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Mainstream, Vol XLV No 48

Gandhi-Nehru Tradition and Indian Secularism

Sunday 25 November 2007, by P.C. Joshi


(On November 14 falls the one hundred and eighteenth birth anniversary of Jawaharlal Nehru. To mark the occasion, Mainstream reproduces in the following pages articles from distinguished contributors touching on different areas of immediate concern for the nation in the domestic and international spheres. —Editor)

“Nahi Manushat Shrestha Taran Hi Kinchit (There is none loftier than man!)”
- —Mahabharat
“Sabar Upare Manush Satya Tahar Upare Nai (Man is above everyone. There is no truth higher than man!)”
- —Chandidas

Among the developing countries, India is distinguished by its proclaimed commitment to secularism as the guiding principle of state policy and action. The conception of Indian secularism is not just an intellectual abstraction; it is not a product only of logical constructions and academic debates. It acquired flesh and blood, a moral depth and intensity through the martyrdom of the foremost leader of India’s freedom struggle, Mahatma Gandhi, and through the death-defying courage of Jawaharlal Nehru in the pursuit of the secular ideal. Further, the sacrifice of countless unknown Indians who stood up for secular nationhood at critical moments in India’s national evolution has qualitatively transformed Indian secularism from an intellectual abstraction into a powerful moral force.

Secularism was no doubt the intellectual child of the West. From a broad historical perspective, the modern secular ideal and conception originated in the West and crystallised as a world-view under the impetus provided by three major forces of the modern age—Religious Reformation, Industrialisation and the Democratic Revolution. Even though certain cultural ingredients of secularism lie deep in certain aspects of Indian historical tradition, India’s introduction to the ideal of modern secularism was the result of the Western impact. At the same time the Western impact, which was conducive to the secular idea, has to be distinguished from the colonial impact, which created formidable impediments on the path of transition to a secular state and society. The Colonial State was far from being a secular state. Specially in the past-1857 Rebellion period, “the British abandoned their role as social reformers” (Daniel Thorner 1980:25) As a part of its new policy of divide and rule, it had mastered the art of exploiting one religion against another.

Further, it did not consistently and vigorously pursue a policy of secularising Indian education and culture. Besides, the identification of colonial rule with India’s backward-looking classes and social strata converted colonialism into a formidable constraint on the processes of secularisation of Indian society. The most important constraint created by colonial rule was in the perpetuation of “a static economy in progress”, in the stagnation of productive forces and in the emergence of a social and economic pattern neither traditional nor modern, which provided the soil for the growth of the forces of social obscurantism and anti-secularism. (Daniel Thorner 1980: 25-26)

The promoter of the secular idea in India was thus not the colonial power-elite; the pioneers of the secular ideal were the anti-colonial sections of the Indian elite, which derived inspiration from modern Western thought and specially from the English industrial and French political revolutions. The secularisation process also received stimulus from the Indian religious reformation pioneered by Swami Vivekananda, Maulana Abul Kalam Azad and many others. Further, the secular idea gathered momentum from the historical compulsions and necessities of India’s struggle against colonialism and from her striving to evolve a unified national identity out of its multi-religious, multi-ethnic and multi-lingual diversities.

INDIAN nationalism from its very inception faced the challenge of evolving a set of normative principles defining clearly, among other things, the relation between religion and politics and between religion and the nation-state suited to a multi-religious country with Hindus in a majority and Muslims, Christians and others being significant minorities. In other words, leaders of Indian nationalism had to clarify whether the Indian nation-state will be based on predominance of the religion of the majority community or will be based on clear dissociation and demarcation of the state from religion—on secularism.

