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HVK Archives: From Marx to Maharshi

From Marx to Maharshi - Organiser

Posted By Krishnakant Udavant (kkant@bom2.vsnl.net.in)
26 October 1997

Title: From Marx to Maharshi
Author:
Publication: Organiser
Date: October 26, 1997

Shri P. Parameswaran, president of Vivekananda Kendra was presented with
Bhaiji Hanuman Prasad Poddar Rashtriya Seva Samman for his contribution to
Hindutva cause. Following is the excerpts from his speech at the function.

BENGAL AND KERALA-UNIQUE SIMILARITY

A vital point that has been always in my mind is the close similarity
between West Bengal and Kerala on many interesting aspects. One might
wonder how a tiny State in the South-Western part of Bharat resembles so
much to another very important and key-State like West Bengal. The
phenomena cannot be explained merely by saying that all of India share a
common culture. There is something more to it. A prominent Swamiji of Sri
Ramakrishna Mission in Kerala, to whom goes the everlasting credit of
re-establishing Kalady on the cultural map of India, Swami Agamananda, of
hallowed memory, who was equally familiar with Kerala as well as West
Bengal has narrated how he experienced this wonderful similarity. He says,
"both Bengalis and Malayalis are highly emotional by temperament. The
Vaishnavite Jatra (a performing art) of Bengal is closely similar to
Kerala's Kathakali. From the historic times, Shakti worship and Vishnu
worship were prevalent both in Bengal and Kerala. Sri Chaitanya has close
parallels in Vilwamangalam in Kerala. In both Kerala and Bengal, Buddhism
had a popular base at one time. Kerala worships Shasta and Bengal worships
Dharman. Next to Bengal, it was Kerala which had the greatest impact of Sri
Ramakrishna-Vivekananda movement. Geographically too, there is a great
similarity between the two States. Lakes, ponds, canals and rivers are
common to both. Excepting for the fact that Kerala Brahmins do not eat
fish, people of both Kerala and Bengal are fond of fish curries and grow
them in their ponds. Bengali and Malayalam are heavily Sanskritised
languages. Sri Ramakrishna of Bengal and Sri Narayana Guru of Kerala
preached the harmony of religions almost at the same time. If Bengalis and
Malayalis, with their intelligence and dynamism and vigor work with a
common purpose, they can turn Bharat into a heaven. May these two sacred
provinces, which gave birth to Sri Shankara and Swami Vivekananda succeed
in doing so, is my prayer".

What any serious student of Indian history will automatically realise is
that the national renaissance movement which swept across Bharat, in the
19th Century had its origin in the undivided Bengal. As Swami Vivekananda
has pointed out, it was, to start with, an upsurge in spiritual awakening;
it was symbolised by Sri Ramakrishna Paramahamsa and his world renowned
disciple. From there it spread to every field of human activity, not
excluding economic and political. The awakening set in motion a chain
reaction, affecting all parts of India. In this context I am extremely
happy to say that far away Kerala had the distinction of absorbing the
influence more than any other State. Swamiji's presence in Kerala for about
a fortnight during his Parivrajka life though incognito, must have left its
subtle but powerful impact. But what has shocked Kerala initially into
shame and then into strong corrective action, was Swamiji's
characterisation of Malabar as a "lunatic asylum" for its shamelessly
brutal ill-treatment of the low-caste Hindus, not only as untouchables, but
as people unworthy of even being seen. The high caste Hindu-the
Namboodiris-would not even allow the shadow of a Pariah to fall on them for
fear of pollution. It was this atrocious behaviour that made Swamiji use
such harsh words about Kerala. But not one man in Kerala ever attributed
any motive to Swamiji; they, on the other hand, accepted the spirit of
admonition and started working on the problem. Two major agitations in
Kerala were for the entry of Harijans into temples. The first State to
legally abolish untouchability was Travancore. This transformation was
largely due to Swamiji.

