• Archit Pandey

The Idea of Independent India

The picture above has been deliberately chosen by me for a specific reason which I am going to write about subsequently in this blog. Recently, India celebrated, like every year, her Independence with usual vigour, vivacity and verve. However, the dynamism, energy and nationalistic fervour associated with it was somewhere little bit compromised, courtesy to the COVID-19 (I don’t know why still people are taking this pandemic very seriously; and I’ll be coming up with a blog on this soon). PM Modi tried his best out to show that he was not clueless in this situation. His powerful speech received mixed feelings on part of the listeners. He hinted his future plans for the country and praised the efforts of his government in controlling the so-called dire situation of the pandemic. But this is not the point of discussion for today’s blog. Whether he is doing well or not is very much clear in front of the aware people. What I’m going to discuss in this blog pertains to the very idea of independence on which the blocs of today’s India are laid out. What was the idea of independence which we looked for before independence? What shape did it take after we attained independence? What is its status right now? Are these three stages which we are talking of compatible with each other or are they mutually exclusive of each other? Also, did we ever have the right view of what independence or being independent really mean? These are some of the questions which I’ll try to explore is this blog, possibly in a coherent manner. Please forgive me for abruptness, if any.

While our freedom movement was in its last-leg, it was becoming clearer, although faintly, that we are going to be independent soon. Our anticipation was correct and soon India achieved its glorious freedom which she has been awaiting since 1600 and more so after 1757. How hard we struggled to achieve this status of freedom is very well accounted in several of our History books. This is not on which I’m going to delve upon. My sole concern is whether the idea of independent India which was conceived during the freedom struggle, which got established after attaining the freedom and which is present before us right now, is true to the real spirit of India or not. Was this real spirit reflected at all, any or none of the three stages mentioned above? To throw some light on this is my sole concern for today’s blog. In order to proceed further, we first need to know two things – one, what is this real spirit of India; and two, what do we really mean by independence in purely Indian context. Obviously, the two questions are not divorced from each other as the true idea of Indian independence will have our real spirit intact to it.

This is a known truth that India has been a land of several religions. Religion since time immemorial has coloured each and every aspect of the life of an Indian. To proceed further, we should first briefly and simply know what actually is religion. Many scholars, especially orientalists, try to associate religion with its duty-related aspect i.e. religion is something which tells us to do what ought to be done. This is impartial truth because such people don’t tell us the source of this duty-related aspect of the religion which they are talking about. This they cannot tell because then they will have to accept the institutionalised form of religion which are so many in numbers. But they are prejudiced in their thinking that different institutionalised religions are the main cause of communal tensions. So, they simply say that the source of the duty-related aspect of this religion is perhaps our rational mind and our empirical senses with which we know and observe what is right or not and act accordingly. The problem arises here because it is when we left things to our mind and senses to decide the rightness and wrongness of actions, conflict is bound to follow as different people will have different knowledge and observations due to difference in their mental and empirical ability. So, instead of ensuing towards consensus, divergence is what we arrive at. But still our prejudiced mind tells us to go forward with this same impartial truth. But religion, as a matter of fact, is bound to be institutionalised in its nature; this is its cardinal principle. This institutionalised religion prescribes certain rightful duties for its followers, which orientalists are not able to understand either purposely or due to ignorance. When we follow an institutionalised religion, both intra-religion and inter-religion consensus is bound to follow; intra-religion consensus because its followers hold same beliefs which binds them and inter-religion consensus because each and every religion advances the spirit of cooperation (I am refraining from using the term toleration as traditionally and correctly it has a negative connotation) with other religions. This is because it is ultimately sanātana-dharma which is the meeting point of all religions. That is precisely what Frithjof Schuon means when he talks and writes about ‘The Transcendental Unity of Religions’. I hope the meaning of religion becomes clear. This institutionalised form of religion germinated and disseminated in its full potential over the entire Aryāvarta of which present India is just a part. Today, it is India which is the strongest exponent of this tradition of this Aryāvarta. This institutionalised religion with its umbrella effect forms the core of the real spirit of India. Unfortunately, many people, and it is even more unfortunate that majority of them belongs to our own Indian community, tried and are still trying to debauch and distort this core, in particular, and the real spirit of India, in general. Possibly, there are some ideological convictions behind this perilous motivation. Now, it will be safer and logical to delve into the question of the real idea of independent India.

