With the rich legacy of moral, spiritual and cultural values, India, by and large, lives on dreams – poor person’s rich dreams and power-puffed leaders’ and rich men’s grand-infested dreams. These go on forever, from garibi hatao to $ 5 trillion economy which ignites a new hope for the resurgence of the slow-moving economy.
These dreams, in a way, are as free as the air we breathe. The air is polluted these days. So are our dreams, especially those induced, encouraged or conjured by politicians.
Still, some dreams do not die with dreamers. They seem ageless as they pass from one generation to another. The concept of Ram Rajya is one such dream. Ask a villager in the Hindi belt what his views are on the declining values and growing complexities in India and he will bitterly remark, where is “Ram Rajya”?
Perhaps, its substitute is the much-discussed concept of Ram Mandir and rightly so. We all live in symbolism, built brick by brick. Who cares for idealism and values as Adarsh Purush Rama we all adore?
Perhaps, sublime worshipping structures too serve their purpose as carriers of hope. And hope is a catalyst for any arduous march ahead. In its historical context, the concept of Ram Rajya is rooted in equality, justice, fair-play, freedom and equal opportunity for all without exploitation or discrimination on grounds of caste, class or creed. This dream is embedded in the Hindu psyche. And it is adopted in our Constitution to build all-inclusive New India.
An action-packed human drama, the mythological stories of the Ramayana revolve around the virtuous, wise god-king, Rama, who lives by high ideals and rules his kingdom by the law of dharma, ancient norms of justice, fair-play, liberalism, equality and righteousness.
I am recalling those golden thoughts as we await the apex court’s verdict on Rama birthplace Ayodhya’s land dispute following the demolition of the Babri Masjid. I am not going into the question of rights or wrongs of the demolition act. Personally, I look at such historical structures built by “foreign forces” as a reminder as to how and where we went wrong. Did it indicate our weakness of character as Hindus vis-à-vis “invaders”, who managed to rule over us by their skills of divide and rule? Have we learnt right lessons from history? I doubt it. Well, Ram Rajya or no Ram Rajya, our political leaders invariably keep themselves afloat in public esteem by making all sorts of promises for those good old golden days.
I must recall here Mahatma Gandhi. He fully realized that religion is a vital force in Indian society. That is why he used parables to convey the message of right and wrong in daily life to the people.
During the freedom struggle Gandhi often referred to the need for attainment of Ram Rajya. To achieve that goal, he expounded his theory of Trusteeship, under which “the means of the capitalist structure are utilized for achieving social good. Thus, the freedom to private disposition of capital goes along with the achievements of basic necessities of the entire population”.
Those ideas of Gandhi are matters of ethics, economic and politics. Today’s is a different setting and different norms, far away from the concepts of Trusteeship and ethics, even though they are in tune with the Indian philosophy of Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam (the world is one family).
Independent Indian rulers have, however, their own ideas of statecraft. They peddled the “Ram Rajya” dream to get votes, but Gandhi’s dream concept re-aims as elusive as ever.
No regrets. Indian has to move on fast on the modern path, though “shadow boxing” in crimes and violence goes on amidst religious animosity among various communities along with killings, lynchings, rapes, agony and pain. No wonder, Richard Attenborough’s Gandhi looks like a man from another world, though we continue to pay homage to him on October 2 at the Gandhi Samadhi and discuss and debate about him in the airconditioned comfort of drawing rooms!
Again, there are no regrets. For, as a nation we cannot march ahead with bundles of regrets. This is why we have to keep our hopes alive for Achhe Din.
Also, we continue to look for role models for modern India. The choice is wide open – to each his own choice of freedom. For the present, I wish to keep politicians aside. For, I feel we need persons in socio-religious fields where we badly need voices to change negative thinking at the grassroots.
One person who instantly comes to my mind is Nusrat Jahan. She is a young MP belonging to Mamata Banerjee’s TMC party. But there is nothing politics in that she has done. She has married a Jain businessman and wears sindoor, mangalsutra and bangles publicly. This has prompted the clerics to dub her “unIslamic” and they have issued fatwa against her for marrying a non-Muslim. Responding to the fatwa, she has told the people not to heed these “hardliner: who “breed hatred and violence” in Indian society.
I heartily support her. She boldly asserted that “I represent an inclusive India which is beyond the barriers of caste, creed and religion”.
A firm believer in Islam, she says that she “respects all faiths” and adds, “I still remain a Muslim and none should comment on what I choose to wear. Faith is beyond attire and is more about believing and practising the invaluable doctrines of all religions”.
She is right. In India’s communal divide, what is regrettable is the reluctance of Muslims to join the national mainstream.
The Hindu society broadly favours assimilation and syncretic harmony yet, social and religious tensions have surfaced for a variety of reasons. I am sorry discussing these issues beyond the scope of this article. Maybe, I shall do it at a future date. We should all look within through the prism of secular and liberal India.
We have also to examine why sections of Hindus nurse a feeling of denial on the basis of their numerical strength. We also must examine why the Muslim mindset, controlled by clerics, continues to nurse negativism and seems reluctant to reasonably adjust to new situations and seize opportunities to improve their lot.
I believe that the emphasis today has to be on synthesis and assimilation without loss of religious identity. At the same time, we have to ensure evolution of new identities of Indian nationhood.
It is in this light that I admire Nusrat Jahan Jain as a new role model for all-inclusive India.