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Understand India, Modi ji

Please note the “vishwa” in the word “Vishwavidhyalaya”. Do you want to convert them into Saraswati Shishu Mandirs? Universities discuss problems and issues confronting the whole human race. Don’t try to make them schools of patriotism

Honourable Modi ji,

I believe every citizen has the right to directly communicate with his Prime Minister. And if the mode is a letter, one can avoid the hassle of a hard-to-get appointment. So, I have chosen to write this letter to you.

Of late, the country has witnessed a string of incidents. I don’t think I need to recount them to you. It is true that in a large country like India, many kinds of things will keep on happening and I would not like you to waste your valuable time in paying attention to petty incidents. But there are some incidents, which shake us, which are a threat to our very existence as a nation. And to my mind, what happened recently on the campus of Delhi’s Jawaharlal Nehru University and what followed in the capital and other parts of the nation fall in that category. What happened was out of the ordinary and I would request you to seriously reflect on the chain of events and its implications. I am requesting you to give this personal consideration as I feel that you are somewhat confounded on this issue. By prostrating at the gate of Parliament and raising full-throated slogans of “Bharat Mata ki jai” you have given us some idea of your mindset. Have you ever tried to analyze your psychology? Please do find time to do that. That is because the country’s future depends on it. Russian writer Chekhov had said, “Just show a man his real self and he will reform.” That is why I see a possibility of reform in you. Mr Prime Minister, Sir, begin with comprehending the power you wield. You are presiding over the destinies of 1.25 billion people. And you have been elected by them. You are the de facto ruler of this great nation – just as Chandragupta, Ashoka and Akbar were at different times. But even they were not ruling such a huge India. During the reign of Chandragupta and Ashoka, India extended much farther in the west than it does now but the south was not under the control of the Mauryans. Akbar’s India was also not as big as today’s India.

Kanhaiya ProtestBut India is not just a geographical entity. There is cultural India too. As Rabindranath Tagore had said, “India is a thought; not a geographical fact.” India has not been created by its rulers. It has been built by its poets, scholars, philosophers, saints and, in fact, by nature herself. This India has evolved over centuries. The process of its creation was simple and complex at the same time. One doesn’t know how many sagas, legends, poems, songs, pasts and futures and have gone into its making. And today, this India beats in the hearts of 1.25 billion Indians.

Just peep into its past – into its cultural legends and mythology. You must be aware that it was named “Bharat” after the one who was born out of the love and matrimony of Dushyanta and Shakuntala. Bharat was not brought up in a palace. He grew up in the ashram of a rishi. These ashrams were located deep inside forests. Today, your government has embarked on “Greenhunt” because you think traitors are hiding in these forests. The story of Bharat and his mother Shakuntala is enchanting and touching. Then, there was the great sage Dwapayan Krishna, who is also known as Ved Vyas. He wrote the awesome epic Mahabharata, which was initially called Jai and Bharat. The Mahabharata is our greatest cultural heritage. Not more than 100 years ago, some people turned this Bharat-Mahabharata into Bharat Mata. Have you ever thought how Bharatvarsha became Bharat Mata? The British called their nation motherland. In India, the tradition was of describing one’s place of birth as fatherland. You have been a pracharak of the RSS. You must be aware of these facts. Influenced by the British culture, some people started associating India with motherhood and turned Bharat into Bharat Mata. Since those who did this were the rich gentry and feudal landlords – whose drawing rooms were adorned with skins of tigers and lions – they perched Bharat Mata on the back of a tiger. How could the mother of these great men ride a cow or a buffalo? Have you ever given a thought to what Bharat Mata would be doing had she been the creation of the common man? Maybe she would be breaking stones like the woman in Nirala’s poem Woh Todti Patthar. Renowned Hindi poet Pant has also woven an image of Bharat Mata:

“Bharat Mata gramvasini,

tarutal niwasini”

(Bharat Mata lives in a village,

she dwells under a tree)

Pant’s Bharat Mata thus lives under a tree, Nirala’s breaks stones. If the rural proletariat had created the image of Bharat Mata, then maybe she would have been grazing goats or spinning a charkha.

Poster_AIBSF_2011But you are not the prime minister of this Bharat. You are the prime minister of only that Bharat, which has been described as “that is India” in the Constitution. This India was shaped by our great freedom struggle and was given the final touches by the Constituent Assembly. We adopted this Constitution on 26 January 1950. “We, the people of India…adopt, enact and give to ourselves this Constitution”. We adopted a political India that had grown on a great cultural foundation. The Constitution became our soul and as you say – our religious scripture.

But some people did not imbibe or adopt it. Our Constitution exemplifies the values of quality, liberty and fraternity – which had evolved from the French Revolution. It forbids all kinds of discrimination and assures equal opportunities to all. It is not rigid; It is amenable to alternations, deletions and additions in keeping with the changing times – and we have have seen this happen. Attempts were made to tinker with it – as in 1975, when Emergency was imposed. But these attemps were destined to fail.