A clear pronouncement about the secular basis of the Indian polity came from the foremost leader of Indian nationalism, Mahatma Gandhi, in the following words:

Hindustan belongs to all those who are born and bred here and who have no other country to look to. Therefore, it belongs to Parsis, Beni Israelis, to Indian Christians, Muslims and other non-Hindus as much as to Hindus. Free India will be no Hindu raj, it will be Indian raj based not on the majority of any religious sect or community, but on the representatives of the whole people without distinction of religion. I can conceive of a mixed majority putting the Hindus in a minority. They would be elected for their record of service and merits. Religion is a personal matter, which should have no place in politics. (M.K. Gandhi, 1947: 277-278)

I do not expect India of my dreams to develop one religion that is to be wholly Hindu or wholly Christian or wholly Mussalman, but I want it to by wholly tolerant, with its religions working side by side with one another. -(M.K. Gandhi 1947: 257)

I swear by my religion. I will die for it. But it is my personal affair. The State has nothing to do with it. The State would look after your secular welfare, but not your or my religion. That is everybody’s personal concern.
- (M.K. Gandhi 1947: 278)

I do not believe that the state can concern itself or cope with religious education. By religion I have not in mind fundamental ethics, but what goes by the name of denominationalism. We have suffered enough from State-aided religion and a State Church. A society or a group, which depends partly or wholly on state aid for the existence of its religion does not deserve or better still, does not have any religion worth the name.
- (M.K. Gandhi 1947: 194-195)

The logical sequel to this premise of denial of religion as the basis of the modern polity or modern State leads Gandhi to question Quaide-i-Azam Jinnah’s affirmation of religion as the basis of nationhood. In a well-known statement quoted by Gandhi, Quaide-i-Azam had presented the following thesis:

It is extremely difficult to appreciate why our Hindu friends fail to understand the real nature of Islam and Hinduism. They are not religions in the strict sense of the word, but are in fact, different and distinct social orders and it is a dream that the Hindus and Muslims can ever evolve a common nationally.
The Hindus and Muslims have two different religious philosophies, social customs, literatures. They neither inter-marry nor inter-dine together, and indeed they belong to two different civilisations … To yoke together two such nations under a single state must lead to growing discontent and final destruction of any fabric that may be so built up for the government of such a State. (Quoted in M.K. Gandhi 1947: 226-279)

In replying to Quaide-i-Azam in the following words, Gandhi was also providing the clearest exposition of the basic premises of Indian secularism:

The two-nation theory is an untruth…A Bengali Muslim speaks the same tongue that a Bengali Hindu does, eats the same food, has the same amusements as the Hindu neighbour. They dress alike. I have often found it difficult to distinguish by any outward sign between a Bengali Hindu and a Bengali Muslim. The same phenomenon is observable more or less in the South among the poor, who constitute the masses of India… Hindus and Muslims of India are not two nations.
- (M.K. Gandhi 1947: 194-195)

In other words, Gandhi’s basic approach to secularism in India was derived not only from abstract principles and ideals; his insight into the processes of secularisation was derived from his empirical view or insight into the complexity of the Indian social structure. Gandhi had a dynamic and not a static view of the Indian social structure. He recognised from the point of view of reconstruction of the Indian polity not the primacy of the religious divisions but the existence of multi-religious, regional economics, societies and cultures in a country of sub-continental dimensions like India. Again in Gandhi’s view “the division between classes and masses” is more basic than the division between Hindus and Musslamans. Gandhi’s Ramrajya is an idealized expression of a society free from “the division between the classes and the masses”, it was a peasants’ Utopia and not a Hindu Raj.

AT the conceptual level, the indissoluble link between Indian nationalism and secularism finds further affirmation, clarification and sophistication in Jawaharlal Nehru’s thought:

In a country like India, which has many faiths and religions, no real nationalism can be built except on the basis of secularity. Any narrower approach must exclude a section of the population and then nationalism itself will have a restricted meaning than it should possess…
We have not only to live upto the ideals proclaimed in our Constitution, but make them a part of our thinking and living and thus build up a really integrated nation. That does not mean absence of religion, but putting religion on a different plane from that of normal political and social life. Any other approach in India would mean the breaking up of India. -(Jawaharlal Nehru 1983: 330-331)

It is important to note that Nehru had a very clear insight into the dual character of religion: religion, specially organised religion, as “blind belief and reaction, dogma and bigotry, superstition and exploitation and the preservation of vested interests” on the one hand and religion as something qualitatively different “which supplied a deep, inner craving of human beings” and “which has brought peace and comfort to innumerable tortured souls” on the other.

