Pluralism is the way ahead
The world after WW11 underwent metamorphism resulting in the ideological division of two blocks, Soviet Union and the United States of America. The decade of 1960s was the pinnacle of rivalries between two powers, competing in all fields and scoring points.
The verbal duel in 1959 still rings in our ears, when Mr. Khrushchev had told the then Vice President Mr. Nixon of USA that their grandchildren would live in communism and Nixon in his presidential nomination in 1960 replied Khrushchev that their grandchildren would ‘live in freedom’.
It was an era of resurgence of ideologies and thrust on secularization. Religion was then considered irrational, tribal and vicious, used by west to win the Cold War and also engage underdeveloped and poor countries in hybrid wars, so that hegemony and domination of the power blocks remain enduring.
US had a big respite when Soviet Union got dismantled. The west thought it as a triumph of market rationale and of liberal democracy. Germany, India and Japan, besides established veto power countries, were recognized the emerging economies with blooming software power centers. The world was stabilizing with different power centers in bargaining position for peace and stability. The success stories in these countries instead should have been accredited to the emerging professional and educated skilled middle class, but rising poverty and huge unemployment and increasing disparities changed the discourse. In the absence of any formidable political ideology, it encouraged reactive politics and promoted religious revivalism. Religion publicaly expressed became politically maneuvered. The Islamic revivalist intellectuals ‘blamed Arab regimes for the long decline of Islamic civilization at the hands of western colonial powers’. The anger gradually grew against their own political elites as well as against the western colonial powers. In the process, resentment turned into asymmetrical movements. The emergence of color movements and Arab spring violence dislocating huge populations created waves of migrations in the western world. The world threw up multicultural countries. It misbalanced the social cohesion of these countries. Steadily, it weakened the western countries and US with disparities and new social and economic stratifications. In the wake of globalization, the religious actors could forge bonding through transnational organizations. These organizations through membership drive caught the attention of unemployed youth from poor regions resulting into the movements of politics of identity to reinvent their past glory. It has ramifications. Multicultrality could not strike roots and social distance between migrants and the locals augmented. It generated hate politics and mix of religion with politics. A make believe that a secular state such as Turkey and Algeria could best promote Islamic belief in a better way. Similarly in India, it stimulated Hindutva. Buddhist Sangha of Sri Lanka argued that only state supported Buddhist home land could embody the real meaning and philosophy of Buddhism. It was a response that religion being a reality of everyday life could not be separated from the state. Before it could be solidified, COVID-19 painted afresh, cleaned that screen of reinventing primordial exclusivist thoughts and faiths. It is entering into new normal, where a collective good alone can save humans. The divisions on boundaries, faiths, cults, castes, classes and races are not exclusive sites. Nature has given us clear message. The basic principles of humankind rest on love, compassion, truth and goodness. The plain tenets of all the religions strive for these principles. India has that spiritual and cultural capital in abundance in its pluralistic traditions. Its presumed fault lines, whenever tested, spring with strength to the surprise of its antagonists.
I asked professor Sander of Gothenburg University how Islam did spread in Europe. His reply was Islam in those early years was not much political. It was a message for peace and parity that was generally welcome by people; people in Europe were then riddled out by stratification of estates and interstate conflicts. Slam (peace) Alhamdulillah (gratitude to God) and parity are attractive in transitional times. The forced conversions are all for political power. The similar postulates are taught by non-Abrahamic religions as well. In Hinduism, caste system again was the outcome of political maneuvering for power and hegemony, as cults and sects are now in Islam. It is a must to have reformation by the human agency (role model in word and deed) from time to time. For, interpretations in time and space vary, whereas the basic principles for the project of humankind remain same in all the religions and philosophies. It has been statistically proven that people do not want to die. They want to enhance their life chances, materiality and sense of achievement here only in this world. The imagination of otherworld with endowments and glory are the strings of morality for order making in this world.
With American exit and return of Taliban to power, an era of changing regimes by the states and generating civil wars through asymmetrical hybrid target killings by non-state actors have come to full circle. With India, China emphasizes that border disputes should be left for future generations to decide, while with each passing year its military, economic, scientific and geopolitical position attain formidable strength, comparatively to India. Not many years ago, Deng Xiaoping had told the then Indian Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi that the 21st century would be India’s and China’s century The reality now is different, in the words of Shashi Tharoor in The Hindu “the current Chinese leadership has no patience for such pablum. They believe-indeed believe they know-that it is destined to be China’s century alone and all too happy to show India is subsidiary place in the pecking order”. It is arrival of China and fainting of shine of US as the global power. China has taken over control of most of lucrative international banks leaving US behind in rankings. Its employment in the Chinese companies in America has given it a tacit legitimacy for global leadership. China has cast its net not only in this region but through central Asia to Europe as well. China’s Xi Jinping believes in efficiency with little rhetoric. He is on his mission. China’s fright is the resilience of our democratic traditions and liberal democracy with free speech and independent press. Religions and nationalisms are not brittle in blending traditions of pluralism. Democratic politics and free expressions act as shock absorbers and provide strength for political corrections. The regimental communist order is vulnerable to social forces of dissent and protests. It is difficult to sustain, once disparities are proportionally articulated. Peace with India is imperative for internal stability of China, a recorded reality in historical existence of two ancient civilizations.
There is a reason to believe that the spiritual capital of India has sustained its civilization, experimenting through encounters of retention and rejection of traditions and ideas. West failed in its project of mono-culturalism and multi-culturalism experimentation. American monoculture melting pot failed in 1960s and European tryst with multiculturalism is on test. Former Prime Minister of England David Cameron criticized state multiculturalism and desired a new strong national identity. For multiculturalism, even in Canada is contesting and creating space for imagined nationalism. India’s pluralism, with nativity secured through language formula and representative democracy and with fundamental rights, has withstood time tested examinations in the history. Why should not we cherish it and value it treasured for the human kind project? Let us presume that the verbal duel of Nixon and Khrushchev of 1959 vibrated by Rajiv Gandhi and Deng Xiaoping in 1988 proves a verdict of history. Pluralism is the sustained strength or else the lengthening shadows of Chinese version of communism will have a last laugh by 2059, engulfing the region and pervading all over the world, for another dialectical stride in opposition to the west.