By Vivek Agnihotri
“Why are Indian ‘liberals’ so illiberal, so irrational,” a young student asked me recently at University of North Carolina, one of the world’s best universities.
He asked me in the context of intense opposition to my speech at the university by the Liberals. Obviously, the opposition to the content of any speech makes logical sense, but opposing before I uttered a word doesn’t make any sense.
But I am used to it. They opposed my film without seeing it. Tried to rubbish my book before even the first copy came out. This opposition to my voice has come from only those who write ‘liberal’ on profiles or call others regressive.
“If they are not liberal, either they are Leftists or they are not Indian,” I replied. I didn’t want to get into any controversy at this premium university with a strong Leftist/Liberal foothold, so avoided this complex question with some American humour.
“But liberalism started in Europe. What have Indians got to do with it?”
I am a strong advocate of liberalism and I believe it’s the liberal ideas of Hindu civilization that help us discover the unknown, without which the world would stagnate.
It is this desire of mankind to go beyond his potential to discover the world – the Brahmaan (universe) in order to discover the supreme truth. Going by Hindu philosophy, Brahma created man with the sole purpose of discovering this eternal truth. Discovering supreme truth is man’s dharma and becoming one with that truth is his sole purpose (Moksha).
This is ultimate liberation. The paths to discover the ultimate truth may be many, and man is free to choose any path of his liking to reach this destination. Thus, Brahma liberated the man from any one dogma, diktat, book, ritual or path. This, by itself, is the most liberating idea. I believe in this fundamental equation between the universe and myself – Tatvam Asi – thou art that.
The whole is me and I am the whole. What quantum physics is discovering now, was found in the world’s first texts of Hindu civilization. We called it Sanatan. We are gifted with ‘free will’. This ‘free will’ is the whole. The Sanatan.
What differentiates the man from animal (and now Artificial Intelligence) is this stubborn free will. By empowering and refining this free will one can go beyond what is visible and what exists. With free will one can find the ‘supra-divine’.
Hindu civilization has always recognized the power of free will and, therefore, never bound its followers in any one idea. The diversity of ideas is the essence of Hindu Civilization.
Each individual is seeking the supra-divine in his/her own way with the help of his/her own methods and rituals. It’s our diversity which the invaders couldn’t understand and failed to convert our deep belief in ‘free will’ despite being armed with deadly weapons.
In fact, the Mohammedan rulers became more like Hindus and after some coercing and failing, even Britishers stopped converting us forcefully.
It’s ironical that many eons years later, in India, Marx and Mao emerged as new age Brahmas. With a rigid doctrine, one book and one diktat. A doctrine which is built on hating and fighting others. These doctrines or ‘isms’ are sometimes utopian, sometimes dogmatic. But never liberal.
Ironically, the people who started worshipping Marx or Lenin or Mao, soon started calling themselves liberals but celebrated everything illiberal.
When Nehru championed rigid model of communist Soviet Union, they celebrated. When Indira Gandhi centralised every institution, they celebrated. When she murdered democracy by imposing Emergency, they celebrated. When Indira Gandhi declared on the floor of Parliament that ‘Corruption is unstoppable’, they called her Mother India. When Indira Gandhi used an alien concept like ‘secularism’ as a political tool to create vote banks, they celebrated. When thousands of Sikhs were massacred, they maintained a stoic silence. When Rajiv Gandhi was caught deep in Bofors scandal, they protected him. When VP Singh raised the myopic Mandal issue and destroyed India forever, they kept quiet. When Sonia Gandhi was pushed by the morally bankrupt sycophants for the prime minister’s post, they didn’t oppose. Instead, they conspired to evolve a system where a puppet could be staged as the PM while the real power remained with Sonia Gandhi.
They brokered deals, negotiated power and controlled the mainstream narrative throughout the corrupt regime of Sonia Gandhi’s Congress, but they never questioned her. When Narendra Modi came to power with unprecedented support of the people, liberals labelled his supporters as regressive Sanghis and Bhakts.
What they forgot was that this ‘Sanghi’ is rooted in Indian philosophy of liberation. His logic of life and beyond is far more liberal than these One-Idol-One-Book-One-Doctrine liberals of India.
While most of the cultures could discover only seven basic rasas, we added two more rasas – Vatsalya Rasa (motherhood) and Bhakti Rasa (oneness) – the highest forms of rasa.
When the Mohammedan invaders were forcefully converting poor peasants and destroying temples, it was the Bhakti movement that saved this civilization.
Problem with the so-called liberals of India is that they have abandoned all liberal ideas of our culture and latched on to colonial ideas like secularism – a political tool to spread themselves. A society that has evolved with the central belief of ‘Vasudev Kutumbkam’ doesn’t need narrow, political theme of secularism.
Indic ideas of democracy, family, society, feminism, Dharma and ‘I-Am-Ok-You-Are-Ok’ attitude are so comprehensive and progressive that we don’t need to look anywhere else. One can’t be slave to a colonial mindset or an ‘either/or western template’ and call oneself liberal.
They are liberal according to the ‘western template’: sadly, they live in India and when in conflict with organically developed and culturally rooted liberal ideas, they look illiberal and irrational.
What one needs to understand is that when all civilizations perished or converted to become either Christian, Islamic, communist or dictatorship states, it’s only the Hindu civilization that survived. (so did China but it’s a closed civilization).
Despite invasions, colonization, looting and grave destruction, we survived. From the abyss of decline we rose and today we are a force to reckon with.
It’s my firm conviction that it’s because of our liberated minds that we are such an inspiring story of survival and success. While in rest of the world liberalism is a question, only in India it’s the answer.
Vivek Agnihotri is a filmmaker and the author of #1 bestseller ‘Urban Naxals’.
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