Nurturing Young Minds

Nurturing Young Minds

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Total Revolution or Sampurn Kranti vs Integral Revolution or Samagra Kranti

Integral revolution or Samagra Kranti is a simple concept. It consists of two interrelated concepts: integral and revolution.
 We must first understand what a revolution is, and how it differs from evolution and development. Revolution, like evolution and development, is change. It is, however, rapid change. If the country achieves in 60 months what it achieved in the past 60 years, it would be called development, or, more appropriately, rapid development. If, however, what could not be achieved in 60 years is achieved in 60 weeks, it can legitimately be called a revolution.
Evolution of homo sapiens sapiens from homo erectus took billions of years. During this long course of evolution spanning milliions of years, Nature essentially worked on enlarging the brain of the two-legged species from three centimeters to around nine, adding many functions to the brain that were not yet available to other species, like self-awareness and logical reasoning. If, in the next ten years, through genetic engineering and other artificial means, further functions are added to the brain, like extra sensory perception that includes knowing events taking place at a distance, it would be a revolution. It is possible that natural evolution might have added this function in the normal course of evolution in another million years. If this course of change is made to shrink to a decade, it is without doubt a revolution.
Revolution, therefore, is very rapid change.
Both revolution and development imply change. However, in both cases, this change is in a direction which is considered by a vast number of people desirable and positive.  
Thanks to the quality of violence to attract attention, historians have been prone to portraying with greater vividness and interest such revolutionary changes that took place in human history as were induced by violent means. Due to the way the text books of history are prepared, it has often been presumed that whenever there is a revolution or a very rapid change in a desirable direction, it could only be through violence. The French Revolution was a product of violence. The Russian Revolution was also a product of huge organised violence. China underwent a revolution that changed the course of the history of nearly one-fifth of humanity again through violent methods. No wonder the word revolutionis found carrying with it the odour of violence.
Till the 1940s, the average life expectancy of the people in most parts of the world was around 20 years. After the discovery of penicillin in the year 1926, combined with further developments in the medical sciences and health services, the average life expectancy has risen to 67 years in India, and around 90 years in Europe, America and Japan. What could not happen in several millennia has happened in a few decades. This is a revolution, a silent revolution, not induced by violent methods, but by application of human mind, andorganised systematic endeavor. It may be said that technology is more amenable to peaceful revolutions than culture. However, there are instances in which great cultural changes have been induced through methods other than violence. The hierarchical caste system in India is one such instance. For more than a millennium the lower castes of India had to put up with lack of vertical mobility in social status, and, in certain cases, untouchability. In less than a century their social conditions have undergone a sea change. This has been partly because of social reform movements in India in the 19th and 20th centuries, stringent legal provisions against untouchability, and legal empowerment of those castes and communities. A similar revolutionary change can be seen in respect of apartheid in the USA. All this is nothing less than a revolution. And this cultural revolution did not come about through violence. Many historians would still insist that political domain is seldom amenable to revolutionary changes through non-violent methods. Such historians need to look into the vast political changes brought about through non-violent struggle in the not-so-distant past in India, under the leadership of Mahatma Gandhi. Political changes do certainly need struggle, sometime intense and protracted struggle, but struggles need not necessarily be violent. The negative social cost of violent revolutions is very high. The Russian and Chinese revolutions claimed millions of lives. The women, children and parents of the ‘reactionary’ people killed, or the