August 15 in my school days, in the late 1950s and early 60s, was a day of festivities, flag hoisting and of eating sweat meats. For an eight or none year old boy, who till the other day was rearing cattle, school was a jail. But on August 15, there was no sitting on the dusty floors with legs folded. You could play on the roads. Freedom to play with the hope of getting some small prize like a pencil or a new slate was an ecstasy. I remember on the first August 15 in school, my brother got the prize and not me. Here began my failures and jealousy. Failure taught me how to fight more and jealousy taught me how to overcomefailure. These early lessons came from Independence Day.
Several August 15’s went by. In my 67th year, living through the 72nd Independence Day, I want to assess whether the nation failed as I did in my first game or succeeded like my brother by making our neighbours jealous? We have a political democracy wherein even if a party that I do not like comes to power, I have my freedom to vote against it the next time. I live with the hope of voting it out next time. This is a measure of success. But we have a social system which is very undemocratic, that I cannot vote out. Caste, untouchability, women’s inequality remain the same. The poor and the oppressed suffer in this social system and the rich also do not live as developed human beings. This is a major failure. But why is this undemocratic social system co-existing with a constitutional democratic system? It is because, in my view, the Indian civil society is guided by an undemocratic spiritual system.
Even in the modern capitalist system, religion plays a key role in designing our social relations. Democratic constitutionalism cannot deliver unless the civil society is structured with a spiritual democratic value system that came from a religious system operating in the country. Indian Brahminism, which has now broadly re-named itself as Hinduism, encoded and institutionalised spiritual fascism with a belief that God created Indians unequal. The other religions that operate on this land broadly framed their social relations—Islam, Christianity, Sikhism and so on— on the ethical system of Brahminism. Hence, though the Constitution guarantees equal rights to everyone, the poor and the women of all spiritual systems are subjected to inequality.
Spiritual democracy is the basis for social democracy and social democracy is the fountainhead of political democracy. Indian constitutionalism has survived because of the sufferers’ sacrifice, not because of the oppressor’s change of heart. The BJP and the RSS claimed that if they were voted to power, Rama Rajya or heaven would land on India.
Because some people want to worship cow, cow herders are tortured or lynched. Others who do not believe in a God that some people rever are forced to worship that God. This creates a condition of constitutional anarchy. Those Dalits, who believe in that God, are thrown out of temples, beaten and tortured.
Torturing others is defined as these “some people’s” version of democracy.
All constitutional institutions are made to work according to the dictum of spiritual fascism. The institutions have come to accept that. That is what democracy means in India. After all, the core notion of democracy was not born in India but in Greece much before religions were born.
All our intellectuals are in a mess as nobody is born and raised in a democratic atmosphere. Our communal and secular intellectuals have common cultural roots. At no time a shepherd is seen as intellectual. Better ignore what I am saying if you are secular or treat this as “Anti-National”, if you are a communal scholar. The notion of God came into human life with a principle that God created all human beings equal. But Brahminism declared through its texts and day-to-day practices that God created human beings unequal. Indian Islam accepted it. Indian Christianity accepted it. And they adopted the essential core inequality. Secular intellectuals do not talk about spiritual fascism. According to them, all hierarchies are part of that beautiful pluralism. The Dalits/Adivasis and Shudras of India have suffered from this too.
Their intellectual dishonesty was such that a debate on spiritual system was unwanted as it was not considered social science. That protected their university, civil service and political jobs. The subversive elements come to power with the consent of spiritual slaves. That is what has happened to Shudras, Dalits and Adivasis of India.
During the long years of Muslim rule, the intellectuals of that period did not believe that Allah created all men equal. The 18 per cent Indians were untouchables even during that time. In the medieval and late medieval times, human untouchability was more barbaric. Women in their religion and outside suffered all kinds of inequalities and social prohibitions. They were seen as objects of sexual lust by men.
During the British rule, the Christian intellectuals did not examine their spiritual practices with a serious critical eye, even though Bible repeatedly reminded them that God created all human beings—men and women equal. The worst was they established English medium missionary schools and educated the children of spiritual fascists, not the Shudras/Dalits/Adivasis. Spiritual authoritarianism, even fascism, is a part of all religious institutions because Brahminism has crept into every Indian’s life.
Though some reforms were initiated during the British rule, broadly the Indian spiritual systems remained undemocratic.
Democracy is not an autonomous structure that lives above human, spiritual and civil society. Our constitutionalism can crumble anytime if spiritual democracy is not made the central point of our intellectual discourse. We see this happening in many countries of the world. August 15 and January 26 come and go. Young people will become old and old people will die without any radical restructuring of spiritual and social relations in our country.