What the DVG Letter Episode Teaches us about the Downfall of Indian Public Life

In the concluding episode, we garner significant insights into the downfall of the Indian political life and public discourse from DVG's letters to B.D. Jatti and G.B. Pant.
What the DVG Letter Episode Teaches us about the Downfall of Indian Public Life

Read the Previous Episodes

Also Read
Lessons from D.V. Gundappa’s 1959 Letter to B.D. Jatti and G.B. Pant
What the DVG Letter Episode Teaches us about the Downfall of Indian Public Life

WHAT STRIKES US about the whole episode is how vastly India has changed in just seven decades. Over the last three decades or so, the deaths of popular political figures have elicited two facets of the same response. One, apart from their die-hard loyalists and their party machinery, the public have been indifferent. Which is why they have attracted lesser and lesser crowds from the general public. This phenomenon is the outcome of a straightforward reason: a majority of these dead political figures have been chiefly responsible for the coarsening and criminalisation of politics and public life. Thus, their deaths have been welcomed and not mourned by the proverbial masses. The most recent example is Mulayam Singh Yadav, the butcher of devout Kar Sevaks. What is common among all of them is that they were popular, not eminent. 

And so, it was a different India in which people like DVG were enraged enough to write outraged letters to the Mysore Chief Minister and the Home Minister of India. He operated on a simple but time-honoured principle that had guided politics and public life: it is distinguished men and women who either elevate or sully politics. No bureaucratic rulebooks or state protocols can create eminent men nor confer eminence upon them. To cite his own words, “I need hardly say that I am not here concerned with law and rules. My concern is only with what would be proper form in public life... When a public man is dead, what counts… is his general worth as man and citizen, and not his party or his views on specific issues. Such occasions, whether of condolence or of congratulation, are made use of for taking off the acerbities of political controversy and emphasising the bonds of national unity.

But there was also a historical reason that elicited DVG’s outrage. For more than thirty years, he had tirelessly championed the reform of the Princely States in various forums across India. He had extolled their value as the cultural anchors of the Sanatana civilisation. He had alerted  hundreds of decadent Princely States to their own need for urgent reform. He had cautioned them to the potential dangers they would face if the British left India. On the other side, DVG had also tried to draw the Congress party’s attention to hundreds of the inherited cultural virtues innate in the Princely States. Both the Princely States and the Congress didn’t heed DVG’s advice. But the ultimate losers, after India attained freedom, were the Princely States, which were consumed by the tyrannical hunger of the Congress Party which had tasted absolute power for the first time. This is what explains B.D. Jatti’s casual attitude shown in the aftermath of Mirza Ismail’s death.      

But apparently, some decency still remained in sections of the top echelons of the Congress leadership. This we guess is what prompted the Home Minister to order his bureaucracy to find a comforting solution to the moral question that DVG had raised. 

In the final reckoning, it’s a question of too little, too late. By 1959, the Congress had already unchained far too many deadly forces and unleashed dangerous precedents. Each force, each precedent has multiplied over the decades and a book like say, Breaking India would’ve never been written if these forces had been prevented back then. 

As a historical record, DVG’s letter is a valuable primary source. As a guide for future political reform, it is equally valuable. 

The cynic will ridicule his letter. 

The coward will take fake solace in quoting verses from DVG’s Mankutimmana Kagga forgetting his commentary on this acclaimed verse of the Bhagavad Gita:

klaibyaṃ mā sma gamaḥ pārtha naitattvayyupapadyate |

kṣudraṃ hṛdayadaurbalyaṃ tyaktvottiṣṭha parantapa || 2-3 ||

This is what DVG writes about the foregoing verse: 

Concerns like, “What good will come to me by opposing injustice and immorality?” are in direct opposition to the advice of the Gita. “Success or failure, triumph or defeat, profit or loss — be they as the divine intends. Fighting injustice is my duty.” This is the attitude of a wise person.”

Among other things, DVG’s letters to B.D. Jatti and the Union Home Minister are lived illustrations of precisely this: courageous and lonely fights against injustice no matter the outcome. In the same commentary on the foregoing verse, DVG continues: 

Sri Krishna’s advice is as relevant and necessary to us now as it was for Arjuna then. Democracy is governance through problems and struggles. It is a conflict between a thousand greedy armies. It is a daily battlefield. If life has to become tolerable for us, the sāttvika people among us have to become vigorously active. In a democracy, if such people are plagued by questions like, “Why do people like us need politics? Why should we bother about the government? Why should we antagonise powerful people?” … How can such a democracy flourish? It is vigorous human effort that liberates. Constant and devoted effort in the face of all difficulties and contingencies, effort sans faintheartedness, effort with tranquillity  - this is the kind of effort that liberates.

|| Om Tat Sat ||   

The Dharma Dispatch is now available on Telegram! For original and insightful narratives on Indian Culture and History, subscribe to us on Telegram.

The Dharma Dispatch