members of the bourgeois class butchered, survived only to suffer an intolerable existence full of depression, agony and multiple deprivations. Violence always arouses both among the perpetrators of violence and the victims of violence intense negative emotions that sap happiness and breed misery. True that Russia and China progressed a good deal after the violent revolutions, but India is not very far behind. The USSR, which forcibly cobbled together through revolutionary violence various nationalities into one union, has already crumbled. It is to be seen how long China is able to suppress freedom and democracy through violent means. In the long run violence as the agent of change may prove counterproductive. Ahimsa has been one of the principal norms set by all religions of Indian origin, and it is not surprising that the Indian civilization is the only ancient civilization the flow of history of which never dried up through the millennia that it traversed. It has repeatedly proved it resilience, and its capacity to bounce back.
The point that is sought to be driven home is that revolutions can be non-violent. This platform for integral revolution, called the Samagra Kranti Manch, intends to bring about a non-violent revolution in India in the days to come. It seeks to bring about a change in months and years that could not happen in decades and centuries.
The Samagra Kranti Manch also intends to bring about an integral revolution or a Samagra Kranti. Samagra Kranti or integral revolution is a rapid change across the gamut of human affairs, including the political system, economic affairs, the state of society, poverty, education, religious and spiritual consciousness, and all other important spheres. It envisages a revolution in the conditions of the minorities, the Dalits, and the scheduled Tribes. This cannot happen unless there is also a revolutionary change in the consciousness of the majority community.
A society is usually like an organic entity. Its different organs and systems are interrelated, and clearly influence each other. In the human body, a hand can move forward ahead of the body, when the body walks. But the rest of the body has to catch up before the hand can move further forward. The same applies to the body of the society. One organ of the society cannot move forward too far, leaving behind the rest of the body. If it does, serious anomalies and problems arise. In the case of India, naxalism is such a problem, which has arisen due to a section of Indians moving too far ahead without the rest of the Indians, especially those in the rural areas, catching up with them in the march of progress.
India has been moving in slow motion. It has to gain momentum. It has two switch modes – from evolution to revolution, from stagnation to rapid change. But if there is rapid change in one sphere, leaving other spheres and changed, serious anomalies and problems will arise. The only way to prevent these anomalies and problems is to aim at integral revolution, a revolution that encompasses all important domains and spheres of Indian life.
Total Revolution is sometimes understood as complete change in all spheres. In this sense, it is important to bear in mind that there is a significant difference between integral revolution and total revolution. Total revolution, in the sense of complete change, is sheer impossibility. At any time there cannot be a complete change in a culture or civilisation. Nor is it desirable. For any change to happen constructively, it has to be managed properly. Change without proper change management can be disastrous. A civilization cannot be simply uprooted from its history and ethos. Whatever the pace of change, and howsoever great the pace of change, a civilization has to grow from its roots. If it does not, again serious anomalies and problems may arise. This is already evident at this juncture of growth of Indian civilisation, which, under the impact of the West, appears to be crumbling under confusion of systems and values. Not that the Sitar and the Guitar cannot come together to produce good music. But they have to be closely synchronized.  Or else, shrilling noise may be the result. In any case the guitar cannot take away the beauty and depth of the Sitar’s serene notes.
Integral revolution is not total revolution in the sense elaborated above. It is huge change, great change, but not complete and total change. But it is integral change, a change integrating and encompassing all different spheres and domains.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Call of History: Generating devastating energy through the force of fusion

