What is India?MARKANDEY KATJU
|India is a country of mostly immigrants who came to the country over the past 10,000 years.|
The original inhabitants of India, as it is believed now, were the pre-Dravidian tribal people such as the Bhils, the Santhals, the Gonds and the Todas. Called Adivasis or Scheduled Tribes, they form hardly 8 per cent of the population today. Here, Todas celebrating New Year near Udhagamandalam, or Ooty, on January 1.
This article is based on a speech delivered
to non-resident Indians in California
in June 2011.
WE are all Indians, but do we know what India is? I am presenting five theses for consideration.
(i) India is broadly a country of immigrants, like North America. Over 92 per cent of people living in India are not the original inhabitants of India. Their ancestors came from outside, mainly from the north-west.
(ii) Because India is a country of immigrants like North America, there is tremendous diversity in India – so many religions, castes, languages, ethnic groups, etc.
(iii) Despite the tremendous diversity in India, by the interaction and intermingling of these immigrants who came into India a common culture emerged in India, which can broadly be called the Sanskrit-Urdu culture.
(iv) Because of the tremendous diversity in India the only policy that can work and hold our country together is secularism and giving equal respect to all communities.
(v) India is passing through a transitional period, from a feudal agricultural society to a modern industrial society. This is a very painful and agonising period in history. If we read the history of Europe from the 17th to 19th centuries we find that this was a horrible period in Europe. Only after going through that fire, in which there were wars, revolutions, turmoil, intellectual ferment, chaos, social churning, etc., modern society emerged in Europe. India is at present going through that fire. We are going through a very painful and agonising period in our history, which I think will last for around another 20 years. I may now briefly discuss these theses.
(1) India is broadly a country of immigrants, like North America. The difference between North America and India is that while North America is a country of new immigrants, where people came mainly from Europe over the last 400 to 500 years, India is a country of old immigrants where people have been coming in for 10,000 years or so.
Why have people been coming to India? Very few people left India, except on two occasions, namely, (i) in the 19th century when under British rule poor Indian peasants were sent to Fiji, Mauritius, West Indies, etc., as plantation labourers, and (ii) the diaspora in the last 30-40 years or so of highly qualified engineers, scientists, doctors, etc. Apart from this, nobody left India, everybody came to India. Why?
The reason is obvious. People migrate from uncomfortable areas to comfortable areas, obviously because everybody wants comfort. Before the Industrial Revolution which started in Western Europe from the 18th century and then spread all over the world, there were agricultural societies everywhere. Agriculture requires level land, fertile soil, plenty of water for irrigation, etc. All this was in abundance in the Indian subcontinent from Rawalpindi to Bangladesh and to the deep south up to Kanyakumari. Why will anybody migrate from India to, say, Afghanistan which is cold, rocky and uncomfortable and covered with snow for four to five months a year? For an agricultural society India was really paradise, hence everybody kept rolling into India, mainly from the north-west and to a much lesser extent from the north-east.
Who were the original inhabitants of India? At one time it was believed that the Dravidians were the original inhabitants, but now that theory has been disproved. Now, it is believed that even the Dravidians came from outside. There is enough proof of that. For example, there is a Dravidian language called Brahui which is spoken in western Pakistan even today by about three million people. The original inhabitants of India, as it is believed now, were the pre-Dravidian tribal people, who are called Adivasis or Scheduled Tribes in India. For example, the Bhils, the Santhals, the Gonds, the Todas, etc., that is, the speakers of the Austric, pre-Dravidian languages, such as Munda and Gondvi. They form hardly 7 or 8 per cent of the Indian population today. They were pushed into the forests by the immigrants and treated badly. Except for them all of us are descendants of immigrants who came mainly from the north-west of India. (See in this connection the article 'Kalidas Ghalib Academy for Mutual Understanding' on the website kgfindia.com.)
(2) Because India is a country of immigrants there is tremendous diversity in India, so many religions, castes, languages, ethnic groups, etc. We may compare India with China. Our population is about 1,200 million while China has about 1,300 million and they have perhaps two and a half times our land area. However, there is broad (though not absolute) homogeneity in China. All Chinese have Mongoloid features, they have one common written script called Mandarin Chinese (although spoken dialects are different), and 95 per cent Chinese belong to one ethnic group called the Han Chinese. So there is broad homogeneity in China. In India, on the other hand, there is tremendous diversity, because whichever group of immigrants came into India brought in its own culture, religion, language, etc.
