In this #SrijanTalk our speaker Suren discusses the nature of a Hindu State. He walks us through various traditional teachers – from #Kautilya to #GurujiGolwalkar and analyzes how a possible Hindu State would function, what would be it’s policy toward social welfare, towards economics, education and religion.
In today’s politics, there is a lot of discussion about the Hindu Rashtra. In order understand or articulate the nature of the Hindu Rashtra we must understand how it shall function through the Hindu Rajya. The contours of an Indian State, how it relates to the Hindu Nation and how different aspects of statecraft should be handled are to be analyzed.
In this discussion, the speaker recapitulates the various theories and solutions that great thinkers across the ages, Bhishma, Vasishta, Kautilya, Hemadri, Shivaji, Savarkar and Golwalkar have elucidated. He attempts to apply their prescriptions to modern situation that the Indian State finds itself in.
Right from the Vedic Period it always the description of the region is “Asethu Himachala paryantham”, from the region bounded on all three sides by the sea up to the snowy mountains, himachala means hima achala, snowy mountains to the region bounded by the seas is the Bharatha desha. If we look at the common factors – race, religion and culture, country and language, we have a common ethos, there is a common base language, in terms of grammar, in terms of syntax, in terms of script. All of the scripts have evolved from the same Brahmic family of scripts. You have the same structure, the ka-varga, ta-varga, cha-varga kind of structure to all our alphabets. You have the same, very similar rules for grammar, the syntax and vocabulary might change from state to state depending on region to region, but there is a common link language, if I may say so, till very recent times our common link language was Sanskrit.
I have not prepared a slide deck or anything, and I will just have a few notes which I will be using as a reference while I will be talking. And, a lot of this is from my own understanding and observation and reading. So, I must give you advance warning that this is very subjective. So, almost everything that I say or make as a statement or say might be open to debate and open to questioning. And, not all of you may agree with all of what I say. But this is just, please bear mind, this is very subjective, as our discussion on the subject is very nascent and we donot want to take any ideological stand point. So, if you ask about the subjects, there would be a specific standpoint from the viewpoint of certain groups of people in the country, another group of people in the country will have very rigid standpoint on what these topics mean.
However, what I have tried to do is try to analyse, from a historical perspective – the nature of state, states and state crafts in India from a historical perspective and try to give a perspective on how things worked across time, in different, at different points in time and try to evolve and see possibly how we could use that and apply that to our current situation that we find ourselves in.
So, at the outset, the, the idea was that, we would draw little bit more eyeballs. So the word Hindu Rashtra usually draws more eyeballs. But my discussion, what I am going to be talking about is mostly is about Rajya not about Rashtra. There will be a few, initially we will start with a definition of Rashtra and then go on to discussing Rajya, because there are two things. Rashtra by Rashtra, we mean the nation or the nationhood or the group of people who are part of the Hindu nation, whether and question the basic principle of whether there is a Hindu Rashtra at all, and what is this Hindu Rashtra consists of?
And, then we go into saying that suppose this nation, governs itself, not without any fetters of any baggage from the past of any certain constitutional principles or constitution which is derived from constitutions else where in the world, but based on its own history. What would a Hindavi Swarajya look like? And for that I have tried to gather as many references as I can.
One, very important sources is the Arthashastra, Kautilya’s Arthashastra which I have tried to use as a reference. Then, I have tried to use as reference the Agnyapatra promulgated by the Marathas and tried to use as reference later thinkers, modern thinkers and most of the modern thinkers who have spoken about Hindu Rashtra and about Hindavi Swarajya have been from the Sangha. So, I will reference Guruji Golwalkar, Dattopant Thengadi and Guru Duth Vaid. These are some of the prominent thinkers from the Sangha who have spoken about the various aspects of Hindu Rashtra, about Dharma, Rajaneethi and Shiksha which are, if you look at, in terms of Rajya, what really matters is Dharma, Rajaneethi – the political situation and the polity and Shiksha – how do we pass on and keep this civilizational value alive for a future generation.