And today’s India rides on the back of this Constitution, not on the back of a tiger or a lion. It is not Bharat Mata. It is the India that has been built with consensus. It is our strength and we are its strength. It is somewhat like the relationship of a drop of water with the ocean. The moment the drop separates from the ocean, it is obliterated. We will be obliterated if we separate from India.

Prime Minister, Sir, some people have reduced worshipping India to mockery. They understand neither politics nor culture. They are only interested in creating an illusory world that they can use to perpetuate their domination. In the times gone by, some people maintained their domination through socio-cultural deception. Since the present Constitution has tied their hands, they are exploring new ways to do it. It is unfortunate that these great men, who once hung tiger hides in their drawing rooms, have now hung the skin of Bharat Mata and as the self-appointed priests of India, are dishing out certificates of patriotism. They do not have faith in the Constitution. They believe in Manusmiriti and other similar Indian codes. Their India is the India of sadhus, beggars and charlatans – as that India would not challenge their Manuvaad. This is their country, this is their nation.

What happened at Jawaharlal Nehru University is being talked about everywhere. I am one of those who see this in a positive light. I believe that free debate and discussion strengthen a nation. But I would request you to keep a close eye on the entire issue and discourage forces that are socially retrograde, because they want to weaken the nation. In today’s world, no country or society with an outdated and conservative mindset can grow and progress. We move even when we move backwards but that is retrogression. We have to decide whether we want to forge ahead or move backwards. We cannot forge ahead if we hold on to religious bigotry and narrow-mindedness. In this century, we can forge ahead only by tapping into the knowledge and wisdom granted to us by science and by adhering to scientific reasoning. As globalization continues, the challenges before us are growing. Unless we take a big leap, we will fall by the wayside. And once that happens, we will never be able to recover.

rohithSo, please do correct yourself. You and your associates talk of nationalism at the drop of a hat. I don’t known whether you have ever given a thought to what it exactly means. It is not possible to explain nationalism in detail in a letter but I would like to say something about the circumstances in which a country becomes a nation. The way Western nations evolved was a bit different from how India evolved. But both here and in the West, nation is a modern phenomenon. It evolved along with the industrial revolution and, for different reasons, flourished in the capitalist era. When the Western nations were evolving, besides a piece of land with definite boundaries, sovereignty, population and language, what contributed to their making was the common good of their citizens. This common good is interpreted by our Constitution as equality of opportunity.

But nationalism took an ugly form in Europe and today, no one wants to talk about it. Bearing the badge of nationalism on their chests, the Western nations fought two ruinous world wars among themselves and turned Europe into a massive graveyard. Nationalism, ultimately, proved to be a Frankenstein’s monster that took the largest number of lives in human history. In this context, our great poet and thinker Rabindranath Tagore had lambasted nationalism. On 14 April 1941, shortly before his death, he wrote an article and delivered a speech on “Crisis of Civilization”. Prime Minister, Sir, you should find time to read this article.

India did not witness an industrial revolution and here, feudalism formed the lifeblood of capitalism. Indian nationalism was very different from its Western cousin. While its political face opposed colonialism, its social face took on the priestly class. In both cases, freedom was the objective. The creators of this nationalism were Tilak, Gandhiji, Subhash, Bhagat Singh and others on the one hand and Jotiba Phule, Ranade, Ambedkar and the like on the other. After the end of colonial rule, freedom from social-economic domination became more relevant. Like a true statesman, Jawaharlal Nehru drew the contours of the new India. Retrograde ideas had no place in his scheme of things. His new India was to be built not by sadhus and sanyasis but by scientists, workers and farmers. He stressed on the need to develop scientific temper.

But Prime Minister, Sir, you do not talk of either of these two streams of nationalism. Your nationalism is the nationalism of Shivaji, Savarkar and Golwarkar, which, to say the least, has been controversial from day one. The nationalism of Savarkar and Golwarkar is not Indian, it is Hindu. This kind of nationalism requires a prop – in the form of a counter-balance, in this case another theocratic nation. Shivaji’s Hindvi state was pitted against the Mughal Empire and Savarkar’s Hindutva was juxtaposed against Islam. The Hindu nationalism of Hedgewar and Golwalkar will also require a Muslim or Christian nationalism to sustain itself. In contrast, the Indian nation can survive independently; it does not need an “other” and it has the capability to ensure that all its subjects have equality of opportunity.

As far as I understand, JNU is the best school of this nationalism – Indian nationalism. I visit it off and on and I have felt that most of the students there want to build an “India without fear” – as Gurudev dreamt. It is true that it was a bastion of Marxists and to some extent continues to be so. The Manuvadis somehow tolerated the Marxists but their patience gave way when the new students started talking about Phule-Ambedkarism and for the first time, the Marxists joined forces with them. The first flashpoint was the Mahishasur issue. The Manuvadi students had started worshipping Durga there. The Phule-Ambedkarite students started observing ‘Mahishasur Day”. Durga and Mahishasur are not part of our history, they are part of our mythology. And Prime Minister, Sir, not only the dominant sections have their history, their mythology and their culture. Those who are the ruled, those who are the members of the so-called lower castes – one of which you had become during the elections – too have their own history and mythology. If the dominant classes have their mythological Durga, the backward classes have their mythological Mahishasur.