(3) Is India a nation at all, or is it just a group of hundreds of kinds of immigrants? Is there anything common in India? The answer is that the immigrants who came to India over the last 10,000 years or so, by their interaction and intermingling, created a common culture which can broadly be called the Sanskrit-Urdu culture, which is broadly the culture of India.
THERE IS A mistaken notion that Sanskrit is a language of chanting mantras in temples or in religious ceremonies. However, such material accounts for only 5 per cent of Sanskrit literature, which deals with a whole range of subjects like philosophy, law, science (including mathematics, medicine and astronomy), grammar and phonetics. Here, a rare collection of 'copper plates' in Sanskrit, written in the Telugu script, at the Gowthami Regional Library, Rajamundry, Andhra Pradesh.
Now this has to be explained. How Tamilians are part of Sanskrit-Urdu culture, what the people of Nagaland have got to do with Sanskrit and Urdu, etc.
The answer is that we must first understand what Sanskrit is and what Urdu is. The reader may see in this connection my articles on the website kgfindia.com under the titles "What is Urdu", "Great injustice to Urdu in India", and "Sanskrit as a Language of Science". Both these languages have been misunderstood. People think that Sanskrit is a language for chanting mantras in temples or in religious ceremonies. However, that is only 5 per cent of Sanskrit literature. Ninety-five per cent of Sanskrit literature has nothing to do with religion. It deals with a whole range of subjects like philosophy, law, science (including mathematics, medicine and astronomy), grammar, phonetics and literature. Sanskrit was the language of people with an inquiring mind, who inquired about everything, and therefore there is a whole range of subjects which have been discussed in Sanskrit. In the paper "Sanskrit as a Language of Science", all this has been discussed in detail. I may, however, just mention two things: one is the contribution of Panini and the other is the contribution of the Nyaya Vaisheshik philosophy.
What we call Sanskrit today, and what is taught in schools and colleges, is Panini's Sanskrit, which is called classical Sanskrit or Laukik Sanskrit. But there were earlier Sanskrits. The earliest Sanskrit book is the Rig Veda, which was composed between 2000 and 1500 B.C. (it was subsequently passed on orally). Now, language changes with the passage of time. For instance, if we pick up a play of Shakespeare we will not be able to understand it without a good commentary because the English language has changed over these four and a half centuries since the time of Shakespeare. Many of the words and expressions which were in vogue in Shakespeare's time in English are not in vogue today. Similarly, the Sanskrit language kept changing for about 1,500 years, from 2000 B.C. until Panini, who is perhaps the greatest grammarian the world has seen, fixed the rules of Sanskrit in his book 'Ashtadhyayi' in the 5th century B.C. Thereafter no further changes in Sanskrit were permitted, except some slight changes made by two other grammarians – Katyayana, who wrote his book 'Vartika' about 100-200 years after Panini, and Patanjali, who wrote his book 'Mahabhashya' about 200 years after Katyayana. Except for these slight changes, what is taught in schools and colleges is Panini's Sanskrit.
Panini rationalised the crude Sanskrit prevailing in his time and meticulously systemised it so as to make it a powerful vehicle for profound and abstract ideas.
Science requires precision. Panini made Sanskrit a powerful language in which scientific ideas could be expressed with great precision and clarity, and it was made uniform all over India so that thinkers in one part of the subcontinent could interact easily with thinkers in another part. That was his great contribution.
Take, for example, the alphabet in the English language. The letters have been arranged in a haphazard manner. Why is B followed by C? Why is D followed by E? There is no reason why F comes after E, P is followed by Q, or Q is followed by R.
In Sanskrit, on the other hand, Panini arranged the alphabet in a scientific manner. For example, take the consonants. There is a sequence ka, kha, ga, gha, na (called the ' ka varga'). All these sounds come from the throat. Also, the second and the fourth consonants in this sequence are what are known as aspirants. An aspirant means a consonant in which 'ha' is added. The second and fourth consonants in every sequence (of five consonants) are aspirants.
The sounds in the second sequence of five consonants ('ca varga') ca, cha,ja,jha,ha, all come from the middle of the tongue. The sounds in the ta varga', ta, tha, da, dha, na, come from the roof of the mouth; the sounds in the sequence ta, tha, da,dha, na come from the tip of the tongue; the sounds in the sequence pa, pha, ba, bha, ma come from the lips.