So let me start with the definition of a Rashtra, the Hindu Nation. So I begin with, who has really thought through the definition of a nation? And question what are the things that go into defining a nation. So, a very good reference for this is from Guruji Golwalkar’s writings, where he says that to define a nation you must specify what is the country in which the nation is held or the state which holds the nation, the race, religion and culture and language. So Guruji Golwalkar goes on to say that, for, if you say that there is a nation, a nation must have a country of its own, it must have a country that it calls its country. So if you look at for example, the Chinese nation, the Chinese nation is essentially the inheritor of the Chinese civilization and the Chinese state and the Chinese country – the region, the geographical region of China defines what is the Chinese nation in a way because even if you look at, if you just open the hood and look at what lies beneath the Chinese nation state you will find that there are a multitude of beliefs, multitude of ethnicities, they have 56 ethnicities, the have 56 different ethnic groups.
And what they call dialects, like you know, Hokkienese or Cantonese or Mandarin or Fahinese, they have multiple dialects and all these dialects, if you look at it, from our perspective, they are mutually, mutually unintelligible. So effectively they are different languages. So China is also a multi-lingual state. Ethnically and racially China is also multi-ethnic and multi-racial. Multi-ethnic in the sense of, you have Mongols, you have Manchus, you have Tibetans, you have Uyghurs, you have Hui who are Chinese, ethnic Chinese Muslims, you have the main Han peoples.
In India, we have same thing, we have multiple languages here, we have multiple peoples, ethnicities. So, if you take somebody from the Punjab or from the, if you take the undivided India, if you take somebody from Peshawar, and you took somebody from Guwahati, they would look very different, because physically they are of very different, you know, physical characteristics as a group. But what knits together, as them as a nation is, we will go to some of these principles. So, lets look at the geographical bounds for what defines this nation. So, we have a very specific geographic bound, right from the Vedic Period, Vedic period, it always the description of the region is “Asethu Himachala paryantham”, from the region bounded on all three sides by the sea up to snowy mountains, himachala means hima achala, snowy mountains to the region bounded by the seas is the Bharatha desha.
And, if you look at the Puranic genealogy, Puranic corpus, the Vishnu Puran very clearly specifies, what is it that constitutes Bharatavarsha, Bharatha Khanda and what are the boundaries. They do not include, they say that it is starting from Himachala to the sethu, three, the three oceans that which bound the physical geographical contours. They also specify clearly what are the, Malayachala, Vindhyachala and so on, all the mountain ranges that exist in this region. They specify the punya theerthas, punya nadhis which exist in this region. They specify the punya kshetra – the places Ayodhyapuri, Kashipuri, Kanchipuri, Mathurapuri, all of them they are punya puri, they call them punya puris. So, there is a very clear definition of what are the places here, what are the mountains bounded by this region, the Bharata desha, and this Bharata desha therefore there is a specific geography that our nation has identified with. So, its very clear, as far as the geography is concerned.
Race, in terms of race, and I go back to Guruji, he says its a hereditary society having common customs, common language, common memories of glories or disaster. In short it is a population with common origin under a common culture. So, if you look at, if we, if we look at a certain school of thought which says that the Tamils are a nation, Bengalis are a nation, Assamese are a nation, we are all different nations who happen to share the same geographic region. I would very strongly and if you look at and go back deeper in history, you would find absolutely no evidence of such a linguistic basis for nations, in this country. There is absolutely no basis for such a regional nationhood in this country. There are genealogies of kings and these kings ruled over geographic regions but they never said, none of these kings ever had this concept of nationhood. We had tribes, we had languages, we had regions, we had dynasties of kings, but was there a nation, that these kings ruled over. I don’t think so, because there is no evidence saying that regardless of their languages or regardless of their culture or regardless of their religion all people living in this region are of a nation. That was never the situation in any of the pre-British, pre-modern dynasties or states in India.
So, we look at that, as, so if, if there is anything to be seen, there is a common culture which is again something which our Sangha, or even before the Sangha various ….. if you look at the southernmost tip in the early part of the 19th century, when the first banner of revolt was unfurled against the British rule, in the deepest southern most part of the regions, southern most regions of India, by the Marudu brothers. What they were speaking about, is that we are looking for independence for Jambudwipa. They were clear, they said in Marudu Proclamation in Sri Rangam Proclamation, which says that we will stop owing any allegiance or dealing with the company because we are children of this glorious nation, which belongs to Jambudwipa. And, they are very clear, they are not saying that, I, the ruler of Shivaganga, will stop paying obeisance or will stop paying taxes to the East India Company. They are saying, any of us who belongs to Jambudwipam, is not bound by the laws of the East India Company because they are different from us. They are people who have come from outside, they have different faiths, they have different beliefs, different practices, so we cannot owe them allegiance.
