To show the world the way, follow Gandhi’s example
Hatred and war-mongering are becoming the order of the day. Climate change could pose a risk to the existence of humanity or, at the least, our way of life. Many of the problems that threaten the planet and the human race have almost exclusively been birthed in countries that have been the world’s superpowers over the past 150 years.
India can show the way, but it will have to get its act together.
Humaneness is a good starting point. India has had no shortage of great humanists in the past. But would Mahavira, Buddha, even Ashoka, and, more recently, Mahatma Gandhi, have recognised Hindutva as the way of life of their times?
How far has it moved away from the compassion of the great sages that enriched Hinduism and mankind?
Hinduism, which is often referred to as Sanatan Dharma, has no founder. It is a code of ethics, a value system, and a way to enlightenment and liberation. It is one of the most ancient and vibrant living traditions in the world.
Yet, Hindutva, as practised today, is not inclusive, nor as compassionate as it could be. An increasing number of hate crimes are coming to light — quite possibly because of better reporting.
Then, there is also the issue of the number of people with criminal charges against them (including serious ones) being elected to positions of power. Winnability is the main criterion for candidate selection across parties, but it cannot be an excuse for not cleansing the system.
These people also end up controlling the police system in their fiefdoms. Had it not been for the higher-level judiciary, many cases would have gone unpunished.
Still, India remains a vibrant democracy. The vast majority of Indians are proud of the country’s plurality and diversity. Past elections have seen the electorate make even the most powerful leaders bite the dust.
And despite everything, India continues to be one of the most open societies in the world. The judiciary zealously guards its independence. The Indian Army is easily one of the most apolitical armies in the world. The Indian diaspora, wherever they have dispersed, have proved to be law-abiding and hard-working, enriching themselves and the countries where they have settled.
To move from here to showing the world the way, political leaders should follow the example of Gandhi.
One of his favourite hymns was “Vaaishnav jan to tene kahiye jo peed parayi jane re” (a Vaishnav person is one who feels the pain of others). With the celebration of the Mahatma’s 150th birth anniversary still fresh in their minds, the time has come for our leaders to ask themselves the question: “Is the country becoming a compassionate and humane society that feels the pain of others?”
Prime Minister Narendra Modi has emerged as one of the strongest leaders in India. He started his second term by emphasising the need to make the minorities secure in India.
If, by the end of his second term, he can ensure this, he can lay claim to being one of the tallest leaders of our time. Everything else will follow.