The history of “independent” India is the history of depression culminating in an ongoing national waste, both rooted in just four words that describe this phenomenon: no decade of peace. In practical terms, it is the history of agitations, to put it mildly.
Seven-and-half decades have passed since we attained “independence,” and as a nation, we have still been unable to sit in Padmasana, our spine upright and our vision clear, piercing, and confident. Standing straight with our legs firmly implanted on the ground, our neck erect, and our chin pointed upwards and maintaining the same clarity of vision is the next step. Instead, we seem to be mired in that worst form of Shavasana: Tamas. It is the deadly sleep of darkness, ignorance, sloth which consumes the body by first corrupting the soul.
The verifiable truth of these seven-and-half decades is that in no decade do we find even a semblance of peace, which is the only guarantor of stability leading to all-round prosperity leading to strength. But the greater tragedy, the bigger national crime is the fact that this continuing deficit of peace was deliberately engineered by a variety of forces. And we wonder why none of the grand five-year plans and ambitious schemes for economic development repeatedly failed. They failed because they were not allowed to succeed. But economics is just one of the countless facets of this tragedy.
A slight detour into history is relevant at this point.
The phenomenon of mass movements and agitations is very recent in the timeless civilizational history of Bharatavarsha. Its current form is a virulent outgrowth of the agitations for freedom from British colonial rule. However, the full credit for transforming mass agitations into a full-fledged nationwide movement goes to Mohandas Gandhi who initially coined what is known as civil disobedience, in which the term “disobedience” was imbued with a moral and righteous character.
But notable among the mass agitations that predated Gandhi include the inspirational Sanyasi Movement and the profound public awakening that Lokamanya Balagangadhara Tilak began. The two were fundamentally different and even divergent from the Gandhian model. While the Sanyasi Movement, as the name indicates, directly, unapologetically tapped into the spiritual and Dharmic sensibilities of Indians, Tilak’s movement did the same but in a different fashion. Both were constructive agitations: the Sanyasi Movement galvanized giants like Bankim and Swami Vivekananda. Tilak’s awakening birthed an entirely fresh tradition of celebrating Ganesha festivals on a mass scale, which quickly spread from Maharashtra to all its neighbouring states. In a way, he birthed a pan-Indian cultural tradition by transforming simple devotion into a powerful weapon for unification.
However, Gandhi who essentially hijacked the mass base that Tilak had built, metastasized it into an ill-informed political formulation that was premised on morals, not realism and Dharma. For the first time in its long history, Bharatavarsha witnessed a self-proclaimed moral leader who let the proverbial evil genie out of the bottle by clothing it in unilateral non-violence and disobedience. It was a genie he had no power to control. Indeed, only someone like Gandhi could sincerely believe that the nefarious Ali brothers sincerely believed in the vision-clouding fumes of his non-violence.
That genie is the mistaken creed of regarding agitation and activism as an end in itself. However, on a fundamental plane, agitation and activism unleash and give vent to the grossest of human passions: selfishness, anger, unreason, impatience and intolerance, all of which lead to violence. And invariably cause deaths of fellow-citizens. This is the engine of the sorry train that Mohandas Gandhi started and as we witness even today, it continues to hurtle on a destructive track having no final destination because he didn’t bother to define the destination. It can be argued that India’s independence was the goal of Gandhi’s agitation but we have Dr. R.C. Majumdar’s powerful contrarian view that explodes this myth:
Enlightened people like Majumdar were eyewitnesses to Gandhi’s ongoing folly in the name of agitations and he couldn’t fool them. Likewise, the iconic DVG also saw through the inherent evil of agitational politics in its infancy. He repeatedly wrote that agitation and activism were alien to the Sanatana conception and way of life. In a touching story in his Jnapakachitrashale volumes, he narrates how a bunch of poor teachers in his hometown Mulabagal repeatedly petitioned the Government for a slight increment in their salary. The increment finally arrived after ten or twelve years, a princely sum of two rupees. He narrates how these teachers were overjoyed and organized a great feast in a temple and invited all villagers to share their joy. DVG’s conclusion is remarkable: “These were simple people used to simple joys and pleasures. The notion that a salary increment was their right and that they should agitate and inflict violence upon their fellowmen and the Government in order to forcibly wrest it was unknown to the profound impulses that informed their lives.”
Which leads us to the next logical question: if the Gandhian method of agitations is accepted as valid, we must accept E.V. Ramaswami Naicker’s method as equally valid. After all, every agitator and rabble-rouser has some hidden social or political defect to exploit and uses it as his or her justification.
The Sanatana method is not agitation but truth-seeking, patience, philosophical debate and forbearance, all leading to integration. This is the reason why philosophical debate grew into an independent tradition only in India. When problems are solved on the plane of philosophy, they blunt the edge of these problems manifesting themselves as violence in society and politics.
