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November 1, 2008

Excerpts from “The Intellectual Scene in Post-Independence India” by Sh Gurumurthy

Filed under: common man, India, politics, social change — neosurya @ 11:32

Summary of an entry from Shantanu’s blog Building the Indian Mind – Brick by Brick. The entry contains excerpts from “The Intellectual Scene in Post-Independence India“ by Sh Gurumurthy. I would strongly recommend folks to read that article. It is very long, but it makes for very good reading.

Background: India before Independence
Let us see the pre-independence background, the intellectual content of India. See the kind of personalities who led the Indian mind Swami Vivekananda, Sri Aurobindo, Gandhiji, Tilak- giants in their own way….

The symptoms: India immediately after Independence

… Let us look at post Independence India. The persons who led post-Independence India were also trained in the same freedom movement. They went to jail, but they were not rooted in the intellectual content of the Freedom movement!

Secularism: A Reversal and perversion of the Indian mind.

And now, coming to what the position is today. Everything that drove the freedom movement- everything that constituted the soul of the Freedom movement, whether it is the Raamaraajya of Gandhiji or Sanaatana Dharma as Nationalism of Sri Aurobindo or the spiritual patriotism of Vivekananda or the soul stirring Vande Maataram song, came to be regarded not only as unsecular but as sectarian, communal and even as something harmful to the country.

Thus, there was a reversal, a perversion of the Indian mind. How did it occur? Today, the intellectualism of India means to denigrate India. There are mobile citizens and there are non-citizens deriding India, go to the Indian Airlines counter, you will find people deriding India. Go to the post office, they will deride India. Go to the railway station, they will deride India. It is the English educated Indians” privilege to deride India….

When I was talking to an audience of Postal employees in Madras, in the GPO (a majority of them who heard me were women). I told them the basic facts about the Post Office. I said it is one of the most efficient postal systems in the world, one of the cheapest in the world, one of the most delivery perfect postal systems in the world. For one rupee, you are able to transport information from one end of the country to the other….

….Somebody writes the address in Tamil and it gets delivered in Patna! It gets delivered to the Jawaan at warfront! When I completed my speech many of the women were wiping their tears. I asked why are you crying, I have only praised you. They said, “Sir, this is the first time we”ve been praised, otherwise we”ve only been abused!”….

Demonising India: Projecting a negative image.

This enormous intellectual failure, to the extent of being intellectually bankrupt, did not occur over night, it was no accident. There is a history behind this enormous erosion. And I told you about these mobile citizens, what they have done to us. Every country has problems. There is no country without any problem. Are you aware of what is one of the most pressing problems in America today? It is incurable according to the American sociologists; even American economists have begun to agree with them. American politicians are shaken, one third of the pregnant women are school going children. And mothers mix the anti-pregnancy pill in the food without her knowledge everyday.

But this is not the image of America. The image of America is a technologically advanced country etc. etc. Ours is the only country where the mobile citizens of India have transformed the problems of India into the image of India-its identity.

Go to any country and the same negative stereotype is echoed that India is suffering from poverty and malnutrition. India has no drinking water. Indian women are all burnt. If they are married, they are burnt, if they are widows, they are burnt. See the image that has been built about this country. Who did this? The English educated Indian.

….. “Mr. Gurumurthy”, she said, “Mr. Carter is not around, anyway, I can spare seven-eight minutes for you.” I said three or four minutes of your time would do. Even before I could start, she said, “Mr. Gurumurthy, we don”t have funds, we will not be able to help” (laughter from the audience). I replied, “Let us assume you have a hundred billion dollars, how much will you give me? One billion? One million?” She kept quiet, “I don”t need your money. I came here to discuss whether community living is an answer to disputes. I have come to discuss this because you have suggested electoral means to resolve problems in communities which have no damn idea of what an election is; whether community living is an answer because you don”t what that means. She sat and discussed this with me for two hours. This is the image we have projected that anybody, who comes from India, comes to beg. Ordinary Indians did not create this impression; educated Indians created it. This is the work of civil servants, NGOs. Christian missionaries during the freedom movement created this. …..

Indian Politics: Weaknesses and Pitfalls

….Instead of politics restructuring caste, caste has restructured politics today. Political parties are talking only in terms of castes. Has any Indian intellectual come to terms with caste? You must understand caste if you want to handle the Indian society. You cannot say that I want to have a very different kind of society. You have to handle the Indian sentiment, the Indian tradition, Indian beliefs. You can’t clone a society of your choice in India. Social engineering has failed everywhere; the masters of social engineering have given up the communists- whether it is sociologists or economists you have to accept a society as it is…But, Indian leaders and intellectuals, till today, keep abusing caste. They don”t know how to handle caste.

…… And what happened in the case of secularism? In India, any one who is not a Hindu is per se secular. In the year 1957, just 10 years had passed after the Muslim League demanded and got the country partitioned, the leader who voted for the resolution for the partition of India was Quazi Millath Ismail, (who was leading the same Muslim League on the Indian side), the Congress certified that the Muslim League in Kerala is secular and hence it can associate with them. The Muslim League outside Kerala is communal with the same President! Three hundred and fifty crores are spent today for the Haj pilgrims out of the funds of secular India every year. No one can raise an objection.

At least I can understand why politicians don’t want to do that because they want the Muslim votes. But, what about the intelligentsia. What about newspaper editors and journalists? And academicians? None of them speak out. The reason is that we have produced a state dependent intellectualism in India. We don”t produce Nakkeerans anymore, our intellectualism is a derivative of the State and the State is a derivative of the polity. And in turn the polity is a derivative of the mind of Macaulay and Marx.