We can see how scientifically these consonants are arranged. Thus, even in such a simple thing as the arrangement of letters in the alphabet a careful and scientific study was done.
The second contribution of Sanskrit to the development of rational and scientific thinking was the Nyaya Vaisheshik philosophy. There are six classical systems of Indian philosophy, Nyaya, Vaisheshik, Sankya, Yoga, Purva Mimansa and Uttara Mimansa, and three non-classical systems, Buddhist, Jainist and Charvaka. Out of these nine systems eight are atheistic as there is no place for God in them. Only Uttara Mimansa, which is also called Vedanta, has a place for God in it.
The Nyaya system says that nothing is acceptable unless it is in accordance with reason and experience, which is precisely the scientific approach. Vaisheshik was the physics of ancient times (the atomic or parmanu theory). Physics is a part of science, and hence at one time Vaisheshik was part of Nyaya philosophy. However, since physics is the most fundamental of all sciences, Vaisheshik was separated subsequently from Nyaya and made into a separate philosophy altogether.
It was the Nyaya Vaisheshik philosophy which provided the scientific background and gave great encouragement to our scientists to propound scientific theories. People in our country were not persecuted for being scientists, unlike in Europe where scientists were burnt at the stake, like Giordano Bruno, for propounding their scientific theories. Galileo was almost burnt at the stake; he escaped narrowly by recanting his views. As recently as in 1925, in America, a teacher, John Scopes, was criminally prosecuted in the famous (or infamous) monkey trial for teaching Darwin's theory of evolution because it went against the Bible. This never happened in our country because behind science was a scientific philosophy, that is the Nyaya Vaisheshik philosophy, which says that nothing is acceptable unless it is in accordance with reason and experience.
PANINI, WHO LIVED in the 5th century B.C., was perhaps the greatest grammarian the world has seen. In his book Ashtadhyayi he fixed the rules of Sanskrit. What is taught in schools and colleges today is Panini's Sanskrit, which is called classical Sanskrit. He made Sanskrit a powerful language in which scientific ideas could be expressed with great precision and clarity.
Before discussing the scientific achievements of our ancestors, it may be said that a lot of people claim that in ancient India there were atom bombs, guided missiles, etc. We make a laughing stock of ourselves by talking like this. Some people say that we had aeroplanes in ancient India, because in the Ramayana it is mentioned that Rama brought Sita back from Lanka on a Pushpak Vimana. They conclude from this that there were aeroplanes in ancient India. Everyone, including children, know that the first aeroplane was invented by the Wright brothers in America in 1903. So it is nonsense to say that we had aeroplanes in ancient India.
It is true that in the Ramayana there is mention of Pushpak Vimana. But what is the Ramayana? It is an epic poem. A poet has what is called poetic licence. That means he has the right to exaggerate. So we should not take the words in a poem literally. If there were aeroplanes in ancient India, then that means there were engines. Then why did ancient warriors fight on chariots, horses and elephants when they should have fought using tanks?
At one time we were leading the whole world in science and technology. I may give you a few illustrations. The ancient Romans, who built a very great civilisation, the civilisation of Caesar and Augustus, and were the cultural ancestors of the Europeans, felt very uncomfortable with numbers above 1,000. This is because they expressed their numbers in terms of letters of the alphabet. One was I, five was V, 10 was X, 50 was L, 100 was C, 500 was D and 1,000, or millennium, was M. There was nothing above M. So ancient Romans wrote 2,000 as MM, 3,000 as MMM, and so on. To write one million they had to write M a thousand times. On the other hand, our ancestors had invented the concept of zero.
You see these numbers, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, do not really exist; what exists is one table, two chairs, three men, etc. These have existence in the objective universe. One, two, three, four, have no existence in the objective universe, they are pure abstractions. And the concept of zero required a further flight of imagination, which the Europeans could never achieve. The Arabs borrowed it from us and the Europeans borrowed it from the Arabs. So we could express numbers in astronomical terms. For example, one thousand requires 1 with three zeros, add with two more zeros it becomes one lakh, add two more zeros it becomes one crore, two more zeros one Arab, two more zeros one Kharab, two more zeros one Padma, two more zeros one Neel, two more zeros one Shankh, two more zeros one Mahashankh, etc. Each one of these large numbers has names.
