ByÂ Vishal V Kale:
In this article, I have attempted to analyse our fall from the heights of the past to where we are today, and identify the most critical failings of us as a people – our fault lines.
1) The concept of India
There is a massive difference between a cultural union and a political union; the political concept of india is relatively young, not more than a hundred years old, perhaps a little more, going back at the most to the mid-1800s. The cultural concept of India goes back thousands of years.
As I have written earlier – “it is high time we Indians took justifiable pride in the crafting of a political identity from a cultural union. Even a crude perusal of Indian History will tell you that we were perennially divided; and that we have paid a heavy price for our lack of political unity. Yes – we were one people, and have been so for 8000 years. Yes, we are the only surviving and unchanged ancient civilization – all others have metamorphosed. Yes, apart from the gizmos and clothes and language, an Indian from 6000 years ago will find almost the same cultural practices. Yes, there was cultural union – and it was this cultural unity that formed that basis for political unity. Political unity has the potential to take us to greatness… but taking that to mean India was one is saying too much, and means belittling the contributions of our freedom fighters. There was a “Bharat” in the enlightened people only; and this was present across ancient India. True, and granted. But the people at large were not educated, or aware enough, or cared enough, to accept it. They owed allegiance to the local satrap, that was their political identity”
Therein lies the biggest reason for our fall. Our lack of unity, and our lack of conceptualization of the external threat, as extolled by Balaji Viswanathan, forms the single biggest reason for our fall.
2) Ghar ka bhedi
This is a vital point, for throughout history, for India, it has been the Ghar Kaa Bhedi who has caused us grief. Even today, it is the internal threat – Pakistan (a part of India in old times), that holds the biggest impediment and threat to regional peace. This is in fact so vital that I place it as a separate point unto itself. This has been a repeated feature that has haunted India.
Throughout history, from Jaichand to The British Raj and upto modern times, it has been our inability to stick together, and our internecine warfare and tussles that has lead us to disaster. This has lead to a series of successful invasions, and a loss of power and drain of wealth. Our total inability to conceptualise ourselves as one, and our readiness to take help from supposedly well-meaning external powers continues to this day; even with Pakistan, people identical to us in every way including religion, resorting to the west and creating trouble for us. You can look at it any way, blame any party- India or Pakistan; but you cannot escape from the truth that this internecine issue is holding India back.
This is the way it has been throughout history – each and every time we have lost, a Ghar Kaa Bhedi has been involved.
3) Scientific decline
The decline of science from the 12th century onwards, as the focus of power shifted to the Arabs and then the Mughals was another significant development. Scientific treatises by Brahmins etc. were in vogue till almost 1100 AD, followed by a sudden decline from that time as this class lost patronage. The threats to the religion from abroad combined with the inadvertent ills that has crept in by that time contributed to a hardening of norms and rituals, to the detriment of examination and investigation. We got caught in roodhivaad, and went into a general somnolent phase.
The oft-repeated catch phrase that education for the masses was absent in ancient India is just a myth; records show that each village had a school or a gurukul with equal participation from all castes in the same class or batch of shishyas – which lays bare the false claims of casteism. This was prevalent till Macaulay ripped apart this system.
Given the above 2 facts, we can now put them together to conclude that loss of patronage, combined with a perceived as well as real threat to the way of life, contributed to a decline in the investigative atmosphere, with the focus shifting towards protection of religion and the way of life. This is borne out by the steady decline in scientific works in Sanskrit etc. after 1100 AD.
4) Drain of wealth
Post 1757, the unprecedented serial loot of India for a period of 190 years is the icing on the proverbial cake – or more appropriately, the last straw on the camel’s back. Entire ways of life were destroyed – artisans, farmers, teachers, painters, weavers, sculptors etc. were rendered jobless by the Raj’s brutal policies. A series of famines made living itself a struggle, and each meal an achievement, traditional means of livelihood were destroyed, new means were out of the reach of the masses. This systematic plunder of India created an atmosphere of total helplessness.
“And this is the story, in a nutshell, of how one of the 2 greatest trading engines in the history of Earth crashed to its nadir. By the second half of the nineteenth century, the destruction was complete; nothing remained of the once-great Indian trading and manufacturing powerhouse. The towns fared slightly better thereafter, since the Brits needed people to run their administration, that let in modern education. This restoked the engine; the existing capital rose in the form of some manufacturing units of initially textiles in the late nineteenth and early 20th centuries as some Indians tried to restart it.”
5) Enter Corruption
This brings us to the final nail in the coffin – corruption. There was already a significant fault line in the Indian make-up, no one can be perfect. A people who had overcome all that was thrown their way, who had survived intact, unchanged and unchallenged for over 7500 years had to have an Achilles’ heel. And that was our penchant for placing the personal above the community at the worst possible time – call it Ghar Kaa Bhedi, our lack of unity, our inability to see the big picture, or call it our inability to look at both external developments as well as internal realities. Call it what you will, this is a major fault line or flaw that exists in us as a people – Itihaas Gawaah Hai (history bears witness). This was a sporadic occurrence in ancient India – but whenever it happened, it was extremely damaging.
And, in the atmosphere of helplessness during the Raj, this was rubbed raw, as life itself was a struggle; you had to do something to live. This fault line was now fully exposed as people tried to curry favour – they had to, in order to grow, feed their families and survive. They had no option. And, in the presence of the fault line identified, this lead to a habit of corruption that became carved into stone into the Indian psyche. Over a period of time, people became habituated to currying favour, to corruption. A small, tiny fault in the make-up in what is arguably the most successful civilization in terms of longevity, culture and spirituality was rubbed raw, and made into a defining characteristic of the Indian.
A parting gift from The Raj, alongwith Macaulayism and an inferiority complex
And with that, we arrive in Modern India – a land struggling to find itself, to come to terms with its inarguable greatness while simultaneously struggling to come to terms with its most critical flaws; a heady but lethal combination that gives us both the potential to arrive at the place that rightfully belongs to us – at the summit of all civilizations, while also creating a serious risk of total failure and disaster. A land that has so much to be proud of, while also having so much to be worried about. A study in contrasts, and a veritable cornucopia of contradictions