So, there is, therefore, if you say, I mean, not a genetic basis to our racial identity, there is a cultural basis to the racial identity and that is separate from the linguistic or the regional basis to our identity. With, in terms of religion and culture we, in terms of religious beliefs, there is a lot of question about whether Hindu religion itself is a constitutes a religion by itself or whether we are just a set of beliefs which go under the garb of a religion or there are questions whether the word religion itself applies to the beliefs of people in this country, traditional beliefs of people in this country. And, there are, again there are questions about whether there is a difference between tribal animist beliefs or traditional brahmanical Hindu beliefs.
So, if you look at practices, if you look at the practices of tribal communities, in terms of how and what they constitute as sacred and how they worship something which they see as sacred, their concept of sacral spaces, their concept of sacred versus the profane, you will see a common thread in the most, austere of, in the most traditional of Vaidika belief, you know, your traditional vaidika beliefs like Somayagam, the fire sacrifice centered, centered belief systems versus a completely, something the tribal beliefs which are completely supposed to be diversed from this reality.
You will find practices, you will find the same world view. So we are saying in terms of religion and culture, we have a certain common thread, whether it is a person living in the mountains of Meghalaya or whether it is a person living on the banks of the Cauvery or whether it is person living in Banares. There is a common religion, there is a common religious world view and outlook. So, even traditionally if you took the heterodox sects the nasthikas like the Jains, certain Jaina sects, certain Bauddha sects, in terms of their world view and their sense of dharma and in terms of shastra and in terms of even if you take a traditional dynasties, religious dynasties or states which are governed by this principles there was, we won’t find any serious deviation from dynasties and rulers who were avowedly vaidika in their outlook. So, the outlook and the sense of right and wrong and dharma, you will find there is not a real difference between the nastika and the astika sects.
So, there is a common sense of religion and culture which is common to, across time and across sects which have grown in this country. Language, again, a lot of the politics of language and a lot of the politics of language I believe are a fairly recent phenomenon in the life of this country. In terms of politics around linguistic majority, linguistic minorities and in terms of policies around carving out states for administration on linguistic basis. It is my humble submission. It is my, open for discussion, it is my humble submission, that these are derivatives of the Westphalian model which was developed in Europe for the purpose of defining nation states out of various principalities and small dukehoods, duchesses and small kingdoms and small duchesses and small principalities, there had to be some common principle around which a nation state had to be evolved in order to compete with a pre-existing nation states.
The whole principle in my thinking, the whole purpose of the formation of the Westphalian state was competitive. They were hemmed in, by a raising nation state, well risen nation state, the British nation state which had evolved out of multiple tribes and which had incorporated Celtic and Germanic tribes and on the other hand they had a Russian nation state which was, which had evolved around the dynasty and the Russian language and the eastern orthodox religion and they felt hemmed in and all your, the entire, I believe, the lot of the Westphalian nation states were around opposition and resistance and survival in the face of these two competitive forces. So, if you have had Germany, which was unified in the first part of the 19th century or Italy which was unified in the second part of the 19th century, they had to, there was no common culture. So, they had to evoke and they had to evoke and they had to manufacture a certain mythos for their nation.
So, if you look at Italy, there was a mythos created for their nation. One very interesting opera that you can see is the Verdi’s Nabucco. In Nabucco, he talks about the story which is showed there, which shows there, is about the Jewish nation, the Israelis, the nation of Israel which was taken by and which Abraham and later took out of Mesopotamia and created a nation for themselves. Or later Moses and there is a slaves chorus and the slaves chorus was, it was talking about the Jewish nation, but they took all the sufferings and slavery of the Jewish nation and imagined upon themselves as an imaginary Italian nation. And, this was in a sense the manufacture of a mythos and the manufacture of a grievance, a set of grievances which later coalesced into the Italian nation state.