SWAMI VIVEKANANDA'S IMPACT ON KERALA

Swamiji's impact had a catalystic role in another aspect also. The
socio-political awakening in Kerala had its origin in the saintly
personality of Sri Narayana Guru, who was born in an untouchable community,
but who achieved Advitic realization and emerged as the saviour of all
backward communities of Kerala. But it was Swami Vivekananda who suggested
that any social reform movement to be acceptable and effective, should have
a spiritual luminary to lead.

Under Sri Narayana Guru, Kerala achieved unparalleled success in overcoming
untouchability, without social friction or caste conflict. The foremost
disciple of the Guru, poet Kumaran Asan was so fascinated by the Bengal
renaissance and its two stalwarts, poet Tagore and Swami Vivekananda, that
he not only came to Calcutta for higher studies, but also started a journal
in Malayalam called Vivekodayam after Swamiji's name.

It became a powerful mouthpiece of the Shri Narayana Dharma Paripalana
Yogam (SNDP) and largely contributed to the positive socio-cultural
awakening in Kerala.

But, the more important thing is that the initial impetus of the
renaissance movement and its manifestation in the various fields, gradually
took a turn towards the materialistic philosophy of the Communism. It is
as if the pendulum gradually swung from the spiritual to the material. It
is interesting to note that this took place both in Bengal and Kerala, and
it continues to hold the field.

THE INEVITABLE TRANSITION

Even though for a casual observer this may look strange and difficult to
explain, it appears that this transition was only natural, even inevitable;
once there is a spiritual awakening leading people to an awareness of
equality, justice and self-respect, it will not remain confined to the
spiritual or religious field alone. A real awakening, must reflect in the
socio-economic and political fields also. Spiritual renaissance will, and
also should, stir the consciousness of the people to work for the removal
of injustice in every other field. That is precisely what happened in
Bengal and Kerala. It was inevitable. It had a great positive role to play.

But it cannot be forgotten that they also played a highly negative if not
treacherous role. In 1946, when the freedom of Bharat was already within
our grasp, the Communists in Bengal, Kerala and Andhra propagated the
theory that these were independent nations with the right of
self-determination. In fact, while supporting Pakistan, they also stated
that we are not one nation, but a conglomeration of 5 or 16 nations.
Theory books were written like Nutan Bangala, Vishal Andhra and Kerala, the
Motherland of Malayalis. In the so-called Telengana movement in favour of
"Independent Hyderabad" as demanded by the, Nizam, the Communists joined
hands with the fundamentalist Razakar forces and fought against Indian Army
which came to liberate Hyderabad and integrate it with Bharat.

There was also a favourable international situation which hastened and also
smoothened this transition. India was under foreign rule, powerful
political agitations were going on to achieve Independence. In those days,
for countries under slavery, "October Revolution", signalled total freedom
from imperialism and capitalism. It provided a tremendous fascination. It
was generally believed that the USSR was the paradigm of the future. The
idea of socialist revolution caught the imagination of the people all over
the world.

The generation of freedom fighters that succeeded the revolutionaries in
Bengal were among such. Leaders like M.N.Roy also played a key-role. The
same thing happened in Kerala. The popular social movement initiated by
Sri Narayana Guru was in essence spiritually oriented. But the community
to which he belonged, and which benefited most from it was economically and
socially backward and politically under-represented. The second generation
leaders from that community imperceptibly moved away from the spiritual
inspiration of Sri Narayana Guru and began to look towards Communism for
salvation. The leadership of the Communist movement in Kerala largely came
from Sri Narayana Guru's community. The castes below it also naturally
began to gravitate to the revolutionary appeal and that is how Kerala had
turned Red. Two major non-Hindu communities remained, and still remain, by
and large away from the Communist movement, even though they took full
advantage of the changing political. scenario by conveniently joining hands
with and distancing from the Communists as it suited to them.

ROLE OF COMMUNISTS

It cannot be denied that the Communists played a useful role in Kerala. Not
that nobody else could have played that role of bringing about social
justice, land reforms, sense of, social self-respect to the under
privileged classes; but it was so ordained that they were the historical
forces that were then in the field to play that role.

