Decolonising the Indian Mind
The conversation between an intellectual and a citizen given below highlights the main problem of India.
Intellectual: This country is rife with corruption. Damn!!!
Citizen: Then let us go for economic reforms and make business processes easier, that alone can remove corruption.
Intellectual: Oh no, there will be a huge gap between the rich and poor; the caste system of India will be more pronounced with the upper caste people as owners of capital and lower caste people as factory workers. There is a major problem with the Indian culture. India needs massive social reforms.
Citizen: No, the problem lies with socialism. See what socialism did to USSR in 1991, look how Yugoslavia broke up in 1992 and see what is happening to Venezuela today. Look at the stark difference between North Korea and South Korea.
Intellectual: You Hindu Fascist!!! You are breaking the secular fabric of India. I’ll complain to BBC and CNN. Help BBC, Help CNN, India is becoming intolerant, minorities are being persecuted, help!!!!
So now the real problem of India is obvious. India has been facing this problem for the last 150 years. The problems of India are rooted in its education system which churns out a directionless intelligentsia. They have many attributes of Lord Macaulay and are referred to as Macaulay’s children by right minded Indians.
They have created wrong perceptions, mislead the youth, inculcated wrong ideas and spoken in convoluted diatribes. They have robbed the Indian people of pride in their country and its cultural heritage.
Shortly after the First War of Independence in 1857 when the suzerainty of India passed from the East India Company to the British Crown, a new breed of intelligentsia mushroomed in India. These people became apologists of the British Empire, they thanked the British for values like equality, liberty and democracy. They launched a scathing attack on Hinduism and removed India from Hindu philosophy. In short they believed the British rule was a blessing in disguise for India. The British would transform India into a secular, liberal, modern and progressive society through their presence. The British would only promote democratic structures in India if Indians behave themselves and become civilized. These people were called the Moderates.
However such self-negation is detrimental to any culture, it always leads to revivalist and reformist tendencies. Therefore many youths of the next generation began showing interest in Hindu culture and tradition. They began its dissertation and there were tendencies to understand ancient Hindu wisdom and adapt it according to modern times. These were the Young Turks of the 1880s. Several cruel and unusual practices like child marriage, sati, polygamy and subjection of women were repudiated and proved as social customs which had nothing to do with Hinduism.
Great Hindu philosophers like Swami Dayanand Saraswati and Swami Vivekananda defined this epoch. These philosophers also shaped political thinking of a new generation of intellectuals like Bankimchandra Chatterji, Bal Gangadhar Tilak, Lala Lajpat Rai and Sri Aurobindo Ghosh. Sri Aurobindo Ghosh transcends both the philosophical thought and political thought during this era. Thus the Extremists as taught to school children in their history books were born.
Even though Britain had a superior political system and was economically more advanced than India, India was better in terms of its spiritual knowledge. They also believed the British system in India was less British and more Raj. The British were there in India to carry out loot and thuggery. The results of British colonial exploitation were evident. The Bombay Plague of 1896 and 15 million deaths due to famines from 1875-1900 revealed the true colours of British Raj.
The spark which ushered in a clarion call to liberate India from the British yoke was the 1905 Partition of Bengal by Lord Curzon. The extremists carried out a revolution on the principles of Swadeshi, Swarajya, Boycott and Civil Disobedience.
Swarajya represented complete liberation from the British rule. Swadeshi represented building indigenous industries and educational institutions which were free from foreign domination. Boycott represented the repudiation of colonial taxes, British products, educational institutions and executive bodies. Finally, civil disobedience represented a program of lockdowns, strikes, agitation and bomb blasts as a last resort.
This movement was immediately curtailed by the Moderates and the British Raj. At the 1906 Calcutta session of the Indian National Congress, the Moderates refused to adopt the resolutions on Swaraj, Swadeshi, Boycott and National Education. The session ended in a stalemate.
At the 1907 Surat session, a schism between the Moderates and Extremists had developed. The Moderates purged the Congress party of the Extremists. Subsequently the British government collaborated with the Moderates and arrested several extremist leaders. Thus a promising movement which could create a renaissance in the Indian culture ended.
Subsequent generation of intellectuals were taught to admire liberal western values and renege the ancient Hindu wisdom. They were told that pride in ancient traditions of India would lead to fascism and could end up creating a Nazi like movement in India. Such a movement would promote caste based violence and culminate in the persecution of religious minorities in India. Thus Hindu Nationalism and Hindutva gained a negative connotation.
The new intelligentsia was inspired by socialism and they believed the latter could solve all the problems within India. They studied at prestigious educational institutes in England and were inspired by ideas like Fabian socialism and social democracy. The new intelligentsia tried to apply these ideas to the benefit of the Indian society. When the British left India, they gave the mantle of governance to the new intelligentsia. While the ideas of social democracy were definitely needed during the first two decades of independent India, the Indian intelligentsia continued with them until 1991.
