Author Archives: Svādhyaāya

Partitioned Freedom – 2

(Read “Partitioned Freedom – 1″ from this link – 1).

Part 2

The British had attempted their first partition of India four decades earlier in 1905. They decided to partition the Bengal province into two. The capital of British India, until 1911, was in Calcutta (today’s Kolkata) in the Bengal province. Bengal was the largest province in British India with over 80 million population in those days, almost 1/5th of the population of the entire country. Bengal was also home to a strong resistance movement against colonial rule. A large number of revolutionaries in India’s freedom movement came from Bengal. A strong Congress movement too flourished in the province. Poets, littérateurs, academics, and journalists – Bengal was home to many eminences who were at the forefront of the struggle against the British.

The British then decided to tackle this fledgling anti-Colonial movement in a different way. They partitioned the province of Bengal into two – East Bengal with Dhaka as the capital, that included Assam, and West Bengal with Kolkata as the capital that included Bihar and Orissa.

Lord Curzon, who was the British Viceroy of India when Bengal was partitioned, argued that it was only an administrative measure. But his own colleagues like Henry Cotton, the then Chief Commissioner of Assam, who was opposed to this move, openly stated that the act was intended to weaken the nationalist movement in the region. “There were no administrative reasons. Curzon’s plan was to oppress the rising force of a nationalist political movement”, Henry Cotton later wrote.

The Congress leadership and the revolutionaries sensed the British mischief behind this decision. Through this policy of divide et impera – Divide and Rule, the British had planned to secure two objectives. They wanted to weaken the freedom movement and also in the process sow seeds of mistrust and conflict between Hindus and Muslims. The partitioned East Bengal was to become almost 60% Muslim, while the residual West Bengal was to be 80% Hindu. The leaders of the independence movement decided to firmly reject London’s ploy.

Curzon travelled across the length and breadth of the province. Everywhere he encountered popular resistance to his move. Even the Muslims, including the brother of the Nawab of Dhaka, Khwaja Atiquallah, were opposing Bengal’s partition. But Curzon was adamant. He insisted that the partition of Bengal was a “settled fact”. October 16, 1905 was declared as the day of the partition.

People were furious. Agitations, protests, lockdowns, speeches, writings and posters started dominating the province. On the appointed day of the partition, a massive protest rally was organised at Barisal town in the then South Central Bengal, now in Bangladesh. Over fifty thousand people joined the protests. The slogan ‘Vande Mataram’, from the song authored by Bankim Chandra Chattopadhyay, a Bengali scholar in his novel Anand Math, reverberated in the air. Gurudev Robindronath Tagore was present to administer an oath to the people for the reunification of Bengal. At another big meeting in Kolkata on August 7, 1905 a resolution was passed calling for the boycott of British products so long as the ‘Partition Resolution was not withdrawn’. Thus was born the famous ‘Swadeshi’ movement.

The agitation against the partition of Bengal had soon spread to the whole country. The Congress was in the forefront. Swaraj and Swadeshi became the twin mantras of the movement. It became popular as the Vande Mataram Movement or the Swadeshi Movement. Nationwide resistance was led by the trio popularly known as Lal-Bal-Pal – Lala Lajpat Rai in Punjab, Bal Gangadhar Tilak in Maharashtra, and Bipin Chandra Pal in Bengal.

The agitation intensified forcing the British Parliament to take cognisance. Finally, the British emperor, King George V had to rush to India in December 1911 and declare the annulment of Bengal’s partition. Bengal became united again, unsettling Curzon’s and his successor Viceroy Lord Minto’s ‘settled fact’. It was a great victory for the nationalist forces led by the Congress although a large section of the Muslims of Bengal was thoroughly disheartened.

The resistance movement and its subsequent victory signified a major shift in the policies and programs of the Congress, which until then had been a political body limited to filing complaints and petitions before the British administration. The Vande Mataram movement had given the hardliners, led by Tilak, an upper hand in the Congress. The latter had now transformed into a vehicle of popular resistance through public agitations. Tilak’s historic exhortation – ‘Freedom is my Birth Right’ – became the new mantra of Indian politics.

That was 1905. A massive 6-year nation-wide agitation was launched when just one Indian province of Bengal was partitioned and the British were forced to annul it. Fast forward four decades. The entire country, including Bengal, was partitioned and the same nation remained a mute witness. Why?

The answer lies in the history of the freedom movement during those fateful four decades. It is a tragic and revealing history, spanning the period between 1911 and 1947, which holds many startling facts and staggering lessons for India. What happened during those years must be revisited to understand those facts and learn from them.

One of the critical fallouts of the partition of Bengal was a meeting held at Dacca (Today’s Dhaka) on December 27-31, 1906. Ishrat Manzil, a well-known Nawab family mansion, was hosting the annual meeting of the All India Muhammadan Educational Conference. The Nawab of Dhaka, Khwaja Salimullah was playing host to over 3000 delegates who came from all over the country. Nawab Salimullah presented a proposal at the conference on December 30 for establishing a political party to safeguard the interests of the Muslims of British India.