And, the same, if you look at which part of India has followed almost to a T, you would probably look at the Tamil region has followed that, has manufacturing of a mythos, imaginary past lost in the mists of time. When we were a glorious nation and now when we are, you know enslaved by the Aryan north. And it will be interesting to you to say that many Tamil nationalist politicians call themselves as Garibaldi. They call themselves, Vaiko is called Kalingapatti Garibaldi. Kalingapatti is his village and he is the Garibaldi of Kalingapatti. So, the look back to Italian nationalists and the proto-fascists as their inspiration for how they want to evolve Tamil nationalism. However, we believe that these are, these are flights of fancy and doomed to failure in my opinion, because there was …. So, lets, that, … that being aside.
Another set of experiments in nation state evolution which I would like to kind of touch upon is the Arab nationalists and their experience in the Arab speaking countries. So, in the fifties, after Gamal Nasser and the period of pan Arab nationalism most of these states were basically, artificially distinctive, carved out. Iran has a civilization, it has a 4000 – 5000 year history and a civilization and a culture and a common ethos around which a nation state can be structured around. What does Iraq have? Iraq has multiple peoples, multiple ethnic groups. The only thing that binds them together is that, about seven hundred, eight hundred years ago the Abbasid Caliphate used to operate out of that region, and they were the cradle of the civilization 4500 – 5000 years ago. Other than that, the ethnicities are vastly different, they have vastly different religions, languages, beliefs, faiths, customs, and so on. Same case with Syria or even Egypt for that matter where… or even… the only thing that held them together was they were various vilayaths under the Turkish Ottoman Empire and after the Ottoman Empire broke up they had something to create these, they needed something to create these nation states around.
So everywhere, if you look at a pattern you would see that a small minority which was, you know, which was not at all rooted. For example you take Syria, the ruling minority is the Alawite Shiaites, whereas the majority of the people were actually Sunni. And in Iraq the ruling majority is Sunni Arabs where as the majority are the Shiaites.
Or, in Egypt you had a multi-cultural ethos and there the ruling ideology is that of Arab nationalism, of secular Arab nationalism. Or Turkey, where you have Kurd, large Kurd population and Turkish population, both of whom speak different languages, from different language families, but still which, from which try to evolve a common Turkish nationalism. And everywhere, everywhere it has, if not now, it has ended up in some form of ethnic cleansing and genocide. Turkey has had nearly, since its formation, since the breakup of Ottoman empire and the formation of the Turkish nation state and even before, since the breakup, there have been at least five major genocides of Armenians, of Kurds, of Circasians, of the Assyrians and an entire race and entire ethnicity, the Assyrians with their own church with their own beliefs was completely wiped off the state, the face of the earth by the Turkish nationalists. By the secular Turkish nationalists. Mind you, there are secular people.
The secular state of Iraq under Saddam Hussein, conducted bombing and chemical warfare campaigns against the Kurds who were their own subjects. So, this is the track record of these kind of artificial national, nations formed out of, just because some group of people happen to be sharing the same contiguous borders.
And, if you look at the, the situation in India, we ruled by something similar to Baathist dictatorship or quite a bit of could be tough time. Now that we are out of that, I can safely say that we were, you know, a lot of characteristics that the Nehruvian regime shared with a lot of Baathist Dictatorships, where there was a small minority of people whose ethos, whose beliefs, whose culture was largely inspired by a western model of, western model of culture in terms of what they thought was right or wrong, in terms of their beliefs, in terms of practices, who were also nationalists. I sincerely believe that, they were not traitors, I mean they were, I don’t’ think Jawaharlal Nehru or I mean you can crucify me for saying this, but I don’t think Jawaharlal Nehru or Indira Gandhi or Rajiv Gandhi were exactly traitors to the nation. They were nationalists and loyal to their own idea of what this nation was.
But, they shared a lot of similarities with the Baathists, and if you look at it, a lot of tensions are due to this, you know, set up of a regime at the centre and of a distant ruling class which was entirely diversed from what the real people out there in the provinces felt like, what they lived like, what they thought was right and wrong. And, so I must say that it is only a dharmic ethos of this country which saved us from genocides and ethnic cleansing, even though there was one instance of ethnic cleansing, two instances of ethnic cleansing, in Nagaland and in Kashmir. They were instances of ethnic cleansing but luckily since it was not state sponsored, it did not evolve into all-out mass genocide.
