India has got stuck in a stalemate. Our pursuit of development goals has at best been half-hearted. Mindless populism, crony capitalism, misplaced emphasis on socialism as well as pursuit of growth at any cost has hurt India. India is unable to come out of entrenched culture of contract-kickbacks and undocumented economy. When it comes to protecting its people, religions, customs, traditions and rule of law from internal and external enemies, India has repeatedly proved to be a soft state. The situation is so acute that even being nuclear state India gets attacked by internal and external enemies without any respite. Our judicial system is gamed by all and sundry. We have disturbing tendencies among students, academia and media to celebrate attacks on national interest in the pursuit of their own ideas and ideals. In that sense, anchoring India using Dharma will annihilate all the confusion in everybody’s minds. In place of dilemmas we will have a clear sense of purpose. If intellectuals and political leaders celebrate stoning of soldiers during operations against terrorists, in the name of soft touch, nothing can be greater abandonment of Dharma.
India has been acting as a seventy year old off-spring of colonial rule. India has forgotten that it is a 6000 year old civilization that has contributed immensely to rest of the world. Some of the most sophisticated religious, spiritual, philosophical, scientific thinking in the form of Vedas, Upanishads and Sutras owe their existence to India. India is a mother civilization to countries all the way to Iran and sister civilization to European civilizations. India from Harappan times and even earlier had cultural and commercial exchanges from Mesopotamian and Sumerian civilizations. India’s cultural influence in countries in South-East Asia, Tibet, China and Japan are visible even today. India should draw upon its ancient civilization to lead the world. Just few decades back India and China was on par on many indicators. Even geographically China is much smaller if you exclude regions like Tibet that became part of China.
Al this means there needs to be a “reset” for India which wipes the slate clean so that we rewrite our destiny afresh as per our own values and ethos that we have dearly held. It should not be just about economic growth. India does better when it comes to family values. To have a framework that guides our actions, we need “Dharma” to oversee all our thoughts, words and actions. Unless people change, nation cannot change. When the state becomes righteous, it leads to people also becoming righteous and vice-versa.
India should become a Dharmic Republic. India should neither be ‘left’ nor ‘right’, but righteous. India should be economically, legally, culturally and morally righteous. We should derive the philosophical underpinnings for our policies, laws and actions from this righteous stance. Our strategic orientation should be aligned with Dharma only then it will be in harmony with our society.
Dharma, according to Van Buitenen, a respected Indologist, is that which all existing beings must accept and respect to sustain harmony and order in the world. It is neither the act nor the result, but the natural laws that guide the act and create the result to prevent chaos in the world. It is innate characteristic that makes the being what it is. It is, claims Van Buitenen, the pursuit and execution of one’s nature and true calling, thus playing one’s role in cosmic concert. In Hinduism, it is the dharma of the bee to make honey, of cow to give milk, of sun to radiate sunshine, of river to flow. In terms of humanity, dharma is the need for, the effect of and essence of service and interconnectedness of all life.
In a Dharmic Republic everybody judges himself/herself whether they do their own Dharma. Businessmen are respected when they pursue profit and growth, soldiers when they pursue valour and each person as per the yard-stick of Dharma. Neither NGO have higher moral ground or media or activists. Rather nobody has higher moral ground, when each pursues his/her Dharma. What matters is how well they do their own dharma. Ironically this is in line with Adam Smith’s philosophy where when each person pursues his self-interest, a hidden hand promotes collective good. In our context each person/entity pursues his/her Dharma in all conviction. Dharma can be pursued in one’s own way. The Gita is a gold standard that guides human action. The Gita lays down several paths based on knowledge, devotion and action. A nation can prosper only when its nationals pursue their aspirations and ambition in their chosen realm, may it be intellectual, creative, construction, political, economic, adventurous or service.
Dharma applies to even nations. If all nations pursue their legitimate self-interest it can only lead to collective good and it will not be at odds with globalization. The problem so far has been lack of enlightened approach and it may continue to be so.
A dharmic republic has no use for tags like Socialism and Secularism. Democracy becomes just a way of choosing rulers. The rulers get judged as to how they fulfil their dharma irrespective of how they were chosen. The democracy does not become alibi not to uphold righteousness nor does it become a dogma, Rather it becomes a set of moral compacts between elected and people and elected and the nation.
When India becomes Dharmic Republic everything will be under the oversight of Dharma. The state will not surrender its core responsibilities of protecting people, their culture and traditions. India as a Dharmic Republic will lead in raising its voice to protect Dharmic religions and its adherents all over the world as well as native cultures, religions and traditions. In addition, it will raise its voice for those who see their identity subsumed and attacked such as Baluchistan and Tibet.
India as a Dharmic Republic will be a credible and authentic nation which has no difficulty to face up to reality and has no hesitation to state what is in its interest and pursue it vigorously. India will not be on defensive on anything. India will no longer be a pacifist state which is a prisoner of positions and boundaries it has drawn and limited itself. India will no longer be the good boy who gets bullied by internal and external enemies. India as a Dharmic Republic will stand up for what is righteous. India as a Dharmic Republic will pursue its legitimate interests with passion and intensity.
