25 Mar 2016

Sri Aurobindo was certainly not for the Disintegration of India – by Raman Reddy

Secular intellectuals obfuscate the obvious, by which I mean, they use every intellectual argument to undermine what is pretty obvious to the common man. Of late, the idea of breaking India has been so flaunted about by the secular brigade under the cover of free speech (especially in the columns of a national newspaper) that one wonders what is happening to the country. Why would one support free speech when it undermines national security, especially when it supports criminals and Asuras and denigrates Hindu goddesses?  Fortunately, the majority of Indians will not give much credence to this outright falsehood, so that we can rest in peace and not bother about its practical consequences. If this was indeed not the case, and if this was not ensured by the principle of “one person, one vote” in electoral politics, imagine what would have happened to the country if it were left to this band of berserk intellectuals! They would have shouted themselves hoarse, “To ensure human rights, give away Kashmir to Pakistan, hand over Arunachal Pradesh to China, form a Dalitsthan for the backward caste, a Naxalsthan for the Red soldiers and carve out another mini Pakistan.” Then they would have enthusiastically proceeded “to redefine the borders of India according to the democratic aspirations of people” (read “tear India to pieces”). And sure, excellent arguments would be articulated in flawless English, which seems to be now the standard test of veracity, for it generally does not matter how absurd the position is as long as it is well-expressed in English. Luckily, the common man of India, who usually does not know sufficient English, hardly understands what is going on, or even if he does, takes it in his stride and goes about his daily business without caring a hoot for all the undue excitement at the national level.

But what does the common man think about it? He will say that this whole chorus for the disintegration of India is absurd, that India is one in spirit though diverse in language, one in culture though diverse in expression, that not only the rituals and celebrations but even the food-habits unite Indians from Kashmir to Kanyakumari. And that, above all, there is a living spiritual unity which encompasses all Indians whatever religion they belong to, and this spiritual truth is addressed by all of them in their daily life. I come now to the most important point I would like to make in this age when atheism and cynicism are worn like fashionable party dresses: Be it the bus driver before starting his rounds, be it the small shop owner before the first customer turns up, or be it the share-broker before commencing his daily business, or the good old grandmother before getting down to her daily chores, all of them in this country, with very few exceptions, open their day by addressing this higher Power. Most of them light an incense stick and let the smoke rise for a few seconds while mumbling a few sacred words under their breath. Or they address an impersonal Power from the tops of minarets, or offer flowers at the feet of the deity they revere, or chant mantras or meditate at the appropriate time in the morning. It is here that lies the essential unity of India, indefinable but very palpable to the common man, invisible but most real to him. Of course, you would object saying that other people in other countries also do the same, but nothing like in India! This is India’s forte and will keep it together in the long run despite the vicious politics that some political parties indulge in.

Coming now to Sugata Bose (TMC MP), I was taken aback when he quoted Sri Aurobindo to support what I would term as the disintegration of India. He was of course speaking against the ruling party in the Lok Sabha, and being a scholar of some repute, had to show off his knowledge of Sri Aurobindo’s political thought. He said Sri Aurobindo wrote (in the Foundations of Indian Culture) that the rishis of the Vedic Age had propounded “the ideal of the Chakravarti, a uniting imperial rule, uniting without destroying the autonomy of India's many kingdoms and peoples from sea to sea." That the ancient ideal was “not an autocratic despotism but a universal monarchy supported by a free assembly of the city and provinces and of all the classes”. That, according to this ideal, unification "ought not to be secured at the expense of the free life of the regional people or of the communal liberties and not therefore by a centralised monarchy or a rigidly unitarian imperial state". He then concluded, “We are a democracy, but the nationalism that is being talked about from the other side of the House represents centralised despotism.” [1]

Is this not quoted totally out of context? Sri Aurobindo was referring to the Rajasuya sacrifice (Yagna) conducted by Yudhishthira in the Mahabharata. The practice in ancient India was to invite the smaller kings to the Yagna in order to declare the sovereignty of the King who performed the Rajasuya sacrifice. If the smaller kings participated in the sacrifice, it meant that they accepted the King’s sovereignty over them while retaining their regional autonomy; if they did not, they had to be vanquished by the King in order to prove his sovereignty. How is this ancient practice relevant to the present day political situation of India? India had not yet become a nation then, and this was only one among several other attempts in the history of India to achieve political unity, all of which failed to permanently unite it. According to Sri Aurobindo, India could never achieve political unity in spite of being spiritually and culturally one, because it stressed on the inner psychological union more than the outer. And this is given as a reason by Sri Aurobindo to defend India from the criticism of not having attained political unity, not as a justification for it! Why would he (who played such a leading role in the revolutionary movement of India), or for that matter anybody would want his own nation to be disunited? This is the fundamental logical flaw in Sugata Bose’s pompous show of knowledge. He is actually playing the politician and not speaking as a serious scholar when he makes such statements.