Thus was born the All India Muslim League, headquartered in Lucknow. Renowned Iranian Shia princely cleric, Sir Muhammad Aga Khan, hereditary Imam of the Ismaili sect was elected as its first president. The objectives of the Muslim League were to create loyal Muslims to the British Raj and to advance the political rights of the community.

On the horizon of the Indian political firmament, a new player had emerged, with the tacit blessing of the Viceroy Lord Minto. This new player would change the course of India’s independence movement in the next four decades substantively.

(Read Next: “Partitioned Freedom – 3” from this link – 3)

(Courtesy: The article was originally published in Chintan, India Foundation on August 13, 2020)

Partitioned Freedom – 1

Partitioned Freedom” (a four-part series of articles authored by Sri Ram Madhav) is an account of the preceding events that led to the tragic partition of Bhārat in 1947; revisiting the political haste, the wanting leadership, and the sordid consequences of the partition. AriseBharat is documenting these articles giving the links of the previous articles along with the Video talk delivered by the author on the same topic (Video Courtesy : “Disha Bharat“).

The author has earlier written a book on the same topic in Telugu (“మాతృభూమి ముక్కలైంది – 1947 విషాద గాథ ”), giving an account of the events and conditions leading to the partition, the failure of the leadership, the heart-wrenching public crisis and the carnage. This book is available for purchase at HindueShop.

Among the contributed texts in writing of this book was a well-known book titled “The Tragic Story of Partition” authored by Sri H.V. Seshadri; a comprehensive treatise that gives episodic perspective of all the facts leading to the partition.  This book is also available for purchase at HindueShop and the summary of which is available in AriseBharat. 

Part I

On the night of August 14-15, 1947, when India was celebrating its independence, the architect of the independence movement, Mahatma Gandhi was not among the revellers. When his protégé Jawahar Lal Nehru was making that epochal speech about ‘India’s tryst with destiny’, and the ministers of his new cabinet were taking the oath of office, Gandhi was not rejoicing.    A 1000 miles away in Kolkata, he was in a sombre mood, tired of the day-long fasting and prayers.

I cannot rejoice on August 15. I do not want to deceive you. But at the same time I shall not ask you not to rejoice. Unfortunately, the kind of freedom we have got today contains also the seeds of future conflict between India and Pakistan”, he had told his colleagues in July that year.

Gandhi no doubt was prophetic about the future conflict. But what was the ‘kind of freedom’ that put him off? The proclamation of India’s independence was to be a moment of jubilation and pride for over 350 million Indians. But it became a moment of sorrow and suffering for several million among them. While granting independence, the British had partitioned India into two in a hurried manner creating Pakistan as a separate nation. Overnight, the land under their feet, on which they had lived for generations, became foreign to those millions who found themselves on the wrong side of what was to be their future home. Not unexpectedly, massive violence broke out on both sides of the clumsily carved out frontiers.

India’s partition was not a smooth and peaceful affair. It happened over the dead bodies of hundreds of thousands of innocents. Historians wrote poignantly that the Sindhu river flowed not with water but with the blood of tens of thousands of Hindus and Muslims. Millions were uprooted, and leaving everything behind, were forced to undertake an arduous and often hazardous trek of hundreds of miles seeking a new home and meaning for lives. “It was the world’s largest and rarest exodus”, wrote Larry Collins and Dominique Lapierre in ‘Freedom at Midnight’.

Why did this tragedy take place? Who was responsible?

None of the leading lights of India’s independence movement wanted India to be divided. Neither did the majority of the people of India – both Muslim and Hindu.

Vivisect me before vivisecting India”, Gandhi warned firmly, when he was informed about the Muslim League’s Lahore Resolution of March 24, 1940 in which the League demanded that the “areas in which the Muslims are numerically in a majority as in the North Western and Eastern Zones of India should be grouped to constitute ‘independent states’ in which the constituent units should be autonomous and sovereign”. Although the word ‘Pakistan’ was not used, the reference to ‘autonomous and sovereign independent states’ made the intentions of the League amply clear. They were demanding a separate country. This resolution became popular later in history as the ‘Pakistan Resolution’. For Gandhi, the Pakistan resolution was a ‘moral sin’. It militated against all his lifelong convictions, especially his dearest idea of Hindu-Muslim unity. It was totally unacceptable to him. “The step of Mr. Jinnah is like that two brothers have a fight on same cow and they cut it and divide it”, Gandhi lamented. Yet the country was divided before his eyes.

Jawahar Lal Nehru, in his typical romantic way, proclaimed that the idea of partition was “fantastic nonsense”, a fantasy of some mad people. Yet he became one of the enthusiastic supporters of the ‘June 3rd Plan’ for the country’s partition. Sardar Patel went one step further and declared in his typical style “Talwar se talwar bhidegi” (sword will clash with sword), meaning that the countrymen would fight till the end against partition. But even he became a mute witness to the passing of the ‘June 3rd Plan’.

Dr Rajendra Prasad, who was in jail during the Quit India Movement, went on to write the book India Divided, in which he spoke of the ills of partition and how illogical the thought was. The book was published in early 1946. Even before the ink on the pages of that book could dry up, India was partitioned.

