Friday, September 24, 2010

Nationalism, a quandary for Savitri Erans

The last 50 years are just a speck in comparison to the 5000 years of history of India, yet phenomenal changes have occurred during this short span. Democracy has coagulated, no doubt, but nationalism remains nebulous. This fiercely contested turf has votaries of various hues. Vedanta, Ram, and Vande Mataram are at the one extreme while the post-partition boundary and the Constitution are at the other. Debates have drastically narrowed down their gap especially when religion is no longer untouchable but the jury is still out.

The issue, for the Savitri Erans, is a bit complicated. One section anchors the idea to the Bande Mataram phase of Sri Aurobindo. For another the Foundations is the bible. To a more liberal group The Ideal of Human Unity is the right base. To still others the August 15, 1947 Message constitutes a much broader framework. Each of these strands is quite impressive theoretically, but the problem is how to weave a viable fabric that is acceptable to the vast populace spread across diverse cultures.

Globalization is perceived in India basically as a euphemism for cultural adaptation and integration with the West; a continuation of the effects of colonialism. As a voluntary mode of embracing liberty and modernity this popular phenomenon has been unstoppable. The current ‘back-to-tradition’ policy in China, however, is apparently an interesting contrast. The future of nationalism against such a backdrop becomes all the more hazy.

The hybridity that The Mother & Sri Aurobindo have fabricated is a still more puzzling dimension. The Judeo-Vedic wisdom on the one hand and the Indo-French (East-West) cultural confluence on the other are decisive interventions the potential of which is difficult to predict at present. Nationalism can hardly breathe in such rarefied air.

These are politically explosive issues, especially when a surcharged atmosphere has built up around the Ayodhya verdict. It is essential that we discuss and debate these basic questions relating to our citizenship and social existence. A clear understanding conforming to our ideals can save us from falling prey to undesirable and emotive propaganda. [TNM]     

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