these are the five worst words in the english language. nehru was won, he has succeeded in his project of macaulayizing india's middle class: a bunch of deracinated, worthless cannon-fodder for the storm troopers of godman ratzinger, comrade hu, and the king of saudi arabia.
gurcharan das's telling editorial, worth reading in full.
I am a Hindu, but...
The confident, handsome friend of our son gave a telling reply to a visiting
Englishwoman the other day in Khan Market. "I am a Hindu, but...", and he went
into a winding reply about his beliefs. He hastily added that he was an Indian
first. It was a perfectly honest answer, and any other person might have made it
about Islam or Christianity. But I sensed an unhappy defensiveness � the 'but'
betrayed that he was ashamed of being a Hindu. This happened a few weeks after I
got a call from one of Delhi's best schools, asking me to speak to its students.
"Oh good", I said, "in that case, I shall speak about dharma and the moral
dilemmas in the Mahabharata."
The principal's horrified reaction was, "Oh don't, please! There are important
secularists on our governing board, and I don't want a controversy about
teaching religion." I protested ineffectually, "But surely the Mahabharata is a
literary epic, and dharma is about right and wrong. Where does religion come
As I think about these two incidents, I ask myself, why should these two
successful young professionals be embarrassed of their heritage? Something has
clearly gone wrong. With the rise in religious fundamentalism, it seems to me
that it is difficult to talk about one's deepest beliefs. Liberal Hindus are
reluctant to admit being Hindu for fear they will be automatically linked to the
RSS. I certainly blame Hindutva nationalists who have appropriated our culture
and tradition into a political agenda. But I also blame our secularists who
behave no better than fundamentalists in their antipathy to tradition. One of
the strengths of Western civilisation is that in times of crisis, it seeks
sustenance and inspiration from the rational ideals of Greece and Rome, from
Homer, Pericles and Virgil.
My fear is that modern, liberal Indians may not have any use for their past, and
they will abdicate our wonderful traditions to the narrow, closed minds of
fanatical Hindu nationalists. If Italians are proud of the Divine Comedy, the
Spanish of Don Quixote, and the Greeks of the Iliad, why should 'secularist'
Indians be ambivalent about the Mahabharata? Why should it become 'untouchable'
for a sensitive, modern, school principal? In part this is due to ignorance. We
do not read our ancient classics with a critical mind as secular works of
literature and philosophy, as young Americans read the Western classics in their
first year of college as a part of their "core curriculum".
So, we depend on our grandmothers or Amar Chitra Katha or second rate serials on
Sunday morning television. Meanwhile, the Sangh Parivar steps into this vacuum
with its shrunken, defensive, and inaccurate version of our history and happily
appropriates this empty space. And the richness of tradition is lost to this
generation. No one reads Edmund Burke these days. He opposed the French
Revolution because he feared that killing the church and aristocracy would cut
off links with the past. I too value continuity in our "custom, community and
natural feeling" in Burke's language, which is so necessary to realise our full
human potential. To respect tradition means that one must criticise it as our
19th century reformers did. But I fear that our secularism is unwittingly
undermining tradition. The challenge before modern, decent Indians today, it
seems to me, is essentially the same as the one Ram Mohan Roy faced in the early
19th century: how to grow up mentally healthy, integrated Indians? How do we combine our liberal modernity with our traditions
in order to fully realise our potential?