Revisiting Pluralism: Complimenting not contradicting traditions

Brilliant young minds were ideologically intoxicated, and it was reflected in cultural underpinnings

I had my schooling at three places, until class 10th. N.M. Higher Secondary school Bandipur, then a year at Ranbir Higher Secondary School Jammu, and then 11th class at DAV Higher Secondary School Rainawari. Out of the three, two have profound impact on my grooming and subjectivity. Since my culture and genealogy would blend in Bandipur and Rainawari, it became part of me. Both the higher secondary schools provided plank to my childhood and adolescence to walk into the realm of youth. Rainawari is our genealogical source, wherefrom our grandfather had migrated to Bandipur, one hundred fifty years ago. Bandipur is my grooming ground and our home. Till date, my connections with friends of Rainawari and Bandipur are intact. Most of the friends from Bandipur are Muslim friends, whereas friends from Rainawari are Pandit friends.

  Our schools were our universities, organically linked with our homes. In Rainawari School, one would find the excellent pandit traditions flowing, whereas in Bandipur the best of Reshi traditions were permeating. It would give impetus to academic excellence and institutional merit. If higher secondary school of Bandipur was an erudite essay on institutional grooming and academic excellence, DAV school Rainawari was its synopsis in brevity, the reflective image. Drugs and dropouts were unheard of. Tales about hidden romances a few, but stories about academic achievements and literary participations were predominant. Debating, essay writing, communicating, playing roles in dramas and musical events were encouraged. There was no branding, no market tagging but collective participation with tacit rewards and admirations would make it distinct institutions. It was genuine, so it had lasting impressions. We were told about sayings and life histories of great men and women in our morning assemblies and we would appreciate it. Our childhood was full. We were born in fifties, so by seventies our schooling was over. It was a romantic era. Despite breaking of idealism in 1960s, hope and dialogue was alive. In the history of school education, until late 70s, N.M. Higher secondary school of Bandipur and D.A. Higher secondary school of Rainawari illustrate its shining character of education and transformation of young children. No wonder, Bandipur still enjoys its rich capital in its reminiscences of past, where as D.A.V School Rainawari saw complete exodus of its institutional memory and accumulative cultural capital in 1990. The education, informal and formal in these schools were empowerment of our native traditions and linking it with career, development and citizenry. It was a notion of progress, its linearity of transformation. No doubt, there were madrasas and pathshallas then, but its teachers were native teachers, who were meant for the moral education to empower holistic character building of a student. There were no contradictions. Despite a string of super structure prevailing at political level, its legitimacy had no currency in schools.

  This all changed after 1960s. The debacle of 1965 and emergence of Bangladesh in 1971 did not end the Cold War. It had thickened with hate of bipolarity, US versus Soviet Union and subsequently India versus Pakistan. In the absence of people to people contact between the two countries, hearsay stories from across the boundaries, tailored tales on Azad Kashmir Radio and war propaganda got encouraged. US funding to radical religiosity complicated social formations in Pakistan. It was transferred into homes, mosques and schools of Kashmir. There was no social media and information technology possible at ground level to the people. The disintegration of Soviet Union became its rallying point. Brilliant young minds were ideologically intoxicated. It was reflected in cultural underpinnings. The political elite found its economic interests in creating chaos, which resulted in a break in the established values and norms. Whether central leadership knew it or not, but they deliberately underplayed it in the matrix of development and political dispute between India and Pakistan. It led to a break up with the ground realities, after Mrs. Gandhi’s exit from the politics. Pakistan used its strategic thrust and strategic asset instrument to its best capacities in using Kashmiris to bleed Kashmir and India. India wanted settlement; Pakistan would rebuff it with Kashmir, first.

September 2011, saw the crumbling of notional U.S power and emergence of multiple power centres. The process of information technology and globalization revolutionized world with a perception that economic prosperity is the real prosperity. A thrust on life chances, access to power and resources in new political consciousness have motivated youth in changing places and positions. The ‘settlement in unsettlement’ is new career making choice, with no love for place and people. While such thinking was brewing in, COVID 19 unleashed new forces of alignment that territorial nationalism will remain a reality, but cultural affinities of places and people would have natural bonding encompassing regions. The nature had message. Modi’s role in curbing pandemic resulted in the appearance of neoliberal model to make countries on move. Functionality to the system, as prerequisite, for an individual or group in a diversified society, became the post truth. Those who are not functional may perish, without any whimper.

This brought legitimacy to the teeth of a security state apparatus. Kashmir was diagnosed more of non-functionality of its institutions, a case of disownment from its native political elite. The same feelings were at institutional level about centre as well. India was thought to be a place of castes and communities. Indian nationalism generated by the National Movement needed its political articulation, after its de-centering in 1977, when centrist party lost power to the regional amalgamating Janata Party. That did not happen in centripetal mode of nationalism. Liberalization, Privatization and globalization in 1990s needed governance with purposeful pride from the impetus of nationalism. It was missing. The secessionist movements at peripheries, especially at western borders in Punjab and Kashmir manifested this weakness of Indian power elite. Despite the assassinations of Indra Gandhi and Rajiv Gandhi, post nationalism appeared more of a communal divide than binding threads of different cultures in pluralistic mode. The notion of diversity in castes and communities undermined the spirit of ‘Discovery of India’. Modi era changed it. Identified plural Populism with national pride has an edge. Modi ji knows it, where opposition still struggles in coining it in its political articulation.

Modi ji’s emergence is a counterproductive of that process that had undermined India’s pluralism. It meant a central organic tradition in give and take with different civilization encounters, ever evolving to meet the challenges of times. If in his first stint of power, it had to struggle to give correct perceptions of its intensions of governance for development with pluralistic blending nationalism, it has made process of correction, which still needs refinement. While the fringe elements would play with communal messages on food and rituals, the way it is in Pakistan; in second term, government has been vigilant to curb these elements, not allowing them to play with interfaith accommodation. It has worked well. Sheer accident of birth does not make anybody anti national. Each one has role and each one is dignified and important in national building process for the best of humanity. This acceptance has come from the severest critics of some of Pakistani television talk shows that ‘Modi has made India a global brand’.

Our generation above 60s is one dimensional generation in our mindset. For, we were mystified in India Pakistan tailored narratives. The new generation does not suffer that burden of ideology and political referent points. They are economically driven. Look at the young generation on political and social media talk shows of Pakistan, especially after India’s Moon landing. They have ridicule for their earlier generation that consumed their formidable age in nourishing nationalisms beyond territoriality, on ‘Two Nation Theory’. Culture with market development would be neoliberalism; no functionality for ill-equipped, unprepared. It is stratified. But, worse is religion jumble with development that is primordial, as well as, stratified. We have two case studies in our neighborhoods. Bangladesh that connects culture with development, it is a success story. On other side, Pakistan that mixes religion with nation building process, it is a sad narrative. Look, where it stands. We have to take leaf from these two case studies and move on our pluralism with development. This is regional, cultural and civilization journeying, where territorial integrity of each country is to be respected. Adding or subtracting will further complicate social formations. No nation-state can afford it. Development with public private partnerships and opening to dialogue and debate with communications are only remedies to manufactured ills. Let us give it a chance.

Prof Ashok Kaul is an Emeritus professor in Sociology at Banaras Hindu University

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