Nehru’s approach to secularism is, therefore, based on an uncompromising critique of religion in the first sense and a deep appreciation and respect for religion in the second sense. Nehru quotes a modern definition of religion, according to which, “whatever introduces genuine perspective into piecemeal and shifting episodes of existence” or again “any activity pursued on behalf of an ideal end against obstacles, and in spite of threats of personal loss, because of conviction of its general and enduring value is religion in quality”. Nehru is prepared to be “a humble camp-follower of religion” in this sense.
- (Jawaharlal Nehru 1955: 374:380)

Much more important is Nehru’s whole-hearted and clear-headed acceptance of the “spiritual and moral legacy” of the saints and sages of India, which have contributed “moral standards” and the “spiritual element” to Indian life. It is this tradition of the saints and sages, which is a source of “fundamental reality”, which has given the Indian people “a moral foundation and certain moral concepts which hold together our ideals and our life in general”, (Jawaharlal Nehru 1965: 530-536) In Nehru’s view it will be a poor concept of secularism, which does not encompass but excludes this rich tradition in the name of breaking away from religiosity.

The concept of secularism as defined above by Gandhi and Nehru constitutes the bedrock of Indian nationalism. It evolved in and through the national struggle for political independence and it was ultimately incorporated and embodied in the Constitution of the sovereign republic of India. The upholding of secularism then became the constitutional obligation of the Indian nation-state. It is clear that Indian secularism grew not in the process of direct encounter and clash with religion as in the West. Secularism in India grew as an integrative concept, transcending religions on the one hand and tapping the unifying forces promoted by the secularisation process within the religions of India themselves on the other. Indian secularism is the fruit jointly of Religious Reformation and Modern Enlightenment in the Indian context. The thoughts of Gandhi provide a bridge between these two major thought-streams in modern India. One of the major connecting links between these two epoch-making thought currents is the idea of social equality. Indeed, Indian secularism acts as a bridge between religions in a multi-religious country via the secular concept of equality.

NEHRU’S exposition of secularism is rooted in affirmation of social and political equality. To quote Nehru again:

We call our state a secular one. The word ‘secular’ is not a very happy one. And yet for want of better word, we have used it. What exactly does it mean? It does not obviously mean a state where religion is discouraged. It means freedom of religion and conscience including freedom for those who have no religion, subject only to their not interfering with each other or with the basic conceptions of our state… The word secular, however, conveys something much more to me, although that might not be its dictionary meaning. It conveys the idea of social and political equality. Thus, a caste-ridden society is not properly secular. I have no desire to interfere with any persons’ belief but when those beliefs become petrified in caste divisions, undoubtedly they affect the social structure of the state. They, prevent us from realising the idea of equality which we claim to place before ourselves.
- (Jawaharlal Nehru 1963: 327)

In other words, the concept of secularism, if it is to serve as an instrument of national integration, must not be treated as a static concept emphasising only the practice of religious tolerance within the framework of social and economic status quo. It must become a dynamic concept, embracing the idea of actively promoting social and political change in the direction of eliminating inequality. Moreover, according to Nehru, the fight against inequality is clearly tied up with the fight against economic backwardness and underdevelopment. Seculariam and economic backwardness do not go together. Nehru thus evolved a design of promoting secularism through social transformation (eradicating inequality) and development (eradicating backwardness).

Again, Nehru carries forward Gandhi’s concept of the primacy of the division between “classes and masses” over the division into religious communities. Nehru’s interpretation of the socio-economic basis of secularism and the socio-economic roots of communalism finds a crystallised expression in his critique of middle class constraints of Indian nationalism. His view that anti-secularism derives strength from the reluctance of the leadership to broaden the socio-economic or mass base of Indian nationalism is a major sociological or politico-economic insight into the phenomenon of secularism. The basic question posed by Nehru was: “For the freedom of which class or classes are we especially striving”? (Jawaharlal Nehru 1965: 308).