Had the Hindutva forces emerged as a viable and effective contender to the
Communist forces, and inherited and carried forward the spirit of
renaissance in the economic and political field, probably that would have
smoothened the transition and brought about changes in tune with the
national ethos, without any adverse effects. In Bengal, leaders like
Shyama Prasad Mookherjee could have provided the initiative; but
unfortunately he was removed by the hand of destiny and the field was left
almost free for the Communists, to capture. Kerala too lacked a timely
Hindutva alternative. The overwhelming influence of the Christian and the
Muslim communities also weakened Hindu effectiveness. Communists in
alliance with the Muslim communalists came to the forefront. The organised
cadre of the Party, and the newly emerging class of educated unemployed
took a determined effort to bring about social transformation. The higher
literacy rate and other consequent developments were the outcome of this,
although it was all a cumulative output for which other forces were equally
responsible.

THE GRIM PICTURE

I am not here to evaluate the positive and negative outcome of the
Communist movement in Kerala. Every one knows that it has led to social
tensions and bloodshed which were avoidable. The philosophy of Communism
being one of class war, this is inevitable. Even today we find the
poisonous seed sprouting in various forms. Political violence in Kerala is
the direct outcome of the outmoded Communist style of functioning. In
almost every clash and conflict you will find the Marxists on one side, and
all the others, including their own allies in the Government, at the
receiving end. Of late, the picture is turning grimmer and grimmer. Group
war within the Marxist party is becoming more pronounced than class war and
conflict between the Marxists and others. People are greatly worried that
sooner or later this might erupt into a ferocious, no-holds-barred street
war in Kerala.

More than groupism, casteism, corruption and nepotism are plaguing the
Marxist Party. Till recently, it was supposed to be immune to corruption
and nepotism. But those days are now over. Even the tallest in the Party
is being charged with publicly protecting corrupt relatives. They are
seen, if not directly involved, promoting corruption and nepotism. Even
Namboodripad is not perceived as spotless as he was earlier. All that even
the Communists argue in self-defence is that they are a shade better than
the Congress. As Shri Vajpayee aptly described in Parliament : It is the
Indian version of Einstein's "Theory of Relativity".

I do not personally know as to what is happening in Bengal. It has been
told, and I have read from books, that Marxists have played a useful role
here, as in Kerala and so no doubt, earned the confidence of the people.
Otherwise they could not have continued to be in power so long. Jyoti Basu
has become "a legend and a symbol" as Namboodiripad. They have many things
in common. Both have remained unquestioned leaders of the Party for quite
long. But one striking difference cannot escape the notice-of any objective
observer. Briefly put, Jyoti Basu is a pragmatist while Namboodripad is a
dogmatist. The mantle of Communism hangs loosely on Jyoti Basu, whereas it
has become an inconvenient but inescapable straight jacket for
Namboodripad, with the result that he himself has become inconvenient to
the Party. Corruption is more loudly talked of about Bengal Marxists than
that of the Kerala Marxists. The difference may be one of scale and also
due to more opportunities than stricter adherence to the principles.

In Kerala Muslim population is growing much faster than that of others.
Marxists have carved out a Muslim majority district to appease them. Other
districts, especially in the northern parts of Kerala have also decisive
Muslim presence. May be out of 140 Assembly constituencies, 40 are such
from the electoral angle. The Muslim militancy also is in the increase. In
Bengal, the problem is more serious. About 152 constituencies are such that
the Muslims either dominate or are capable of swinging the electoral
outcome. Perceptive observers have expressed the fear that there is a
distinct danger of another Muslim state, speaking Bengali, emerging in the
eastern part of India, abetted by the Marxist Party.

