become a victim of perpetual state-sponsored terrorism, especially the independent-minded citizen who has a conscience.
Can a state which promotes perpetual terrorism against its citizens protect those citizens from other terrorists? Not from the “Islamic” or “Pak-sponsored” terrorists, so dear to the discourse of our politicians, but from the terrorists who more directly affect the common man and make his life perpetually miserable: lower caste people in remote villages from the dominant castes in their areas (read, for example, Nalini Singh’s “Aankhon Dekhi - Booth-capturing viewed from a BSP field office” in the Times of India, 18/4/2004); any linguistic, religious, caste, or other minority in any area from the majority in that area; women from predator men; children from predator adults; aged people from ruthless youth; physically or mentally handicapped people from other, “normal”, people; inmates of prisons, orphanages, old age homes, mental asylums and boarding schools, workers in factories and offices, or even residents of ordinary homes, localities or villages, from their various tormentors; and the common man from injustice and insecurity, crime and oppression, hunger and want, diseases and natural disasters, ignorance and illiteracy, superstitions and oppressive traditions?
Providing protection, security and aid, to one and all, from all these things, is not a part of any “liberalisation” or “reform” agenda or program. But, it should be a very important and basic part of any Hindu Nationalist socio-economic agenda.
4) Simple living and high thinking is the key to the successful management of any economy, domestic or national. But, in the consumerist and capitalist atmosphere prevailing in India today, what we actually find is a prevalence of extravagant living and low thinking: the emphasis is on mega-economics, on wastage, extravagance and ostentation in public and personal spending, and on a self-centred way of life in which morals, ethics, and civic sense have no place whatsoever.
The ideal way of life, as propagated through the media - and brainwashed into the receptive minds even of mature adults and old people, not to speak of the impressionable children and youth primarily targeted - is the consumerist way of life, characterised by an insatiable greed for material possessions and a “neighbour’s envy, owner’s pride” philosophy. The enjoyment of pleasures, even the occasional splurge or extravagance, is an absolutely essential part of life - after all, Kama is one of the three priorities in life - but, apart from the fact that, beyond a point, the law of diminishing returns applies even to the enjoyment of pleasures, the fact today is that the very definition of “pleasures”, and the things which are supposed to provide those pleasures, is dictated by the media and the capitalist forces controlling the media. The use-and-throw culture of western consumerism, with all the accompanying wholesale depletion of natural resources, wastage and extravagance, and pollution of every aspect of the environment, is becoming prevalent everywhere. Life, for the average Indian, has become a feverish, competitive, acquisitive, exhibitionistic and expensive activity, and Indian society is beginning to feel all the lethal ill-effects - social, economic and psychological - of consumerist life, too many and too complicated to be detailed here.
So far as the national economy is concerned, India today combines the worst features of the erstwhile socialist economy with the worst features of the present capitalist-consumerist economy. The central characteristic is financial inefficiency, mismanagement, wastage and corruption on a massive and gigantic scale. To begin with, the very structure of the administration, at every level, central, state, district and local, is unwieldy and uneconomical: a very large proportion of the revenues received by the administration from every source goes in paying the salaries, perks and other expenses of the elected representatives of the people, the bureaucrats, and the employees. Periodic wage revisions - at the central and state government levels, the periodic Pay Commission reports; at the level of local bodies and public sector undertakings, periodic bipartite agreements between the bodies or managements and trade unions; and at the level of the elected representatives, periodic legislations and bills passed by themselves - add to the spiraling costs.
Secondly, inefficient and senseless procedures, and endless red tape, cause incredibly massive wastage of funds. There is the endless paperwork, which seems to serve no purpose except to cause wastage of time, energy, money and space [Orwell, in “Animal Farm”, parodies this very well: “There was, as Squealer was never tired of explaining, endless work in the supervision and organisation of the farm. Much of this work was of a kind that the other animals were too ignorant to understand. For example, Squealer told them that the pigs had to expend enormous labours every day upon mysterious things called ‘files’, ‘reports’, ‘minutes’, and ‘memoranda’. These were large sheets of paper which had to be closely covered with writing, and as soon as they were so covered, they were burnt in the furnace. This was of the highest importance for the welfare of the farm, Squealer said”.]. An entire book could be written only on the subject of bureaucratic paperwork. The endless costs - in salaries for the paperworkers; costs of endless files, paper and printing; expenses of maintaining premises and godowns for the endless papers; postal costs in sending endless correspondence back and forth; etc., etc. - are incalculable. Then there are the expenses incurred in the continuous transfers of staff from one department to another, and one place to another - the costs of travel, the disruptions in smooth working, the costs in transfer of records, etc. - usually on the basis of the whims, vested interests or political agendas of the authorities, or on the basis of trade union rivalries or dictates. Then there are countless committees and commissions, appointed to study or inquire into various issues, which only end up draining public funds. And there are the endless red tape activities, which result in massive expenses and losses, for which there can be no logical explanation: to give just one example, anyone familiar with the taxation scene in India will be aware of statutory compulsions which result in people having to pay taxes of nominal sums like one rupee - in the last few months, literally lakhs of tax-payers have either received communications from the Income tax department, asking them to pay tax differences of one rupee, or else have received tax refund orders of one rupee: the costs and expenses (printing, paper, procedural, postal) incurred in each of these one rupee transactions must be at least between fifty to a hundred rupees!
