Friday 10 June, 2011

Random thoughts on Indian Intelligentsia 1

Something is terribly wrong in the Indian intelligentsia; the way it reacts to issues which, by all means, constitute and define Indianness. Forget about the knowledge of traditions of the land now known as India the average modern educated Indian does not even care to know how the role of caste, community and language have shaped the course of Indian history in recent centuries. Even the much celebrated Indian Nationalism is not adequately discussed. When Sudipto Kaviraj wrote in one of his articles that Indians became nationalists not in English but in Indian languages such as Bengali, Tamil, Marathi ,Hindi and other Indian languages he was hitting the deck, to use the term of modern cricket. What it means actually ? It leads to the making of Indian Nationalism in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. The likes of Bankimchandra, Bharatendu Harischandra, Rabindra Nath Tagore, Sarat , to name only a few,  had been creating and articulating a notion of Indian Nation which was a modern notion but they grounded on Indian traditions. It is only natural that they talked of Hinduness, own culture, own history and so on the  a way an Indian intellectual is expected to do. With the coming of Britain returned liberals most of whom were lawyers by training the emphasis changed. Now,  a new discourse developed which was more suitable for the westernised intelligentsia. The presence of Gandhi was a big problem for the liberals as he was essentially grounded on Indian values and had a great following. The 1920s was the turning point when a new discourse of Indianness emerged which sought to redefine Indian Nationalism. This new modern construction was later blossomed into what is generally known as 'Nehruvian discovery of India'.
It is commonly said that Gandhi was the central figure of India in the first half of twentieth century. This may be true for the whole of India but for elites the real man who mattered most was Nehru. He was the real face of Indian Nationalism for the elites.
Nehru was a well intentioned and remarkable man. By any standard he was a great man but, he was the face of liberal India only to promote a vision of India which was suitable for western educated intelligentsia of India. He was a prisoner of his own vision; a man who was a nationalist, a westernised man and man whose ideology was close to socialist ideology. He was mistrusted by traditionalists and the socialists throughout his life but he successfully flirted with both these ideologies.
The only time Nehru had faced a serious challenge when Lohia mounted attack on him and his policies. But, as Lohia was seen as a threat by liberals Nehru survived and Lohia had to be contended with disgruntled groups and backward caste support base.