But, that’s, that’s just something that we escaped due to our dharmic ethos. And, so my point is that, where I am coming from, is that, my point is that we have to completely reject these forms of Baathist nationalists’ ideas of what a nation state ought to be. The Arab nationalists.
Syrian, there Syria had a Baath party. The Baath party ruled Syria. Saddam Hussein was part of the Baath party which ruled Iraq and there was a Baath party in Egypt also; pan-Arab nationalists. So, the nationalism was of Arab nationalism, where it was beyond religion or beyond ethnicity, you could be Shiaite or you could be a Sunni or you could be a Kurd, but loyalty was to the Iraqi nation, to the Arab nation, Arab Iraqi Nation. So, that was the…
So, my principle is that we must reject this form of nationalism, because it has not, wherever this form of nationalism has been applied, it hasn’t done any good to its, to its citizens. And so, if we look at the common factors – race, religion and culture, country and language, we have a common ethos, there is a common base language, in terms of grammar, in terms of syntax, in terms of script. All of the scripts have evolved from the same Brahmic family of scripts, we have the same structure, the ka-varga, ta-varga, cha-varga kind of structure to all our alphabets. You have the same, very similar rules of grammar. The syntax and the vocabulary might change depending on state to state, depending on region to region, but there is a common link language and if I may say so, till very recent times our common link language was Sanskrit.
If a person wanted to discuss a point of grammar, logic and grammar, if a person in Kerala wanted to discuss grammar with a person in Bengal the common point would be Sanskrit. So there has to be a common point, and this is not at the expense of regional languages. But the point is that our, our language vyavahara, language of vyavahara, of business, of the courts, of the government has to be in Indian languages. We have to evolve into an Indian language-based system, because we are working, our courts work, our governments work in language which only 5% of our population has some level of proficiency over. Its, it, you can see in our papers, you can see the circulation figures of an English language newspaper versus Hindi or Tamil or Bengali and the differences are pretty stark.
So, going beyond the idea of nationhood, now assume that we had this nation had, could, have the option to kind of start afresh and define what the state, the Hindu Swarajya, if it could rule itself entirely as per its values, what would it would probably look like. So, if we look at, I start with the economy, and I look at, various aspects of economic affairs, whether it is taxation, whether it is regulation, whether it is ownership of activity, who owns activity. There is no real, a lot of it has been based on pragmatic principles and the situations at that point in time with a few basic principles.
So, traditionally we have never been a completely laissez-faire capitalist kind of economy nor have we been a complete socialist kind of economy. And, for this in modern times one thinker that we must go back to is Shri Dattopant Thengdi, who formed the Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh. The largest trade union in India is the Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh and the largest farmers union is the Bharatiya Kisan Sangh, both of which were formed by Dattopant Thengdi. Dattopant Thengdi was not a Socialist. He said the socialist principles had limited utility and he predicted the collapse of communism really a decade before its time. What his principles were? So, the principles of Dattopant Thengdi was a third way. A third way based on our ideas of economy, our idea of what is good for the economy. In that, there must be a role for collective bargaining. There has to be a role for people to associate and form guilds for themselves, trade union guilds or trade guilds for specific skilled craftsmen, so that they could have collective bargaining rights, so that they could collaborate with each other and so on and so forth.
But, not in an adversarial position, where it was a capital vs labour kind of adversarial position and the scales would constantly keep tilting in favour of the, scales of the government would keep tilting in favour of one or the other. But always, where the scale of the government was always in favour of, what is in the best interests of most people. So that was his enunciation of the third way.
And, if we go back into history, in terms of prescriptive texts, the Arthashastra, if you go through the Arthashastra, it is prescriptive in terms of, it gives very the picture that, the Arthashastra gives is that of a highly regulated economy. There were regulations for ferries, operation of ferries, regulations for production of cotton, production of silk, production of fabrics, for any aspect. There was regulation for production and sale of liquor, in fact in some cases, he even recommends the state itself take over the sale of liquor, that it purchase, the product, the produced liquor and sell the liquor, the state itself sell the liquor. And he even gives the directions of how the bars should be run. Or, if it shocking to people, he even describes how the houses of easy virtues should be run, should be operated. He specifies who should be in charge of the establishment, what kind of people should be recruited for the establishment, you know, you must have must have x number of musicians, the place must be kept clean. So on and so forth.
