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Indigenous Ethos Under Siege In The Practice Of Indian Democracy

R. S. Ayyar

The Indic Center at the University of Massachusetts, Dartmouth, organized an invited talk by leading economist-cum-politician Dr. Subramanyam Swamy on August 1st. The Chancellor of the University, Dr. McCormick presided.

In her opening remarks, Dr. McCormick expressed her happiness and appreciation of the activities of the Center for Vedic Studies started in her University which is nearly 100 years old. "Wisdom and knowledge are the two guiding beacons which will help the present generation to have mutually beneficial interaction," said McCormick. Dr. Balram Singh introduced the speaker and mentioned that recent DNA spectrum studies have clearly indicated that from time immemorial all Hindus belong to the same race falsifying the theory of an Aryan invasion.

Dr. Subramanyam Swamy divided his talk into four distinct topics viz. India's indigenous ethos, indigenous identity, the reasons for the seize of indigenous ethos and an action plan to remediate the problem. He highlighted the fact that 83% of India's billion population are Hindus, 10% are Muslims while the people of other religions constitute the remaining 7%. Even these 17% are all converts from Hinduism and so traditionally all of them have the same indigenous identity. This is supported by the many common cultural traits, habits and customs among all Indians irrespective of the artificial religious divides. Even the caste system of the Hindus evolved through a division of responsibilities among the citizens and was not imposed on any one through constraints of ancestry or parentage. Thus, the knowledgeable people became the custodians of administration, the strong ones defended the country and maintained law and order, the tradesmen boosted the economy while the agriculturists supplied the essential commodities. History has recorded several events marking total harmony among people of all religions and castes. Unfortunately, factionalism kindled by self serving politicians reared its ugly head particularly during the post independence era resulting in wanton killing of innocents through subversive activities like terrorism, naxalite movement etc. Religious conversion also contributed to animosity among people. The resultant seize of Indian ethos and identity can only be combated through the development of the right mind set among all Indians (and particularly among the academia) to rekindle the feeling of oneness among all stripping the narrow concepts of division based on religion, caste or language. Dr. Swamy suggested that the adoption of Sanskrit as a link language may help to achieve this goal.

In the lively discussion that followed, Prof. Puni and others pointed out that with English emerging as the international link language, the introduction of Sanskrit as a national language may be difficult. The beauty of Urdu as the language of the poets was also mentioned. While there was unanimilly about an appropriate national language, it was felt that it should not interfere with the growth of other great Indian languages, both ancient and modern. 

Dr. Ayyar quoted from the speech of Swami Vivekananda delivered on September 19, 1893 at the Congress of Religions in Chicago where the Swamiji clearly highlighted how Hindus welcomed the people of all faiths and accepted them as their friends. He drew the attention of Dr. Swamy to the current undesirable academic turmoil in India due to the politicians' attempt to wantonly destroy the high quality of education in the citadels of learning though quota system based on caste considerations.

Responding, Dr. Swamy said that no attempt to destroy the peace and harmony of a nation by external or internal agencies engaged in encouraging fissipoisious tendencies will succeed in the long run. The academia which is currently showing signs of anemia should pick up the gauntlet of challenge, revitalize itself and lead the masses against such forces. He said that if this is done in right earnest, the next election will bring up a government of good citizens who will relentlessly work for the unity of Indian ethos and welfare of the nation. In the long run, all Indians will realize the oneness of their Hindu origin eliminating animosities based on superficial divisions through religion and caste.

Taking the cue, the Chancellor in her concluding remarks emphasized the need for developing leadership qualities among the younger generation and the role of teachers in this onerous task. She expressed the hope that under the right kind of leadership, the nation can always solve its problems within a time frame.

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