Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Independence


In India, independence has come to define the making of six generations of patriotic Indians, who take undue pride in everything they think is Indian, living in a confused dream, apologetically trying to make the west understand why their history and culture is supreme, contending with neighbors like China to become a superpower, to possess nuclear weapons... They even go a step further, they practice self sacrifice, in terms of wearing cotton clothes from Fab India trying to promote a rather dubious version of Gandhi-ism, cheer the Indian cricket team as though India's international image depended on it. Not that all the above are despicable and useless exercices, but then, what should be of concern is that this has become the only use of independence. 

Many would point out that Indians took part in large numbers in the Anna Hazare campaign, against corruption. That is momentous. But, in retrospect, one would see that most of those who took part in the campaign were from the middle-class, whose lives are obviously affected by a corrupt government. And the word is that "Team Anna" is to form a third political front, which apparently is the obvious thing to do, as even the Indian President said in his independence day speech, "When protests become endemic, we are flirting with chaos." So, what's the point of protesting outside the political arena? At the end of the day, everything everywhere has to boil down to politics. 

POLITICS. 

I urge you to say the word, breathe it. It defines us human beings. Us Indians.

Let me begin by pointing out what nationalism is in the first place. Nationalism is a political ideology that involves a strong identification of a group of individuals with a nation. That 'strong identification' in the case of the French and American Revolutions were the principles of equality, citizenship and rights.  


And, the American dream played on the minds of millions across the world. 


In the case of America, the political and cultural situation was different from feudal France. America was built on an alien land, with the brand new ideals and vigor of free thinking men, and women. America did not have to deal with ancient traditions and sentimentalities. The country moved on, to achieve it's own goals, of patriotism, of superpower-dom. 

Nationalism of this sort is only recent. History shows us how religions had earlier played that role, providing people that 'strong identification.' The Church's political reaches in medieval Europe were so supreme that it controlled society as it were. 

And waged wars. The crusaders were by no means a peaceful lot.


INDIA.

We are an ancient people.

We never forget our past, we only choose to look at it differently at various instants of time, based on our current situation. 

The Indus Valley started off pretty well, what with its seemingly egalitarian setup. They traded across the seas, and lived in peace. 


We would have taken more pride in the Indus Valley Civilization had it had the potential for a larger political scheme, but it did not. The Aryan people (or the Aryan civilization) who have the same beginnings as the European people provided a card with which we could question the west on its pretense of 'educating' us. Us, the people who wrote one of the most supreme works of metaphysics, the beautiful, lyrical, Vedas. 


The nationalistic leaders (being true to their moment, playing a part in revolutionizing people's minds) used history to create a certain confidence in the people, in order to make a country, India.  


Leaving through the pages of our school's history books and our nationalistic leader's works, there is nothing but political subtext throughout. All the states we now call India always had a 'strong identification' unit, according to them, that is nothing other than the extent of Emperor Asoka's empire, which I might add, did not include most of south India, and don't even mention the north-east. Many nationalistic leaders also provoked nationalism in the people through religious means, obviously Hindu (and they later had issues with Jinnah for using the same technique to create Pakistan).

The Indian independence struggle was one which was much required at that time, given the economic exploitation of India by the colonial power, Great Britain. One can always refer to Naoroji's work to calculate how much was plundered away. 

But, independence from the British has sadly turned many people into the anti-west, anti-English, anti-modernism, the anti's. These people want to do away even with all the good that has come to us from the British. The British came at a time when India was in wane, and resuscitated it in many ways.  

Some walk an extra mile into history, and try to purge from our lives all which they feel is not Indian (where Indian means Hindu). They not only incite hate against the Muslims, but against the lower castes, the Christians for converting the Dalits... and artists, for thinking. 

 

The dream of a country, which intended to be secular, is in tatters. 

The most wonderful thing about this vast landmass called India is the multiplicity of its cultures, languages and religions (which is currently being homogenized - Hindi-ized- Hindu-ized).

Akbar let all religions flourish. Dara Shikoh, a Sufi, and Shah Jahan's son, wrote 'Majma-ul-Bahrain,' the mingling of the oceans, on comparative religion. 


Then there are those who want India to become a super-power. News channels constantly sneak in news of China or Pakistan infiltrating Indian borders. Then we speak of equipping our army with better and more destructive weapons. 

There are refugees, who cross man-made borders into India, from Bangladesh. 


We treat them harsh. 
Our excuse?

Our own aren't doing any better.


Have we given in blindly to a politics of the west which we hadn't earlier known? Should we not assess ourselves and take what would do good to us, from the west, instead of blatantly pursuing a path toward world political super-power-dom? Aren't we 'supposed' to be a nation in the first place because Asoka Maurya ruled over all this land? Wasn't his political ideology to promote Dhamma? Peace? 


INDEPENDENCE. 

Independence does not merely mean freedom from a particular political institution, it is the ultimate goal of reaching a place in time where we could co-exist with each other without having to wear a badge of patriotism. Where one is free from having to follow the will of politicians... Where there are no wars. Where one is accepted in society no matter what one's abilities, or spiritual beliefs. 

When a nation's dream grows, spills over, and turns violent outside its borders, it incites anger and remorse around the world.


So, what are we, the ancient people of 'India,' in pursuit of? 

The power to wage wars on other countries at will? The freedom to own as many nuclear weapons as possible? To show who is boss to China? 

The dream India is pursuing is dangerous. 

Maybe, just maybe, standing for the national anthem does not help any cause except a current politics which one may not agree with. 



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