A republic at odds with itself
by Virendra Parekh on 26 Jan 2010 3 Comments
You cannot remain young for ever, it is said, but you can remain immature throughout your life. As the Indian republic turns 60, it looks like a tired old man suffering from self-forgetfulness, who has advanced in age but not grown in wisdom.


Each passing day brings fresh evidence of the state’s inability to meet even basic expectations of citizens. We expect it at least to defend our borders, protect us from violence, protect environment from degradation, punish wrongdoers and provide us with roads, water and power. What we get is an apologetic response to Chinese incursions in Ladakh and Arunachal, spread of Naxalite violence, pollution of Ganga, parole for Manu Sharma, and numerous instances of road rage, water scarcity and power cuts. These are not mundane failures in providing basic services; they give us an insight into the real nature of the Indian state.


The first thing that strikes us about the Indian state is its lopsided nature. It is soft to those who merit harsh treatment – terrorists, proven criminals, tax dodgers, corrupt officials and leaders, irresponsible trade unions etc; it is harsh on those who deserve compassion – the poor, the unorganized, the weak. So it inspires fear and mistrust among those whom it is supposed to help and serve, while it is not taken seriously by those who ought to fear it. It is highly active in areas which it should not have entered in the first place, while blissfully neglecting the tasks which it alone can perform. Its patronage is largely enjoyed by those who least deserve it, even as its burden is borne by those who are least capable to do so. In short, there is too much of government but too little of governance.


A striking feature of the Indian state over the decades has been the divergence between the objectives and the consequences of its policies. A poor country which needed to grow fast chose to follow economic policies which stultified its growth. A policy of positive discrimination which was supposed to put an end to backwardness created a powerful vested interest in backwardness. A temporary provision for integrating Jammu & Kashmir into India has become a seemingly permanent instrument for preventing its full integration.


But the biggest failure of independent India is not economic (loss of growth opportunities) or military (loss of territory to Pakistan and China) but cultural and ideological. The State created by the Constitution has no relation with or respect for age-old civilization of the country. It has done nothing to end the cultural stalemate plaguing us for centuries.


It is no secret that the overall structure and several provisions of the Indian Constitution were borrowed from the Government of India Act 1935. Like British rulers, the Indian state looks upon India as a vast conglomeration of castes, communities, religions, languages and races and seeks to mould them into a modern nation by inculcating western values. This repudiates the deeper fundamental unity of India rooted in Hindu civilization. According to this view, India is still a nation in the making. This separates it from Indianness.


The British government claimed to be a neutral arbiter in the Hindu-Muslim conflict (which it was not), but overtly promoted western institutions and concepts. The Indian state after Independence, too, sought to replicate western institutions and values, first in the name of modernisation, and now in the name of globalisation. The resultant political order is characterized not so much by appeasement of Muslims as by its rootlessness, alienness and its contempt for the country’s cultural past.


The un-Indian character of the Indian state is defended in the name of secularism, which alone, we are told, can ensure communal harmony and preserve India’s unity and integrity. Numerous thinkers have debunked these claims by pointing out the perverse, anti-national and subversive nature of what passes in India for secularism.


As late Ram Swarup pointed out, in the West secularism was creative; in India, it is imitative. In the West, it was directed against the clergy and tyrannical rulers, and had, therefore, a liberating role. Here it is directed against the Hindus who are victims of two successive imperialisms stretching over a millennium. In the West, it opposed the church which claimed to be the sole custodian of absolute Truth, which gave definitive answers to all questions and punished any dissent. In India, it is directed against Hinduism which never made such claims, laid down no dogmas, punished no dissent and which fully accepted the role of reason in both spiritual and secular matters. In practice, it has been a smokescreen for every anti-Hindu totalitarian ideology – Islam, Christianity, Communism – to pursue its designs on Hindu society.


The truth is that all attempts to divorce Indian nationalism from Hindu civilization have failed. If we take out the Hindu element from Indian society, history and culture, it will no longer remain Indian.


History shows that every part of India where Hindu civilization was eclipsed and Hindus reduced to a minority, has eventually seceded from India. Every separatist movement in the last hundred years (Muslim, Christian, Sikh, Dravid, Communist or tribal) has been anti-Hindu in character. In contrast, there is not a single leader, organisation or movement that called itself Hindu and yet was secessionist. Hindus cannot secede from India because they constitute India. It is they who have imparted Indianness to India. No other group can claim this for itself.


Secularism was the westernised Hindus’ response to anti-Hindu separatism and animus. They sought to deflect the attack by disowning Hinduism. Secularists thought and still think that by de-Hinduising the polity they would be able to neutralise Islam also. It has not worked. Hindus may cry hoarse that they are secular, but for their enemies they are still too Hindu to be left in peace.


In fact, perverse secularism has confused the intellect, clouded the vision and paralysed the will of the Indian state to grave challenges such as overt secessionism, infiltration, Islamic separatism, and even terrorism. Club these political and ideological failures with secular failures in the realm of governance and foreign policy, and the picture is complete.


Since we tend to expect a lot from the state, we have allowed it to assume very wide-ranging powers. Today we have a state which is all-pervasive but weak, corrupt and inefficient and lacks a clear set of priorities. Instead we need a smaller, less intrusive but strong state, with a clear set of priorities. It would draw inspiration from Kautiliya Arthasastra, Mahabharata and such treatises, rather than junk ideologies and think tanks of the West.


Such a state would never allow the country’s borders to shrink at any cost, would curb internal violence with an iron hand to regain its monopoly of use of force, and would carry out police, judicial and administrative reforms to provide speedy justice at affordable cost to the people. It would use public resources for creating public goods (environment protection, public health, primary education, sound money, basic infrastructure etc.) which cannot be left to the market mechanism. It will protect the right to property and enforce contracts. Remember, farmers in Nandigram or tribals in Orissa did not ask for jobs or sarkari welfare schemes, but the right to retain what they possessed. Its economic policies will be aimed at encouraging and facilitating growth rather than controlling it.


Above all, such a state would be rooted firmly in the civilisational ethos of the country. It would regard India as the cradle of an ancient civilization, which the Indian state is expected to protect and nourish. It would recognise the reality that after the secession of the Muslim component of the state (provinces, bureaucracy, police and army) what remained was Hindu Rashtra. This recognition would mean an assurance to the Hindus that they have finally come into their own, that Indian nationalism is rooted in Hinduism, and that the State would protect Hindu society and culture against predatory creeds.


Secularist intelligentsia has spent six decades telling Hindus that this is not their state, although they may be manning and funding it by far. The Hindu response is visible in their indifference to all the values espoused by the State, including composite culture and secular (i.e. non-Hindu) nationalism. The loss of national character in independent India has a lot to do with that. It also explains why Indians are respected abroad, but India is not.


The author is Executive Editor, Corporate India, and lives in Mumbai 

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