But the real nightmare began after “Independence.” In this era, the agitations that began as a struggle for freedom transformed into a never-ending fight for the spoils of freedom premised on the politics of a race to the bottom. When the euphoria of the departure of the British subsided, unending agitations became the norm. Thus nation-building was slaughtered at the altar of seeking the perfect answer to this question: how better than the British can we oppress our own people? Needless, the full credit for reducing India to this pathetic state goes to the Congress because a cardinal method the Congress used for accomplishing this criminal enterprise on a national scale was agitations. In this, they were ably aided by the Communists who had already perfected this dark art of street-level agitations because they had the model of and took direct orders from the USSR to keep India permanently on the boil.
Those who are old enough to remember will recall the various organizational alphabet soups that rampaged Indian cities and towns from the late 1950s up to the early 1990s: SUCI, NSUI, SFI, AITUC, INTUC, AICCTU, CITU, etc. Frequent arson, rioting, vandalism and public, political murders were the daily-life manifestations of such agitations to achieve a supposed good.
Arguably, the worst of the lot was the notorious Youth Congress that charted a decisive history under the national ruffian Sanjay Gandhi. It is a familiar story of how he stuffed it with convicted criminals, street goondas, bootleggers, third-rated car mechanics, black marketers, racketeers, history-sheeters, frank pimps, and smugglers. A good chunk of them went on to become central ministers. The ultimate purpose of this refurbished Youth Congress was to give expression of “popular support” to the ensuing Prime Ministership of Sanjay Gandhi. Street-level agitation proved to be the most effective method of this expression.
But then, Sanjay had only learnt this method from his mother. Dr. S.L. Bhyrappa narrates a personal account of how Indira Gandhi, out of thin air, materialized impressive crowds who regularly came to her house to “get a Darshan of desh ki Mata.” Needless, they were hired agitators agitating on behalf of the tin-pot Iron Lady. In my own growing up years, I have seen how hired Congress goons would regularly descend on the streets for various reasons: in some cases, these goons belonged to say, Minister X who wanted to topple Minister Y. Buses would be burnt. Streets would be littered with shards of bottles. Government offices would be stoned.
Papers would normalize this as agitation and protest.
When this sort of thing went on uninterruptedly for half a century, quite obviously, stability became the primary and the greatest casualty. Those who quickly point out that successive Congress Governments gave stability to the country during this period should answer this logical question: what constructive growth occurred as an outcome of this stability? With an unprecedented cruelty, this “stability” not only impoverished India, but undid whatever little good had been done even during the British rule!
Indeed, we need to see exactly one item which the Communists and Congress haven’t agitated against: business, infrastructure projects, defence preparedness, space missions, agriculture reforms, education, social issues…just one. That it took fifty-five years to kickstart something as basic as a decent road network is one of the interconnected themes of this agitation-engineered tragedy.
Because the aforementioned brazen methods of agitation has largely become outmoded in recent times, its new incarnation has become fairly popular: change. Even here, the duplicity is immediately evident: why does one need change when things are stable, i.e., when the going is good? Indeed, the agitational politics of these seven-plus decades have induced an amnesia regarding a basic, timeless wisdom: stability is not stagnation. The formidable Lee Kuan Yew operated by this wisdom when he initially said that the coming generations will enjoy the fruits of the hard work that our generation invests in.
Undoubtedly, the most expensive price of all these agitations has been the human cost it has entailed: millions of innocent Indian lives unnecessarily lost to these decadal agitations and protests, the clear goal of which remains unclear even today because there was no goal to begin with except the capture of political power. In other words, a handful of unscrupulous Indians pitting their own against each other so they could wield political power for perpetuity. This is not only national destruction but generational annihilation, something that can never be fixed or undone.
And so, if we honestly wish to understand the manufactured, periodic eruptions of violence like the CAA, farmer “protests,” etc., its roots are in the foregoing capsuled history of agitations and activism.
At no point in history was India in this pathetic state. In the past, even in the early years of Independence, the most learned, decent, cultured, and wise people chose politics as a form of offering their contribution to national growth and well-being. This sentiment came from the ancient Sanatana tradition where the ordinary masses implicitly trusted people in positions of authority because they lived the values they preached, topmost of which was integrity and delivery of impartial justice in a timely fashion. This was the national tradition which adhered to this dictum: that in me which is low, elevate; that which is elevated, refine.
The transition from that summit to this abyss has been swift and brutal. That this happened after Independence is the profounder tragedy and is yet another reason I repeatedly use “independence” and its variants in quotes.
Today, while street-level agitation has comparatively reduced in frequency and intensity, it has only become more sinister because a worrying section of our urban and semi-urban youth regard protest and agitation as a lifestyle. This is the consequence of drilling it into the minds of our children through an education system that is designed to wage war against everything that makes India the Bharatavarsha it truly is.
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