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Wednesday, July 06, 2022

India did not learn democracy from the British: JNU V-C

Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) Vice-Chancellor Santishree Dhulipudi Pandit was speaking on the second day of a three-day seminar organised by Delhi University’s Political Science department.

Written by Aranya Shankar | New Delhi |
Updated: May 21, 2022 4:26:07 am
JNU Vice Chancellor, Santishree Dhulipudi Pandit. (Photo: Sheetal Banchariya/File)

Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) Vice-Chancellor Santishree Dhulipudi Pandit Friday said India did not learn “democratic values” from the Britishers or else Myanmar and Pakistan would be democracies too. She also said Indian cultural nationalism was “on a different path” than that of the “Abrahamic religions”.

She was speaking on the second day of a three-day seminar organised by Delhi University’s Political Science department on “Revisiting the Ideas of India from ‘Swaraj’ to ‘New India’”. The seminar was inaugurated Thursday by Home Minister Amit Shah and Education Minister Dharmendra Pradhan.

Speaking on the topic ‘Cultural Nationalism’, she said, “Our democracy is much older; the British did not give us democratic values. Then Burma/Myanmar, Pakistan – all countries ruled by the British colonial power should have been democracies. India is a democracy because it has a political culture – a culture that can choose from 3,000 crores of gods. What more diversity would you require?”

“Indian cultural nationalism is on a path that is very different from that of… Abrahamic religions. So whenever we talk of the Indian civilisation, it is something that celebrates development, democracy, diversity, difference and dissent,” said Pandit.
She said “unlike Abrahamic religions”, Hinduism was “not a proselytising or a structured religion of one book and one god”. “We are a process; it is a way of life. So when we compare, you are comparing two unequals,” she said.

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Pandit said “reducing India to a civic nation bound only by the Constitution disregards its history, our ancient heritage, culture and civilisation”. “I would place India as a civilisation state. Please understand that there are only two civilisation states in the world that had tradition with modernity, a realm with the region, and change with continuity. Those two states are India and China,” she said.
She said there was a need to relook at history “because we are made to imagine our history with self-loathing, self-hatred and a land of the conquered and the defeated by invaders”.

“One period is excessively glorified, and I, who come from the South, feel even worse. The longest ruling dynasty in India has been the Cholas who ruled this country for 2,000 years. Any mention? Any roads in the name of any of the great kings of the Cholas? Not one in Delhi… There is a huge bias, agenda setting as well as gatekeeping. It is extremely important that we revisit these ideas and look into the gaps,” she said.

Pandit said the Cholas were great because they conquered not by “genocide, rape or loot” but by “culture, trade and commerce”. She also said the concept of the Rigveda and Vishnu Purana defined the geographical existence of Bharat varsha, and that the word ‘rashtra’ was used in Rigveda, Yajurveda and Atharvaveda.

“Many people believe that feminist or women’s rights movement began only with Marx and ended there. I’ll tell you the first feminist is Draupadi and Sita. Who could be greater feminists than what Draupadi asks her husbands in the Mahabharata? Or even Sita is the first single mother. These whole concepts are not an invention of the West,” said Pandit.

She referenced American historian Robert Frykenberg, and said he called the Indian National Movement as a Hindu Revivalist and Modernist Movement.

“Cultural civilisation is only a civilisational perception – a sense of belonging and anchoring in a special cultural and civilisation milieu. This is very important, because when China does it it’s very secular, when India does it, it’s communal. The type of argumentation doesn’t work in academics,” she said.

Pandit referred to Bal Gangadhar Tilak as the “first mass leader before Gandhi”. “Many people think Mahatma Gandhi is a disciple of Gopal Krishna Gokhale, I would rather say he’s a disciple of Lokmanya Tilak. Why? Because he used similar symbols to bring in a mass movement like satyagraha and ram rajya… Unfortunately, we had an interpretation calling these great leaders “extremists”. They were not extremists; they were revolutionaries,” she said.

Speaking of Tilak, Gokhale etc, Pandit said, “Unfortunately, the school which began in my university, also interpreted only one family as the history of Modern India. We have forgotten all these great nationalists who existed.”


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