As we celebrate another glorious year of Independence, the one unanswered question is – Are we really independent? While we have rightfully claimed our sovereignty from foreign rule seven decades ago, the country still seems to be captive of alien thoughts.
After a Herculean fight against the British, we may have attained political freedom and perhaps even some sort of economic freedom, thanks to the economic reforms of the 90s but Bharat, the land of the oldest civilization, is yet to achieve its cultural independence.
Sovereignty and Cultural Independence:
Sovereignty is a political concept. It means to gain absolute and ultimate authority over the political state, often expressed within its territory in full self-government and to attain complete freedom from any outside influence. Though we won our political freedom from the colonial powers, we have failed to decolonise our minds. Despite being the oldest civilisation, a strong independent movement to attain cultural superiority never took off. With India becoming a sovereign secular, socialist republic, the dream of a revolution to make the land of Bharat a cultural superpower fell apart.
India is a civilisational country. The common thread connecting all the citizens of the country is its civilisation values, which is often manifested with the ‘Hindu’ value system. The term ‘Hindu’, not only has religious connotations but has a larger civilisational and cultural expression. In a civilisational country like India, these cultures are often represented through various religions. India or Bharat, being a land of the oldest civilisation of the world has a unique set of value systems. From the days of Indus valley civilisation to Vedic era and from the time of Islamic invasion to the British era, there has been an unbroken chain of ideas, knowledge, culture, traditions have been transferred, keeping those unique civilisation values still intact.
However, when India attained its sovereignty, a section of the power structure in the country unleashed all its forces to obstruct the oldest civilisation in this world from exerting its value systems. A long concerted war has been waged through the country’s social and political institutions to subjugate a long cultural history.
As the British handed over the country to ‘responsible’ people a spirit of a new ‘India’ was conceived within an age-old civilisation of Bharat. A new political state was set up, with the then political bigwigs mainly from the Congress party. Having invested their capital during the national movement of independence, they quickly replaced their ‘white sahibs’. A new intellectual structure consisting of western educated elites, Britain-trained bureaucrats, the ‘secular-liberal’ minds got stitched to the Nehruvian political structure.
With Nehruvian socialism and secularism capturing the hearts and minds of Indians, the cultural movement took a back seat in Bharat. Even though there were attempts by certain historians, Indologists and intellectuals to carve out a space to disseminate our glory, the momentum was soon lost.
The diverse traditions and culture of an old civilisation were appropriated into the western framework. India is more than a nation-state. It is also a unique civilization with philosophies and traditions that are markedly distinct from the prevailing colonial culture of our times. In a way, the process of secularising and universalising the Hindu culture began with this western appropriation.
Perhaps, the structural changes in India during the 1970s had the greatest impact on the cultural movement within India. With the change of political setup in the country, a new intellectual setup replaced the Nehruvian era. After the demise of Nehru, his daughter Indira Gandhi took it forward. The Western-educated mediocrity once again got parachuted into the country. A new band of ‘Left-Liberals’ emerged.
The Marxist thought began to creep in as the Communists were now part of intellectual thought controlling the crowd. They were heading political, social and cultural institutions in exchange for their support to the prevailing political order. A new set of intellectuals and ‘Sarkari’ historians began to take control of the narrative. The stage was set for pushing their intellectual hegemony to attack the cultural movement of the country.
The new virtues of western universalism replaced the age-old values of Indian culture which began to impact the thinking of a common India. Western-educated elites, who were alienated from their own culture brought in what they thought was a highly secularized structure. It taught us to be ashamed of our culture, history, traditions and most importantly ourselves. We were probably closer to our roots during British rule than in the post-Independence era.
The hijacking of social institutions and remodelling the Constitution in accordance with their belief system impacted the cultural movement in the country. The Left won the intellectual battle by suppressing the mainstream cultural Indian society, especially the Hindus, who were rather helpless to fight over a dominant political force.
Thankfully, with changing political structure and resurrection of cultural forces in the intelligentsia lately, an opportunity is up for grabs for the cultural forces within the country to begin a movement. A fresh wave of a cultural renaissance seems to be emerging.
Why India needs Cultural Independence?
Hindu cultural ideals have become more universal than most of its opponents perceive it. The Hindu culture has given more to the world than it has received. With ideological movements like liberalism, feminism and even Islam which looks to expand its dominance across the globe, India will no longer be isolated. The future civilisation battles of the future will be fought here. This will have larger implications on our value system and culture. A strong intellectual-culture movement will act as a check to these expansionary ideological movements. Achieving a universal value system with Hindu civilisation at the fore-front of such movements is the need of the hour.
Along with this, a new dawn for India’s cultural movement has begun with the people of the land taking pride in expressing their belief system, faith and cultural values. There is already a concerted campaign initiated against the conservatives, who are fighting two and a half front war with leftists, Islamists and a new cabal of feminists.
But, the cultural movement in India, mainly pushed through the Hindus has finally discovered a method of countering these leftists who describe themselves as ‘liberals’ in the intellectual space. The “Culture War” that is raging today is a matter of existential concern for the left-liberals. They are now confronted by an opposition that is now willing to openly proclaim their culture, faith and believe that their ancestors and their legacy have been morally wronged by the current intellectual elite. With Narendra Modi in power and cultural organisation like RSS supporting him, the movement has got a shot in the arm.
Narendra Modi’s leadership now represents, for many Indians, a civilizational resurgence on a scale not seen since their country’s independence. Modi’s sweeping victory, in 2014 and 2019 reflects not just a desire for better governance but also a larger shift in the Indian worldview. For Modi’s supporters, and for Hindus in particular, Modi’s rise showcased India’s renewed sense of self as an ancient civilization on the threshold of a global rebirth.
The Hindus, who began a cultural movement earlier were filled with pessimism having made to feel ashamed of their own history, culture. However, they have now sensed that a large cultural movement is the need of the hour to attain the cultural glory that this civilisation deserves. They now realise that ‘nationalism’ is a way to be part of a cultural debate, which can give them the necessary to momentum to build on their struggle to free the intellectual space which has been hijacked and infested with the leftist propaganda.
As the cultural forces within the country now recognise that a cultural movement is on the verge of a new dawn, there is a sense of fresh hope among the Bharatiyas. That the time is ripe for a larger cultural independence movement in the country to attain the honour of being a ‘Vishwaguru’.