Not just the Indian leaders, many British leaders too did not support the idea of partitioning India. Lord Wavell, who was the British viceroy during 1943-47, had opposed it in 1944, stating, “India is a God-made triangle, you cannot divide it”. Even Clement Atlee’s original mandate as Britain’s Prime Minister to Mountbatten, who was sent to Delhi to replace Lord Wavell in February 1947, was not to partition India. “Keep it united if possible. Save a bit from the wreck. Bring the British out in any case”, were Attlee’s instructions to Mountbatten.

Yet the country was partitioned.

Mountbatten presented the final plan for India’s partition to the leaders of the Congress and the Muslim League in a meeting on June 3, 1947. Thus it began to be famously called as the ‘June 3rd Plan’. Jawahar Lal Nehru, Sardar Patel, and Acharya Kripalani were present from the Congress while the League was represented by Muhammad Ali Jinnah, Liaqat Ali and Abdur Nishtar. Mountbatten later claimed that “the Indian leaders agreed unanimously, without any sort of reservation, to the choice of 15th August”.

When the partition plan was brought before the Congress Working Committee on June 14, 1947 there was vocal resistance. Gandhi, who declared six years earlier that it should happen over his dead body, intervened to ask the members to support the partition. Acknowledging that he was one of those who steadfastly opposed the division of India, Gandhi, nevertheless, urged the members to accept the resolution as “sometimes certain decisions, however unpalatable they might be, had to be taken”. Gandhi also indicated that if the resolution was rejected, they would have to find a “new set of leaders”. He also insisted that it was essential for peace in the country.

While nobody wanted the partition of India, nobody was there to stand up against it when the moment came. It needed people to come on to the streets to fight the forces of vivisection, and leaders to lead that resistance. Unfortunately, at that momentous juncture, people were not ready for the fight to save India’s integrity, and the leaders too were not ready.. ‘We became old’ one of them confessed later. Why?

(Read Next: “Partitioned Freedom – 2” from this link – 2)

(Courtesy: The article was originally published in Chintan, India Foundation on August 13, 2020)

A lecture delivered by Sri Ram Madhav on the tragic story of partition
(Video Courtesy: “Disha Bharat”):

Somnath to Ayodhya : Journey of an Awakened Civilisation

It is not a time for chest-thumping or triumphalism. But isn’t it time to rejoice?

What the Ayodhya movement overcame was not just the opposition of certain Muslim groups, but countless hurdles put up by the courts as well as overzealous secular shenanigans. Not a small thing, given the fact that Hagia Sofia cathedral in Istanbul, in contrast, has been turned once again into a mosque, and Jerusalem is still struggling to decide which history to accept.

Somnath to Ayodhya is journey of an awakened civilisation. It was a struggle of five centuries. Hindus never accepted Babur’s commander Mir Baqi’s vandalism of the temple at the sacred site in Ayodhya, considered the birthplace of Bhagwan Ram. As happened in parts of Europe during the crusades, the site kept changing from temple to mosque to temple. The last time was in 1949 when idols of Ram durbar appeared under the domes of the dysfunctional mosque. Since then it once again became a functioning temple. Another seven decades of wait has finally resulted in the dream of millions of Hindus coming true. The abode of Shri Ram is again springing to life with majesty and magnificence.

It is not a time for chest-thumping or triumphalism. But isn’t it time to rejoice? What the Ayodhya movement overcame was not just the opposition of certain Muslim groups, but countless hurdles put up by the courts as well as overzealous secular shenanigans. Not a small thing, given the fact that Hagia Sofia cathedral in Istanbul, in contrast, has been turned once again into a mosque, and Jerusalem is still struggling to decide which history to accept.

Certainly, the construction of the Ram Janmaboomi temple is a glorious epitome of a civilisational reassertion. “So, new people come up and they begin to look at their world and from being great acceptors, they have become questioners. And I think we should simply try to understand this passion. It is not an ignoble passion at all. It is men trying to understand themselves. Do not dismiss them. Treat them seriously”, warned Sir Vidia Naipaul, the Nobel laureate talking about this reassertion in the mid-1990s.

Renowned British historian Arnold Toynbee had taunted the Hindus four decades before Naipaul commended them. “Aurangzeb’s purpose in building those three mosques (Ayodhya, Kashi and Mathura) was the same intentionally offensive political purpose that moved the Russians to build their Orthodox cathedral in the city centre at Warsaw. Those mosques were intended to signify that an Islamic government was reigning supreme, even over Hinduism’s holiest of holy places. Perhaps the Poles were really kinder in destroying the Russians’ self-discrediting monument in Warsaw than you have been in sparing Aurangzeb’s mosques”, said Toynbee in a speech at Delhi.

The Orthodox cathedral that Toynbee referred to was Alexander Nevsky Cathedral built by the Russians in the Polish capital Warsaw. When Poland unshackled itself from Czarist Russia after the First World War, the cathedral was demolished by the Polish authorities in the mid-1920s. It took 18 years to complete the cathedral for the Russians – built between 1894 and 1912, but it didn’t survive even 15 years. Intense debate preceded the demolition. Poles saw it not as a religious monument but as a symbol of Russian domination. Like the pseudo-secularists in India, there were a few voices opposing the demolition, mostly from the Orthodox community. They were contemptuously dismissed as ‘Cathedralists’. Not that the Poles were against Orthodox Christianity. There were several other Orthodox churches in Poland. Many remnants of the Alexander Nevsky Cathedral were later shifted to the Mary Magdalene Orthodox Cathedral in the Warsaw suburb.