India seems to be heading for another tryst with destiny: tryst of a kind that may be unheard of in Indian history, when the people of the country will pit themselves against the establishment run by men and women elected by their own ballots.  A chapter of this saga has already been scripted by the blood spilled by the bullets of people that have displaced the establishment from nearly one third of the rural landscape of India under the banner of the ultra-leftists. The echo of the shots of their bullets has, however, failed to enter the deaf ears of the men and women sitting in parliament and the legislatures, and to make them see sense. The bullets have failed because the establishment has a thousand bullets to match every anti-establishment bullet. This is why Gandhi had cautioned: “They want to drag us to a plane where they have the weapons and we do not; we have to bring the battle to a plane where we have the weapons and they have not.” This message of the Mahatma reverberates with equal resonance across the length and breadth of the country even today.

Sundar Lal Bahuguna fasts and fails: the Tehri dam is built. Medha fasts and fails: the Sardar Sarovar Dam rises in height. Anna fasts and fails: the Lokpal bill is put on the backburner. Ramdev fasts and fails: the black money stashed away in foreign banks is not brought back to India. The message is loud and clear: revolution and macro-level change will only come through sending people with integrity and vision to the parliament and legislatures. In other words, the route to revolution lies essentially through politics.

But honest and capable people cannot go to the parliament and state legislatures because of the faulty political and electoral architecture of today that make money and muscle power decisive factors in winning elections. Neither the NDA nor the UPA have tried to change this architecture because their members sitting in parliament and state legislatures, who were expected to bring about the systemic changes, would kill their own chances of getting reelected if they changed the system. Therefore, a new political party with a chain of revolutionary leadership driving it has to come up that could provide an alternative to the existing corrupt political outfits.

In the wake of this realization, there are social activists’ groups that have already decided to take to politics. There is a group, for example in Andhra Pradesh, that has already done this several years back, but has been unable to send its men in any significant numbers to the state assembly. There are other groups readying to join the arena with honest intentions and a constructive agenda.

But all fail to discern the writing on the wall: Nothing will happen unless all come together on one political platform, smothering their individual and organizational egos, and subordinating the personal and organizational aspirations to the aspirations of the people of India. If multiple parties are formed, votes will invariably get split, leading again to nowhere.

Longing for leadership and positions of power and identity is nothing new. It is the nature of ordinary mortals. But ordinary mortals do not bring lasting revolutions – much less a non-violent revolution. Let us take a leaf out of the Indian national movement and the life of its leader M. K. Gandhi. On his final return from South Africa in 1915 Gandhi got actively associated with the Indian National Congress, but he never sought a position of formal authority in the Congress. When he initially attended a Congress session he claimed no position of power in the organization. Instead, he asked for a humble and entirely non-political job: the job of cleaning the toilets at the convention. In 1921, he was given “full executive authority” by the Congress to lead the mass movement. Still he did not agree to become the president of the Congress. He became the president of the Indian National Congress only once, in 1924, and never again. And yet Congress worked under his leadership till India won Independence.

He never staked his claim to leadership; he was persuaded to be the leader.

The message is loud and clear. Join a new national political outfit seeking to be a servant and not the master. Negotiate for no post or formal positions. Work your way upward, if you so want, through your work and service. Come together unconditionally to form the new political alternative, and then let the people in the party decide from time to time who could and should lead.

Coming together is easier said than done. Every group wants to change the country on its own, and alone. No group or individual thinks it is less important than anybody else. Under these circumstances, one way to go about forging a truly national alternative is to follow this path: A respectable organization, which is not yet in the arena, should come forward as a mediator and counselor. It should talk to the different players going to enter the political arena, who are non-communal and believe in non-violence, and, in consultation with them, should set up an exalted ‘jury’ of five eminent non-political citizens who would not be related to the emerging players in the field. It these players do not cooperate, the jury should still go ahead. It should set up a website and invite online and offline applications of individuals for joining the new national political outfit with their CVs containing not only their qualifications but also their record of social service and contribution to the society. The jury should also put in brief the basic ideological principles of the proposed political party on the Net around which the people who broadly agree with the ideology could gather.  It may be remembered that people who are ideologically poles apart cannot constitute a coherent and lasting political group. Obviously, not all self-respecting individuals would like to ‘apply’. Therefore, people may also be asked to recommend suitable individuals they might know. From the most eligible persons, after due inquiry and deliberations, the first 500 people from different states may be selected by the jury to form the first core of the national party.

As said, few eminent people with integrity and vision would ‘apply’ or stand in a queue to join the new political alternative. They have to be invited and persuaded. When Gandhi went to Bihar, he inquired about persons who would be bright, honest and selfless. Among the few names that he got, one was of Dr. Ranjendra Prasad. He visited his house, but Dr. Prasad was not there. He left a message that he liked meeting the remarkable gentleman. Dr. Prasad was quick to join Gandhi in his work. When Gandhi went to see a group of people in a Gujrat club, they were drinking and playing cards. On learning that Gandhi was coming, all of them concealed their bottles, but Ballabh Bhai Patel did not. Gandhi knew he had struck upon a national leader with great strength and conviction. He invited him. The jury, assisted by the organization that sets up the jury, has to undertake a similar treasure hunt.