Thirdly, the political games played by politicians, to create or consolidate their vote-banks, cause massive wastages, losses or expenditure of public funds. This includes the expenditures on wasteful public functions, including stone-laying and ribbon-cutting functions, road renaming ceremonies, “symposiums” and “conferences” (usually just extravagant jamborees), etc.; the endless public expenditures involved in complicated political games involving caste-based reservations and facilities; and the massive losses incurred by government bodies in the cause of political gimmicks of various kinds, as for example the loan melas organised in the aftermath of the nationalisation of banks, the continuous formation of new districts (or renaming of old districts) or administrative offices, the declaration of free power and water for “farmers” in various states, and so on.
Finally, there is the single biggest factor: corruption in public life. Corruption has become practically a religion in India. The amount of corruption that goes on in India, at every level of the elected representatives of the people, and at every level of bureaucrats and government servants, is mind-boggling. The avenues for corruption are endless. The elected representatives of the people, and bureaucrats, make full use of public funds in their official capacities, to enjoy (along with their families and friends) every possible perquisite, luxury and enjoyment in keeping with their exalted positions. In addition, they govern the inflow and outflow of public funds in many ways: thousands of crores of rupees are awarded for contracts with the appropriate kickbacks; thousands of crores of rupees are spent every year on public amenities and projects which exist only on paper; thousands of crores of rupees, are allowed to be drained off from the public funds by criminals (the fake stamps case which rocked Maharashtra in the recent past is one prominent example), or are excused, adjusted or written off (eg. taxes, bank loans, pending power bills, etc.), for the appropriate considerations; etc., etc. Big projects are taken up, and laws, systems, and procedures, are devised, solely to facilitate all these activities. Everything is more or less clear and open and “natural”.
This all-round corruption, which has percolated to every level of society, and the stoic acceptance of it, by one and all, as “natural” and inevitable (anyone who fails to conform to the pattern is considered somewhat abnormal), has another fall-out: it makes the common man more and more cynical, self-centred, selfish, and indifferent to, or wary of, anything and everything going on around him which does not directly benefit or affect him. There is total civic apathy, particularly, but not exclusively, in urban areas. As a piece by Jug Suraiya (not one of my favourite journalists) puts it (Times of India, 3/10/2004): “Our mofussil towns are open cess pits. Despite their glitzy malls and five star hotels, our metros look like a bombed-out no man’s land. Rubble, garbage, scavenging dogs and cows, humans spitting, defecating and peeing everywhere - people reduced to biological functions, primal anatomy. Buildings, even new buildings, are in a state of pro-active decrepitude, in terminal decay before they are complete. Roads and pavements forever dug up, like a perpetual grave the city digs for itself. Nothing works - traffic lights, bijli, water, transport, public toilets. There is an air of irremediable squalor, an entrenched inertia, as unremovable as the ‘paan thook’ that stains every conceivable surface like self-generative stigmata”.
Suraiya continues: “We add to this ugliness in our normal responses to each other. When was the last time you smiled at a stranger you passed in the street, or he at you? … What’s to smile about, anyway? Or say ‘Thank you’, or ‘Please’. Only sissies and sycophants do that….We are even more beastly to animals than we are to each other. Visit any zoo and try to figure out who should be behind bars - the animals or the crowds who cruelly torment them? … We push and shove and dhak and queue jump…. our ugliness has nothing to do with real or imagined poverty. It has to do with a deep-rooted insensitivity to our surroundings, which includes other people.” The deafening noise pollution in urban areas, especially during festival seasons, when it goes on into the early hours of the morning, is another feature of this civic apathy.
