Can India Emerge from its Self-Created Quagmire?

When India gained independence, the country had dreams of a decolonized, liberal, pluralist and egalitarian India that could draw upon its cultural and religious diversity. The country wanted to forget the trauma of partition. The citizens had aspirations of growing beyond the limiting and exclusivist identities.

However, as the events of the past seven decades or so prove, those dreams have been shattered. India is verging on to becoming a decadent society. Religious bigotry is the new normal. To make matters worse, in recent times, technology has been used to spread hatred and calls for violence have become the new normal. Our political leaders are not ashamed or even concerned about this rot. The common man does not have the courage to say enough is enough. Our culture and society are mired with grotesque politics, ugly symbols, abominable speeches, and monstrous TV channels.  Uncouth and unscrupulous goons are masquerading as holy men and hold sway over large segments of society. Typical response of countrymen to communal atrocities and criminal activities is: ‘law will take its own course’ and we all know what is implied by that.

The complex and curved trajectory that the country has followed since the late 1970s has resulted in ridicule for the ethos and ideas of a nation that our freedom fighters fought for. Consequently, secularism has become a hated concept. The culture of religious thought has become devoid of meditative and spiritual churning and is totally in conflict with what is stipulated in our ancient texts that ordained transcendental way of life beyond obscurantism and tyranny of priesthood. Today, exhibitioner ritualism, reinforced by extreme radicalism is fostered by new age ‘babas’, saints and clerics. They revel in demonizing the other and hold sway over cultural politics. India is fast sliding into becoming a spiritually impoverished society with hate being the ruling ethos.

Religion related developments have played a significant role in India’s journey toward national development. Instead of utilising its resources in positive direction, more often than not these have been diverted toward unproductive activities. Greater diversion of resources to dissuade misuse of religion results in lesser allocation for other domains that facilitate national growth. Dr S Radhakrishnan, in his report (1948) for reforming education, had emphasised the role of religion and had recommended that it should be made part of curriculum at different levels. He believed that religion contributed to shaping shared values of a culture into national unity. It facilitates emergence of a pluralistic society because it becomes a means of expressing the sacred ethos enshrined in every religion. He felt that students should be taught basic tenets of different religions which denounce hatred and encourage love and respect for humanity. Study of religion, as distinct from symbolism and ritualism, helps in development of a democratic process. Unfortunately, his recommendation was not implemented. The wounds of violence, that engulfed the nation during partition, instead of being soothed got further aggravated and sowed the seeds of dissention in society. Further, traditionally the affairs of religion in Indian society have been dominated by the clergy and the elite have generally remained aloof. The clergy has been more inclined toward rituals and not education or a systematic and deep study of religion leave aside a comparative study of theology of different denominations and their respective beliefs. The affairs of the society, irrespective of religious denomination, have come to be controlled by persons who are not intellectually well endowed and harbour a feeling of insecurity. They encourage sectarianism to safeguard their own positions to the detriment of national unity. This has had far reaching and adverse consequences on national growth.

This hate-culture has been further encouraged by the politicians with emphasis on a totalitarian, violence-ridden, nationalism. Sane minded citizens have generally refrained from expressing a sharp and authentic critique of this psychic and cultural degeneration. Those who have tried to speak out for modernity, a secular and vibrant civil society, and openness of human values have been marginalised and ridiculed as anti-national conspirators. It would not be an over-statement to say that India is passing through a phase of ‘legitimate identity crisis’ and needs a renaissance. A resurgence is needed to usher in a way India perceives itself in the comity of nations to enable it to reshape its politics, religiosity, education and cultural practices.

Responsible citizens of India ought to do some introspection and undergo a process of political and psychic cleansing. A collective effort and struggle by educationists, cultural activists, scientists, and spiritualists is needed right from the grassroots level upward to create an environment of love, patience, and hope which can counter violence, hatred and instrumental politics.

Can India emerge from the quagmire it has created for itself?

One thought on “Can India Emerge from its Self-Created Quagmire?”
  1. We got to recognise the role of parents and guardians as the primary educators of their children, including in the religious upbringing of their children, and the important role that religion plays in the family.
    It is important that students discuss and understand the social and political structures such as family, religious institutions like the church, temple, mosque, grudwara, education, as well as the role of community/political leaders and their impact on change in the community.
    It must be all about sharing our feelings, opinions, and beliefs in others’ religions that contribute to our national identity. it is all about accepting others than dividing people.

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