On Pranab Mukherjee’s Speech at the RSS


Normally I don’t (wish to) comment on Indian politics, because I don’t live in India and am not qualified/informed enough to do that. Nor do I have the citizenship-right to speak about the politics of a country to which I contribute nothing.

But I was so moved and inspired by Pranab Mukherjee’s speech after all the hoopla preceding it that I will break my rule:

Philosophically I am not drawn to nationalism: certainly not to its uglier manifestations. Nor have I been appreciative of some extremist positions of RSS. But I have great respect for the commitment of that organization to serve the Motherland, while affirming the cultural and civilizational founts of India which are rooted in Vedic-dharmic Sanskritic-Tamil spiritual visions and literary heritage. Even while respecting the contributions and physical presence in modern India of  citizens, worldviews and institutions that have derived from  historically irreversible alien intrusions, one can still articulate with love and commitment one’s own cultural ancestry. This may sometimes take on a belligerent tone if and when there is the perception that it is being threatened.

It is unfortunate that because of this there was such an uproar when PM accepted his invitation to speak at the RSS.

Without applauding them, I view the apparent excesses of RSS as understandable and inevitable reactions to persistent forces that are antagonistic to Indic culture and national integrity.  This is not to justify any xenophobia or exclusionary stance towards full-fledged patriotic Indian citizens of whatever religious, linguistic or ethnic affiliation, but simply to remind ourselves that as Japan is Shinto, China is Confucian, Europe is Judeo-Christian, Arabia and Turkey are Islamic, so is India Hindu/dharmic at the core. Indeed, in principle (if not always in practice) this framework includes respect for all and the principle of polyodosism: multiple paths to spiritual fulfillment.

I was delighted to read the enlightened views expressed in PM’s speech: never mind that expressions of this pan-Indian unity have been facilitated today by the English language. For, though the people of India, like those of Christendom in Europe, were woven together for ages by unifying philosophical and theological visions, never before did they all communicate with one another as a single people under a single flag before the emergence of the modern Republic of India as a refreshing aftermath of the nightmare of British colonialism. History often dances to very odd tunes.

PM’s call for tolerance, multiculturalism, and respect for all is not only an enlightened stance to take, worthy of and in keeping with India’s ancient history: we have no other peaceful alternative in the modern world.\

Aum Shaanti!

8 June 2018

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Varadaraja V. Raman

Physicist, philosopher, explorer of ideas, bridge-builder, devotee of Modern Science and Enlightenment, respecter of whatever is good and noble in religious traditions as well as in secular humanism,versifier and humorist, public speaker, dreamer of inter-cultural,international,inter-religious peace.

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