At one time, the numbers in the decimal system were called Arabic numerals by the Europeans, but the Arabs called them Hindu numerals. Are they Arab or Hindu numerals? Arabic, Persian and Urdu are written from right to left, but if you ask any writer of these languages to write any number randomly, say 253 or 1,045, he will write it from left to right. What does it indicate? It indicates that these numbers were taken from a language that was written from left to right, and now it is accepted that the decimal system was invented by Indians, who could conceive very high numbers unlike the Romans.
For example, it is believed that Kaliyuga, in which we are living, has 4,32,000 years according to the Vishnu Purana. The yuga (age) before Kaliyuga was Dwapara yuga, in which Krishna lived. That was twice as long as Kaliyuga, therefore it was of 8,64,000 years. Before that there was Treta yuga, in which Rama lived. It was thrice as long as Kaliyuga. And before that there was Satyuga, which was four times as long as Kaliyuga. One Kaliyuga + one Dwapara yuga + one Treta yuga + one Satyuga is known as one Chaturyugi, and one Chaturyugi is hence 10 times as long as one Kaliyuga (1+2+3+4=10). That means one Chaturyugi is 43,20,000 years long. Seventy-two Chaturyugis make one Manvantara. Fourteen Manvantaras make one Kalpa, and 12 Kalpas make one day of Brahma. Brahma is said to have lived for trillions of years.
When traditional Hindus do their sankalp every day they have to mention the particular day, the yuga, the Chaturyugi, the Manvantara and the Kalpa, and the date changes daily. For instance, it is believed that we are living in the Vaivaswsata Manvantara. It is believed that out of the 72 Chaturyugis, half have passed and we are in the second half of the Vaivaswsata Manvantara.
GREAT ADVANCES WERE made in medicine in India. Sushruta invented plastic surgery 2,000 years ago, long before the Westerners did it. Here, an image of Sushruta at Patanjali Yogpeeth, Haridwar.
We may not believe all this, but look at the flight of imagination of our ancestors. Similarly, in various fields of science, for instance in medicine, we made great advances. Sushruta did plastic surgery 2,000 years ago, but the Westerners invented it only 200 years back. Thus, Indians were far ahead of the Westerners in medicine. In astronomy, the calculations which were made 2,000 years ago are still the basis of predicting with great accuracy the day and time of a solar eclipse or a lunar eclipse by reading a ' patra'. These calculations were made 2,000 years ago by our ancestors, who did not have telescopes and modern instruments; by sheer observation with the naked eye and the power of intellect they predicted what was going to happen 2,000 years in the future. This was the scientific level we had reached in the past; we were far in advance of the Westerners in science and technology at that time. Today we are far behind them. What happened? Why did we not have an Industrial Revolution? Why did we lag behind? This is known as Needham's question or Needham's Grand Question, first posed by Prof. Joseph Needham, a brilliant professor of microbiology in Cambridge University, who was born in 1900. Needham posed this question: why did India and China, who were ahead of the whole world in science and technology at one time, later fall behind and did not have an Industrial Revolution? This question has been sought to be answered in various ways.
As I was saying, Sanskrit was the language of people with inquiring minds, and in that sense it is the language of everybody who has a rational approach, because the emphasis in Sanskrit is on reason.
Coming to Urdu, in my opinion the best poetry in modern India is in Urdu. I have read the poetry of many countries, including England, America, France, Germany and Russia, apart from reading some of the poetry of Indian languages – Tulsidas, Surdas, Kabir, etc., Tamil poetry, Bengali poetry, etc., – but there is no match to Urdu because the voice of the heart as expressed in Urdu poetry is, in my opinion, not expressed in any other language of the world.
There is a misconception that Urdu is the language of Muslims and of foreigners, which is a false propaganda made against Urdu after 1947.
Before 1947, all educated people in large parts of India studied Urdu. It was not the language of Muslims alone. It was the language of Hindus, Muslims, Christians, Sikhs, everybody. But after Partition a deliberate propaganda was made by certain vested interests that Hindi is the language of Hindus and Urdu is a language of Muslims. This was done to make Hindus and Muslims fight each other (part of the divide and rule policy). A lot of effort was made to crush Urdu in India. But a language that expresses the voice of the heart cannot be crushed as long as people have hearts.
