As the largest democratic nation in the World, Indian realm should have been dominated by diverse narratives. But unfortunately a predominant narrative considered to be forthright, refined, elitist, and modern has been ruling the roost. All other interpretations or thought-processes are branded as brusque, orthodox, outdated and jingoistic. Eventually these predominant interpretations prevailed, flourished and thrived in the independent India and occupied the center stage. Interestingly this dominant narrative was never put to a litmus test to validate its unbiased explication since it is lionized as the pragmatic outlook for the country.
This intimidating narrative with vested agendas, consciously denigrated the Indian cultural ecosystem, augured separatism and despised traditional heritage. As a result, the spirit of positive development suffered gross neglect. Despite the grotesque misrepresentations of the aspirations of the 1.25 billion these voices dominated and began to cast a shadow on the World’s understanding of India as a sovereign, democratic and modern nation state. This tyranny had a stranglehold on Indian elected governments, held its sway for decades, downplayed India and proved propitious for our warring neighboring nations. On the other hand, the desideratum which sought to revamp, resurrect the positive developmental goals were muzzled.
The deluge of corruption, omniscient nepotism, red-tape and rampant indecisiveness that existed during the decade long UPA regime frittered away gains of economic development. In absence of a dynamic and visionary leadership, the country slogged through a regime of diffidence. Clouds of despondency and frustration loomed over the nation. People longed for progress, economic development and aspired for a new change. These pragmatic aspirations began to overwhelm the collective Indian intellect giving impetus to a new era of alternative narratives that eloquently yearned for a vibrant India. Though alternative narratives have always existed, the overwhelming appetite for change aspired by new generation gave fresh impetus. This cumulative yearning dismantled inept political establishment but couldn’t make significant impact on the thought process of civil society. To realize the dream of vibrant India, torrential waves of change should become part of normal discourse. The alternative narratives which were alienated and muzzled must be empowered. Dr. Syama Prasad Mookherji Research Foundation of New Delhi, in a bid to promote the alternative narratives organized a National Writers Meet on the theme “Space for acceptance of alternative narratives and ideologies in a new-age India” at New Delhi on July 30-31, 2016.
The meet attended by aspirational and dynamic writers had the privilege of interacting with Indian Stalwarts who emphatically nurtured alternative narratives. As preemptive remarks, Dr. Bibek Debroy, Member of NITI Aayog spoke on “How Modi Government is redefining Governance”, deciphering the paradigm of minimum government and maximum governance. To objectively fulfill foundational vision of cooperative federalism, Modi government replaced the planning commission with a think-tank, NITI Aayog. NITI essentially fosters involvement and participation of states in economic-policy making with Indian Union, provides knowledge, promotes innovation and offers entrepreneurial support. Later, Dr. Vinay Sahasrabuddhe, Rajya Sabha MP spoke about “Antodaya Inspired Development”. The concept of antodaya or reaching out to the last man has been cornerstone of the BJP’s economic agenda. Speaking about the need for recalibrating discourse through art, the maker of Buddha at Traffic Jam, Vivek Agnihotri, indicated that exclusivity of dominant narratives grossly failed to depict Indian culture.
Indian political realm was dominated by panoply of political parties. But a selective bunch of parties remained relevant and popular among the masses. Mercurial rise of political parties in the recent past evoked debates on the relevance of allegiance to any particular ideology for its long term functioning. Speaking about Ideology and Politics Today, Amit Shah, National President, BJP lamented that majority of Indian political parties are reduced to family bastions and gravely lacked any ideological commitments. He asserted that politics without ideology is meaningless. Wading through murky political waters with firm ideological commitment is an arduous task. Unlike other political outfits, he claimed BJP endured rigors of grueling political journey to emerge as largest political party in the world with 11 crore membership.
In line with the theme of the seminar, M. J. Akbar, Minister of State for External Affairs spoke about different narratives-capitalism, communism, colonialism and fascism that inimitably changed the trajectory of the World. Reshaping thought process, intellectual revolutions during the course of history challenged dominant narratives and offered new directions. Precisely India too has reached a point where new paradigms of change must steer nation towards positive development. Indian society is currently battling an orchestrated phase of isolationism. Vested interests have crassly divided the society exploiting the hierarchical distinctions of caste, creed and religion. A network of the media-politician nexus has been shamelessly exploiting the fault lines in the society through brazen distortion of doctrines. Consequently, the doctrines of select group of freedom fighters, iconoclastic intellectuals are idolized, owned and venerated by scrupulous political parties to push forward their agendas. Dr. B.R. Ambedkar was one such icon whose thoughts and ideas about the Hinduism were irreversibly contorted and exploited to draw political mileage. Dispelling popular misconceptions, writer, Arvindan Neelakandan enlightened the group about the role played by Ambedkar in Hindutva movement and cultural nationalism.
The dominant narratives that swayed the Indian polity and academia, indiscriminately divided the diverse Indian society along various lines. It is unfortunate that this influential academia willfully allowed the continuation of dishonest and ill-informed facts about India in the American curriculum too. Drawing attention to California Text book issues where India has been replaced by South Asia, Vamsee Juluri spoke about the intransigent stance of well-placed, highly influential South Asia Faculty Group (SAFG). SAFG recommended replacement of Hinduism with “religion of ancient India” grossly denigrating the identities of the 800 million Hindus. While all other religious are critically read, interpreted and respected, Hinduism was intentionally singled out for its inequities.
Concluding the illuminating series on the alternative narratives, Swapan Dasgupta, Member of Parliament and an experienced columnist eloquently summarized independent India’s illustrious journey. India’s independence besides, signaling emergence of modern nation states blew a formidable blow to European Colonialism. Though India was liberated from the shackles of the western colonial powers, Indian minds still plagued by subordination sought refuge in western compliance. Unfortunately, 800 years of formidable subjugation and foreign invasions endured by India stymied its sense of self-assurance.
The veneration, reverence, appreciation towards indigenous culture, identity and values have steadily eroded. As a result a counter-establishment strengthened by borrowed doctrines and narratives of foreign land began to dominate the Indian polity, media, intellectuals and academia. Anything remotely connected to India or emulating “Indianness” is undermined, alienated and subjected to scrutiny. Anything inherently Indian or indigenous is ridiculed. As a result, centuries old colossal Indian treasure troves remain unexplored, uncared and unused. It is time to resurrect, respect and uphold the values of our illustrious civilization; promote narratives that represent, reflect and uphold the aspirations of Indians.