In the pre-independence period, the battle for secularism was conducted on the plane of anti-colonial political mobilisation. The constraints on secularism arose from inadequate dissociation of the masses from religious revivalism and their inadequate mobilisation on a class or socio-economic basis. The default in re-interpreting the history and cultural tradition of India in secular (non-religious) terms so as to bring into prominence the composite, integrative and dynamic processes within the history and culture of each religious community was also conspicuous. But the most fundamental source of anti-secularist disorientation was the colonial economic structure and the colonial model of modernisation and its internal logic causing economic retrogression and lopsided and unbalanced pattern of economic change. A vicious circle situation was thus generated when the economic retrogression generated an anti-secularist, ideological backlash and the ideological disorientation reinforced economic retrogression. Ultimately, the weakness of secular consciousness resulted in strains and stresses as a sequel to the colonial model and structure affecting different communities differently and unequally and being interpreted in terms of religious-fundamentalist categories rather than of political-economic categories.

FOCUSSING now on the contemporary scene, discerning and sensitive Indians are shocked and alarmed by the recent threats to secularism which have assumed massive proportions. It is pertinent to ask: Why this schism between the vision of a secular, unified India as enshrined in the Constitution and the grim reality of serious threat t the secular design of Indian nationalism? It is distressing to find vast masses being confused by the anti-secular ideological offensive.

Much more disquieting is to find the Indian elite at all levels still not aware of the vast dimensions of the danger to Indian nationalism from anti-secularism. They have yet to mobilise all the forces of the nation-state and civil society to translate this secular vision into policy-prescriptions for concerted state and societal action in the economic, social, cultural and political spheres. There is a wide communication gap between the secular elements of the intelligensia and the masses which implies that the masses are exposed to the ideological offensive from the anti-secular forces without any counteracting approach and mobilisation by the secular forces.

With the above background, a fresh examination of the promises, concepts and practice of Indian secularism in the light of historical experience, contemporary social processes and fundamental value premises of the Indian Constitution is the need of the hour. The anti-secular offensive can be resisted only by a nationwide dialogue and debate among people representing all points of the view.

The important point to note is that this national debate and dialogue must not exclude elements which are rooted in religious approach and which derive their inspiration from the religious worldview. In fact, the national debate and dialogue will assume a wide national character and sweep only if it encompasses elements belonging to all the religions of India.

It must further be noted that the secularisation process has evolved in India not only in the form of intellectual encounter of the secular forces with and against religion, but as a fight within religion itself, specially against certain obscurantist and retrogressive features of religion. V.S. Naravane’s A Philosophical Survey of Modern Indian Thought (1964) sums up this aspect of recent Indian cultural history in the following words.

In the West, intellectual revolutions have usually taken place in opposition to religion. But in India every aspect of the modern enlightenment, and every movement through which it has been expressed, has been based on the idea of revitalising society through religious reconstruction. Nehru may be described as the first intellectual thinker, who has not found it necessary to lean on religion.
- (V.S. Naravane 1964: 17)

To repeat, the secularisation process in India has evolved in an important way as on the encounter between the retrogressive and progressive processes, within religion itself. This phenomenon can be seen in the encounter between Brahmanism and Buddhism, between forces of religious bigotry and social rigidity on the one hand and the forces of religious freedom and social emanicipation released by the Bhakti movement on the other in the medieval period. It can be seen in the rise of secularising movements within religion in the modern period led by saints and sages like Swami Vivekananda and modern thinkers like Maulana Abul Kalam Azad.

We must take note of the mechanical equation of secularisation with opposition to religion as a whole by the modern elite. The ignorance of the secularisation process with religion on the part of the modern elite has created a vast hiatus between the secular forces deriving their inspiration from modern Western thought and those rooted in the Indian religious reformation. This hiatus has been a source of weakness of Indian secularism specially in the post-independence period. Without bridge-building between these two streams of Indian secularism, the ideological offensive of the anti-secular forces cannot be effectively counteracted.

