I am skeptical that some grand ‘Idea of India’ made us or kept us what we are as a nation. As some of the participants in the Brainstorm debate pointed out, those alleged ideas of India animated mainly the elite. The elite is floundering today.
I would argue that India’s young are not conservative, they’re confused — and their attitudes reflect to a great extent what they are told they ought to believe.
Are we, the elites, ready to overcome our pet peeves and narcissism of small differences? Are we ready to trust our people to make choices, commit mistakes and improve the common good out of enlightened self interest, just as they participate in the market for their own benefit and facilitate collective gain?
If we cannot educate ourselves out of the spreading illiberalism, then what can be done? While I am deeply cynical about reforming political institutions, I have the greatest conviction in the ingenuity of the human mind.
We might actually be in a better position today than our counterparts a hundred years ago. We might not feel that way, but compared to the task of persuading society that every human being is equal regardless of caste, religion or gender, our challenges are relatively easier.
It was just another evening in Heaven. Mohandas Gandhi was out on his evening walk again, which the residents affectionately referred to as ‘Dandi with a Danda.’ He had walked a few miles when he came across two men at the side of the road.
The whole point of Indian pluralism is you can be many things and one thing: you can be a good Muslim, a good Keralite and a good Indian all at once. The Indian idea is the opposite of what Freudians call “the narcissism of minor differences”; in India, we celebrate the commonality of major differences.
We need to change the way we run our politics and government; we need to accelerate economic growth; and we need to enable all sections to enjoy our liberty and prosperity. Changes in technology happen swiftly, and often conquer all barriers and change lives instantly. But changes in laws and institutions are more uneven and halting.
Indians have embraced democracy to such an extent that they have left its excesses unchecked. Ambedkar warned that “the purpose of a Constitution is not merely to create the organs of the state but to limit their authority.”
On 26th January 1950, the Enlightenment—a historical process of intellectual development that evolved in Western Europe and the United States over centuries—was injected into the veins of Indian society in the form of a written statute. We are still dealing with the shock of that moment.
Welcome to Brainstorm, Pragati’s attempt to create a space where diverse minds can discuss big issues in a respectful way. Every month, we will gather together five thinkers (and one moderator) who will discuss one big subject in a thoughtful, unhurried manner.