You must have heard about Devasur Sangram (Battle between the gods and the asurs). The dominant class uses its mythology to strengthen its stranglehold; those who are left behind reinterpret their mythology to put up cultural resistance. The dominant class asks us to worship Rama; we are reminded of Shambuk whose head was severed by Rama only because he wanted to gain knowledge. Have you ever thought what a Dalit-OBC sportsperson must be feeling when the Arjuna Award is conferred on him? Will he not remember Eklavya?

Just put your hand on your heart, Prime Minister, Sir and think who Mahishasur, Shambuk and Eklavya were. Were they foreigners? Did they belong to some other religion? Talking about them, underlining their contribution – how is that you consider this sedition? The time has come for you to ask the members of the RSS to do a re-think on their Hindutva. Their Bharat is not akhand (united), neither is their Hindutva. Their Hindutva is fragmented. It is brahmanical Hindutva. You only talk of this brand of Hindutva.

Now, let us revisit the JNU incident. It happened on 9 February. If any student raised anti-India slogans, it was patently wrong. I have been told that statements like “War will continue till India is ruined” were made. I condemn such statements in the harshest possible terms. We should not wish the ruin of anyone – not even of Pakistan. It is our neighbour. Let it grow and prosper. Let all countries of the world grow and prosper. I really love your slogan “Sabka Saath, Sabka Vikas”. But let it not remain a mere slogan. Let it become a reality.

Universities are meant to bring about “Sabka Saath, Sabka Vikas”. In times of yore, we had our Nalanda. Hiuen Tsang and Fa Hien had come to study there. In the British era, students from our country went to Oxford and Cambridge. There, they talked about freedom of India. They formed their associations and organizations. But the British government never charged them with sedition. Your Savarkar had also studied in England and had written his famous book, Indian War of Independence: 1857 while living in that country. He had also established “Free India Society” there. Let us give the same degree of freedom to our universities. Let us allow the students and the teachers to think, discuss and debate freely. Please note the “vishwa” in the word “Vishwavidhyalaya”. Do you want to convert them into Saraswati Shishu Mandirs? Universities discuss problems and issues confronting the whole human race. Don’t try to make them schools of patriotism. Don’t send out the message that we do not even know how to run universities. Suppose 100-200 students from Pakistan study in JNU. Will they not talk about their country? Our students study abroad. Don’t they talk about India?

Let us touch on the Kashmir issue too. Some students talked about Afzal Guru. By kicking up a furore about him we have only highlighted the Kashmir problem and brought it into the limelight. This is nothing but foolhardiness. Kashmir’s problems are a bit different and more complex than the problems of the rest of India. In Kashmir, you had formed government with the PDP, which considers Afzal a martyr. Not that there is anything wrong in aligning with the PDP. Only dialogue can take us forward. That is the right way, the only way. Despite Pakistan engineering heinous acts of violence on our soil, we are trying to hold a dialogue with it. Kashmir, in any case, is ours. I believe that you understand the Kashmir issue much better than I do as I have been told that you have spent some time there. The Kashmir problem is a complex one. It was never a part of British India. It was a separate state. It became part of India under particular circumstances, which was natural. It is like a child adopted by a family. That is why there is a special article in the Constitution for that state. This article should be respected. Such special provisions may, in the times to come, persuade other countries to become a part of the Indian confederation. And these countries may be even Pakistan, Bangladesh or Nepal. We should not stop dreaming. Sometimes, dreams come true.

So dear Prime Minister, Sir, the need of the hour is a dialogue – not wrangling – with citizens, especially students, who are angry for one reason or the other. Patriotism cannot be thrust upon anyone, such as through punishment. I think your disciples, who are sporting the badge of patriotism and looting the country, are a much bigger threat than a handful of angry young men. Did you ever ask your friend Ambani why he is building a Rs 1000 crore home for himself when farmers are committing suicide in the country over loan defaults of petty amounts? You have announced waiver of loans worth lakhs of crores of rupees taken by capitalists but you are hardly concerned about the workers and farmers of the country. Rohith Vemula, a promising student of Hyderabad University, was forced to commit suicide. You were nearly in tears. I can understand you. In your own words, you come from a lower caste, a backward community. You are a proletariat in Marxist jargon. You are the son of a great mother who used to work in other people’s homes; you sold tea as a child. I have some faith in you. Maybe a dialogue with you can help. Sometime back, when you were garlanding a bust of Ambedkar, I just thought how good it would have been had you put a garland of his thoughts around your neck. It would have initiated a silent revolution. So, I will borrow Vivekananda’s words to say, “awaken, rise, march and do not stop”. You are not steeped in the value system of the Sangh, you should revolt against the Manuvadis, destroy them. Their country is phoney, their religion is phoney, and their nation is phoney. Come out of this palace of deceit and lies, Modi ji. It will benefit you – but it will benefit the country more.




Premkumar Mani


About The Author

Premkumar Mani

Premkumar Mani is a leading Hindi writer and thinker. In politics, he is known for his advocacy of social justice

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