Hindu dharma is implicitly at odds with monotheistic intolerance. What is happening in India is a new historical awakening... Indian intellectuals, who want to be secure in their liberal beliefs, may not understand what is going on. But every other Indian knows precisely what is happening: deep down he knows that a larger response is emerging even if at times this response appears in his eyes to be threatening.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Sanskriti, Samruddhi and Su-raj

ndia Explained, India Empowered: a special series
Sanskriti, Samruddhi and Su-raj

Words are carriers of meanings. But meanings, when culled out from equivalent words in different languages, often suffer from a phenomenon that is familiar to us: Lost in translation. Thus, ‘dharma’ means much more than ‘religion’. Similarly, ‘power’ means much less than ‘shakti’. In India’s philosophical and social traditions, ‘shakti’ has a profound spiritual connotation, and its use is permissible only for ethically good ends. ‘Shakti’ is even considered the empowering principle of the entire cosmos. In contrast, the meaning of ‘power’ is prosaic. And in today’s environment, it is all too common that people take ‘power’ to mean ‘satta’ (political power). And since politics has acquired a certain undesirable, even ugly, connotation, its association with power — what is frequently called ‘power politics’ — has bred cynicism.

Therefore, the discussion on ‘India’s empowerment’ brings to my mind three inter-related thoughts: Sanskriti (culture), Samruddhi (prosperity for all) and Su-raj (good governance).

I firmly believe that India’s empowerment must be understood in its loftier sense, and not merely, as often happens these days, in terms of the attainment of a higher GDP growth rate or some other purely economic indicator. We should not confuse means with the ends. The idea of a ‘Shaktishali Bharat’ — India Empowered, if you will — must recognize that this great and ancient nation of ours is already the repository of so many hidden and unique strengths.

These strengths are mainly ethical, spiritual, cultural and intellectual in nature. These strengths are the outcome of the millennial journey of our civilization and have survived numerous foreign invasions and many vicissitudes of history. They are embedded in the lives of our ordinary people, in our family and community values, in our heritage of art and culture, and in our epics and in the immortal works of our seers and social reformers. Even when India was enslaved, and even when Free India was not as prosperous as it is today, these strengths of India were globally recognized and they earned for India enormous goodwill and admiration among peoples all over the world. In diplomatic and strategic affairs discussions, these intangible strengths are described as ‘soft power’. Thus, in terms of ‘soft power’ — in contrast to ‘hard power’ that is measured by nuclear stockpiles, force projection worldwide, economic might, etc. — India is already a highly empowered nation.

I am saying this not to suggest that science, technology, trade, investments and capacity to compete — and win — in today’s era of globalization do not matter for India. No, not in the least. Rather, in referring to India’s spiritual, cultural and civilisational heritage, my purpose is two-fold. One, let us not be blind to, or belittle the value of, the ‘shakti’ that India already possesses. The value of this heritage is immeasurable, and its need in the future — both for India and some extent for the world at large — is going to be immense. Only a nation without an awareness of its own past, and a vision of its own for the future, will allow material prosperity to come in a manner that impoverishes us culturally, morally and spiritually.

My second reason for referring to it is that this cultural-spiritual heritage, diverse though it is, is the main source of our national unity. Therefore, a non-sectarian and non-communal invoking of the life-nourishing, unifying and truly empowering aspects of this heritage can unleash among our people latent nationalist energy, without which no nation can achieve big goals.

Some people wrongly, even wilfully, find fault with the BJP for describing culture as the unifying principle of Indian nationhood. I would like to emphasise that culture is not to be confused with any particular religion. India is a multi-religious secular nation and this is a matter of pride for all of us. India belongs to all, and all must belong to India. My party is opposed not to secularism, but to pseudo-secularism — to the tendency among certain parties to indulge in minorityism at the cost of both national interests and the interests of the minorities themselves. Indeed, if we are truly concerned about India’s empowerment, we should progressively reduce, and ultimately do away with, the talk of ‘majority’ and ‘minority’ communities from the domain of public life. Every section of India must be empowered, for India to be truly empowered.

What is the way forward? I’ll encapsulate the answer in just one word: Su-raj (good governance). Our forefathers won Swaraj (political freedom) for India. They had dreamed that attainment of Swaraj would lead to Su-raj. That dream is yet to be substantially fulfilled. And that is the task before all the political parties in India today. A task to be accomplished through a spirit of cooperation, and with a firm understanding that exercise of ‘satta’ must be for the enhancement of ‘shakti’ — India’s and every Indian’s.

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