THE KALLINA KOTE in Chitradurga, Karnataka. It was built in parts by Hyder Ali and his son Tipu Sultan and encloses within its seven walls 18 temples, a mosque and several other structures.
Unlike Arabic and Persian, which are foreign languages, Urdu is an indigenous language and is loved by the people of India even today. If you go to a bookstall on a railway platform in India you will find a lot of poetry books of Mir, Ghalib, Firaq, etc., of course nowadays in Devanagari script. You will not find any book there of Mahadevi Verma or Sumitra Nandan Pant, the Hindi poets. Very few people read Hindi poetry, everybody reads Urdu poetry.
Urdu has a dual nature. It is a combination of two languages, that is, Hindustani and Persian, which is why it was at one time called Rekhta, which means hybrid. Since it is a combination of two languages, the question arises: is it a special kind of Persian or a special kind of Hindustani? The answer is that it is a special kind of Hindustani, not a special kind of Persian. Why? Because the verbs in Urdu are all in Hindustani. The language to which a sentence belongs is determined by the verbs used in it, not the nouns or adjectives. In Urdu, all the verbs are in simple Hindi (which is called Hindustani or Khadi Boli). For example, Ghalib says:
" dekho mujhe jo deeda-e-ibrat_nigaah ho
meree suno jo gosh-e-naseehat_niyosh hai"
The verbs ' dekho', ' suno', ' hai' are all simple Hindi, though the nouns or adjectives may be Persian or Arabic.
Urdu has a dual nature because it is a combination of Hindustani and Persian. Hindustani is the language of the common man, while Persian is the language of aristocrats.
Where did Persian come from? Persian is the language of Persia; how did it land up in India? To explain this it has to be noted that it often happens that the elite or upper class of a society speaks a foreign language. For instance, in India and Pakistan the elite speaks English. In Europe, up to the end of the 19th century the European aristocrats often spoke to each other in French, though they spoke to their servants in the native language. French was the language of the elite in large parts of Europe for many centuries.
TIPU SULTAN. IN their own interest every one of India's Muslim rulers fostered communal harmony. They gave grants to Hindu temples, they celebrated Hindu festivals. Tipu used to give annual grants to 156 temples; his Prime Minister was a Hindu, Purnaiya; and his commander-inchief was a Hindu, Krishna Rao. He even sent 30 respectful letters with grants to the Sankaracharya of Sringeri.
The elite wants to distinguish itself from the common people. In India, Persian was the language of the court and of the elite for centuries. Although Persian originated in Persia, it spread to much of South Asia. This was because Persian writers like Hafiz, Firdausi, Sadi, Rumi and Omar Khayyam developed Persian as a language of sophistication, culture, etiquette and dignity and that was adopted by large parts of South Asia, including India. It was the court language of India for several hundred years. Akbar's foreign minister, Todarmal, passed an order that all court records throughout the Mughal empire shall be maintained in Persian.
Urdu is the common man's language, ' awaam ki zubaan', because one part of it is Hindustani, the common man's language. It is also the aristocrats' language because another part of it is Persian, which was the aristocrat's language. The content of Urdu, that is, the feelings, emotions, etc. in it are of the common man. But the form, the style, the andaaz-e-bayaan is that of an aristocrat. That is what gives Urdu such great power.
Urdu places more reliance on emotion and Sanskrit more on reason. We require both for our country's progress. In Europe they had two great thinkers, Voltaire and Rousseau, Voltaire emphasising reason and Rousseau emphasising emotion. These two thinkers played a major role in the creation of modern Europe. Similarly, Urdu and Sanskrit complement each other, and in fact Sanskrit is the grandmother of Urdu because 70 per cent of the words in Urdu are from Sanskrit.
(4) Since there is so much diversity in India the only policy which will work is the policy of secularism and giving equal respect to all communities. Otherwise India will break up into a hundred pieces since there is so much diversity.
