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Reinvent lost treasures of Indian knowledge in new format


As the preparations for the 2019 Lok Sabha elections have begun, the faction-ridden Opposition is leaving no stone unturned to cobble together alliances to take on the formidable Narendra Modi Government, which is hell-bent on correcting the historical mistakes and creating a new narrative of India’s intrinsic potential. Though it is too early to predict how the numbers game will be played out and who will shift loyalties, there is a strong feeling among the aam aadmi that another term to Modi will certainly brighten their prospects with a strong knowledge-based society making use of the indigenous resources.

In this perspective, it is pertinent to notice how the BJP Government has been systematically undertaking course correction: alternative perspectives are being debated in different areas, including science and social science; new empirical research works are being promoted to undo the colonial baggage on “distorted identity” of tribals in the post-Independence curriculum.

Vice-Chancellor of JNU Professor M Jagdesh Kumar has already initiated a process of learning from the practices of tribal culture. JNU is planning to set up a science and technology centre for tribal studies, where experts will evaluate ancient cures for various ailments. To begin with, research will be conducted in North-Eastern States like Tripura, where tribals have been using ethnomedicinal plants with anti-fertility properties for birth control.

The competitive narratives on Adivasis whether they are integral part of Indian communities spurred the RSS to point out the fact that “tribal” is a deliberate colonial construct in order to separate them from the large Hindu communities and barricade them in a secluded place.

The theory of insiders and outsiders is also advocated by Communist historians to weaken the ethos of India. The first occupancy theory does not hold water. Even the Constitution of India has failed to define the tribal community.

Article 342 of the Constitution merely says that the President may, by public notification, specify the tribes or tribal communities which shall for the purpose deemed to be the Scheduled Tribes.

Young scholar and Assistant professor of Central University of Jharkhand Rashwet Shrinkhal has explained that Adivasis are part of large Indian communities. Their language, outlook and other factors are similar to Hindu communities. Dr JH Hutton, the Commissioner of the Caste Census of 1931, carved out a separate category of “Tribal Religion” under the chapter on religion. Differentiating the “Tribal Religion” from Hinduism, he maintained that the “tribal religions represent, as it were, surplus material not yet built into the temple of Hinduism”.

In 1960, the President of India appointed the Scheduled Areas and Scheduled Tribes Commission under the Article 339 of the Constitution under the Chairmanship of UN Dhebar, who was entrusted to produce a report on the problems of the Scheduled Tribes.

The Commission reiterated that the Constitution of India did not define the concept of “tribe” and explained that “tribals” are groups of people living a secluded life and are not assimilated within the mainstream society.

It is significant to understand that in India the legal tribal status is not permanent. The groundwork done by the RSS in the different tribal States has thrown interesting results, challenging the theories propogated by Left-leaning thinkers.

The funding through missionaries, coupled with the support of the Congress, created a secluded world of tribes. The vacuum was filled with poison by the Communists. The old heritage of village structure was torn apart, the Jagmani system was disbanded and it all happened through the learning and teaching of modern education.

The rich treasure of India is untapped. If India claims rightly as a civilisational state, definitely it had a strong background of a state which we read in modern western theory.

Mahatma Gandhi once said, “If all the Upanishads and all the other scriptures are reduced to ashes, and if only the first verse in the Ishopanishad is left in the memory of the Hindus, Hinduism would live forever.”

Prof Amitabh Mattoo said, “If all the books on war and peace were to suddenly disappear from the world, and only the Mahabharata remained, it would be good enough to capture almost all the possible debates on order, justice, force and the moral dilemmas associated with choices that are made on these issues within the realm of international politics.”

These statements demand India look inwards rather than outwards for knowledge.

Dattatreya Hosabale, Sah-Sarakaryavah of RSS and thinker, advocated establishing an association which can initiate the process of creating Indian knowledge system. On his idea, Indian Social Science Association was established. Currently, the Indian Social Science Association, run by Professor ADN Bajpyee and Professor Sushma Yadav, is restructuring the India-centric social sciences rather than parroting western thoughts and thinkers.

Over a period of time, an untapped knowledge could be built through teamwork. But it needs support, financial and political. This could happen when the PM of India thinks about creating India’s own strategic culture. And all these could be achieved under the leadership of Modi.

Even the term Rashtra has to be understood in its cultural context. It’s not the same thing as the idea of nation, nationhood and nationalism that resulted from the 1648 treaty signed in Westphalia, Germany, by more than 100 European powers. Ideologue Govindacharya said, “That is Europe’s history and cultural background, not ours. Europe has its own ideas of individualism, of how the individual relates to the state.”

He continues, “India didn’t function along similar lines through its long history. Here, society was a more powerful entity than either the individual or the state. The term Rashtra is linked to the Sanskrit word raati; it means to give, to contribute. Rashtra is not nation state.”

He writes, “Instead, it draws from sanatan (timeless) traditions with their own values. It draws from the recognition of the divine in parents, in teachers, in guests, in the whole world and beyond. A society that lives by these values will produce a surplus, and will distribute its resources in a just manner; it will practise moderation in consumption, tempering its aspirations. Its values cannot be merely materialistic.”

The modern alternative structure of Indian knowledge is at nascent stage. It needs huge amount of financial support and political motivation. Many symposia and seminars have been organised to generate knowledge. Many young minds are working on it. But it is a back-breaking exercise. The way Yoga and Indian Diaspora in the different parts of the worlds have flourished indicates India is on its way to become world power. It is the need of the hour to choose such a Government that thinks and acts on the same line. The continuity of the Modi Government is required to tap India’s potential.

By Satish Kumar
(The writer is Head of the Department of Political Science, Central University of Haryana)

Courtesy: The Pioneer