I HAVE recently re-read Albert Camus' celebrated book, The Rebel. It is a discomforting work, written 51 years ago, six years before he was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature. Three years later, he was killed in a car accident. He was 47.
Camus writes about "the savage formless movement of history". History has not on the whole been kind to India or its people. There are of course great eras when men of stature and vision of Emperor Ashoka, the Gupta kings, Harshavardhana and Akbar put India in the front row of history, philosophy, art, culture, civilisation. And one is duly proud of the spiritual heights our ancestors scaled four thousand years ago.
The other side of the Indian historical coin is less inspiring. A handful of foreigners could walk into India at any time and subjugate vast numbers for long periods. This was only possible with the acquiescence of the Indian people. Individual heroes like Prithviraj Chauhan, Rana Pratap, Shivaji, Guru Gobind Singh, Suraj Mal, Ranjit Singh and the Chola kings did their bit and are rightly venerated. Nevertheless, kingdoms and empires perished more on account of socio-economic reasons and not so much owing to individual or even group valour.
The British took over India with the help of the Jaichands and Mir Jaffers. With British conquest went the percolation of European ideas into our land. Contact with the West sowed the seeds of a gradual rise in our intellectual awakening, which eventually led to our unique freedom struggle under Gandhiji.
The nation state is a product of the Western mind and our noble Constitution made copious use of Western constitutional models. One only has to read the quite brilliantly argued speeches of Dr. B.R. Ambedkar in the Constituent Assembly to become aware of the constitutional borrowing we did from beyond the shores of India.
THIS breezy and briefest of surveys of India's past has been provoked by what is happening today in India that is Bharat. It is not a pretty picture and unless we do something drastic and immediate, the Indian nation state, from being under siege, will cease to exist. Institutions are being systematically destroyed. I am not given to exaggeration and weigh my words carefully while dealing with weighty matters. That the Indian state is under severe threat can only be denied by those who wish to avoid facing brutal reality.
Democracy should be a state of mind, a way of life. Democracy in its pure form is allergic to doctrines and dogmas. Democracy is sustained by certain written rules, but equally importantly by unwritten rules. The democratic process is ultimately enshrined in our Parliament, our State legislatures and our panchayats. The functioning of these temples of our democracy is a cause for serious concern. Booth capturing was Charan Singh's unenviable contribution to our democracy. He may not have introduced it, but he legitimised it. (Fortunately, now we have the voting machines.) Our Constitution makers were individuals of stature, integrity, high intellect. Their vision for Parliament and the Assemblies was that these institutions would produce debate, discussion, deliberation, not discord, disruption, denunciation. Not in their wildest dreams would Jawaharlal Nehru, Dr. Ambedkar and their distinguished colleagues have imagined that Assemblies and Parliament would witness slogan shouting, dharna in the well of the House, walkouts and total disregard for parliamentary propriety, for political good manners.
When Chief Ministers break the law, they cannot enforce the law. If this habit catches on, the state will become insurrectionist. When our people witness senior politicians showing total disregard for restraint, discipline, tolerance, then they too are tempted to act in irresponsible, intolerant and unrestrained ways.
LET me come to specifics. The Chief Minister of Gujarat, Narendra Modi, has and is destroying institutions, norms of good governance and upright conduct. He is not happy in the use of language. He did not raise a finger to protect people from the minority communities after Godhra and kept mouthing untruths about the Congress not condemning the outrage. We all did. Sonia Gandhi was the first to do so.
All right-minded people condemned Modi, including Prime Minister A.B. Vajpayee. Yet, Deputy Prime Minister L.K. Advani has given this sinister man a clean chit he is to be Chief Minister after the Gujarat elections. What a terrible example to set and that too by the number two man in the Bharatiya Janata Party. The BJP dismissed two Chief Ministers in Uttar Pradesh, two in Uttaranchal and Keshubhai Patel. But Narendra Modi cannot be touched. Is there no limit to misrule?
The Hindu ideal is Vasudeva Kutumbakam and Sarva Dharma Sambhavam. The resonance of these five beautiful words is far superior to One World and Secularism. Has not the Gujarat Chief Minister heard of these very Hindu words? If he has, then why does he not follow what they specify? If he does not know their precise meaning, is it not time for him to educate himself and spend his time governing his State and not go on Gaurav Yatras? Gaurav for what? Dividing communities and castes, letting innocents be murdered. Look at the contrast. After the shoot-out at the temple in Gandhinagar, Advani and Modi contained and controlled the situation in no time. After Godhra, the rule of the jungle prevailed in Gandhi's home State. Shame on you Mr. Chief Minister. You are unfit to be called a decent, tolerant, God fearing Hindu.