POLITICAL DISHONESTY SYSTEMATISED

Both in West Bengal and Kerala, Communism and the Marxist Party seem to be
heading towards the proverbial blind alley. In their hey days Kerala
Communists had created what is widely acclaimed as a "Kerala Model" of
development. Even though in terms of per capita income, or industrial
development, there was not much to boast of, in social terms like total
literacy, declining birth rate, hygiene, etc. Kerala took top rank in
India. But by now it has totally failed because it could not be sustained.
Kerala now ranks first in ostentatious consumerism, in family suicides, in
crimes against women, political murders, etc. Faced with such a grim
picture Kerala Marxists are trying to borrow the West Bengal model of
"Decentralised Development with People's Participation". But bitter
groupism within the Party leaves no room for their cadre to implement it.
In West Bengal, it is told that Panchayati Raj had been working fairly
well, but it could not evolve a development model of its own. In terms of
literacy, employment social standards, etc. it seems to be lagging far
behind Kerala. The militant approach of trade unions has not helped
industrialisation. Massive influx of Muslim infiltrators from Bangladesh
has been continuously upsetting all planning. Both in Kerala and West
Bengal appeasement of the minority community has been the one unchanging
policy of the Marxists. In the bargain their professed progressivism has
suffered irreparable damage. Communism and communalism are in wedlock
though theoretically they are strange bedfellows. But the compulsion of
keeping Hindutva out has created a situation in which their credibility has
been greatly eroded.

Philip Spratt, who was sent by the British Communist Party to India in the
1930s, as a "messenger and reporter" to guide the nascent Communist
movement and who effectively played the role of a strategist and ideologue,
ultimately became so disillusioned with it that he wrote:- "The Communist
defends not his own Motherland, but Russia, all his love is concentrated on
Russia and its leaders, all his hatred on their opponents, especially the
rulers of the country. Communism is political dishonesty systematised".

TIME RIPE FOR NATIONALIST TAKEOVER

Today the situation is infinitely worse, with Soviet Union no longer
surviving. As it was inevitable that Communism should have had a period of
ascendancy in Bengal and Kerala, it is equally certain that that period is
over now. Collapse of Communism at the international level as well as the
internal contradictions of the Communist movement in India now make its
collapse inevitable here also. Signs are that circumstances are fast
developing in West Bengal and Kerala where the Communist movement will have
to yield place to the Hindu nationalist movement.

This is not a pious wish, but a development well on the cards. The
nation-wide spiritual and cultural renaissance which started during the
last century has to go to its logical conclusion. The materialist
interlude, as was pointed out was a necessary one. It has played out its
rule and contributed its share. Now having taken advantage of their impulse
for social equality and justice and after arriving at a synthesis of the
spiritual and material, the nation has to march forward, in order to
fulfill the promises of Independent India. It has to strike out its own
course. India is not to blindly follow the Western capitalist model, as it
is not to be a pale imitation of the Communist model. As I firmly believe,
now the triumphant march has to be from "Marx to Maharshi", from
materialism to spirituality, not as two opposite poles, but as a harmonised
philosophy of integralism. That should be the goal ahead. Hindutva
upsurge, now sweeping across the country should be a movement to harmonise
the impulses of material advancement and moral and spiritual values. Both
Bengal and Kerala are ripe for such a happy turn. That is where history is
leading the people of these two States.

SOCIAL EVOLUTION

When we speak of transition from Marx to Maharshi, we are speaking of an
evolutionary social process in symbolic terms. Indian spirituality had
never been averse to or exclusive of material well-being. Swami Vivekananda
or Sri Aurobindo were not blind opponents of Socialistic or Communistic
vision. They believed that such a vision can be successful only if it is
based explicitly stated so. Sri Aurobindo says : "The Communistic principle
of society is intrinsically as superior to the individualistic as is
brotherhood to jealously and mutual slaughter; but all the practical
schemes of socialism invented in Europe are a yoke, a tyranny and prison."