Secondly, the chapter on Indian Polity that Sugata Bose is quoting from was written by Sri Aurobindo in 1919-1921, long before the independence of India. It would be therefore interesting to quote from his famous Independence Day Message of the 15th of August, 1947:

India is free but she has not achieved unity, only a fissured and broken freedom. At one time it almost seemed as if she might relapse into the chaos of separate States which preceded the British conquest. Fortunately there has now developed a strong possibility that this disastrous relapse will be avoided. The wisely drastic policy of the Constituent Assembly makes it possible that the problem of the depressed classes will be solved without schism or fissure. But the old communal division into Hindu and Muslim seems to have hardened into the figure of a permanent political division of the country. It is to be hoped that the Congress and the nation will not accept the settled fact as for ever settled or as anything more than a temporary expedient. For if it lasts, India may be seriously weakened, even crippled: civil strife may remain always possible, possible even a new invasion and foreign conquest. The partition of the country must go,—it is to be hoped by a slackening of tension, by a progressive understanding of the need of peace and concord, by the constant necessity of common and concerted action, even of an instrument of union for that purpose. In this way unity may come about under whatever form—the exact form may have a pragmatic but not a fundamental importance. But by whatever means, the division must and will go. For without it the destiny of India might be seriously impaired and even frustrated. But that must not be.

(Independence Day Message, Autobiographical Notes, CWSA, Vol. 36, pp 475-76)

It is clear that Sri Aurobindo stood for the political unity of India and was disappointed by its partition into two states. He was satisfied that there were no further sub-divisions and that India did not “relapse into the chaos of separate States which preceded the British conquest”. He was also hopeful that the Constituent Assembly would solve the problem of the depressed classes without schism or fissure. The one thing that he repeats in this passage and elsewhere is that the partition of India should go “by whatever means” for, “if it lasts, India may be seriously weakened, even crippled: civil strife may remain always possible, possible even a new invasion and foreign conquest. How relevant is this passage in the present day context!

There was a certain practical side of Sri Aurobindo that not many people are acquainted with. With regard to the partition of India, he told the following to K.M. Munshi in 1950. I quote from this interview:

Then the Mahayogi [Sri Aurobindo] sprang a surprise on me: “When do you expect India to be united?” he asked.

I was taken aback. I explained to him how our leaders had agreed to partition. I then said: "So long as the present generation of politicians is concerned, I cannot think of any time when the two countries — India and Pakistan — can be united."

Sri Aurobindo smiled and answered: "India will be reunited. I see it clearly."

Was it an opinion? Was it a clear perception? I shook my head in doubt and asked how India could be reunited. In two short sentences the god-man described what Pakistan stood for, and indicated how the two countries could come together.

"Pakistan has been created by falsehood, fraud and force. It must be brought under India's military ambit.”

(Kittu Reddy, A Vision of United India, pp 167-68)

Pakistan “must be brought under India’s military ambit,” means sanctioning the use of force when necessary, though in the present scenario of nuclear weapons, it would surely not be advisable. But the very fact of supporting the use of force when it was indeed possible, implies that Sri Aurobindo was not deceived by so-called “human rights violations” or “democratic aspirations of people”, which are often the cover under which certain militant groups operate to fulfil their own agenda of forceful occupation. Also India’s natural penchant for stressing more on the inner psychological unity than the outer political union in the process of nation-building cannot be overly insisted upon when the nation has already been built.  It was because India failed to unite politically over several millenniums despite being spiritually and culturally one, that it opened itself to foreign attack and conquest. It was the British occupation which finally welded it into a nation, though they left it after deliberately splitting it into two separate states. There is also the wrong notion that the states in India are too diverse in language, religion and culture and that India will naturally break up after the British left. But there was always a substratum of spiritual and cultural unity in India despite all the differences between the constituent units. Sri Aurobindo says:

[India has been] throughout a congeries of diverse peoples, lands, kingdoms and, in earlier times, republics also, diverse races, sub-nations with a marked character of their own, developing different brands or forms of civilisation and culture, many schools of art and architecture which yet succeeded in fitting into the general Indian type of civilisation and culture. India’s history throughout has been marked by a tendency, a constant effort to unite all this diversity of elements into a single political whole under a central imperial rule so that India might be politically as well as culturally one.

(Message to Andhra University, Autobiographical Notes, CWSA, Vol. 36, pp 499)

It is from this point of view that Sri Aurobindo supported the linguistic divisions of India in his message to the Andhra University in 1948. But he supported them when India was already welded into a nation and its national boundaries were quite safe. He did it for promoting diversity in unity, and not to encourage diversity at the detriment of national unity which can lead to the disintegration of India.

[An edited version of the article was published on swarajyamag.com on 17 March, 2016.]


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