Without the powerful support of the religious reformers of all religions, the secular forces of the nation-state and of the modern intelligensia cannot reach the vast masses of India for whom religion, interpreted in the widest meaning of the term, provides not only a philosophy of life but also the categories of understanding and communication. So far as the vast masses are concerned, the secular message must acquire intelligible Indian form in terms of Indian images, symbols and meaning patterns. Some of the basic failures of contemporary Indian secularism arise from the lack of rootedness in the Indian cultural traditions which, to a large extent, still mean the Indian religious traditions. To ignore that Indian religions and the Indian cultural traditions are closely intertwined is to ignore basic historical and sociological facts and processes.

From this perspective, the religious world-view must not be treated as intellectually obsolete and practically irrelevant and retrogressive. The possibilities of creative re-interpretation, adaptation and renewal within religion must be explored so as to promote compatibility and complementarity between religious conceptions and prescriptions on the one hand and progressive social and political action on the other. Just because religion has become obsolete for the modern educated class or a part of it, it must not be assumed that religion has become obsolete for the vast masses.

India has still to accomplish its socio-economic transition from the predominantly agrarian stage and here the non-literate rural and urban masses outside the modern sector still constitute the major social force. In such a social milieu, the religious world-view is still a living force, encompassing not only obsolete beliefs and superstitious mental orientations, but also values and morality, myths and legends, images and symbols and, above all, categories of understanding and modes of cognition and communication. In this social and cultural context the battle against false religiosity and superstition and against the alliance between vested interests and religious obscurantism should not be equated with the battle against the entire religious tradition.

Religion as a whole is much deeper and wider than the part which is tapped by the fanatics and the fundamentalists. The absence of a conscious and well-thought-out approach towards religion has resulted in accretion of tremendous strength to negative tendencies in the religious sphere (for instance, to obscurantism, fatalism, hostility between religious groups, political and economic exploitation of religious loyalties and sentiments, accumulation of privilege and property by religious institutions and their exploitation for socially retrogressive purposes etc.). The neglect of the religious question has also meant tolerating decline and decay of the positive concepts and constructive forces within religion, which gave primacy to values and morality, to compassion and humanism, to cooperation and service and which acted as a powerful check on individualism and acquisitiveness.

Within the religious tradition are still locked up deep reserves of idealism and social energy capable of being directed to collective good which, if tapped, can be powerful forces for promoting national integration and egalitarian development. Any conception of secularism which is ignorant of the positive potentialities of the religious-cultural heritage and which is disinclined to tap it for realising the basic values and motivations underlying the modern secular idea requires serious reconsideration and fundamental reformulation.

To highlight the positive potentialities of religious reforms is not to underestimate the great dangers from religious superstition, obscurantism and fundamentalism at the present moment. This means an unrelenting fight against these religious deformations in thought and practice, which disorient the consciousness of the people, which impede the realisation of the secular ideal, which thwart the pursuit of national self-reliance and of a just society. The history of the freedom movement shows religious obscurantism to be a force of internal acts of subversion. It has been the principal vehicle of colonialist and neo-colonalist forces of external subversion. We must also not ignore that religion has been and is being exploited by vested interests for promoting false consciousness, for thwarting reforms and for preventing the unification and organisation of the toiling poor.

The most effective way of preventing this alliance of religious fanatics and vested interests from spreading their influence among the poor and the underprivileged is to accelerate the process of mass-oriented development and the implementation of urgent social reforms. The cause of secularism has suffered the most by the failure to effectively involve the masses in the processes of development and social reforms and to take the message of literacy, education and science to every home and every member among the deprived and the underprivileged.