Two people can be said to be the creators of modern India. One is Emperor Akbar, and the other is Jawaharlal Nehru. There was no ruler in the world like Akbar, who was far ahead of his times. In the 16th century, Akbar proclaimed the doctrine of Suleh-e-kul, which means universal tolerance of all religions. At that time Europeans were massacring each other in the name of religion, Catholics massacring Protestants, Protestants massacring Catholics, and both massacring Jews. Similarly, in recent times religious passions were inflamed in 1947 and people behaved like animals, Hindus and Muslims butchering each other. Pakistan had declared itself an Islamic state. There must have been tremendous pressure at that time on Jawaharlal Nehru and his colleagues to declare India a Hindu state. It is their greatness that they kept a cool head and said that India would not be a Hindu state but will be a secular state and provided this in its Constitution. For this reason, today we have relatively more stability as compared to neighbouring countries.
JAWAHARLAL NEHRU, AND Emperor Akbar. These two can be said to be the creators of modern India.
The initial Muslim invaders who came to India, no doubt, broke a lot of Hindu temples, like Mahmud Ghazni who broke the Somnath temple. However, their descendants, who became local Muslim rulers in various parts of India, far from breaking temples gave grants to temples and celebrated Hindu festivals like Holi and Diwali. For instance, Babar was an invader but Akbar was not an invader; he was born in India and was very much an Indian. The descendants of those invaders, who became local Muslim rulers, ruled populations that were 80-90 per cent Hindu. If they broke temples there would be revolts and turmoil, which no ruler wants. So in their own interest, every one of the local Muslim rulers fostered communal harmony; they gave grants to Hindu temples, they celebrated Hindu festivals. For instance, the Nawab of Avadh used to organise Ramlila and celebrate Holi and Diwali. Tipu Sultan used to give annual grants to 156 Hindu temples, his Prime Minister was a Hindu called Purnaiya and his commander-in-chief was a Hindu, called Krishna Rao. Tipu Sultan sent 30 respectful letters with grants to the Sankaracharya of Sringeri (see online "History in the Service of Imperialism", which is a speech given by Prof. B.N. Pandey in the Upper House of Parliament in 1977).
Now, the first part, that Muslim invaders broke temples, has been mentioned in our history books, but the second part, which is of 10 times longer duration, that the descendants of these invaders, who were local rulers, used to foster communal harmony, gave land grants for building Hindu temples, celebrated and organised Hindu festivals, etc., has been deliberately suppressed by the British from our history books, the whole game being to divide and rule: Hindus and Muslims must be made to fight each other. If you go online and read the speech "History in the Service of Imperialism", you will know how the British policy was to make Hindus and Muslims inimical to each other. For instance, Pandey has mentioned that in 1928, when he was a Professor of History in Allahabad University, some students came to him with a book written by Professor Harprasad Shastri, Professor of Sanskrit in Calcutta University, in which it was mentioned that Tipu Sultan told 3,000 Brahmins to convert to Islam or otherwise they would be killed, and those 3,000 Brahmins committed suicide rather than become Muslims. On reading this, Prof. Pandey wrote to Professor Harprasad Shastri asking him the source of his information. Prof. Shastri wrote back that the source of information was the Mysore Gazetteer. Then Prof. Pandey wrote to Prof. Srikantia, Professor of History in Mysore University, asking him whether it was correct that the Mysore Gazetteer mentioned that Tipu Sultan had told 3,000 Brahmins to convert to Islam. Prof. Srikantia wrote back that this was totally false. He had worked in that field and there was no such mention in the Mysore Gazetteer; rather the correct version was just the reverse, namely, that Tipu Sultan used to give annual grants to 156 Hindu temples, he used to send grants to the Sankaracharya of Sringeri, etc.
Now, just imagine what mischief has been done. Our history books have been deliberately falsified so that the mind of a child at an impressionable age is poisoned so that he should start hating Muslims in India, and in Pakistan he should start hating Hindus. The poison put in the mind at an impressionable age is very difficult to remove at a later age. All our history books have been falsified in this manner.
It is time we rewrite our history books and show that in fact up to 1857 there was no communal problem at all in India. A composite culture had been developing in India. Hindus used to participate in Eid and Muharram celebrations, and Muslims used to participate in Holi, Diwali, etc. There were some differences no doubt, but they were becoming narrower.
In 1857, the great Mutiny took place. Hindus and Muslims jointly fought against the British. After suppressing that Mutiny it was decided by the British rulers that the only way to control this country was to divide and rule. In other words, Hindus and Muslims must be made to fight each other. Communal riots started after 1857. The English Collector would secretly call the Hindu Pandit and give him money to speak against Muslims, and similarly he would secretly call the Maulvi and give him some money to speak against Hindus. A racket was started in this way, and this resulted ultimately in Partition in 1947.
