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As Ram rises, Bharat too will

Author: Monica Verma
Publication: Dailypioneer.com
Date: January 21, 2024
URL: https://www.dailypioneer.com/2024/sunday-edition/as-ram-rises--bharat-too-will.html

India is on the cusp of a transformation. Nothing speaks this more than the sense of exhilaration in the air ahead of Ram Mandir inauguration in Ayodhya. There may be a small section which is associating the event with a particular political party, but largely across India, people are mostly engulfed in a sense of warm comfort that finally their revered God will be in a home of his own. That’s not it, there is a strong conviction even among the most elite and educated class that the Ram Mandir inauguration marks a moment of civilisational awakening in India. It is this India which is confident about its roots that Utpal Kumar is writing about in his latest book, Bharat Rising: Dharma, Democracy, Diplomacy.

As someone who has lived through the 1990s and 2000s and grown up watching Doordarshan, studied from NCERT textbooks and watched TV debates with one-sided panels full of Lutyens’ club members, the current India seems like a fundamentally changed country. When Kumar writes about this new India, he starts by outlining the characteristics of the Old India first. The old India refers to India under Congress rule where Jawaharlal Nehru may have been personally active only until his death in 1964 but the remnants of Nehruvian state continued to shine for nearly 50 years thereafter. Even Atal Bihari Vajpayee, a Prime Minister from the Sangh fold, hasn’t been spared by Kumar for being a Lutyens insider after all. The real change begins only with the current Prime Minister Narendra Modi who despite ruling for two consecutive terms hasn’t once bothered to co-opt the Lutyens coterie and vice versa.

Kumar points out the excesses of Nehruvian consensus in almost every single domain of Indian life including religion, domestic politics and international politics. He notes how an empowered section of historians continued to build their scholarship with no evidence in hand except their access to power corridors and their poor scholarship of cross-citing each other exclusively. The Indian state in its desperation to please the Left-’liberal’ lobbies world over, chose secularism which turned out to be Hindumisic in all its glory. Whether it was the forced imposition of personal laws on only Hindus, or the unspoken truth of state-sponsored violence against Brahmins and Dalits, or even the insertion of the very word ‘secular’ undemocratically by the Indira Gandhi government during Emergency in the Constitution, the Indian state has done more to damage the civilisational fabric of this country than to actually make India more egalitarian in character for all the religions.

Kumar’s book has focused on three important pillars of new India which include - Dharma, Democracy and Diplomacy. Each of them have been addressed through twelve eclectic essays that are a must-read for every young Indian in today’s date. Revisionist scholarship can sometimes pave the way for a more confident and self-secure polity. For instance, when Kumar talks about the “three musketeers” of India’s freedom struggle - Subhas Chandra Bose, VD Savarkar and BR Ambedkar and how they were personally hounded by Gandhi-Nehru regime for presenting an alternative idea of free India, then it justifies India’s current quest to gather tangible power something Bose actually did and also stay aware of the danger of pan-Islamism, something which Ambedkar warned about. Similarly when Kumar calls Marxist scholarship on India as a project to declare it as a “Railway Station” where no one is native and everyone including the Indians themselves have migrated, then it leads to a reckoning as to why the positioning of India as a civilisational state which it rightfully is leads to so much discomfort among the Left-’liberals’ today.

Kumar’s attention is not limited to domestic politics or dharma debates alone. He shifts his thoughts to the domain of international politics where early Indian leaders’ failure to read the political undercurrents has caused significant strategic damage to India. As an Indian who grudgingly looks at China today in terms of its economic size and geopolitical reach, I can’t but agree wholeheartedly with him. At a time when Beijing was courting Western powers to build its strength by showing them the chimera of an accommodative China, India was busy putting its foot on the diplomatic axe. We failed to read Mao’s aggression, we were busy identifying the good Pakistani from the bad Pakistani, and we kept on ignoring the friendly Japan and sympathetic US in the process. Kumar highlights this while also cautioning that India’s rise is not something to which US should be expected to commit unconditionally. Among other gems that this book offers, this one stands out for its sheer truth value. If China slows down, the daggers will be out for India’s rise and that’s already started to happen if we look at the West’s attitude towards India lately. We must always keep this in mind while focusing on our long-term future.

Overall, Kumar’s book is a sincere attempt in critiquing the old shibboleths and explaining why the new India must get rid of them to enable its rise globally. Every single country that has become a formidable power in the world had a set of people who were proud of their civilisational bedrocks and believed that they are destined for great things. In India, too much energy has been spent in pleasing the international lobbies - whether it includes nitpickers who cajole India to appease Islamists or the international press that vents out its hatred towards strong governments in India by shaming its democracy. Kumar has befittingly exposed them without any mercy at all. His book will be one for the keeps which must be read by every young Indian mind today. A great intellectual churn is going on and Utpal Kumar’s contribution to this would be notable.

- The reviewer is a columnist and a visiting faculty of International Relations at NECU, Dimapur. She completed her PhD from South Asian University and writes regularly on strategic affairs and foreign policy.

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