There is a general atmosphere of cynicism, hypocrisy, corruption, civic apathy, selfishness, ruthlessness, and disdain for any kind of idealism, morals, ethics, decency and sensitivity. The primary task of any genuine Hindu Nationalist ideology should be to change this picture, and to make Simple Living and High Thinking, in every sense of the terms, the guiding principles of public as well as personal life in India.
5) Finally, as emphasised earlier, the primary aim of Hindu Nationalist socio-economic ideology should be to represent Right against Wrong, and not to represent Right against Left: in opposition to Capitalist ideology, and in keeping with Gandhian philosophy, the aim should be to give primacy to the interests of the poorer and more oppressed sections of society, and to the benefit of the greatest number.
In the last few years, in the name of globalisation, liberalisation, and economic “reforms”, the economic policies followed in India have moved in the opposite direction: primacy is given, in every respect, to the interests of the richer sections of society, and to the benefit of the privileged few. Under the “reform” regimes, whether of the BJP or the Congress, or even of the erstwhile “third front” which occupied the centre-stage for a period, the rich are becoming richer and richer, and the poor are becoming poorer and poorer, in leaps and bounds; and the economic chasm between the rich and the poor is widening by the day.
The point is not that people should not have the right to earn money and become rich. In fact, any society or nation can truly progress and prosper only when every person has full freedom and incentive to earn as much as he can, without interference or hindrance from the state, so long as he does not indulge in criminal acts, or destructive or anti-national activities, and does not infringe on the legitimate rights of any other person. But, even when all these conditions are fulfilled - ie. even when we are talking about legitimate earnings, and not about the illegitimate earnings of gangsters, scamsters, corrupt politicians, corrupt bureaucrats, and criminals of every possible kind - there is something ugly, indecent, and unethical about the kind of disparity in earnings that we see around us today: on the one hand, we see high profile personalities like an Amitabh Bachchan or a Sachin Tendulkar earning in crores for an advertising assignment, or an MF Hussain earning crores of rupees for a painting. Passing through different levels of earnings - those earning crores of rupees per month, those earning lakhs of rupees per month, those earning ten thousands of rupees per month, and those earning thousands of rupees per month - we come right down to the millions of workers who work themselves down to the bone, many for as long as ten to twelve hours per day, or more, and earn only enough to keep their body and soul together. There are people, even small children, working in such conditions in factories and manufacturing units of all kinds, in fields, or as domestics in houses, all over the country, for as little as a few hundred rupees per month, or less!
While the above situation is undoubtedly unfair, it is not being suggested here that there should be a French, or Bolshevik, kind of Revolution in India where the rich are caught and slaughtered in the streets, or hung from every tree; or at least divested of their personal properties and everyone brought down to one and the same level. But it is at least legitimate to expect that government policies, or policies of the state, should not be formulated for their special benefit, but for the benefit of the poorer sections of society - the poorer the section, the more slanted in their favour, and the richer the section, the less slanted in their favour.
But, in the name of liberalisation and “reforms”, the policies of the government are only becoming more and more pro-rich and anti-poor by the day. Now, every budget sees duties and taxes being reduced sharply on elitist goods and activities: luxury cars, air conditioners, foreign liquor, luxury consumer goods (posh fridges, TVs, etc.), laptops, high tech goods, foreign trips and foreign education, air travel, etc., even as items of daily necessity for the poor and the genuine middle classes become costlier by the day, and the common people are told by each successive finance minister that they must be prepared to make sacrifices in the interests of the nation and the national economy. [One example of the trend is the continuous fall in the rates of international and long distance phone calls in the last few years, even as local calls become costlier all the time. Arguing in defence of the liberalisation and “reform” policies, and in giving an illustration of how things are becoming cheaper, the editor of a business journal, in a discussion on the NDTV news channel in the immediate aftermath of the defeat of the BJP in the recent Lok Sabha elections, pointed out that, if he wanted to speak to his cousin in London, a call which would earlier have cost him eighty rupees, would now cost him only eight rupees. But what he failed to point out was that just five years ago, a local phone call from a public call box, operable with a one-rupee coin, lasted for five minutes. Today, it lasts only for ninety seconds. So, for anyone wanting to speak to his cousin, staying in another part of the same city, for around five minutes, earlier it would have cost him one rupee, and now it would cost him four rupees. And there have been further reductions in the rates of international phone calls since the above discussion. In such matters, it cannot even be claimed that an American model is being followed: in most parts of the USA, local calls are free! This example was about phone calls, but it is illustrative of the “liberalised” official policy today, a la Marie Antoinette: make elitist goods and services easier and cheaper, and the common man’s goods and services more difficult and expensive; and as for the common man, “if he cannot get water, let him drink coke”.].