Past and present history tells us that the cause of secularism has suffered serious reverses whenever the modern forces have adopted a strategy of direct attack on religious conceptions, institutions and authorities. In contrast, the strategy of indirect encounter with forces of religious obscurantism through persuasive mass education, active promotion of social change and acceleration of development processes has paid very rich dividends by eroding the social and economic base of these anti-secular forces. It must be noted that the soil for the growth of those forces is provided by ignorance and backwardness on the one hand and inequality and exploitation on the other. The more effective the strategy in overcoming economic backwardness on the one hand and ignorance and exploitation on the other, the greater the successes in meeting the challenge of the anti-secular forces.

In other words, development processes which promote not enlightenment but ignorance and superstition, not equality but inequality, not justice but exploitation, are the best allies of the forces of religious obscurantism and fanaticism. In many developing countries, class-biased development policies adversely affecting the masses have helped not the growth of secularism but anti-secularism. Secularism, development and social justice are thus indivisible.

MUCH insight is provided on the question of a right attitude to religion in the fight for secularism by the Marxist approach which is uncompromi-sing in its characterisation of “religion (that is organised religion) as the opium of the people”, which is eloquent and articulate in its affirmation of atheism and expression of hostility to religious fundamentalism. At the same time, Marxism has directed its attention towards undermining the socio-economic basis of religious obscurantism and opposed all concepts of “a war on religion—on religious beliefs, symbols, institutions and authorities” as infantile and anarchistic.

In a major policy pronouncement on “The Attitude of the Workers Party to Religion” (1909) Lenin wrote as follows:

Religion is the opium of the people—this dictum is the cornerstone of the whole Marxist outlook on religion. Marxism has always regarded all modern religions and churches and each and every religious organisations as instruments of bourgeois reaction that serve to defend exploitation and to befuddle the working class.

At the same time, Engels frequently condemned the efforts of people who desired to be “more Left” or more revolutionary to introduce, into the programme of the workers’ party, an explicit proclamation of atheism, in the sense of declaring war on religion. Engels called such vociferous proclamation of war on religion as a piece of stupidity and stated that such a declaration of war was the best way to revive interest in religion…. (V.I. Lenin 1977: 403)

Lenin further clarified the Marxist understan-ding of the social roots of religion as follows:

Marxism is materialism. We must combat all religion—that is the ABC of all materialism but Marxism goes further. It says: We must know how to combat religion and in order to do so, we must explain the source of faith and religion among the masses in a materialist way. (We must ask the question:) Why does religion retain its hold on the backward sections of the town proletariat, on broad sections of the semi-proletariat, and on the mass of the peasantry? Because of the ignorance of the people, replies the bourgeois progressivist… The Marxist says that is not true. It does not explain the roots of religion profoundly enough… In modern capitalist countries, these roots are mainly social. The deepest root of religion today is the socially downtrodden condition of the working masses and their complete helplessness in face of blind forces of capitalism… ‘Fear made the gods.’ Fear of the blind force of capital is the root of modern religion… No educational book can eradicate religion from the minds of the masses who are crushed by hard capitalist, hard labour until these masses themselves learn to fight this root of religion.
- (V.I. Lenin 1977: 405-406)

Lenin’s insight into the social roots of religion, into the link between inhuman capitalism as the soil for growth of heightened religiosity, is fully confirmed by the historian, Eric J. Hobsbawm, who shows how in England and France during the age of transition to capitalism, there was a return to “militant, literal, old-fashioned religion”. Explaining this “religious revival”, Hobsbawm observes:

For the masses it was in the main a method of coping with the increasingly bleak and inhuman oppressive society of middle class liberalism. In Marx’s phrase (but he was not the only one to use these words) it was ‘the heart of a heartless world, as it is the spirit of spiritless conditions… the opium of the people.’ More than this: it attempted to create social and sometimes educational and political institutions in an environment which provided none and among politically undeveloped people, it gave primitive expression to their discontents and aspiration. Its literalism, emotionalism and superstition protested both against the entire society in which rational calculation dominated and against the upper classes who deformed religion in their own image.
- (E.J. Hobsbawm 1979: 279-280)

To the extent our development patterns reproduce some of the oppressive conditions and features depicted above, they have the potentiality to promote (and, indeed, are already promoting) revivalism and obscurantism. The latter cannot be resisted without altering the oppressive economic patterns and condition which provide a favourable soil for the growth of these anti-secular forces.

