Tuesday, June 28, 2011

India - A Civilizational state

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I am beginning to question the very premise of associating the word "nation" with geography. 

there is a word nation.
there is a rashtra
there is a desh
there is state
there is nation-state

while nation-state has confined the people-traditions-language with geography, the other words are not confined by this.

A Jew, his nationality on passport might be french or american or roman or bantu or yuan, his nation was always israel (even if israel did not exist as a nation-state). Ever since Judaism has existed, the rashtra of Jews is Israel. It did not matter whether the rashtra actually associated with geography was materialized. Jews thought and still think their "nation" as Israel. here too, what they mean is exactly similar to when our people talk about rastra and rashtra-vaada.

Desh is any point (or set of points) in space-time. a small dot on your wall is desh and so is asia. this is how patanjali yogsutras define desh. In popular terms it has been used as town OR province OR nation-state in different eras. Until 1950s, the word pardesh was used for vidarbha by a villager living in marathwada (both are regions of Maharashtra). So, the word "desh" has strictly geographical connotations and no ideological OR heritage based connotations. Desh does not describe a group of people with particular common heritage. Rashtra does.

What is nation? What is Rashtra? it is sense of belongingness which people feel arising out of shared heritage. When people feel they are a nation, they become a nation. Ever since Judaism exists, Israel has been the "nation" of Jews. the actual israel came into existence after WW2. But, the nation of Israel existed. Association of "Rashtra" and "Desha" is what is made mandatory by modern socio-polity. While it works in today's world, one has to acknowledge that there existed different systems in different places and times. The shared heritage which produces sense of belongingness can come from anything - language, religion, culture, race. usually, it is complex mixture of all of them with one factor dominating over others. In Europe, that factor is language. In China, that factor is Race (Han ethnicity). In India, that factor has been sanskriti. 

There was and is a common sanskritik thread which weaves all "Desh" (Regions) in India. While the rulers of different "Desh" were interacting with each other, the factor which kept the janta interlinked was sanskriti. So whenever a Raja from particular desh would unite substantial portion of subcontinent, other Rrajas would adjust their policies in accordance to the behaviour of the raja of central power. That central power need not unite entire subcontinent politically to create a nation. 

In desh of India (which includes entire subcontinent from afghanistan to myanmar), at different times, different quasi-rashtras existed. These quasi-rashtras were ruled by raajas (leader/leaders) either elected or appointed. The commonality which defined quasi rashtras was never language. None of the Indian empire was based on language, in spite of such huge linguistic disparity, this is hallmark of India which sets it distinctively apart from Europe. Otherwise, India is like Europe in many aspects.

Then how did these quasi-rashtras exist? quasi rashtra is term referred to describe regional OR caste based satraps who foster narrower identity than rashtriya one, more and rise to power.  Usually on jaati (caste). In history and even today, there are different groups, vying desparately to have larger stake and share in "desh's" property and produce. Its akin to different lobbies trying to win contract. This struck me when I read somewhere that the argument which karunanidhi et al were giving after 2G scam that they brought more money in TN for people of TN. While people have thrown him out of power, showing that there still some good left in the country, this puts a light on how these "rajas" representing their "quasi-rashtras" view "desha" and desha's property.

The Government of India (GOI) functions in similar fashion. Imagine a project is to be discussed to revitalize the transportation of nation and to have a coherent transport policy in India which will efficiently link rail-road-air-ship (riverine and maritime) based means of transport. One has to understand that there is a road lobby, rail lobby, air lobby and two lobbies of ship. these lobbies will fight out with each other like drunk cocks in order to get larger share of funds and more importantly, importance. The problem of India today is importance and money go hand in hand. GOI is infact a place where various lobbies vying for different agendas for India as "desh" on different issues interact with each other (either together or against).

