KM Munshi: Forgotten visionary of India’s cultural renaissance
by Nachiketas on 23 Jan 2014 3 Comments
The Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan celebrated its Platinum Jubilee Year in 2013, which was also the 125th birth anniversary of its founder KM Munshi. Given the magnitude of resources available to the Bhavan, it was disappointing to see that the twin celebrations turned out to be a low key affair, not befitting the stature of this cultural institution and its visionary founder. While some centres unveiled statues of leaders like Mahatma Gandhi, others organized music festivals. Even symbolically speaking, one wonders why the Bhavan did not think it fit to install a statue of Munshiji himself to commemorate his 125th birth anniversary at suitable locations and keep his name and message alive.


It appears as though the Bhavan’s leadership has been infected with the policy paralysis of the current government! One has to only visit any of the centres of the Bhavan in India to see how the great legacy of KM Munshi is gathering dust in the portals of his own institution. A recent visit to the Bhavan’s bookstall in one of the centres in south India revealed that most of the original works of KM Munshi are either ‘out of stock’ or even worse ‘out of print.’ None of the seminal works that defined Munshi’s literary legacy – The Ruin that Britain Wrought, Jai Somnath, Akhand Hindustan – are accessible to the common man today. This writer had to make do with photocopies of old moth-eaten copies from a public library.


The manager of the bookstall said the reason for the non-availability of Munshi ji’s books is that they are not in popular demand and hence their publication has been stopped! So a stalwart intellectual like Munshi is being subjected to the agni pariksha of popularity by the very institution he founded to propagate the core values of Indian Culture.


Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan has 122 centres in India and 7 abroad. The Bhavan’s schools in India have an approximate strength of more than three lakh students. Are the staff members and students of the Bhavan’s institutions familiar with Munshi’s vision and his plan of action to revitalize Indian Culture? Does the Bhavan prescribe Munshi’s books as recommended reading for its students and teaching staff?


Over the last several years, regular visitors to the Bhavan have found that most of the students and staff have never had an opportunity to read the life and works of Munshi. Worse, the top echelons of the Bhavan’s management are infested with the secular elite who shy away from acknowledging Munshi’s unwavering commitment to the Sanatana Dharma.


Recently, Jinnah apologist AG Noorani called KM Munshi an ‘RSS mole in the Congress party’ who was appointed by Sardar Patel as the Agent General to Hyderabad to resolve the Nizam’s refusal to accede to India. The Bhavan’s stoic silence to this abusive and derogatory reference to their founder is sad, but perhaps understandable in the stifling anti-Hindu ethos of our times. A nationalist Government at the Centre would have forced an apology from AG Noorani or initiate legal proceedings against him for such offensive allegations.


KM Munshi was one of the few leaders of modern India who understood and cherished India’s civilisational ethos, unlike the brown sahibs who often felt ashamed of own cultural roots and sought to imitate the colonial masters. In his formative years, Munshi was a student of nationalist icon Sri Aurobindo, whom the British considered as the most dangerous man in India. No wonder Munshi was profoundly transformed and influenced by Sri Aurobindo’s nationalism, patriotism and his vision for India’s cultural renaissance.


During the partition era, he took a bold and uncompromising stand against the divisive politics of Jinnah and the Muslim League. His work Akhand Hindustan, was the passionate outpouring of his deep anguish at seeing his motherland being cut into pieces by greedy politicians whom he called as the ‘Disruptionists’: “The creed of disruption has thriven on appeasement so far, and unless Indians put their foot down, the country will be cleft into bits before they know what is being done.” (p.9)


“Friendliness comes by mutual forbearance and mutual respect. It is not born out of a wedlock of bluff and appeasement. When those standing for the unity of India win the respect of the disruptionists by their fearless advocacy of Akhand Hindustan, friendliness and mutual understanding will follow, as day follows night.” (p.14)


One cannot but feel the power of his prophetic words and the uncanny resemblance they continue to have to the situation in India today which is dominated by the politics of appeasement of minority vote banks.


“Akhand Hindustan is a living reality, which no man in his senses dare trifle with. There cannot be any parley on the question of the integrity of India. There can be no compromise on the basis of its disruption. No coercion, no calamity, no slavery, however oppressive will make us agree to such vivisection. From Amarnath to Rameswar, from Dwarka to Kalighat, the land is one and indivisible. It is sanctified by the sacrifice of Indians of thirty centuries. It is the shrine at which our gods have worshipped. It is the hope of India’s sons; it will remain such till the end of time. Its inviolability is the first article of their faith here, their salvation hereafter. Whoever seeks to part what has thus been joined, will have to walk over the dead bodies of millions of Indians. And even then, India will remain one and indivisible.”


What a tragedy for India that in spite of the presence of towering leaders like Munshi, the spineless proponents of India’s partition were allowed to have their say.


Munshi’s role in the successful integration of Hyderabad State and the renovation of the Somnath Temple are unforgettable contributions which make every Indian indebted to him.


Munshi established the Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan as an instrument through which Indian Culture could be reinterpreted and revitalized to suit the needs of the modern times. It is high time that the Bhavan stops shying away from Munshi’s legacy.


As KM Munshi’s 43rd death anniversary approaches on 8 February 2014, one hopes the Bhavan will shake off its stupor and renew its commitment and responsibility to preserve his works for posterity. The entire collection of works of KM Munshi should be available to the public without delay. If the Bhavan cannot do this, let it renounce the copyright on Munshi’s works and allow other patriotic institutions to take up this noble cause.


The author is a free thinker

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