And finally, it is in the proximate realm of politics, that is, in the realm of mobilisation of political support or votes in a democracy and in the realm of management of state institutions that the principle of secularism encounters the most formidable obstacles. Political support in a democracy can be mobilised either by appealing to the enlightened self-interest and progressive urges and aspirations of the people or by tapping their primordial instincts and loyalties and their loyalty to retrograde customs and social practices.

Similarly, those in charge of the institutions of state power can either maintain total independence from religious partisanship and pressures and resist being exploited by powerful pressure groups; or they can allow, for acquiring cheap popularity and for other short-term gains and interests,
the state apparatus or their position within the state apparatus, to become an instrument of appeasement of vested interests and thus be guilty of sacrificing the long-term interests of the nation and society.

IN recent times behind every tragedy that has befallen the nation at different times, there is a history of compromises and, indeed, of surrender of principles at all levels, especially at the highest levels. In view of this experience, it seems appropriate to assert that the strength of secularism ultimately depends on the quality of human agents, on whom rests the responsibility of safeguarding the spirit of secularism through their policies and actions in different fields of national life specially at critical moments.

The following remarks of the French political thinker, A.D. Tocqueville, are very apt in our situation emphasising the importance of the leadership and of the quality of leadership in a democracy. To quote:
When occasions present themselves in which the interests of the people are at variance with their inclinations, it is the duty of persons, whom they have appointed to be the guardians of those interests, to withstand the temporary delusions, in order to give them time and opportunity for cool and sedate reflection. Instances might be cited, in which a conduct of this kind has served the people from the very fatal consequences of their own mistakes and has procured lasting moments of their gratitude to the men, who had the courage and magnanimity to save them at the peril of their displeasure.
(A.D. Tocqueville 1964: 174)

In their own life time, Gandhi and Nehru emerged as the living personification of this idea enunciated by Tocqueville. They stood rock-like, unwavering and death-defying in the face of the overwhelming torrents of religious fanaticism and fundamentalism, and in the pursuit of the secularist ideal. Whether India survives and thrives as a unified nation based on the principle of diversity in unity and whether it moves steadily on the road of building a just society will depend on the quality of human agents on whom has fallen the responsibility of upholding and implementing the similar ideal of the Constitution of India.


1. M.K. Gandhi, India of My Dreams, compiled by R.K. Prabhu, Navjivan Publishing House, Ahmedabad, 1947.

2. M.K. Gandhi, Political and National Life and Affairs, Vol II, compiled by V.B. Kher, Navjivan Publishing House, Ahmedabad, 1967.

3. Eric J. Hobsbawm, The Age of Revolution 1789-1848, ABACUS, 1979.

4. Jawaharlal Nehru, An Anthology, edited by S. Gopal, Oxford University Press, Delhi, 1983.

5. Jawaharlal Nehru, An Autobiography, The Bodley Head, London, 1955.

6. V.I. Lenin, Collected Works, Vol 15, Progress Publishers, Moscow, 1977.

7. V.S. Naravane, Modern Indian Thought: A Philosophical Survey, Asia Publishing House, New Delhi, 1964.

8. A.D. Tocqueville, Democracy In America, Vol I, Indian Edition, Popular Prakashan, Bombay, 1964.

9. P.C. Joshi, Economic Background of Communalism: A Model for Analysis in B.R. Nanda (ed.), Essays in Modern Indian History, OUP, New Delhi, 1980.

10. Daniel Thorner, The Shaping of Modern India, Allied, New Delhi, 1980.

11. P.D. Barthwal, The Nirgun School of Hindi Poetry, Indian Book Shop, Banaras, 1936.

12. Jawaharlal Nehru, The First Sixty Years (edited by Dorothy Norman), Vol II, Asia Publishing House, New Delhi, 1965.
(Mainstream, November 14, 1987)

The author is a former Professor (now retired) of the Institute of Economic Growth, Delhi.

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