This year, we completed 68 years of India’s Independence. For the life of a nation, 68 years is not a very long time. But it certainly is not a short time either. Many nation republics have done more than what we could do in almost similar time or even less.
But then countries like Singapore or China or even South Korea cannot be models for India given the marked differences that are there demographically, politically and culturally.
Even otherwise, comparisons are not always rational. Further, many countries have fared worse also in somewhat similar timeframe. For instance, there is no Union of Soviet socialist republic today, the so-called Bolshevik revolution, notwithstanding.
However, the more important question is where do we go from here? That is, what is the agenda for India. Agenda that is consciously chalked out. After all, that is what will determine our future course of action, but for that we need to look back and introspect. Introspect to find out how we began, where have we come and where do we want to go? And also, was the journey undertaken in the best possible way?
For this we must have an idea of India. That India was once known for its intellectual, spiritual and economic status is a historically accepted fact. Mind you, these are not imaginary ideas of an Indophile. These are facts of history that were recorded by foreign scholars and Indologists like AL Bhasham or Max Mueller or experiences of Chinese scholars like Fa Hienor Huen Sang.
For that matter even Robert Clive’s writing may be referred to. His awe at the prosperity of a place like Murshidabad speaks volumes. There is certainly a need to think beyond the stock markets and mobile phones. We need to think rationally as to how best we can capitalise our strengths while making our weaknesses irrelevant. But to do this we must be very clear as to what we want and what we can do.
Ancient India was a great civilisation in the past and a world guru. It had its own standards admired by the world. From commerce to education, India was globally admired. We had universities which were truly global in character. Our traders were net exporters. We need to think where things drifted and why. It was the medieval scourge that was responsible for this.
The centuries of subjugation made a severe dent to our attitude which was a result of a gradual conditioning due to subservient mindset. From the Mughals to the Europeans, particularly the British imperialist powers, they all somehow ingrained a kind of inferiority syndrome in vast majority of Indians that we are still struggling to rid ourselves from. From the ancient to the medieval to the modern, history has changed.
But what is important is to understand that histories impact attitudes through interpretation of incidents and events stamping the minds.
As such history plays a major role in attitude formation and subsequent behavioural change. If the ancient gave us complacence, the medieval gave us a bruised sense of self belief. It is time we thought of strategies to change these. One way probably is to think more objectively why we should not allow others to set our agenda. It is time to stop wondering we Indians, why Indians. We need to think be Indian, buy Indian and subsequently we Indian, I Indian.
The writer is a professor, Indian School of Mines, Dhanbad (Jharkhand). He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org