A cultural commentary on key civilisational lacunae in the Indian constitution and how they have played out in practice for seven decades
The profound and irreplaceable loss of spirituality is the cost that the experiment of democracy over the last five hundred years has unarguably extracted from us. It is not mere loss, but destruction, and emotional desolation is the logical consequence of this destruction whose logical consequence in turn is that democracy as it stands, has become deeply dehumanising. In the name of being elected from among the people, the elected representative maintains a big distance after electoral victory or sulks or simmers or plots after defeat. The warmth after electoral victory becomes a façade and people are left guessing about the real meaning of the whim and mood of the representative they elected. This is called political analysis. The dehumanisation is complete both on the part of both the representative and the voter. Let’s aside the realm of politics. At a very fundamental level, this state of being is no way to live.
Neither are these my words. They were uttered and written with unmatched sagacity and spiritual depth by Rishi D.V. Gundappa about a century ago in the repeated warnings he gave, cautioning an India then in a haste to adopt democracy.
It can be argued that another major reason democracy evolved in Europe was to facilitate global plunder under relatively stable conditions at home. European monarchies were essentially oppressive despotisms and the fledgling but ambitious global trading enterprises couldn’t forever remain beholden to the whim of the currently reigning monarch to sanction expensive overseas expeditions. Bloody palace intrigues and succession wars only added to this commercial risk.
Democracy meant that it was better to have a first among equals than a despot who has no equal. The other major factor was the industrial revolution which pretty much sealed the fate of monarchies. These points become clearer when we note that by the time India formally became a British colony, democracy had been well-established in the UK. And it was the selfsame democracy that sanctioned not only this colonization but passed “laws” for more effectively plundering India. The same democracy also produced several generations of racist academics who in turn fed policy raw material to their political masters.
This cannot be seen in isolation because of a logical question: what was the fundamental character of Hindu monarchies? Short answer: they were largely in tune with millennia-old, established customs, traditions and practices of Raja Dharma which is anything but despotic. Western democracy killed Dharma and “independent” India largely imitated the same democracy. Rajarshis like the Mysore Wodeyars, the Maharaja of Baroda and other truly enlightened rulers had, overnight, become subservient to a faceless democracy which in practice meant that they had to bow down to Congress vermin whose only distinction was Gandhian opportunism.
Civilisational suicide was never embraced with greater fervour.
That said, western democracy has its own intrinsic strength, value, and virtue, and it has endured in the west for so long while it has wilted in most of its former colonies. This is because it evolved over several centuries and was entirely home grown, in tune with the national soil, temperament, and had unique and specific precedents. The European model of democracy requires the constant practice, correction and reform of centuries. This is how DVG puts it:
The strength to govern effectively is a great strength in itself. It requires experience and practice to percolate in the administrative staff. The opportunity for both will be available only when a nation becomes truly independent. A people who are merely clerks cannot develop grand, noble, and lofty ideas and a sturdy work ethic.
This is perhaps the greatest indictment of the IAS.
India had none of these western precedents and the manner in which we adopted democracy is the reason for the chaotic state we are today in: which writer of the Indian constitution could envisage that in less than seventy years, members of their own party would wage war not just against the constitution but the country itself? The basic trait of Bharatavarsha is Sattva to protect which Rajas is required, the absolute opposite of the west whose basic trait is an unhinged Rajas as a constant whose end goal is the uninhibited enjoyment of Tamas. You cannot outwardly adopt the temperament and tactics of a wolf and pretend that a cow is a wolf.
The other important reason for the chaos-seeded democracy we adopted was the background of the authors of our constitution. In DVG’s words, they were extraordinary scholars endowed with piercing intellect, erudition, logic, and were highly educated. But they were also great theory masters. The overall consequence was the untested imposition of theories like freedom, democracy, liberty, and federalism fashioned in the west on an entire people who lived their lives for more than three millennia based on a thoroughly divergent political, cultural and social inheritance. To put it bluntly, an all-encompassing and far-reaching change for the worse was thrust upon the entire population of the seventh largest country in the world without their consent. From being a duty-bound, participatory “Praja,” the Indian citizen became a mere voter.
This is civilisational wrecking beyond comparison.
It was the constitution of an ill-informed elite whose outlook was barely Indian, a point which was repeatedly hammered with phenomenal foresight during the Constituent Assembly debates by Damodar Swaroop Seth:
this Constitution as a whole, instead of being evolved from our life and reared from the bottom upwards is being imported from outside and built from above downwards. A Constitution…in which there is not even a mention of thousands and lakhs of villages of India and in framing which they have had no hand, well you can give such a Constitution to the Country but I very much doubt whether you would be able to keep it long.
