“So great, in fact, was the superiority of India in every respect, that it drew to her borders the hungry cohorts of Europe and thereby indirectly brought about the discovery of America. …And now, what has the world given to India in return for all that? Nothing but nullification [vilification] and curse and contempt. The world waded in her children’s life-blood, it reduced India to poverty and her sons and daughters to slavery, and now it adds insult to injury by preaching to her a religion which can only thrive on the destruction of every other religion. But India is not afraid.” –Swami Vivekananda, INDIA’S GIFT TO THE WORLD, Brooklyn Standard Union, February 27, 1895
Why are we embroiled in the issues of the past? Why bring past instances of aggression and mass murders into the present-day discussion when we are a composite, secular society? Is doing away with the symbols of colonisation going to solve the problems of poverty and inequality? English is the language of knowledge that connects us, so why harp on education in the mother tongue? The secular intellectuals usually raise these questions in response to the issues of revitalising Bharatiya Samskriti. These questions are nothing but the signs of colonial minds.
Every year, around December 6, there has been a fashion to talk about the death of democracy and secularism, citing the demolition of the controversial Babri structure. Taking laws into one’s own hands is not an appropriate resort in democracy. We must analyse the reasons behind a very patient and accommodative Hindu society opting for such an act. A large section of the intelligentsia was busy denying the historicity of Rama. They were taking pride in denigrating Hindu sentiments and whitewashing the barbarism of Islamist colonisers. The constant battle of Hindu society to reclaim the matter of faith was also mocked. A battery of legal luminaries using all the tricks were trying to delay the resolution of the problem. Karsevaks reinstalling the idol of Ram Lalla at the same site in Ayodhya was a reaction to all this hypocrisy going on by a group of historians, politicians and legal experts in the name of secularism. They see Ayodhya and other civilisational issues through a colonial prism and brand Hindutva as a communal expression. Hence, we need to apply the decolonisation paradigm to encapsulate the entire Hindutva movement, in which the liberation of Ram Janmabhoomi was a watershed moment.
As Pt Deendayal Upadhyaya had said, “As long as we are unaware of our national identity, we cannot recognise or develop all our potentialities”. British colonialism tried to suppress this very idea of our nationhood. Unlike the Babars and Ghoris, Macaulays and Trevelyans who not just politically and religiously subjugated the Bharatiya people but also tried to colonise us intellectually and morally. Though the aims of colonisation were identical, the instruments were different. The earlier invaders desecrated and destroyed the places of pilgrimage with the intent of attacking the dignity, unity, soul and sacredness of Mother Bharat. The British continued that process more clinically through laws, education and other instruments of servitude. This long and systematic process ingrained the divisive and degraded self-perception. We gained political Independence politically, but the colonisation of intellectual space continued. That is why Gandhiji, in his Hind Swaraj, argues that the foundation that Macaulay laid of education has enslaved us.
Hindutva seeks to decolonise our national psyche as a thought movement and goes beyond religiosity. Viewing it as a political supremacist ideology is a flawed proposition. Our freedom fighters also expected complete decolonisation of our thought processes and structures throughout the freedom struggle.
Colonisation was a multi-dimensional and comprehensive process. Any attempt at decolonisation should address all those dimensions, and the intellectual and academic sphere is fundamental to it. Decolonisation has become a pressing academic issue in many British and American universities. Students are pulling down the statues of icons like George Washington and Cecil Rhodes, considering them as the symbols of slavery. There is no need to imitate the same blindly. We have had our knowledge tradition, the heritage of diverse languages and literature, an ideal combination of spiritual and scientific advancement and our own economic and business models that allowed us to dominate global trade for centuries without exploiting others. We need to revisit the same and recontextualise it in the present context. To do the same, we must unload the colonial baggage. Among the Panch Pran of Amrit Kaal, getting rid of the signs of slavery is essential to realise our true development potential. Strengthening and revitalising our cultural roots has become more critical while trying to spread the message of Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam with the assumption of the G-20 presidency.