Likewise, financial policies are formulated solely with elitist industries in mind - namely, the entertainment (films, “music”, fashion, cosmetics, cricket, elite journalism and media, etc.) and info-tech industries, as opposed to basic manufacturing and farming industries. These industries, which, even otherwise, are the centre of attraction, for entrepreneurs and for the elitist and “upwardly mobile” youth, for their glamour value and easy earning potential, are given special tax rebates and concessions, and umpteen other facilities (all originally intended for priority sectors, ie. for industries or areas in which investment and activity was necessary for the progress of the nation, but in which industrialists or entrepreneurs would not otherwise have been very interested in investing or working). And the politicians in power are always ready to demonstrate their sensitivity to the monetary concerns of the elites in these industries: eg. the various special tax and duty exemptions given by the finance ministers of the late BJP government to various karodpati test cricketers, the special official concerns against video piracy, etc.
The step motherly treatment to basic manufacturing industries (which, incidentally, is going to prove very costly for the national economy in the long run), and the foreign economic invasion, already referred to earlier, are leading to the closing down of mills and factories all over the country. In combination with wholesale privatisation of more and more public sector activities and institutions, wholesale computerisation, and more and more anti-worker laws and policies (contract labour, hire-and-fire, VRS and CRS schemes, etc.), there is massive loss of job security and jobs for the poor and middle classes. If all this had been accompanied by genuine freedom to work, earn and live according to their talents and capacities, that would have been some compensation, at least to the more enterprising sections among them; but as pointed out earlier, there is genuine freedom only for foreigners, and for the elite sections of society: for the rest, the official step-motherly treatment of street hawkers (perhaps the oldest and most traditional examples of self-employed people in India) and cottage industries (in urban slum areas and in villages all over the country) today illustrates how “liberal” the Indian economy is becoming for the common people.
All “developmental” activities are concerned only with the rich sections of society in mind. In Mumbai, for example, the extensive mill lands are being sold, and these erstwhile centres of hectic industrial activity are being converted into posh malls and elitist clubs, hotels, departmental stores and posh residential complexes. In other parts of the city, as well, middle and lower class residents, in their traditional areas, are being squeezed out by the powerful builders-lobby (a mafia in itself, apart from its links with actual underground gangs and with politicians). Massive public funds are spent on building flyovers and constructing parking facilities for car owners, even as public roads become increasingly car-friendly as well as hawker- and pedestrian-unfriendly. In rural areas, massive projects are undertaken, in which poor people are displaced from their traditional homes with little or no compensation.
Is it any wonder that we find, on the one hand, poor workers in urban areas committing suicide after being thrown out of long-held jobs because the big industrial houses employing them find it uneconomical to retain their services (the case of Anant Dalvi and Akhtar Khan, ex-employees of Tata Power Company, in Mumbai in October 2003, for example), and poor farmers in rural areas committing suicide after years of drought and inability to repay their debts; and on the other hand, big industrial houses and the rich and the powerful borrowing crores and crores of rupees from public sector banks, failing to pay them back, declaring their units which borrowed the money as bankrupt or otherwise getting their debts “restructured” or written off, and continuing to enjoy multi-crore rupee lifestyles as if nothing has happened: the Indian Express, 1/12/2002, in a detailed investigation, reveals that such bad debts, owed by practically all the big industrial houses, total Rs.11,00,00,00,00,000/- , which could “pay for all our defence bills for two years, an expressway in every state, a school in every village”.
The primary concern of Hindu Nationalist socio-economic ideology should be to evolve an ideal model of economic development: one which benefits all sections of society, but which gives particular importance to the concerns and interests of the poorer, weaker and more vulnerable sections; and which does everything to encourage initiative and activity among all sections, but does not give unfair leeway to the rich and the powerful to loot the public, or to loot public funds.
To sum up: we must evolve a nationalist socio-economic ideology which will try to (1) make India a rich, prosperous, peaceful and happy nation; and (2) see that, basically, for every Indian, regardless of race, religion, caste, sex, profession, or any other mark of identity, India truly becomes a land “where the mind is without fear, and the head is held high”, in every sense of the term. The primary guiding principle should be sarve bhavantu sukhinah, sarve santu niramayah, sarve bhadrani pashyantu, ma kashchid duhkha bhag bhavet: “may all be contented and happy, may all be free of pain and disease, may all ever see auspicious times, may no-one be unhappy”.
In this respect also, as in the case of Indian culture, it is time for genuine Indians, who are proud to call themselves Indian, to take up the task on a war-footing.