Poles took less than 10 years after their freedom to remove the Orthodox cathedral. Indians had to wait much longer in the case of Ayodhya. There was a precedent though. The Somnath temple in Gujarat, that was looted and destroyed by Mahmud of Ghazni in 1024, had been restored in 1951 immediately after India’s independence. Its restoration had Gandhi’s blessings and the initiative came from Sardar Patel and K M Munshi. Gandhi’s only suggestion to Patel was that the reconstruction of the temple should happen with the funds collected from the people, not from the public exchequer.

Unfortunately, by the time the consecration happened, both Gandhi and Patel were no more. Prime Minister Nehru was opposed to the idea of the reconstruction of the Somnath temple. He first tried to dissuade Munshi. Munshi refused to heed. Nehru then tried to discourage President Rajendra Prasad from attending the consecration ceremony. “I believe in my religion and cannot cut myself away from it”, Rajendra Prasad bluntly told Nehru. Nehru then wrote to all the Chief Ministers stating that his government had nothing to do with the Somnath reconstruction and they too shouldn’t have anything to do with it.

The Somnath temple returned to its past glory on May 11, 1951, when it was inaugurated in a grand function. Dr Rajendra Prasad was present in person to witness the making of history. “The Somnath temple signifies that the power of reconstruction is always greater than the power of destruction”, he told in his address, adding “By rising from its ashes again, this temple of Somnath will proclaim to the world that no man and no power in the world can destroy that for which people have boundless faith and love in their hearts…

Seventy years after Somnath, the same spirit is bringing Ayodhya to life. Sardar Patel was the prime mover of Somnath reconstruction. But he was not there when it finally happened. Ayodhya owes a lot to Ashok Singhal, but it will miss him on this historic occasion.

When Prime Minister Modi stands at Ayodhya, laying the first brick for the temple, it would be a symbolic reiteration of what Dr Rajendra Prasad had said at Somnath some 69 years ago: “Today, our attempt is not to rectify history. Our only aim is to proclaim anew our attachment to the faith, convictions and to the values on which our religion has rested since immemorial ages.

Courtesy: Shri Ram Madhav
(The article was originally published in Chintan – India Foundation blogs on August 5, 2020. Views expressed are personal.)

Civilisational Narrative – An Imperative

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s choice of Mahabalipuram for his informal meeting with President Xi Jinping has an obvious, deep significance and even a deeper message“, writes noted columnist, thinker and political commentator, Sri S.Gurumurthy.

(Courtesy: NewIndianExpress.com | Published: 11th October 2019)

It is strategic civilisational diplomacy at its symbolic best. Narendra Modi found that his second informal summit with Xi Jinping at Mahabalipuram in 2019 had been fixed 1,500 years ago by a prince of the Pallava dynasty, which ruled Mahabalipuram from Kanchipuram. The Pallava prince from Kanchipuram renounced the throne, became a Buddhist monk, known as Bodhi Dharma in India and DaMo in China, almost like how prince Siddhartha became Buddha. His guru asked him to go to Zhen Dan- today’s China.

Bodhi Dharma, who became India’s first spiritual ambassador to China, also emerged as its chief mentor. Regarded as Buddhaabdara (Buddha’s Avatar), he expounded Zen Buddhism and founded the famous Shaolin Temple in China’s Henan province.

Revered as the first Patriarch of China, the rest of the Buddhist world listed him as the 28th in line from Buddha. Modi is now reviving memories of Bodhi Dharma to position him as the icon of India’s civilisational outreach to China, which is integral to his overarching strategic civilisational diplomacy.

Bodhi Dharma’s foray was not limited to China. Popular as DaMo in China, as Dalma in Korea, Daruma in Japan, Dharmottara in Tibet, with his name echoing in Vietnam too, he ended up as India’s cultural ambassador to most of Asia. Just as Modi began gradually changing the secular narrative of India into a civilisational narrative within after his historic victory in 2014, he extended it to foreign relations as well. In 2015, he began writing a strategic Hindu-Buddhist civilisational narrative to give thrust to India’s Look East philosophy.The Mahabalipuram summit, which recalls the 5th-century DaMo today, is an important chapter in Modi’s overarching civilisational narrative to handle the relationship with China that was seriously damaged in the late 1950s and early 1960s. So, the Namo-Xi summit should be seen in the backdrop of Modi’s national strategic narrative.

Post-Independence Secular India – a civilisational orphan

With the rise of radical Islamist terror, particularly the 9/11 attack, Samuel Huntington’s view that the world would become increasingly civilisation conscious virtually binned the utopian Francis Fukuyama’s prognosis of a world free of conflicts founded on free market and liberal democracy.

