An Indian Civilizational Perspective

What is Idea of India and Why is it Critically Important?

During his speech after the death of Justice Scalia, US President Obama described the late judge among other things as a “devout Catholic”.  Religion of a Supreme Court judge – ostensibly in a country where there is supposed to be a clear separation between “Church and State” – was so important that the President’s eulogy wasn’t complete without its mention.  Based on judgments of the late Justice Scalia, who wore his religion and ideology on his sleeve, it was indeed so important to his personality.  In a country where jurors are accepted only after filtering those who may be biased in the matter at hand, judges are hired precisely because of their idealogical bias!

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This is unthinkable in India.

And, that is where the Idea of India starts.  What is idea of India?

Is it in his history of the only Dharmic Civilization that the planet has seen?  Or is it in the contributions of the many hues that were brought by people and ideologies from outside – most often than not accompanied with death and destruction?  Is it in the new milieu that emerged?  Does religion matter?  Do ideologies matter?  Does Hinduism or Dharma matter?

Freedom of Destruction to One is Freedom for Anarchy to All

These are questions that one must explore to understand the idea of India.  But before we go there – we must address the inherent confusion of people who misread the basic tenet of Open Source platforms – its open-ness.  Open-ness of an Open Source platform is for creative evolution of the what is built on it.  Not towards its destruction.  Yes, any and every idea should be articulated.  As should many changes in an open source code.  But it cannot allow a self destructive virus to be added in its womb.

Idea of freedom in society is fundamentally predicated on the explicit restrictions that also come along.  Wild West in US of yore was total freedom.  Anyone could take over anything based on power and strength.  No writ of law and no rights were preserved.  Everyone – who wanted to exercise his or her rights could do so.  If, he or she was powerful enough to exercise them!

If freedom for citizens in any country includes the freedom to destruct, then in universal application – it becomes the equivalent of the Wild West.  Those who shout right of freedom in a bid to destruct as part of an anarchist agenda will be the worst victim when the freedom is extended to everyone and the powerful, those more powerful than them take over!  Those anarchists who take their right of freedom to a point of anti-State armed or violent struggle, then they are basically establishing the rule of the gun.  Be very clear about it.  For freedom for them will and should also entail freedom to all to protect their interests.

If someone can use the ruse of saving their right to opinion and therefore call for destruction of the state, then it is entirely conceivable and just for someone else to take up destruction of these people for saving their right to exist!  You don’t have to live in Syria or Iraq of today to understand how a common man or woman will fare when free, equal and mutual destruction is a right!  If I care for my family then continuation of the State is not only my fundamental aspiration but my only safety net!

In context of the religio-ideological anarchist events in JNU and support of their right to express the aspiration of State’s destruction, we have to see things clearly.  Those who call for such anarchy and those who support their ways are expressing a future like Syria and Iraq for India.  If you feel that your well being and happiness is ensured by India being Syria-like, then by all means back them.  Otherwise, think!

Anarchy of JNU and Supporters Vs Idea of India

When Christopher Columbus set out to find the “promised land”, he left looking for India.  Even when the Indian landscape was littered with many kingdoms, the Idea of India existed.  For, Columbus in the late 15th century, a century before the British set foot in the sub-continent, the aspiration was not Mughalistan or Rajputana land – but India.  Even when there was no political India on a consistent level, Idea of India existed.

In a rather reflective moment, Mohammad Iqbal – who went on to become Pakistan’s national poet – in his poem “Taraana-e-Hind” (Saare Jahan se Achha) asked in pre-independence time a serious question.  Why is India’s Civilization still alive?  Or more broadly, why is the Idea of India still alive?

यूनान-ओ-मिस्र-ओ-रोमा सब मिट गए जहां से 
बाक़ी मगर है अब तक नाम-ओ-निशाँ हमारा 
कुछ बात है की हस्ती मिटती नहीं हमारी 
सदियों रहा है दुश्मन दौर-इ-जहाँ हमारा 

Quite obviously, the intellectual architect of Pakistan – who thought that religion was not the cause of longevity of Idea of India – did not come up with the answer to the question he himself asked so well.  In the greatest social experiment ever – two nations were created.  Same DNA, Same backgrounds, same history, same food, same struggles and same geography.  Within a matter of 60 years, the very futures and the present are completely different.

One, which was based on the ethos of Open Source spiritual and social existence – India – is still thriving and evolving.  The other, which is based on an ideology centered in an era 1400 years back, and proudly so – is the hotbed and launching pad for almost all terror attacks in the world.  The divergence in the destinies of same people put in different social milieu couldn’t be more stark.