The time has come when we must see through this game. How long are we going to be taken for a ride? Are we fools that anybody can come and make fools out of us and make us fight each other?
About two months back, I read in the newspapers that there was some violence in Aligarh Muslim University, and the university had to be closed for some days. I thought it was a Hindu-Muslim issue, but some friends of mine from Aligarh came to Delhi and said it was not a Hindu-Muslim issue but it was Azamgarhi vs Biharis.
In Maharashtra, some people have projected a bhumiputra (son of the soil) theory. They say only Maharashtrians should be allowed to live in Maharashtra – south Indians, Uttar Pradeshis and Biharis should get out of Maharashtra. Such people do not realise that in that case they will also have to leave Maharashtra because they also are not bhumiputras. The bhumiputras form hardly 7 or 8 per cent of the people living in Maharashtra, that is, the Bhils and other Adivasis. This is a country of immigrants.
(5) India is passing through a transitional period, transition from a feudal agricultural society to a modern industrial society. We are at present neither totally feudal nor totally modern. We are somewhere in between.
The transition period is a very painful and agonising period in history. In my opinion, the duty of all patriotic people is to help in shortening this transition period, in reducing this pain, although we cannot totally eliminate it because there is going to be turmoil in this period since the vested interests of the old feudal order will not give up their vested interests without a fierce struggle. We have to spread rational and scientific ideas in this period and combat casteism, communalism and superstitions in order to get over the transition period faster and with less pain.
Here is where the role of the judiciary becomes very important. In northern India, in some States, such as Uttar Pradesh, Haryana, Rajasthan, etc., (also in Pakistan), there is the phenomenon called 'honour killing'. If a girl falls in love with a boy of another caste or religion, or within the same village or in the same gotra, both are killed. This has been happening on a large scale in some areas, and sometimes it is organised by caste panchayats. The problem is that the Chief Ministers are often unwilling to interfere because the caste panchayats are the vote banks of politicians. In India, politics often runs on the caste or religious basis. Therefore, the Chief Minister does not want to annoy them. He would not interfere, and the District Magistrate and the Superintendent of Police, even though they know (through their intelligence agencies) that an honour killing is going to take place, would not interfere out of the fear that if they do the Chief Minister will get angry with them.
SINCE THERE IS so much diversity in India, the only policy that will work is the policy of secularism and giving equal respect to all communities.
But a judge is not dependent on anyone's votes, and that makes him strong; in fact, it makes him more democratic than the so-called democratic bodies because he is not worried about votes. The Supreme Court, therefore, passed the order that those who do honour killing will be given mandatory death sentence, and the District Magistrate and the Superintendent of Police of that area must be immediately placed under suspension. This was a strong judgment, after which 'honour killing' has declined considerably. This could not have been done by politicians because they are dependent on the votes of these people. So, here is where the judiciary becomes very important.
It is true that in India there is rampant corruption and this is a matter of shame. Here is where the judiciary is playing a little role. Recently the Supreme Court passed strong orders in the 2G scam case. The result was that one Cabinet Minister was removed, and he is in jail; one Member of Parliament, the daughter of a former Chief Minister, was in jail; and other steps were also being taken.
However, judges cannot solve all problems. Ultimately, it is the people themselves who have to solve their problems.
I will conclude with one couplet of Faiz Ahmed Faiz, whose centenary we celebrated in 2011. The greatest Urdu poet ever was of course Ghalib, but in the 20th century the greatest poet in my opinion was Faiz, and I would like to quote from his famous poem:
" Gulon mein rang bhare baad-e-naubahaar chale
Chale bhi aao ke gulshan ka kaarobaar chale"
What does this mean? Urdu poetry often has an outer, superficial meaning and an inner, real meaning. The outer and literal meaning of the couplet is:
"In the flowers the colourful breeze of the new spring is blowing
come forward, so that the garden can function".
However, the inner meaning is that the objective situation in the country is ripe, which invites the patriotic people now to come forward to serve the country. The word "gulshan" literally means "garden", but here it means the country. So it is a call to the people of the country to come forward since our country is in difficulty and you are required now to help it.Justice Markandey Katju is Chairman, Press Council of India.
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