The politically diverse Western nations began to be seen more as civilisationally Christian, Japan as a civilisation state and China as a civilisation pretending to be a state. But secular India continued to remain orphaned without a civilisational name and a narrative of its own.
Post-Independence India did not attempt to reinstate the national narrative it had lost due to centuries of foreign domination even after it rediscovered it during the freedom movement. Instead, it enjoyed living on borrowed narratives like secularism and socialism.

Lost in fake secularism that increasingly rested on vote-bank politics and in the failed socialism, which proved to be a global disaster, India ignored its spiritual and civilisational foundations that would have helped it develop its own national civilisational narrative. India’s distorted secularism undermined its civilisational assets. Result: India, which had become part of the universal notions of secularism and socialism, had nothing special to talk about itself.

In a seminal essay (to mark the 25th anniversary of Huntington’s clash theory) on civilisational exchanges between China and India titled “Civilisational Perspectives in International Relations and Contemporary China-India Relations”, Ravi Dutt Bajpai (Deakin University, Melbourne, Australia) asserts that India and China were both civilisation states but adds, “Although India’s ancient civilisational legacy originates from its Hindu-Buddhist religious beliefs, the constitutional secularism in the Indian polity makes it difficult for the state to flaunt a religious identity.”

Indian intellectualism was even blind to the historical fact that each materialist ideology that succeeded one another and dominated the world for the last couple of centuries increasingly had a shorter shelf life. Colonialism lasted for 200 years. Capitalism lasted100 years. Communism lasted 50 years. And globalisation has been pronounced dead by its chief proponent The Economist magazine in just 25 years. Our nation of thousands of years of these dominant thoughts sprouting, growing and, as Swami Vivekananda said, “vanishing like ripples on the face of waters, living a few hours of exultant and exuberant dominance”. India’s fate as a civilisational orphan continued even after socialism proved to be a global fiasco and secularism turned fake at home. It continued to adopt the socialist narrative for half a century and later a globalist narrative for a quarter more.

In this period, India saw Confucian China re-emerging out of communist China that violently banished Confucius for half a century. India saw ex-communist China establishing over 1,200 Confucian centres and classrooms the world over to present itself as a Confucian civilisation. It saw communist Russia turning Orthodox Christian, socialist Poland turning Roman Catholic.

Yet, it continued with its outdated and borrowed narrative that negated its own spiritual and civilisational foundation, which Mahatma Gandhi in his seminal thesis Hind Swaraj had emphasised as its unifying force. Till Modi came to power, India did not even think of making a draft national narrative for bilateral and multilateral relationship building.

National narrative- an imperative

The world which became obsessed with globalism after the Cold War, recently began rediscovering the need for a national narrative. The idea of a national strategic narrative was felt in the US in 2009. In 2011, the US government and the Woodrow Wilson International Center jointly authored a paper on the national strategic doctrine in 2011. The paper said:

A narrative is a story. A national strategic narrative must be a story that all Americans can understand and identify within their own lives. America’s national story has always see-sawed between exceptionalism and universalism. We think that we are an exceptional nation, but a core part of that exceptionalism is a commitment to universal values — to the equality of all human beings not just within the borders of the United States, but around the world.”

Later, in 2017, came a paper titled “Stories about ourselves: How national narratives influence the diffusion of large-scale energy technologies” by Joint Global Change Research Institute, United States Maryland School of Public Policy, University of Maryland.

The paper said, “A national narrative rationalises and is supported by the nation’s identity. The narrative gives citizens an awareness of their common values and characteristics as a nation; it also situates a nation among other nations as unique (at least in part). If successful, the national narrative (is) a source of pride domestically and respect from other nations…. Of course, no nation exhibits unanimity around a single story; instead, ‘we find a polyphony of voices, overlapping and crisscrossing; contradictory and ambiguous; opposing, affirming and negotiating their views of the nation.’”

National narrative is NO outdated concept. It is very much a contemporary need. Yet the Indian discourse did not attempt a national civilisational and strategic narrative for India, even though the Supreme Court had held as early as in 1995 — which it refused to review even as late as 2016 — that secular India is compatible in cultural terms with Hindu India.

Narendra Modi writes India’s national strategic narrative

Modi’s tryst with Buddha started soon after he became the Prime Minister. He saw Buddha as the civilisational face of India and Buddhism as the most effective bridge to link the culturally Hindu India with the civilisationally Buddhist Asia.

Modi has endeavoured to integrate Buddha with India’s Look East doctrine. He saw that Dharma in Hindu, Buddhist, Sikh, Jain traditions in India and Dhamma in diverse Buddhist traditions in Asia linked people of both traditions more intimately than any single or multiple state policy or pact. Cognate civilisations vault over state-erected walls to connect people with people. Modi saw the Hindu-Buddhist civilisational nexus as the most potent people-to-people link, which even the modern and ex-communist states like China could not ignore.

The Prime Minister’s strategic Hindu-Buddhist civilisational diplomacy started with his first visit to Japan in early 2015. Modi quickly roped in Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe into a joint Indo-Japan initiative of “Samvad” — Sanskrit word meaning “dialogue” — through strategic think tanks in Japan, Tokyo Foundation and Japanese Foundation, and the Vivekananda International Foundation in Delhi.