It is only in a world ruled by Microsoft and Google that Linux becomes a brand.  Only when ideologies of a few become the sine-qua-non of existence and define a person – like, say Justice Scalia – that even an Open Source social framework assumes a religious garb.  That is why in the world of Islam and Christianity, Hinduism is a competing brand.  But the truth is that it is an Open Source spiritual framework, where many contributed and benefited from.  Lack of the need to be stuck in historical events or personalities, it has promoted a society that was as nimble, agile and evolving as any Open Source platform is.

Open Source Spiritual And Social Existence Platform and the Ideological Threat

This Open Source-ness is the DNA of the Idea of India.

To Europeans, who were tired of the state establishing religious theocracies and using that to perpetuate genocides, separation of Church (an ideology) and State was critical for “free-thinking”.  In India, where the social contract and ways were built ground up on free thinking and spiritual experimentation, appropriation of religious framework itself was the first aggression against free-thinking!  Buddha’s emergence was not enforced by any state laws inspired by Church-State separation.  But by the very Idea of India that was founded on Open Source spiritual and social existence.

In a world where mere interpretation of one spiritual figure became a source of genocides, India was a society where millions of spiritual figures triggering billions of interpretations became the basis of a cohesive and spiritually evolved society!

When the JNU Students shouted the Islamic slogans – “Naara-e-tadbeer – Allah-hu-Akbar; Bharat tere tukde honge, Inshallah Inshallah” and later continued their exercise of “freedom of expression” in the now infamous protests involving Umar Khalid, we have a group of people challenging the very Idea of India while standing on the platform of religious bigotry which sees the Open Source social platform of India as a direct brand threat!

The slogans may have come from the students in JNU, but script-writers were the devolved intellectual progenies of a fallen Iqbal – who think that Pakistan’s Islam is in competition with the Idea of India because it is an ideology.

And that is where they don’t get it.  Idea of India is in Open Source ways of this society.  It has been under threat for many millennia now, but it cannot be allowed anymore if the future of our well being is important to us.

Why Anarchy Cannot be Allowed

For, when the Mughals conquered India and thrust Islam on the Open Source society, the result was unleashing of unseen poverty and thousands of genocides.  Ditto when the Portuguese came in with their Catholicism and when the British came in with their Reformation Christianity.  In real terms, enforcing of ideologies on the Idea of India is not about ideologies or the battle between them.  It is about life and death itself.  Yours and your kids and their kids.  It is about them living a decent life or surviving in abject poverty!

If you have any question on this – find an Afghan or an Iraqi and ask him.  From a modern and affluent society, they are now somehow surviving in medieval anarchies beset with abject poverty and daily deaths.

Idea of Anarchy is not akin to Idea of Freedom.  Freedom comes from Open Source social and spiritual existence.  But anarchy cannot be allowed to fester in even an Open Source platform.  For, complete destruction is no road to living or freedom.

When you go out of your homes today.  And tomorrow.  And then the next day.  And you feel that you feel you cannot kill someone as part of your right to freedom.  Please reflect.  Because your right to kill him will also unleash his right to kill you and your kids.  Can you and your coming generations handle that?

If not, then reflect on the Idea of India, which is based on Open Source Spiritual and Social Existence Platform.  Where Buddha and Nanak were not flukes but a consequence.  And, that is all you need to know about Freedom in every way of living!


Featured Image source: Flickr


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  1. matheikal says

    I think the article is a good example of the art of subtle distortioning of truth.
    Example: “This is unthinkable in India,”says the article citing the US President eulogising somebody for being a good Catholic. Who in India will object is Mr Modi eulogises somebody as a good Hindu or a good Christian or a good Muslim or whatever? The fact is that Mr Modi won’t do that. Obama is not a Catholic but he can appreciate the Catholic values in another person. Can Mr Modi do the same with respect to a Muslim? Even if he does it with a Hindu, who will object? Any example?
    Freedom to destruct (destroy?), you speak about. Why do you equate questioning the govt policies with destruction? How can dissension be anarchy?
    Did the JNU students shout those slogans which you have quoted? It has already been proved that Arnab Goswami and his Times Now aired doctored videos and the slogans were manipulations.
    Nobody is clamouring for anarchy, as you are trying to make it out. People are asking for justice. Give them what the Modi govt promised, DEVELOPMENT, and you will see the whole movements dying down. Instead give them more of thuggish Senas and hollow slogans, you will find more of protests. Simple enough~!

    1. Desh Kapoor says

      Tomichan – Your slip of bias is showing and it is abhorrent. Indulging in “Coulda shoulda woulda” while talking generalities is the work of someone who is only prejudiced. When in Patna there was a bomb blast in Modi’s rally, any other leader would have run away from the place anyway but Modi stood there and instead said to Hindus “if you have to fight, fight poverty not the Muslims” And to Muslims he said “if you have to fight then fight poverty and not Hindus”. That at a time when bombs were blasting everywhere. So your hypothetical argument is just without any basis.