Finally when the first 500 core members of the new political outfit are in place, the Jury will be dismantled  and these 500 people will take over, though the Jury will, before being dismantled, facilitate an election for the Party President and the Executive Committee. The first 500 people will vote to elect their leader and the working committee, and will also finalize the agenda, and then launch themselves on the historic voyage.

As regards ideology, our own national movement is the best example. Those who were ideologically poles apart could not work together, like Gandhi and Bhagat Singh and, later, Gandhi and Subhash. But those who were not poles apart, even if they were ideologically not identical, like Gandhi and Nehru, worked together. Tilak and Gokhle, and their ‘Garam Dal’ and ‘Naram Dal’, were also quite different in approach but they cannot be said to have been ideologically poles apart.  The then Congress Party was in many ways an umbrella organization, sheltering within itself radical socialists, traditionalists and even Hindu and Muslim conservatives. What held them together was the bond of patriotism, and a belief in non-violence in the sense of not recognizing the need for an armed struggle, which can even today bind together widely disparate groups. History is calling. The call must be heeded by all – left, right and center.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Revolution without Ideas

(This article was published in the Times of India, 1st August, 2012 as the main editorial page article, with minor editing to reduce the word count. However, the article's title was changed by them to 'Revolution without Ideas' from the original 'The Hunger of Anna Hazare'.)

Anna or some of his team members are expected to again sit on a hunger strike in Delhi to press for enactment of an effective Lokpal Bill to curb corruption among the top echelons of the Indian Establishment. In a country where millions of people go hungry every day out of compulsion without attracting any special notice, remaining hungry voluntarily for days and weeks at a public place to press a public cause has always attracted great public attention and adulation.  But fasting with such frequency and with such vehemence to press the noblest of all causes today – prevention of corruption – has seldom been witnessed in Independent India before.  No surprisingly, it has attracted unprecedented attention and well-deserved public adulation. 
However, while undertaking repeated fasts for enactment of an effective Lokpal Bill underlines the unwavering commitment and courage of team Anna, it at the same time highlights certain other facts. It shows that they are not trying to  build a parallel mass base on the strength of a constructive program that would catch the fancy of the nation and its people, as was done by Gandhi. The weapon of fasting is the last weapon in the armoury of a non-violent movement, and its too frequent use tends to blunt the edge of the weapon. While Gandhi, the creator of this weapon, used this weapon on many occasions, he had many other weapons in his armoury, especially his constructive programme. The Anna team does not seem to have in their armoury any other weapons of mass mobilization or social reconstruction. Resorting to frequent fasts highlights this fact. Fasts, undertaken by whosoever - and this does not exclude Gandhi - have an element of drama and suspense in it, and therefore they do attract a lot of public attention. But getting the nation's attention frequently in this manner alone poses a danger for team Anna: the team might ultimately be reduced in public image to the status of a brave drama troupe of a very high order, and they might finally look, in nature if not in magnitude of impact, like a street-play group that has very good intentions of inducing social change and creating social awareness. While all such groups are highly laudable, all of them need to go beyond street-plays, if they are really serious about social change and about national reconstruction.
On the JP movement of the seventies, Naipaul wrote in ‘India: A Wounded Civilization’: “The revolution was an expression of rage and rejection; but it was a revolution without ideas. It was an emotional outburst, a wallow; it would not have taken India forward...” Though harsh in tone and tenor, the comment conveys a certain point. The JP movement, which was without doubt the most powerful protest movement that took place in Independent India, left important lessons for the posterity of revolutionaries and reformers that wanted to bring a macro-level change in the country. JP once himself wrote that for a revolution to succeed it required a revolutionary leadership as well as a revolutionary organisation. JP forgot to mention that it also required a revolutionary program of action.  In the case of the JP movement, only one component was present: a revolutionary leadership. There had been no attempt to build a revolutionary organisation to assist the leadership and no revolutionary program of action put together in a neat accessible document which could possibly have taken the form of a manifesto or a book on Total Revolution detailing a broad roadmap for change. It was not therefore surprising that the movement failed. 
After JP’s, Anna’s is the second powerful movement of a Pan-Indian nature that seeks to bring about a macro-level change in the country in a non-violent manner in the post-Independence India. However, it needs to learn a good deal from both the Gandhi-led movement before Independence, and the JP-led movement of the seventies. While being entirely laudable for its persistence, commitment and courage, Anna’s movement suffers from many pitfalls which it must seek to address. If Anna’s group had projected itself just a pressure group for fighting corruption, these pitfalls would not be evident. However, Anna’s hunger seems to be wider. After breaking the August, ’11 fast Anna said he was hungry for nothing less than a total revolution, which put his group in a different perspective, whetting the nation’s appetite for more and more.
There is one point that is better not forgotten. Mahatma Gandhi once said that fasting might not succeed against ‘tyrants’. Team Anna will do well to understand that they are up against people who are no less than ‘tyrants’, who perpetuate the tyranny of compelling millions and millions of Indians to languish in abject poverty year after year and decade after decade by siphoning of tons of public money day in and day out, thus making a farce of governance and development. This is not to say that the tyranny of the powers-that-be does not have to be dealt with resolutely, and no fasts have to be undertaken. But the strategy to deal with these tyrants, who are bent upon postponing the creation of an effective anti-corruption watch-dog body, has to be redesigned. This redesigning would be impossible unless certain fundamentals were understood clearly. These fundamentals are that the movement has to be made more holistic, there has to be a larger vision and road map for the country set forth and made public to give it a sound theoretical foundation and respectability, a concrete country-wide and on-going constructive programme has to be undertaken, and a revolutionary organisation has to be created that is trained in non-violence not as a policy but as a creed. In addition, the onslaught has to be not against one party or individuals aligned to one party but against all parties that are besmirched in corruption. Selective onslaught has made the Anna movement appear to many like a partisan and political movement designed to damage the political prospects of one party, and to benefit another almost equally corrupt party, which has some of the world’s most corrupt governments today in certain Indian states. This perception, if it grows further, is bound to take away much of the moral quality of the Anna movement which initially made it the darling of the masses and the youth, when Anna undertook his historic 12-day fast in Ramlila Maidan in Delhi in August, 2011. In addition, the organisation that carries out the movement does not have to acquire the perception of being led by a coterie: it has to be broadened with fresh inductions on the basis of merit and a transparent system, and organisational elections based on democratic principles. The closest example is the Indian National Congress of the olden times, which was founded and controlled by a British civil servant – A.O. Hume – in the beginning, but which was gradually allowed to evolve into a vehicle of revolution and mass participation, allowing different capable people to take up leadership at different times based on democratically conducted organisational elections. The sooner this is understood the better for team Anna and, perhaps, the country. 