And the first Samvad of Hindu-Buddhist nations on the theme of Conflict Avoidance and Environmental Consciousness took place in September 2015. In his video address to the Samvad, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said that the idea of Dharma, which was the foundation of Japan’s rule of law, was India’s gift to Japan — a declaration emotionally more powerful than any economic or political pact.

The Samvad

The year 2015 ended with the Bodh Gaya Declaration to make it the global centre of enlightenment. The Samvad II was held in Myanmar in 2017 and Samvad III in Mongolia in September 2019. The Indian and Japanese prime ministers inaugurated each of the three Samvad meets by direct or video address.

The impact of the Modi-Abe civilisational outreach of Samvad on the Buddhist world is phenomenal. The most leading global Buddhist website, the Buddhist Door Global (BDG), which had said in 2017 that “India’s efforts at Buddhist diplomacy are not easy to accomplish”, did a U-turn in 2019 to accept Samvad as “a burgeoning, informal alliance of Buddhist Asian democracies”, adding that “Modi and his allies have been responsible for a resurgence of Buddhist diplomacy unseen in modern Indian history”.

The report concluded, “Words like conflict avoidance and environment consciousness (Samvad’s consistent conference themes) conjure a very specific mode of Buddhist action: one that always leads back to New Delhi’s very unique understanding of transnational Buddhist power.

Undoubtedly Modi has innovated a national civilisational and strategic narrative for India not just for relating to Asia but for relating to the world, by globalising and positioning Indian-Asian Buddha as the icon of his presentation at the UN recently, contrasting Buddha (enlightenment) with Yuddha (war).

As Namo invokes DaMo at Mahabalipuram

Modi’s choice of distant Mahabalipuram for his informal meeting with Xi has an obvious, deep significance and even a deeper message. Can a China that has discarded communism and begun reinstating neo-Confucianism as its national narrative and an India that has discarded the failed socialism and fake secularism and begun re-writing the national narrative in civilisational terms find their common Hindu-Buddhist civilisational roots in Mahabalipuram? Will the spirit of DaMo help Namo and Xi accomplish that will be seen this weekend and in what unfolds thereafter.

Namo’s strategy is to find positive answers to such and other questions is manifest in his choice of the venue — DaMo’s Mahabalipuram.

The civilisational link between the peoples of India and China has always been stronger than any government-to-government policy declarations. Modi’s attempt seems to be to awaken the unleveraged civilisational impulses to relate to China whose aggression in 1962 damaged India’s trust in its neighbour.

How Modi handled the Doklam issue has obviously convinced the mighty neighbour that India is no more a pushover. Namo is invoking DaMo, the deeper spiritual chord between India and China, to restore mutual trust, which will be the foundation for a stable and trustworthy India-China relationship.

Postscript: Yet another Kanchi connection to China-India relations. The Sage of Kanchi (the Shankaracharya of Kanchi) who lived for 100 years told the writer of this article in the early 1990s that India should settle the border row with China, which the Sage saw as India’s cultural ally. The writer had mentioned this in 2003 to Atal Bihari Vajpayee when as India’s Prime Minister he was going to China. It was then that the NSA-level talks commenced with China for settlement of the border dispute. Whether recalling DaMo by Namo will fulfil the desire of the Kanchi saint remains to Be seen.

(Courtesy: Sri S Gurumurthy, http://www.newindianexpress.com/opinions/columns/s-gurumurthy/2019/oct/11/will-damo-help-namo-and-xi-at-mahabalipuram-2045734.html)

Philosophies of Gandhi and Deendayal

– Dr. Walter K. Anderson (American scholar, author of “Brotherhood in Saffron”).

After Mohandas Gandhi’s emergence as the major figure in India’s freedom movement in the 1920’s his life, thought and program became benchmarks against which other Indian political and social figures were compared. There has been a marked revival of interest in Gandhi since the electoral victory of the Janata Party, many of whose leaders trace the Party’s ideological roots to him.

Simultaneously, there has been a developing interest in the life of Deendayal Upadhyaya. Until recently, he was not widely known outside the confines of the Jan Sangh.

It was almost inevitable, both for intellectual and ideological reasons, that the two men would be compared. However, there are major difficulties in any effort to do so. The political environment in which they worked was different; their own social backgrounds were not the same; their most immediate political objectives were not the same. Perhaps, the most difficult problem is the lack of available material on Upadhyaya. Unlike Gandhi, who was among the most public of private men, Upadhyaya was a quiet man who preferred to operate out of the spotlight. The published compendium on his life and thought is still very thin. Research is now in progress in India to rectify the situation and the time may be near when we will get a more complete picture of his contribution to the social and political thought of India. Consequently, any attempt to compare Upadhayaya and Gandhi will have to be very preliminary and subject to much revision as more information comes to light. Those best qualified to speak on him are people who worked closely with Upadhayaya and hopefully they will contribute to the efforts of those who are collecting material on him.