And Sri Damodar Swaroop ji was right. After a lapse of seventy-three years, we have a mutilated, defaced constitution, worse than just merely keeping it. What Damodar Swaroop meant was the following in practice. Of asking a few simple, rudimentary, every day questions before force feeding the constitution down our throats back then:
1. What are the food habits and diet of these proverbial villagers?
2. What are the unique local/village customs related to worship, traditions, rituals, marriage, death, etc, which they have inherited from time immemorial?
3. What is their typical daily life?
4. How are disputes resolved at the local level so that satisfactory justice is delivered in the shortest possible time?
5. How do they spend their spare time? What are their typical modes of recreation, sports, etc?
These are the most accurate yardsticks that provide an almost unerring raw material for what is known as policymaking today. Doing this requires the old-fashioned Indian way: of spending time with these real people, eating with them, going to their temples, playing their games, interacting with their kids…But what do our policymakers who go to these criminally expensive schools learn? Numbers. Statistics. Graphs that only a student who pays ₹ 70 lakhs can decipher. But more dangerously, psyche-altering theories that have impoverished entire societies. The more insane the theory, the greater the chances of getting a Nobel. Ask Amartya Sen.
Needless, such warnings by enlightened minds like P.V. Kane, DVG and other such eminences went unheeded.
One fails to understand the meaning of the words, ‘fundamental rights’ in a constitution which took over two years of deliberations, if they could be changed within a year and a half.
But the damage had already occurred at the root level. Take the case of the cliché that several folks find it fashionable to utter today: that our constitution has no provision for Dharma, and merely stop at that, not bothering to actually study the details, which is where the real story lies. This is because investigating these details will reveal uncomfortable truths some of which are politically incorrect.
For example, all Dharmasastra texts unambiguously say that the king had no authority to meddle with Sastric rules governing local customs, which were invariably rooted in our conception of Varna. Does any public person today have the guts to call for a thorough rethinking of this fundamental point? The answer is no because the word “honesty” is inseparable from “guts.” What is the bedrock of these local customs, indeed the bedrock of Sanatana civilisation itself? Dharma. Which in daily life also means “duty,” which is what kept our civilisation alive, thriving and resilient for millennia.
Now, where is the chapter on fundamental duties in our constitution, which has been made out to be some kind of sacrosanct document higher than Dharma itself? The simplest definition of duty is this: it is an attitude of inner life that makes most laws unnecessary because it is distilled spirituality applied in practical life. Because the simplest definition of law is that it is a barbed-wire fence that restrains base human passions. When Dharma is intrinsic to our inner life, we need no outer barbed wires. And an innate sense of duty keeps people from creating mischief in society.
The Sanatana civilisation until the framing of this constitution was the most glorious, unbroken, glimmering, living jewel of this fact. Instead, by an unthinking emphasis on rights, we gave birth to a political system, which can most appropriately be called Rule by Factions.
At any rate, the injurious consequences were evident almost immediately owing to a rather common sense reason. After India attained “independence” – rather, after the British left in haste – we lacked sufficient numbers of elected representatives who had any degree of competence, capability, wisdom, erudition, and even plain guts to deserve such high offices. Instead of questioning this crater-like deficit, we embraced democracy as a universal good and magic pill. One outcome was that these representatives, deeply aware of their own incompetence began succumbing to mob blackmail. Panicked moves and appeasement replaced decision, the primary function of the elected representative and government. The most representative human specimen who made the most number of panicked moves was Jawaharlal Nehru whose knees turned to jelly at the mob-demand for linguistic statehood. It was all downhill after that.
Indeed, it is noteworthy that there are reams of provisions and directions in our constitution regarding the economic and social aspects of the country but not a word about the key foundations of the Sanatana civilisation: Rna, Rta, Dharma, Yajna, Svadhyaya, Lokasangraha, etc. Almost ninety per cent of urban Hindus wouldn’t have even heard of these terms. As the luminaries of our modern renaissance observed, a secular state cannot and should not mean a godless state.
One can list hundreds of such examples but the summary is this: our constitution is the very antithesis of the civilisation it was supposedly meant to protect. And with the benefit of hindsight, we can make a valid case that the farther we travel down the path of western notions of democracy, the more Christianized will our outlook become...has become.
One inescapable conclusion is that the Indian state, set up after 1947 is fundamentally designed to be an inside ally of a civilisational war against Sanatana Dharma than began a thousand years ago.
Think about something you see every day, something that has become a way of life of Indian politics and politicians. Take a person who is culturally a deep-rooted Hindu. He contests elections, gets into Parliament and almost overnight becomes an alien to his own former self. What remains of his deep roots become mere outward finery now meant to be worn during the five-year circus show called elections because the very constitution upon which he took oath constrains him from discharging a Rashtra-Rna for which the constitution has no provision.
When this happens over more than seven decades, the fault is fundamental: it could be that our political system at its core is still that craven Nehruvian conveyor belt that sucks in the best of people, sucks out the last atom of Dharma in their atma and spits them out after hacking their roots.
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