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Anna Hazare and Company

Anna Hazare and Arvind Kejriwal's campaign against corruption, and for the Lok Pal, is without doubt laudable,  and needs the country's support. It underlines their commitment, perseverance and courage. However, it also highlights certain other facts. It shows that the are not trying to build parallel  mass base on the strength of a constructive program that would catch the fancy of the nation and its people. The weapon of fasts is the last weapon in the armory of a non-violent movement,  and  its too frequent use tends to rob the weapon of its impact. Gandhi, the creator of this weapon, used this weapon very sparingly, as the last resort when everything else failed. This 'everything else' was important to Gandhi as he had may other weapons, the most powerful being his constructive program. The Anna team does not seem to have in their armory any other weapon of mass mobilization or social reconstruction. Resorting to frequent fasts highlights this fact. This is pathetic. Fasts, undertaken by whosoever, and this does not exclude Gandhi, have an element of drama and suspense in it, and therefore they do attract a lot of attention. But getting the nation's attention in this manner poses a danger for team Anna : the team might ultimately be reduced in public image to the status of a drama troupe of a very high order, and they might finally look, in nature if not in magnitude of impact, like a nukkad-natak or street-play  group that has very good intentions of inducing social change and creating social awareness. While all such groups are highly laudable, all of them need to go beyond street-plays, if they are really serious about social change and national reconstruction. I propose to write at length on  this subject, but for now, no more.