Javeed Ahmad Raina
India is the cradle of the human race, the birthplace of human speech, the mother of history, the grandmother of legend, and the great-grandmother of tradition…Mark Twain
India has ever been the land of peace and harmony. It has been a heaven for co-existence, brotherhood and religious tolerance. The country managed to sustain secular values in the face of striking, ethnic, linguistic and religious diversity.The country is well-known for vibrant democracy, independent judiciary, rich literature, secular ethos and cultural diversity. Historians, poets and travelogue writers have frequently praised this ancient land of mystic majesty. The American born poet T. S Eliot calls India as the land of “Shantih (Peace)”. He saw hope and re-generation in the Indian culture amidst the barbarism and disillusionment of the modern West. Similarly, the German poet Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe, in his collection of lyric poems, West-Eastern Diwan, expresses disdain towards the spiritual bankruptcy of the West and believes that the East is the seat of spiritual power. The spirit of Eastern culture was best represented by India.
These secular principles were further preserved by the country’s constitution. The modern constitution of free India promoted compassion and self-control, because it believes that everyone was one with each other, and therefore, everyone should share and help in each other. The very idea of India invoked in the constitution is one of secularism, freedom and sagacity. It is due to these ideals that the Indian constitution does not insist on a single language or religion but embraces diversity of languages, cultures and customs. It was due to these distinctive features that various regions liberally aligned with the main domain of India.
But, over the course of time, the beautiful soul of India has been defaced. The land has been battered by a tsunami of religious hatred. The country is lamenting on the loss of its soul. The very word, India, has come to represent repression of marginal sections- Muslims, Christians and Dalits. Even, the ordinary Indians have serious reservations with the idea of new majoritarian India. The transformation of a great democracy into seemingly anarchy and apathy should be a grave concern for all of us. This un-wanted transition has not only disfigured the image of country, it has also fractured the muti-cultural heritage of the nation. The land which used to attract people from diverse faiths has turned into the land of despair.
The multicultural heritage of the country is slowly losing a common ground that used to hold different ethnic communities together. The harmony that once existed between different communities, regardless of the religious differences has been torn apart. The feelings of goodwill and pride towards the motherland are now replaced with bitterness and contempt. The very land once used to stand as a rock for communal harmony, a gathering of everything and everybody, but now it provokes the feelings of disgust and dissatisfaction in the saner voices. The historians no longer record the famous legends of the country. They have no means to do so, because the very land is in lament for the loss of its incredible inclusiveness.
The beautiful soul of the country is tormented by the unruly collaborators- despotic leaders, sellout media and ultra nationalists. The sheer egoism of politicians, the deceptive mass media and the self-serving regimes have collectively betrayed the nation. They have manipulated and misguided the masses. They, re-write history, impose majoritarian ideology, erode identity and enforce vilifying narratives. They, in the long process cultured a class of people who exclude everything from their exclusive design, including those very Indian in colour and blood. In all these years, the mainstream media in particular acted as the right arm of tyranny by enforcing majoritarian ideology. The vibrant democracy is fast shrinking in the direction of Hobbes’ leviathan, the rule by absolute sovereign. The land of Saints and Sufi’s has slowly changed into the land of religious extremism. This land does not inspire us anymore; this land only inspires lament and dirges!
Postscript: India is not, as people keep calling it, an underdeveloped country, but rather, in the context of its history and cultural heritage, a highly developed one in an advanced state of decay. Shashi Tharoor