Isaiah Berlin, a British Jewish socio-political theorist, explained how negative liberty could be defined as freedom from coercion and positive liberty as the opportunity to strive to fulfill one’s potential. Berlin pointed out that these two different conceptions of liberty could clash with each other.
Hindu’s struggle for freedom from coercion started when Mahmud of Ghazni invaded the Indian subcontinent during the early 11th century to propagate Islam and extirpate idolatry. Apart from the massive loot, he was welcomed with the honors and accolades in the Islamic world for desecrating Hindu temples and idols. The Mughals ruled most of India in the 16th and 17th centuries. Calcutta came under the control of the East India company in 1696, and in the decades that followed Europeans and Europeans – backed by Hindu princes,most of the Mughal territory were conquered. As it turned out, India became the jewel in the crown of the British Empire. And, it took another 200 years, until 1947 when Labor government headed by Clement Attlee announced that Britain would leave India, divided, for Hindu majorities to initiate and achieve a negative liberty through non-violence.
The Swaraj, Patel-Gandhi’s idea, that Nehru dismissed as it was “out of tune with the economic and scientific requirements of India”, was to exert passive resistance, reasons that Swadeshi (self-reliance) be exercised by Indians, not under the English or Western heel, but under that of modern civilization. This brought one face to face with oft repeated, and Nehru and Patel sparred, over issue of ‘idea of India’.
After years of suppression and exploitation, Hindus have gradually started rising to mark their existence. When the clever ploy of British kept the Hindus and Muslims of India divided, the ordinary Hindus were learning how to fulfill their potential. When Congress was fighting each other over their religious differences, allowing the British rule to continue unimpeded and suppressing education for masses, the ordinary Hindus were studying in school, becoming educated to strive economic progress. When Congress Party came into power, they continued to ignore Hindu-Muslim conflicts in post-independence India, and all blame was conveniently heaped, in absentia, on the former colonists. The India’s so called secular party silently witnessed Maindai massacre in Agartala, Marichjhapi incident in West Bengal, ethnic cleansing of Hindu Pandits in Kashmir, Wandhama Prankote, Chapnari and Chamba massacre in J&K, Bagber massacre in Tripura, Kandhamal riot, Naxal massacre of 1971 in Calcutta, Sikh massacre of 1984 in Delhi and Mumbai massacre of 2008. During this phase, the ordinary Hindus were progressing to strive in agriculture, medicine, engineering, advertising, architecture, art, fashion and, above all, information technology revolution.
When India’s so called national party leaders were stashing Swiss bank accounts by selling Bofors and thereby India’s national security or allowing Hindus to be targets for religious conversion or using underworld mob financing Bollywood films or institutionalizing corruption to the extent there’s a parallel black-money economy or humiliating a prime minister and dedicated person like Manmohan Singh as puppet for their own economic expansion, the ordinary Hindus were selling tea, producing grains and vegetables, teaching students, manufacturing goods, offering services, exploring scientific discoveries, creating new ideas and avenues to strive to fulfill their potential.
The potential, as in Tagore’s word, “bharat abar jagat sobhay srestho ason lobe (India will become the leader of world again)
Yet again, their version of negative liberty has always transformed itself what Berlin had warned against. It became a version of its opposite – the positive liberty. These political leaders had the power to decide what is the “right” kind of free individual and punish those who do not conform to their ideal. Therefore, no one was surprised when the followers of that so-called secular party had chosen Sonia to maintain the dynasty and govern the nation. It was that hopelessness, support to uneducated mob with conflicting ideas and submission to their political whims and volition in the name of nationalism were as intolerant as they were with British.
So British media: if you want to promote and celebrate tolerance in India, you better stick the US and their allied losers who lead to corruption, manipulation of violence and tyranny, because ordinary Indians are way out of your league.
Today, when most freedom-seeking individuals are driven by a vision that freedom is for something – freedom to do or become something new out of which a better world would come, Hindus who practice negative liberty have no such vision. Their freedom is not for anything. At its heart, it has no purpose, other than to be free from unnecessary constraint and harm. It is still portrayed, as in Vedic culture, as universal absolute. Hindus escape from these limited worldview that re-discover progressive positive ideas of freedom that realize Isaiah Berlin was wrong and that not all attempts to change the world for the better necessarily lead to tyranny. As Berlin said, “Injustice, poverty, slavery, ignorance — these may be cured by reform or revolution. But humans do not live only by fighting evils. They live by positive goals, individual and collective, a vast variety of them, seldom predictable, at times incompatible.”
And, you know that. Don’t you?
– written by Prabir Sen
(Prabir is a management scientist in the US and Canada, a former Chief Data Scientist of Singapore Govt.)