      As for India’s development, this is what McKinsey’s chief says: and this is what the Marketing authority Philip Kotler says –

      Maybe you know something more than McKinsey.. do you? Why don’t you let us know how your conjectures should be taken any more seriously than an aimless banter? All the stats are showing that development is actually happening. Only if you could spare a couple of sentences on how Congress and opposition is stalling the development by not passing any bills and not letting Parliament function, that would help. But then you have your biases to live up to. Ain’t it? 🙂

  2. Umashankar says

    A truly stirring write up, a wake up call that conjures vivid images of what lies ahead if the lunatics as symbolized by the vermin of JNU are allowed to run amok. I hope your message is read and understood.

    1. Desh Kapoor says

      Thanks so much, Umashankar! I agree with you and hope that these anti-nationals are known as what they are – people calling for War against India!

  3. Beloo Mehra says

    “Idea of Anarchy is not akin to Idea of Freedom. Freedom comes from Open Source social and spiritual existence. But anarchy cannot be allowed to fester in even an Open Source platform. For, complete destruction is no road to living or freedom.” Very well said, Desh! Thanks for writing this piece. I am going to link up this post with my blogpost from couple of weeks ago – Why nationalism? Hope it is okay.

    1. Desh Kapoor says

      Hey thanks, Beloo!! Sure, you are welcome to link the post anywhere you want 🙂

  4. Kishor Kr says

    Very nice article. However, there is one thing that I find a little off/disturbing/invalid. When you talked about resilience of India against all odds while other civilizations were destroyed, are you talking about Bharat, Hindustan or India. Because if it’s about name then Hindustan barely exists, and Bharat is on the verge of extinction itself, while India is only couple of centuries old. If it’s about religion, then may be we survived just longer than anyone else (considering we’re talking about Hinduism). Beside that (and caste system and few other traditions and superstitions) everything else has more or less changed.
    Apart from that I am in complete agreement with your points. Without restrains and rules freedom can be a curse.

    1. Desh Kapoor says

      Hi Kishor – Bharat was the idea. And India was the geographical entity, where “Hindu” came from (actually the opposite, but its ok). My contention is that when Columbus went looking for India, he went looking for us as a whole. Not a kingdom or a province or a king.. but India. And that was several hundred years before the British came. So there was an idea of India – both in ethos and geography.

      Yes, geography and numbers may have diminished, but the ethos was preserved. Until now. As we speak, it is under great threat from an intellectual position that is flawed. But it can only be faced by raising the intellectual level of those who value an ethos of Bharat. That will take some doing. Many are rising up though and they will pave way for many others.

  5. Yogi saraswat says

    In context of the religio-ideological anarchist events in JNU and support of their right to express the aspiration of State’s destruction, we have to see things clearly. Those who call for such anarchy and those who support their ways are expressing a future like Syria and Iraq for India. If you feel that your well being and happiness is ensured by India being Syria-like, then by all means back them.My English is not good enough , so pl. forgive my mistakes. I think JNU row is created by some political people to regain their political place . As they cant handle Modi alone without major issues so they have craeted a master stroke to oppose but ironically lot of people do not understanding their prime motive and supporting them in the name of Modi Oppose.

  6. Sunita says

    Desh…the root problem is two fold, one, the lack of clarity in words such as India, Bharat and Hindustan and two, describing people by prefixing religion to their names to prove their credentials (as rightly described in your post) What I have understood is India is a country with geographical boundaries, whereas Bharat is the name derived from the ancient texts and need not necessarily connote the same as modern day India, however “Hindustan” is the most misunderstood word today because of the prefix “HINDU” Hindu has nothing to do with Sanātana Dharma, the majority religion of the Indian subcontinent. None of our ancient scriptures use the word Hindu to describe adherents of the philosophy and world-view expounded in them.
    Hindu , as I see it is derived from the word “sindhu” which meant the river Indus and the word India evolved.
    Indians, who have from time immemorial been the most tolerant nation in the world is now fragmented by the narrow vestigial politicians for their foolish despicable ends. They are taking the foolhardy Indians for a ride, picking the innocent ones from universities, and will undoubtedly dump them when their needs have been satisfied.
    And religion, caste and community rises to the fore and some partisan, bigoted minds sway to the tunes of these rulers who have destroyed the growth and progress of India from the time British left our shores. These conservative doubting Thomases (pun intended) refuse to rise above their religion and look at PM Modi with a jaundiced eye and are scepticsand work ONLY ON ASSUMPTIONS!!!

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