So, this idea that we were somehow hands-off laissez-faire economy or that some ultra-capitalist people try to think is actually fairy tale. It’s been, in fact, its been between some amount of lax regulations and some amount of tight regulations and in terms of the operation of the state and the operation of the economy.
The biggest horror that almost all our Indian thinkers have had is that of Anarchy. The biggest horror, the worst thing that could happen to a state is when the Matsya Nyaya takes effect, where the smaller fish are eaten up by the bigger fish. And that is an absolute no-no as far as the Indian thinkers are concerned. Anarchy is absolutely not a preferred state. It’s not a preferred by any means. But then if you look at the Chinese model they have a great love for harmony, the word that you will see in Chinese texts and when even when the Chinese leaders, political leaders speak they always speak about social or political or harmony. They speak about harmony between nations. In terms of Indian thinkers, they speak about order and rule of law which is always their way they have thought about things. And if you look at it, the Indian model always recommends, it always talks about somebody on top, a certain individual or a king on top. It, it talks about tempering the individuals’ proclivities through a council. So it even, if you look at again, if we go back to Kautilya, Kautilya gives in detail, prescriptions for how you should be selecting ministers and who should be the ministers. And how many ministers you should have, what should be their responsibilities and eventually it works out to a number of eight or nine is the prescription that he gives. Says you can start from six and may be close to nine or ten, close circle the inner counsel or probably an empowered EGOM, Empowered Group of Ministers which he, which he prescribes.
And if you look at Indian history, almost all the kings, who were said to have run very efficient administrations, you will see that they had Navarathnas or Ashtadighajas. So, Krishnadevaraya or Vikramaditya, whichever Vikramaditya talked about or Akbar was said to have run a very efficient administration. We will see that they had empowered group of ministers who were eight or nine people with each of them having specific responsibilities and areas which they look at.
In terms of infrastructure, the model which very often worked was, where the local infrastructure was largely funded, managed locally. So, for example, if you had, Professor Bajaj has done a lot of work on traditional waterworks on one very important factor in an agrarian economy is water, especially where we large parts of the country gets rains only in a part of the year and the rest of the year you have to survive with either on the basis of perennial river. If you are on the banks of a perennial river like the Godavari or the Kaveri you are doing well. But very few parts of the country actually had, were co-situated with the, with a perennial river like that. There were parts of the country which had to do without a perennial river where the irrigation was rain-fed and through tanks. And there Professor Bajaj has gone out into the villages of North-Tamil Nadu and there is a very evolved system of local self-governance for water, managing water.
So, when the British came, in terms of things like policing, was very, was ultra local. Policing was ultra-local, water management was ultra-local, the focus for water management would probably be about five to six villages which congregated around a tank or five to six villages were, which were along the banks of a river and which would talk about how they would share the canals and how they would share the water between themselves. And Professor Bajaj talks about a man, a certain man who had a hereditary function. He was called the Khambamgatti, in Tamil it means, Khambam means pole and he Katti means, he ties a pole. So this man would tie a pole and he had this thing, he had a kind of system of locks by which would release water to a specific village at specific points in time and another village, it’s another point in time. And this man was lived away from all of these villages and since this man lived away from all of the villages, it was assumed that he was an untouchable and they were later categorized into the, one of the Dalit communities in Tamil Nadu.
But actually, this man was a very powerful man, because he controlled the water works for four or five villages and since he had to be neutral, he was not part of any village, he was in the middle of all of these villages. So he was neutral and whenever there was any dispute between villages, even if it is not related to waterworks, they used to come to this man, because he was independent of the villages. Same way as the Brahmin communities used to live outside the village, in the Agrahara. And in the Agrahara, because they were not related to any village, people used to come here, for you know arbitration, because these people were seen as neutral. Same way this Khambamgatti, this mas later was put into a dalit community, that man was seen as neutral and people of the village would come to him for arbitration.