"If Communism ever establishes itself successfully upon earth, it must be
on a foundation of soul's brotherhood and the death of egoism. A forced
association and a mechanical comradeship would end in a world-wide fiasco".
This was spoken in 1915, before the Bolshevik Revolution. How prophetic the
words proved! After the Revolution, in 1938, he again stated : "Formerly
people were unconscious slaves, now under Communism they are conscious
slaves... They are bound to the State, the dictator and the Party. They
can't even choose the dictator. And whoever differs from them is
mercilessly suppressed... The whole thing-whatever its name-is a fraud. It
is impossible to change humanity by political machinery-it can't be done.
Now it is only too well-known that the failure of Communism was because it
was sought to be enforced by means of (state)-power coming out of the
barrel of the gun."

The philosophy behind it was dialectical materialism and class war. We in
India have to make different kind of experiment to achieve the goal of
economic prosperity with social justice and spiritual enlightenment. It is
there that we have to effectively introduce the principle of Sanatana
Dharma in a manner suitable to the present time and clime (Yuga Dharma).
That is the challenge before the Indian leadership.

NEW IMPULSES

Renaissance movement of the 19th Century swept across the whole of India.
Depending upon the characteristics and circumstances, the tenor and
temperament of each region, it took varied forms and formations. But
everywhere it generated new impulses and dynamic awakening. Centuries old
stupor and superstitions were challenged and overcome. If Kerala and Bengal
swung towards Communism, pressure of circumstances led it to Dravidan
movements in Tamil Nadu. Andhra witnessed an upsurge of Telugu pride which
successfully led the agitation for the formation of linguistic provinces.
"Telugu Desam" may be a belated manifestation of the same. Shiva Sena in
Maharashta had more or less same genesis, coupling a Aggressive regional
pride with Hindu ethos.

Hindutva movement we are witnessing at present has to embrace all these
diverse impulses, nourish them into a healthy and patriotic expression of
the national spirit. DMK movement, whatever may be its origin or
aberration, is part f the wider Hindutva movement. It must be understood
that in spite of the atheistic overtones of some of the Tamil Nadu parties,
Thiruvalluvar is their saint. Temple tower-Gopura-is their State symbol.
Swami Vivekananda called Buddhism "a rebel child of Hinduism". So are the
Dravidian movements in Tamil nadu. Every genuine regional aspiration has a
legitimacy. There may be an element of initial dissent even rebellion in
them. But they are all children of the same mother. Hindutva will have to
accept them into her loving embrace.

India is not a monolith. Its unity is not a drab mechanical uniformity.
Variety is its very essence. As Sri Aurobindo pertinently pointed out in
his message on the occasion of the inauguration of Andhra University, "the
ancient diversities of the country carried in them great advantages as well
as drawbacks. By these differences the country was made the home of many
living and pulsating centers of lift, art, culture, a richly and
brilliantly coloured diversity in unity; all was not drawn up into a few
provincial capitals or an imperial metropolis, other towns and regions
remaining subordinated and indistinctive or even culturally asleep; the
whole nation lived with a full life in its many parts and this increased
enormously the creative energy of the whole. There is no possibility and
longer that this diversity will endanger or diminish the unity of India.
Those vast spaces which kept her people from closeness and a full interplay
have been abolished in their separating effect by the march of science and
the swiftness of the means of communications. The idea of federation and a
complete machinery for its perfect working have been discovered and will be
at full work. Above all, the spirit of patriotic unity has been too firmly
established in the people to be easily effaced or diminished, and it would
be more endangered by refusing to allow the natural play of life of the
sub-nations than by satisfying their legitimate aspirations. The Congress
itself in the days before Independence had pledged the formation of
linguistic provinces. India's national life will then be founded on her
natural strengths and the principle of unity in diversity which has always
been her guiding light.

The need of the hour is to re-build India on her age-old cultural and
spiritual foundation and make her a strong, vibrant and self-reliant
nation. As Swami Vivekananda has stated, "all the scattered spiritual
forces in the country have to be brought together" and harnessed for this
stupendous effort on the "common bases of Hinduism". No other tribute will
be more suitable to perpetuate the hallowed memory of Sri Hanuman Prasadji
Poddar.


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