The idea of independent India can be known only after theoretically understanding the meaning of independence. Independence is mostly mistaken for a unidimensional concept. People generally have this incomplete view that independence is the emancipation of the native subjects from the foreign control. This simply forms the first part and, in most cases, turns out to be the only one. What we omit is that fact that independence is not simply getting rid of alien domination but also rebuilding our own state on our own terms. Why then we take this imperfect view of the term independence? The reason lies specifically into the history of our freedom struggle. It is here the relevance of the picture, the one at the beginning of this blog, will come into play. While the protagonists of our freedom struggle were united on the former aspect of the independence, they were mostly divided on its latter dimension. Everyone was clear that independence lies in throwing away the exploitative Britishers out of the territory of India but no one agreed as to what should be the design of the future India, courtesy to the modern system of pestiferous and perplexing education introduced on the part of the Brits. Regarding the blueprint of the new India, five views, generally, prevailed. One, Marxists held that India should become a completely modern state bereft of religion; A.K. Gopalan, E.M.S. Namboodiripad and M.N. Roy formed the core of this group. Two, there were Socialists like Pt. Nehru and Acharya Narendra Dev who were little liberal than the Marxists but, nonetheless, regarded religion completely a matter of someone’s personal belief. Three, Mahatma Gandhi and S. Radhakrishnan held that religion and politics are closely intertwined but their religion was duty-ridden and not the institutionalised one. Four, Sardar Patel, Rajendra Prasad and KM Munshi regarded that religion in public affairs will not do any harm to the politics of India. Five, Shyama Prasad Mukherjee and Co. may be regarded as the precursor of the concept of Hindu-Raśtra, popularly known as Hindutva, which is in vogue nowadays. The first and the last options were least regarded. The first option was least compatible with the social reality of India. The last option was not welcomed either for two reasons – one, the popular leaders of the time like Nehru, Gandhi and Patel were opposed to this view and two, this group via its ideology of Hindutva did more harm than favour to the Hindu religion. Their intention was right but implementation poor and they are themselves responsible for their slapdash and disoriented knowledge. This is very much pertinent to the present atmosphere of Hindutva prevailing almost all over India these days. This makes very much clear that the fifth group is as disorganised and haphazard today as it was at the time of its inception.

Overall, it was rest of the options which were considered with much regard. This pertains to the picture above. The ideas of independent India associated with Nehru, Gandhi and Patel were finally deliberated upon. These three ideas form a continuum where Gandhi becomes the bridge between the two poles held apart by Nehru and Patel over the degree of religion intermingling with politics. But because Gandhi selected Nehru as his successor, it was Nehru’s idea of independent India which triumphed ultimately. It was Nehru’s idea of independent India only which, more or less, is still continuing with some modifications due to different party affiliations which different leaders of our country have with. Now the question here is - do we ever had the right idea of independent India. The answer is no. This we all can say later on after we have analysed the left-over views over the idea of independent India. We have looked upon the unacceptability of the Marxist and the Hindutva model. The left-over models are three- Nehruvian, Gandhian and the one held by Patel.

Nehru was obsessed with secularism and for him a secular state was the right and inevitable choice for India. He failed to understand that secularism, which has its origin in the west, and India are like the like poles of a magnet which would always repel each other and to superimpose such an idea coercively will lead to confusion and chaos in the society. Even George Jacob Holyoake, who propounded the term secularism, realised his mistake later on in his life and termed secularism as nothing but atheism. Gandhi, somewhat, was disappointed with Nehru on this and he regarded politics bereft of religion as a death-bed. But he took incomplete meaning of religion. Religion, for him, is eclectic i.e. it involves the good elements of all religions eliminating the degrading ones. This is a utopian, and in a sense an undesirable, concept as no one would regard his religion as debasing. As far as Patel is concerned, he seems closest to the true idea of independent India but he never said so explicitly which casts a shadow of doubt on him. I shall now put a point of disclaimer here. After reading till here, many will now try to decipher that during the entire course of our freedom struggle there was never an idea of an independent India which pertains to its true and real spirit. This, however, is untrue. There were many esteemed leaders like Bal Gangadhar Tilak, Bipin Chandra Pal and Madan Mohan Malviya who had in their minds the true idea of independent India. But by the time India entered the last phase of her freedom struggle, these leaders were no more among us and gradually their ideas got blacked out. The five ideas which I had talked about above were those that became the part of this last phase. Out of these five, two of them first got eliminated and ultimately one of them succeeded after the rest succumbed. Also, many would make out that there was strenuous rivalry among Nehru, Gandhi and Patel. It is true that their respective view-points may differ on certain areas but this shall not lead us to doubt their patriotism. They were highly humbled towards each other when engaging in a discussion and venerated each other’s perspectives on various issues. The difference in their view-points never came in between the vision of the hard struggle which they had waged for the swarāja of their motherland. This trait is something which is true of every great leader. Great leaders never get into rivalry with someone just for the sake of difference in view-points. They acknowledge everyone’s ideas and try to carve out a compromise so as to conciliate rival views. However, it must be said that in a religious and pure state there are very little chances for any rival views to hold place for a long time.

The true idea of Independent India, however, found its voice post-independence as well. The ones who extolled this were mostly those who belonged to the Śastrīya Ᾱcārya Paramparā of India. Swāmī Karpātrī Jī Mahārāja, Pūjyaśrī Chandraśekharendra Saraswati Swāmī, Swāmī Viśwanātha Śāstrī ‘Dātāra’ and presently Pūjyaśrī Niścalānanda Saraswati Swāmi are some of the names. They regarded that it is not by dissociating itself from individual religions, but by strictly inscribing, adorning and celebrating them respectively will what make India Bhārata in true sense of the term. This will what actually provide us with a holistic, inclusive and oriented outlook which is direly required at the moment amidst which we are losing out on our real identity. This is the real and true idea of independent India which finds its place in tranches during the course of Indian history since Brits came in. We must revere those divinely enlightened people who took pains to make us aware of our real identity. The truth is, which is a bitter one, that we, as a community, never actually seriously acknowledged and contemplated on our real identity ever since Brits captured and left us.