India as a Dharmic republic will set its own standards. It will not hold back just because UK failed doing something and will not rush to do something because USA did it nor will allow India to be a playground for activists to experiment their ideas and ideals that are not rooted in our society.
India as a Dharmic Republic will draw upon our intellectual heritage built over thousands of years. It will have no hesitation to teach the scriptures, epics, scientific discoveries, mathematical advances attributed to India in our schools. There will be no attempt to draw false parallels with other religions. India will promote Gita as gold standard to guide behaviour of human beings, businesses, institutions and nations in their own way.
India as a Dharmic Republic will not prevaricate.
India as a Dharmic Republic will be progressive and continue to evolve. It will contextualize all the learning of the past to the present. India will question all the practices with an open mind. India will be liberal in its values as we connect with the highest set of values connected with core tenets rather than cultural practices which have no contemporary relevance today.
India as a Dharmic Republic will have no hesitation to acknowledge any identity including caste. People should be free to celebrate whatever identities they can identify with including caste. The core principle of Dharmic Republic is that every profession or group of people have pride of place in their society. The economic, political and social mobility of all professions and classes of people naturally becomes the goal of Dharmic Republic.
The caste which may stand for a specific profession or group of professions or communities belonging to a geography gets confused with Varna which finds mention in Hindu scriptures. Varna is about certain qualities and high level classification of society as priestly class, warriors, traders, producing or serving class. Similar stratification is common even with other Indo-European civilization where some hav three classes – priests, warriors and producing classes. Certain grouping based on profession is also widely prevalent across all religions and geographies. Again tribal identities are common across the world.
The caste should be acknowledged not only in Hindus but also in those converted to track relative prosperity and economic mobility. Broadly we should move away from caste being a construct of governance, instead come up with mobility criteria such as giving preference in college education to the first generation getting educated, the same way first generation getting a Government job and so on. Then we should work towards improving the economic and social mobility of all professions by increasing their median incomes through opportunities for greater value addition and market access.
As Dharmic republic, India will protect Dharmic religions from conversions and vigorously promote adoption of Dharmic religions all over the world. In addition it will protect native culture, beliefs and traditions across all cultures, regions and religions.
In Dharmic Republic our judicial system gets reinterpreted as per our traditions. India survived for thousands of years by defining a core set of beliefs and by giving complete flexibility to local communities to practice their own customs and traditions. We need to do it again where we define those core areas where state will intervene. The core set of beliefs should be based on humanitarian considerations, societal welfare and national interest. In all other areas individuals and communities are free to live their lives as per their own choice. It will be Dharma of judiciary in conjunction with state to give justice. Everything else becomes secondary.
Dharma should also help us guide our thinking when it comes to addressing challenges that face us. Should we just do away with inequality by oppressive taxation? Should we just distribute money to people when they don’t ‘earn’ it? What should be our priorities as a nation, Government and people? Why the same sections are getting richer, same roads get repaired and why do all parties gravitate to one promising vote bank or other leaving common people high and dry? Should our growth or welfare goals ride on loans that are not to be returned? Should we not address all human aspirations from self-esteem to security? Should we not have all people live a life of dignity as individuals? Should we not establish rule of law with a balance of compassion and conviction?
As we draw upon our own innate wisdom, we will start looking for new models and paradigms to solve our problems. Both growth-oriented Capitalism and distribution oriented socialism have failed in India. We should see how economy be optimally redirected so that incentives are aligned in a righteous manner. Even with current size of economy through structural changes and right philosophy towards development, we can have the best possible economic, social, political and strategic indicators. John Nash in one of his articles deplored how Governments let their currencies depreciate year after year to bail-out loans and spend more, indirectly making people poorer. Just by eliminating waste, doing away exemptions, eliminating subsidies and providing social benefits in a more imaginative manner, managing investments better and diverting resources to where there is greater return, focusing on strategic sectors,, exploiting India’s strengths in digital and social technologies and by sheer transformation of Governance by making it lean and less prone to corruption, we may get even up-to 30% improvements in indicators. Sectors prone to undocumented transactions should be reformed and even individuals should be allowed to amortize costs of transactions like businesses and everybody should be asked to state income band they belong to even when they claim they don’t have taxable income.
India should be renamed Dharmic Republic of Hindustan, acknowledging primacy to Hindus which is their right. Hinduism is very important to define India; we are united by the fact that we have shared Hindu present or Hindu past. It is only right that Hindus/Hinduism and all Dharmic religions or broader Hinduism(including Jain, Buddhists, Sikh and Parsis) as well as native customs /cultures/traditions are protected and promoted in India. Hinduism has synthesized practices and customs from among all tribes as well as sects and assimilated them in the larger body of collective belief. Even religion practiced by Parsis is very close to Vedic religion. Calling out India as Hindustan may be uncomfortable to some of us, but in reality all nations are either de facto or de jure give primacy to one religion or other. Even Communists promoted atheism.
India also has an opportunity to lead an organization of dharmic countries by roping in nations that are outside OIC and Christian block and may be any country that respects ancient traditions, religions and culture.