Various rajas of various quasi-rashtras behave similarly in course of history. But then if this was a feature of India dominantly, india would have been perpetually balkanized. this is not the case, like europe, India shows cyclical consolidation. Cycles where these quasi-rashtra identities break down to form a huge monolith and subsequent fragmentation of that monolith with fragments of different shapes. It holds equally true for entire subcontinent. Once a common social-economic-spiritual code is enforced throughout, the political unity does not matter much in India. When that common code is endangered, the fragmented political power unites in India (willingly or forcibly, catalyst of this fusion differs in different times).

Hence I like to talk about river based rashtras. In India the rashtriya identities have been arising along river valleys. now, when we talk about India as a civilizational state based on geography of india, we are in fact talking about sanskriti based on concept of dharma. 

The operating system of Sanskriti

Sanskriti is incorrectly translated as culture. Sanskriti's more accurate translation would be "operating system". It has two word roots Complete (Sam) action (KRt). A complete code of justifiable "actions" to be taken in various aspects of personal, spiritual, social and political life of different individuals is sanskriti.

Sanskriti of dharma is an operating system which has been installed and updated in the desh of Indian subcontinent since ancient times. Hence this "sanskriti" is also referred to as "sanatana dharma". Hence most of the rashtra, quasi-rashtras and jaati based identities and polities which emerged, flourished and vanished in this geography were in accordance of this eternal set of guidelines (sanatana dharma) aka Indian operating system.

While this is accepted by everyone, the biggest defeat and one of the fundamental deracinations of Indian sanskriti post 1857 was that the political connotations associated with this word vanished. If it deals with all justifiable actions, the justifiable actions also include war. But Sanskriti has now become a "soft-power" tool onlee.  Sanskriti became culture and dharma became religion and Indians lost the identity. Savarkar is very right when he says there are two rashtra's living in India - Hindu and Islam. But I think he meant it in reference of operating system (sanskriti). There is nothing against any particular religious or spiritual view-point in India. We have entertained views and ideological schools of vast degrees. And there was nothing in it which hinted at partition of desh to accommodate two rashtras.

The Road Ahead

India is today at partially consolidated stage. at this stage, a moment of choice will come when India will have to expand OR will collapse. It cannot hold on to this fail-safe point indefinately. Stability after a while in "desh" like India fosters quasi rashtras and pseudo rajas (DMK in kaveri valley, sharad pawar in krishna-godavari valley, many rajas in Ganga Valley). They are modern versions of many of their predecessors in same regions. 

A small determined minority can bring in structural change in polity of India. Which are the popular candidates today? Indian army is one such small but determined minority. There are few others maoists, Mullah and Jihadis.There are few more candidates too which I would not enunciate here because that is not the point. Which one of these determined minority will succeed? I don't know. What is the use of any dharmik but silent majority? no use. However, this is just one aspect of coin. 

Other aspect is when silent majority is "forced" to take a stand. This is usually brought about by philosophers, saints, thinkers working in tandem with some visionary Raja who has "right" frame of mind and has will, determination and ability for complete reconquest of "desh". Such type of changes bring about overhaul of system. 

Once the fissures are produced, it is always in interest of one group to maintain those fissures. It depends upon how well financed that group is and what is their depth in time (in how many generations, will that group fatigue out). In this aspect, Indians are the best. They usually win by tiring out the adversaries (ideas OR enemies) and prevail. But for that there has to be a networking of society. Earlier this was done be roaming brahmins, sanyasis, saints etc. 

In modern times, largely owing to their own karma and partially due to political compulsions, the brahmin-sanyasi-sadhu class does not command similar respect. Is there a group which can replace this and do similar function? If yes, then we are moving towards complete overhaul of system which were forced to live in past 1000 years. If not, one of the determined minorities mentioned above will succeed.

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al brazzakh said...

Good one, esp the Operating system comparison.
Sawaal: Politically, which is the small determined minority that can bring in structural change in polity of India in today's times?

chandrabhan said...

I returned after along time to your blog and I saw an exceptionally well written argument bringing out the a very subtle point - various "Desh" existing within this nation.
Moot point still remains the same, How to bring about the desired change?