Gandhi and Upadhayaya were primarily organisers and only secondarily interested in philosophic speculation. Indeed neither were intellectuals in the conventional sense of the term – that is erudite and sophisticated men with academic qualifications and long lists of books to their credit. Neither wrote systematic treaties on morals and politics, nor was either a philosopher, in the sense that they were not particularly interested in abstract theoretical formulations. Gandhi, for example, told a scholar researching the concept of *Satyagraha*: “but satyagraha is not a subject of research – you must experience it, use it, live by it” (Joan Bandurant, Conquest of Violence – Pg 146). I suspect similar anecdotes could be repeated of Upadhayaya.

Both men were charismatic figures, though Gandhi had the larger impact, in part because so many considered him a saintly figure, if not a saint. His asceticism convinced many that he was able to realize ideals which many held, but which few could realize. (See study in Lloyd and Susanne Rudolph, Modernity of Tradition, pt. 2). Gandhi transformed the Indian National Congress from a rather staid debating forum of the anglicized upper class into a rationalized organization that encompassed a wide range of activities that touched on the lives of the masses. His organizational skills, combined with his charismatic appeal as a Mahatma, transformed the Congress into the effective action arm of the independence movement.
Upadhayaya also possessed the characteristic of the saintly. He gave up the calling of a profession and a family to dedicate himself to the Motherland. His life was Spartan and his adherence to moral standards was of an unusually high order. These traits brought him the respect, if nor devotion, of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) Swayamsevaks in the United Provinces where he served as a Pracharak (full time worker) from 1942-51, the latter few years as assistant state organizer of the RSS in the now-renamed Uttar Pradesh. He has a similar effect on the cadre of the Jan Sangh where he was one of the two All-India Secretaries after the formation of the party in 1951 and from 1952-67 the All-India Secretary, Dr. Shyama Prasad Mukherjee, president of the newly founded party for a few years before his untimely death., commented that were he to have several more men like Upadhyaya he could transform India. Upadhyaya certainly transformed the Jan Sangh. He took over the management of the party at the death of Dr. Mukherjee in mid-1953 at a time when many questioned whether it could survive without a towering figure such as Mukherjee to lead it. There was strife in the small party over control of the executive and confusion over its program. He instilled discipline, broadened participation, recruited a dedicated cadre and shaped its program to espouse the interests of those with little money, power or status. While there were a few minor defections during his life, the Jan Sangh was the one major India party which suffered no significant fissure. That is a testimony to the cohesive organization that he mulled.

Yet, it must be recognized that he was never a mahatma, nor is there any indication that he aspired to such a status. Indeed, he even tried to avoid public attention. From both his writings and talking with people who knew him, I get the image of a man who felt uncomfortable in the limelight, who believed that the organization and its goals were incomparably more important than personal recognition.

So self-effacing was he that, for example, he often would not sign articles that he wrote for Panchajanya, a journal which he edited from Lucknow in the late 1940’s. Consistent with the RSS tradition from which he came, he viewed personal publicity as a detriment to the cause – and the cause was organizing Indians to overcome the internal divisions that, he felt, had historically exposed the country to outside subversion and that has undermined the willing ness to make the sacrifices necessary for economic and cultural revival.

Unlike Gandhi, Upadhyaya was not a religious man in conventional sense of the term. While he was stepped in the Hindu traditions, particularly Vedant, he was not a wordly sadhu and he was not moved to act by religious precepts. However, like Gandhi, he rejected post-Machiavellian trend of western thought that posited the separation of religious and political ideals. In their attempt to fuse the two concepts, Gandhi and Upadhyaya drew on the traditional Hindu concept of Karma Yoga, or spiritual realization through social work. Both accepted the traditional notion that Dharma (individual and social duty) is the legitimate guide for shaping Artha (interest) and Karma (pleasure).

Yet, their approach to the determination of dharma was quite different. Gandhi stressed the individual’s quest of satya (truth) to inform him of the ethical rules that govern man’s behavior. This approach stands out in his oft-quoted assertion that “I would reject all authority if it is in conflict with sober reason or the dictates of the heart. Authority sustains and ennobles the weak when it supplants reason (that is) sanctioned by the small voice within”. Gandhi’s focus on individual effort has led some to conclude that he was a moral anarchist, if not also a social anarchist. For example, he wrote in Young India (March 1931), “there is no freedom for India so long as one man, no matter how highly placed he may be, holds in the hollow of his hands the life, property and honor of millions of human beings. It is artificial, unnatural and uncivilized institution”. Gandhi of course, was not an anarchist in either sense, for he also accepted the Vedantist notion that there is an underlying truth potentially open to all. Moreover, he had a respect for traditional institutions such as the Panchayata and the varna system, both of which specified special social duties and responsibilities.

Upadhyaya on the other hand, emphasized the collective wisdom of the nation as the authoritative voice of Dharma. However, he was also apprehensive that the majority might not always properly understand the laws of Dharma. “But even the people are not sovereign because people too have no right to act against Dharma” (Integral Humanism, page -56). Furthermore, “the truth cannot be decided by the majority; what the government will do will be decided by Dharma (Ibid – page -58). He does not define who the legitimate interpreter of dharma is. It is not unreasonable to conclude from his writings that he thought democracy the system most likely to approximate dharma since it provides an opportunity to detached men dedicated to national well-being to shape and correct public opinion.
The centrality of the nation in his thought rests on notion that it has a soul (i.e, “chiti”), shaped by experiences within a given geographical space and motivated by an over-arching ideal ( Integral Humanism – page 36-37). In describing the nation, he often drew on the metaphor of an organism, in particular the human body, in which each part has its true reality only in the particular function it fulfills within the whole.