Only a change in the world order and poor economic conditions at home triggered reforms towards capitalism. India was forced to carry out economic reforms in 1991 which has transformed India from a low income country to a NIC (newly industrialised country) by facilitating rapid economic growth and development. This has culminated in the rise of a new middle class from tier 2, tier 3 cities and small towns. They have seen rapid income growth, improvement in their standard of living and infrastructure development within their towns.
They shop in malls or on various e-commerce websites, take pride in their cultural heritage, have a strong sense of nationalism and don’t hesitate to speak in their mother tongue. They are highly optimistic about the future and perceive India’s problems as opportunities. They are not cribbers but believe in action. Somehow, they feel disconnected with the intelligentsia today. They feel their intelligentsia has become fossilized and hasn’t kept up with the times. They are still lingering onto socialism and have neglected the aspirations of the new middle class in India which has created a trust deficit between the people and the intelligentsia.
The intelligentsia is responsible for creation and dissemination of information. Therefore they are part of the media and the education system. Moreover, with the proliferation of smart phones and continuous access to internet; there are several independent media houses which have exposed the hypocrisy of the main stream media and busted their propaganda. Several Indophile foreigners and NRIs have started blogs and are making videos to make new age Indians proud of their country and culture. This has made Indian citizens ask questions about themselves and seek answers regarding their place and position in the current scenario.
Several government universities have witnessed clashes between the new middle class and the old intelligentsia wherein each has become the mirror image of the other. The people of this new order who feel neglected by the mainstream media have taken to social media and are trolling journalists.
Even though many of these people express themselves in funny ways with jokes and wisecracks aimed at exposing the hypocrisy of the journalists, some have gone too far and abused journalists which has resulted in cases of online harassment.
For the first time since 1905, a new intellectual order is beginning to take shape in India. It is essential for this order to thrive and steer the thinking of the future generation. This order has given sleepless nights to Macaulay’s children. However, rather than trolling journalists and exposing their hypocrisy through blogs on the internet, the new order needs to carry out a continuous revolution based on principles of 1905 to take power from the old intelligentsia and lead the country forward into its glorious future. The new revolution should be based on the principles of Swadeshi, Swarajya, Boycott and Selfless Service. These can be applied to the modern context in the following ways:
Swadeshi: This should culminate in a culture of entrepreneurship among the youth. Thus it becomes necessary to create positive ideas and inculcate pride among the new generation of Indians. A call for Swadeshi should facilitate in the creation of indigenous educational institutions which promote learning, research, skill development and an understanding of the Indian cultural heritage. The educational institutions should also help to preserve and develop vernacular languages of India. They should also encourage graduates to become successful entrepreneurs and create successful multinational companies.
Finally in order to create a positive perception of India on a global scale, India needs to have its own global media channel which shapes intellectual opinion around the world. This news channel should be based on the likes of BBC, CNN and Al-Jazeera. They should propagate truth, reshape modern thought, rewrite history and create a robust understanding of the world around them. This would enable India to improve its diplomatic relations with a lot of countries. There would be growing bilateral trade and increased flow of tourists into India. This can also help to create healthy international relations based on perennial friendship rather than mutual interests.
Swarajya: The new generation in India should fight for greater empowerment of local governments. This would ensure the local government is better equipped to deliver basic service to its citizens. A PPP (Public-Private Partnership) model to deliver basic services like healthcare, education, electricity, communication and transportation can improve infrastructure at grassroots level which is necessary to usher in industrialization.
Boycott: This implies the boycott of mainstream media channels which engage in a constant attack on the ethos of the Indian civilization, boycott of educational institutions which take away national pride and boycott of radical ideologies which are a threat to the idea of India.
Selfless Service: The Ramakrishna Mission and DAV Society were formed on the principles of Vedanta. Vedanta signified selfless service towards humanity. It strived for salvation by helping the poor and needy and saw god in them.
In the modern era, selfless service should not be about giving handouts and subsidies to the poor but imparting knowledge and developing skill sets among the underprivileged so that they are pulled out of extreme poverty. This would relegate certain anarchist voices to the fringe.
Initiatives in imparting quality education, rain water harvesting, credit management, creating entrepreneurs and promoting SMEs should be prioritised. Finally, a focus on renewable energy solutions will ensure sustainability. This could help India to reclaim its ancient glory and every Indian citizen would wake up not as a Westernized Oriental but an enlightened Global citizen who is grounded in his culture with the mantra Vasudeva Kutumbakam (The World is One Family).
© Abhishek Narasimha