Nation's conscience

Something in common... Jawaharlal Nehru and Rajaji.  

WHEN "secularism" and what it means is a topic of heated public debate in India even after five decades of Independence the following lines from ``This Day That Age'' column of The Hindu dated October 29, 2001 make for pertinent reading.

The then Prime Minister, Jawaharlal Nehru, said at a civic reception given to the retiring Home Minister on October 26 (1951) in New Delhi, that he hoped India would continue to benefit from C. Rajagopalachari's ``razor-sharp intellect, long experience and political maturity.'' In his speech of acceptance, the Elder Statesman of the South said that he would always work for the good of the nation. He added, ``Not my brains but my deep prayers will help.... Other nations have achieved great things and might achieve even greater things but we (in India) have one singular greatness to achieve, by proving that people of various religions can live together as brothers and make a nation.''

Talking to one of his grandsons long after Rajaji's passing away, Indira Gandhi, the then Prime Minister said: ``There were certain points of mutual attraction between Rajaji and my father. Their minds were not confined to the immediate. They were internationalists while being intensely nationalist. Both had deep concern with the ethics of action and both had an extraordinarily wide range of interests. They were at home in literature and philosophy and in political theory. There were of course also many points of dissimilarity between them.'' (page 326 of the Rajaji Story 1937- '72 by Raj Mohan Gandhi)

Rajaji said that it was drunkenness among the poor and the downtrodden which made their life so miserable. He began his fight against the evils of drink and untouchability long before Mahatma Gandhi returned from South Africa to India (to launch the historic non-violent non-cooperation movement to achieve India's Independence). Mahatma Gandhi called him ``the keeper of my conscience'' in recognition of Rajaji's dedication to the causes dear to both of them.

Rajaji's relentless fight against the Permit-Licence-Quota Raj of the 1960s is being remembered now by research scholars for its prophetic relevance to our own times in 21st Century. But Rajaji was also careful to qualify his support for the market economy by laying due emphasis on the ``Doctrine of Trusteeship'' adumbrated by Mahatma Gandhi long before Independence.

Rajaji and Gandhiji wanted people of all walks of life to practise the theory of trusteeship in their day-to-day life. ``Human face to economic reforms'' is the current jargon to temper the liberal economic policies that are sought to be practised even in communist China these days. Rajaji and Mahatma Gandhi gave it a different name — the Doctrine of Trusteeship in tune with India's ancient culture and ethos. ``Hold everything in trust for the welfare of your fellow being — intellect, talent, industry and everything that contributes to the progress of mankind.'' It is indeed a pity that in their preoccupation with petty politics of the day, journalists and statesmen the world over have not given this Doctrine of Trusteeship the attention it deserves in the interests of abiding peace between the "haves" and "have-nots" everywhere as it will go a long way in reducing glaring economic disparities while at the same time, promoting intelligent entrepreneurship informed by sensitive social conscience, so vital for the continued progress of civilisation.

Rajaji fought against the deployment of nuclear weapons also, long before other world statesmen even knew the magnitude of the problem. It was almost a one-man battle from the City of Madras which compelled listening of such powerful world statesmen as Nikita Khruschev of the (erstwhile) Soviet Union and President J. F. Kennedy of the United States to his voice of wisdom.

Incidentally, while on the subject, is it not intriguing that our ``Left'' intellectuals who are so vociferous about the alleged "saffronisation" of Indian history do not at all refer to C. Rajagopalachari's marathon efforts against the nuclear menace, whenever they organise protest marches or learned symposiums in our major cities these days on this vital subject? Why? Are we to believe they are all too young to know history as recent as Rajaji's fight against nuclear arms race or are they too inhibited by Rajaji's equally herculean fight against the menace of "State Socialism" in India to which they are still wedded so dogmatically? The intellectuals of the Indian ``Left'' may usefully refer to the latest volume of the Selected Works of Jawaharlal Nehru to learn about Rajaji's insistence that India should refuse American and (even its food aid) if the U.S. continues to produce nuclear weapons. Digression apart, it is a record that when the First Nuclear Test Ban Treaty was signed in Moscow in 1963, the Russian as well as the American Statesmen were so gracious as to publicly acknowledge Rajaji's contribution to that consummation in the march of mankind to world peace. As for Rajaji himself, he was content to play his part and was ever ready and willing to be forgotten by posterity. His faith in God and man, and his crusades born out of his devotion to Truth as he saw <147,1,0>it (Gandhiji described him as a true Satyagrahi) give him a place in the history of India and of the world, notwithstanding the glaring prejudices of so many ``intellectuals'' against him.

It will be fitting in this context to conclude this birthday tribute to Rajaji with a few excerpts from his inaugural address to the National Physical Laboratory in New Delhi on January 21, 1950:

``Science will not be a slave in chains. True to the feminine type, the goddess of Science rejects the direct mercenary approach and prefers to be gracious by her own choice and only when you approach her for her own sake. ... Of course I am not unaware that sometimes these discoveries of fundamental scientists are seized on by Satan for the infliction of mere miseries on mankind than he is now subjected to, and in this respect the atom has been a great offender.

"On the one hand, poor Einstein is working on the Expanding Universe and giving us equations which are hieroglyphics to rue, but must be a wonderful joy to mathematicians. Einstein's expanding universe can do us no great immediate damage. There is no harm in these equations. On the other hand, however, those eminent scientists who worship at the altar of the infinitesimal, have brought the world precipitously near destruction.

"The offender is not really the Atom. It is the business of statesmen to agree to prevent the misuse of Truth.

``... The search for truth must go on and India should put in her share of work in Science and take her share of fame in return. If the scientists of India make up their minds, they can raise India's prestige to a degree which will move than make up for any failures or defects in other fields.

"There is no medium for international prestige as effective as scientific research. Our laboratories are our best embassies....

"Men of Science, on account of their knowledge of some secrets of Nature, contemplate with increased humility and reverence that which must ever remain outside the pale of human analysis.''