“A system based on the recognition of this mutually complementary nature of the different ideals of mankind, their essential harmony, a system which devises laws which removes the disharmony and enhances their mutual usefulness and cooperation, alone can being peace and happiness to mankind; can ensure steady development” (Integral Humanism – page 39). Indeed, it is this organic concept of the nation that, it his view, has been the ideal that kept alive the Indian nation through the vicissitudes of time. It is its unique contribution to political philosophy. His major philosophic argument against the ruling political elite of his time was his conviction that they advocated western notions of society and, in the process, undermined the integral unity that has sustained Bharatiya civilization.

He was far less committed to traditional institutions than Gandhi. His writings are sprinkled with attacks on the caste system, as practiced. In his view, all institutions are derivative and, when they cease to fulfill the integrating function, they should be revised or abandoned. It is not surprising that orthodox Hindus were among the major critics of the Jan Sangh.

Gandhi’s political object was Swaraj (self-rule). But he interpreted Swaraj as more than mere independence from the British; it carried the meaning of an all-embracing self-sufficiency down to the village level. Self-sufficiency translated into a concrete program of action that led him to espouse Swadeshi (self-reliance) and the central effort during the years of the nationalist struggle for Swaraj lay in the propagation of Khadi (hand-spun cloth). Swadeshi served not only an economic function in actual supply of cloth; it also carried significant ideological implications. It was the central piece of his elaborate constructive work program. It was the symbolic representative of his effort against centralized industry and urbanization which he thought degraded the worker. (These products of modernization were attacked vigorously in his tract – Hind Swaraj, written in 1909). His condemnation of western materialism led him inevitably to support the concept of self-governing village communities and a simple low-technology system of production.

Upadhyaya’s writings demonstrate a comparable outrage against the effects of westen models of development. In a series of lectures in Poona in 1964 on Integral Humanism, later adopted as the official ideological statement of the Jan Sangh, he lashed out at both Socialism and Capitalism. “Democracy and Capitalism join hands to give a free reign to exploitation. Socialism replaced Capitalism and brought with it an end to democracy and individual freedom” (Integral Humanism – page 10). In their place, he proposes a model that takes into consideration all aspects of the human condition, “body, mind, intelligence and soul – these four make up an individual”. (Ibid – page 24). In practical terms,, the notion translated into a decentralized economy and political system in which citizens have a meaningful voice in the production process and in their own governance. This populist conception assumes a leveling in both economic and political power. Marked differences in access to power or economic resources would undermine the harmony he believed to be the essential cement of the good society.

Upadhayaya was not, however, adverse to the selective adoption of science, technology or even urbanization. (Ibid –page 8). He thought that they should be adapted to local conditions to improve the economic well-being of the population. Societies must produce enough to feed, cloth, house, educate and employ those within it. To do less would result in misery and strife, thus disrupting the harmony necessary for well-being of the collective. At the same time, however, he felt that consumption should not degenerate into consumerism (Ibid – page 65). “From this point of view, it must be realized that the object of our economic system should be, not extravagant use of available resources, but a well regulated use. The physical objects necessary for a purposeful happy and progressive life must be obtained. The Almighty has provided as much. It will not be wise, however, to engage into a blind rat-race of consumption and production as if man is created for the sole purpose of consumption.”

Finally, both (Gandhi and Deendayal) were suspicious of political power and its corrupting effect on public figures. Neither held a political office and neither aspired to do so. (Upadhyaya once ran, unsuccessfully, for parliamentary, but I strongly suspect that he did so with no great enthusiasm). Gandhi a few months after India attained independence told his closest colleagues, “By adjuring power and by devoting ourselves to pure and selfless service of voters, we can guide and influence them. It would give us far more real power than we shall have by going into government… Today politics has become corrupt. Anybody who goes into it is contaminated. Let us keep out of it altogether. Our influence will grow thereby.” (D.G. Tendulkar, Mahatma, Volume-8-pages 278-80). His advise, of course, was rejected by most of his Congress colleagues. Ironically, Upadhyaya, the leader of a political party, would probably have subscribed to his view of politics. He wrote, “Today politics ceased to be a means. It has become an end in itself. We have today people who are engaged in power with a view to achieving certain social and national objectives” (Political Dairy – page 115). Nevertheless, he thought it important, if not crucial, for the detached man of good will to remain in the political arena to help shape public opinion in the path of “Truth” (or Dharma). Consequently, he placed great stress on recruiting to politics men of high moral rectitude.

Despite the many differences between the two men, both came to the conclusion that it is the quality of men in society who will ultimately determine the nature of the state. This is at variance with most contemporary western political though (both speculative and empirical) which argues that conflicting interests are the major forces that shape the state and its policies. Whatever the merits of Gandhi’s and Upadhyaya’s views on the issue, their intense interests in the types of people who worked around them were of fundamental importance in their successful organization-building efforts.