By Ashish Joshi
Eternal India and the Constitution by S. Gurumurthy, India First Foundation, 137 pp, Rs. 125.
A rare confluence of the traditional and the modern, Swaminathan Gurumurthy is better known as the spiritual guide of Ramnath Goenka, the head of the Indian Express newspaper group. A man of many parts, Gurumurthy has dabbled in fields as diverse as law, accounts, economics and the study of India'sancient civilizations, which form the cornerstone of his book Eternal India and the Constitution. At once, a paean to the timeless heritage of ancient India and a critique of its modern, emasculated version, the book should be an essential reading for anyone who wishes to understand how, from a prosperous ancient civilization where a multitude of faiths co-existed peaceably, we were reduced to a squabbling nation of vote-bank politics, with pseudo-secularism as its defining agenda, and where anything that upholds the ?Hindu? concept is perceived as being sectarian. The author contends that the Indian Constitution in itself is essentially flawed, based as it is on the Anglo-Saxon version, ?which contained seeds of ideological tensions and conflicts between ?traditional? India and ?modern India?, where modern is equated with what is essentially Western. The framers of the Constitution, overawed by the Western model, did not realise this, leading to a disconnect between the modern, ?secular? India on one hand, and the traditional, mostly agrarian India, on the other.
The greatness of ancient India was its concept of rajdharma, which united people of disparate faiths, as distinct from the Islamic and geo-Christian approach, which sought to convert men into its own image through conversions and bloody conquests. Essentially a peaceful religion that never desired any converts, Hinduism came under threat, first from the Mughal invaders, and later, by the British, but in spite of these upheavals, it never lost its core message of humanity and the brotherhood of man. Paradoxically, it faced its greatest threat after Indian Independence in 1947, through the devious machinations of the Congress and its espousal of the ?communal? card for garnering vote-banks. Its divisive policies have played havoc with the secular polity of the Indian Constitution, and today, the validity of India'ssecular credentials are being questioned. The book also touches on the landmark judgment by the Supreme Court on the concept of Hindutva as an ?Indian way of life? rather than something that is exclusive to the Hindu faith. In a world full of strife, and where every peace treaty has led to bigger wars, Hindutva, which incorporates the idea of ?Sanatan Dharma?, seems to be the only philosophy that can lead to conflict resolution. The book concludes by urging us to dump our pseudo-secular baggage and work for a unified and re-energized India, which can discover its full potential and take its place at the head of nations as the jagat guru or preceptor of the world.
(India First Foundation, G-3, Dhawandeep Building, 6, Jantar Mantar Road, New Delhi-110 001.)