Marx on India

….Many of you may not be aware that the kings in India had no right to over the lands, which came under the jurisdiction of any panchayat. Whether it was Emperor Ashoka or Bhagavan Sri Ramachandra, the rule was the same. It was changed only during the British rule under the Ryotwari system, even the Mughals could not change it. It was also found that family communities were based on domestic industry, with the peculiar combination of hand-spinning, hand- weaving, agriculture etc. which gave them a supporting power.

The misery inflicted by the British on Hindusthan is of an entirely different kind and infinitely more intense than what it had to suffer befo
re civil wars, invasions, revolutions, conquests, famines all these did not go deeper than the surface.

But, England broke the entire framework of Hindusthan, the symptoms of reconstitution are yet to emerge clearly. This loss of the Old World without the emergence of a new order imparts a particular melancholy to the present misery of Hindus and Hindusthan. Marx goes on to say that the British interference destroyed the union between agriculture and the manufacturing industry. Suddenly he remarks that the English interference dissolved this semi barbarian, semi-civilised community. ….

Labels: Tools for stultifying important debates

…. A multireligious idea, a multireligious living, a multireligious culture, a multireligious fabric or a multi religious structure was unknown outside India. There was usually only one faith and no place for any other, not even for a variation of the same faith.

Fifty six thousand Bahais were butchered in one hour in Tehran! They believed in the same Koran, in the same Muhammad, the only difference was that they said that Muhammad might come in another form again. That was their only fault and they were all butchered.

But we have no such problem. We can play with God, we can abuse God, and we can beat God!

If I say that monotheistic religions have had a violent history, and the reply will be “you are communal.” But this is exactly the same conclusion that a study in Chicago revealed, probably, the only study on fundamentalism conducted by anybody so far. This fundamentalism project brought out five volumes each volume about eight hundred to nine hundred pages. The conclusion they have reached is that, “Fundamentalism is a virtue of Abrahamic religions. It is not applicable to eastern faiths at all.

What about the Indian intellectuals? Day in and day out, they keep abusing us as fundamentalists, communalists, that we are anti-secular and it is being gulped down by everyone including those from the IITs and IIMs, lawyers and police officials, journalists and politicians. Look at this intellectual bankruptcy. ….

An inner revolution: The much needed change

We need a mental revolution, an inner revolution; we need to get rooted in our own soul. There is a missing element in India today and it is this. That element has to be restored otherwise Indian intellectualism will only be a carbon copy of Western intellectualism. We are borrowing not only their language and idiom but we trying to copy the very soul of the West.

…. Consider for example how thirty years before there was a question whether Tamil Nadu will be a part of India or not. The Dravidian parties have taken over the mind of Tamil Nadu. It had virtually ceased to be a part of India. And their attack was aimed at Hinduism, the moment you attack Hinduism you attack India. This is a fact. Neither politicians nor intellectuals nor academicians realised this. But, the ordinary people did. Just three religious movements- the Ayyappa movement, the Kavadi movement and the Melmaruvatthur Adi Para Sakti movement- have finsihed the Dravidian ideology to a very great extent. It is only the outer shell of Dravidianism that remains today. Tamil Nadu has been brought back successfully by Ayyappa, Muruga and Para Sakti, not by the Congress or the BJP or any other political party.

How many people have intellectually assessed the depth and the reach, the deep influence of religion over the people? A paradigm shift in a study of India would be an intellectual approach to this subject. Or consider for example its influence on economics. Many of you by now would have studied economics in some detail. Take a look at the society in India and compare the figures for public expenditure for private purposes, which is called the social security system in the West. 30% of the GDP in America is spent for social security, 48% in England, 49% in France, 56% in Germany and 67% in Sweden. This private expenditure is nothing but what you and I do by taking care of parents, our wives and children, brothers and sisters and grandparents, widowed sisters and distant relatives. This expenditure is met by the society in India.

And there is no law in India that people should do this. We consider it as our dharma. A person went to a court and demanded a divorce from his father and mother. The American court granted it saying that the only relationship that exists between two persons of America is their citizenship. The law in America recognises no other relationship … In the year 1978, an interesting incident occurred in Manhattan. There was a power failure for six hours. Manhattan is in the heart of New York where you find the UN building, the World Trade Centre and the head quarters of many multi-national companies. One third of the world”s health is concentrated in Manhattan. Within six hours, hundreds of people were killed, robbed and assaulted. We don”t need electricity to behave in a civilised manner. How many intellectuals in India have ever articulated from such a sympathetic approach? We have only tarnished the image of this country. We must be ashamed of this.


… Sri Aurobindo used to always look at a mystic called Kullachamy (Subramanya Bharati has written a poem about him). He used to behave like a madman, wandering here and there, throwing stones … One, day he came near Sri Aurobindo, lifted his cup of tea and emptied it in front of him. Then he showed the empty cup to him, placed it on the table and went away. Sri Aurobindo”s friends were angry and wanted to chase him, Sri Aurobindo stopped them and said, “This is the kind of instruction I had been expecting from him. He wants me to empty my mind and start thinking afresh.”

That is my appeal to you.



  1. Renjith, your article is very interesting, and has a significant overlap with my thoughts. You should consider looking at looking into fiscal policy matters. I hope you had a chance to look at Freedom Team of India:

    Comment by Life Earth — November 28, 2008 @ 19:02

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