Anyway, I digress. The point is that a lot of the arbitration, water management, policing was hyper local. There was another system, whereby you know, there was a community called the Kalar, Piramayikalar, who had the responsibility in a few palayams or states or small microstates, regions. They had responsibility for local police. So the principle was that the village a gives a part of the produce of the collected produce, which would be collected as revenue for the temple or local temple or for the local village assembly, a part of the produce was given to this man. It was hereditary function and the family got a part of the villager’s produce and their job was to be guard, guard of the village. Guard, as in the policeman for the village and the principle was that if a particular property was lost, the man was given three days to recover the property, failing which a portion of the property’s value would be recovered from his share of the villager’s revenue.
So, when the British came they said we will give you police station, they said we already have this person to take care of our things. And they said, this man, I just need to go and tell him and usually the network among this community, they were all part of the same community and there’s network among people in the surrounding, you know 20-30 villages was so good, that a thief, I mean in those days a thief could either run or walk or take a bullock cart or whatever. If we took a bullock cart you would be seen, if you rode a horse, so he would be seen, so he would be noticed immediately. So, a thief had to run, so how far can he run within 2 or 3 days he would probably go five villages away or six villages away and the network would usually catch up with him and he would be brought back.
So, these people said, we had this system. He said we will put a police station in your village and how will the guy, who will come to the run the police station, will it be this man. They said, no, we will appoint somebody who is trained. And how do I tell him, he doesn’t know me. He said, no you have to write and give him a complaint. So, they said, but we don’t know to write and so they said we will employ a person called a writer who will listen to you and who will write down your complaints and give it to the person in the police station. They said, we don’t need it, we don’t need to write anything and this is already working and for this piece of wisdom, the Kalars were made, were notified as a criminal tribe. So, these people were 72 different communities in just the Madras presidency, which were notified as the criminal tribes, which means a child born I the tribe, from its birth is seen as a criminal.
So, among these communities, there were these guard, local policeman communities, then there were people like Narikuravar, which is another community which was a nomadic community and they used to bring, they were a kind of, the logistics network, or the lohanas, or the lambadis in Andhra Pradesh, Telangana region. All of these communities were notified as criminal tribes and basically anything happens, the simple thing was even today there was, even today there is, if you see the list in some of the remote parts of southern India, there were a known delinquent list, its called the KD list, known delinquent list, will have people from these tribes. So, anything happens, something gets stolen pickup somebody from the nearby camp, Narikuravar camp and bring him to prison, keep him in lockup.
So, in terms of jurisprudence and legal systems, Kautilya actually in the Arthashastra he speaks up for adversarial system which is very similar to our current system, where you have a defendant and the plaintiff and they both submit their case to the legal system and they have to, there is a system of proof and there is a system that if the defendant gives a response then the plaintiff has a limited amount of time to give back his rejoinder to the defendant’s response and so that, so basically it was an adversarial system and Kautilya recommends about judges be appointed in border areas and in almost every sub district. However, he doesn’t talk about adjudication and arbitration at the village level where it was largely run on the principle of this Sabha, the local gram sabha would take care of the jurisdiction and the, I mean the judicial process.
In terms of, so moving on to foreign policy, whether our foreign policy was traditionally pacifist, is a big question. My contention is that at no point in time, independent of any external rulers, at no point in time, has the foreign policy of any Hindu state been pacifist in nature, in terms of actively going out to avoid war. The principle was always that you avoided war if you needed to, as long as you could afford, to avoid war and the principle was that if its not that, you could enter into a war on your own terms also without provocation. When I say, without provocation, I mean in terms of, so in terms of what a ruler and the ruling class of a country should do. Kautilya prescribes that you should always be looking to improve your interests. Have your interests in mind and constantly look at enhancing and strengthening your interests, whether at home or abroad. And he says, if you can gain, if you can gain an advantage go ahead and you can play off kings against each other or you know, make alliances or even go to war, where if it is seen as territory that is very advantageous and you need that territory for whatever purpose.
So, it was not explicitly pacifist, ever and the evidence is pretty clear because if you look at it, the geographic contours of what constituted the Aryavartha, the region which was suitable for inhabitation, habitation by Aryas. Bodhayana, which is about 800 B.C. or so 800 years before Christ, at the earliest reckoning, Bodhayana recommends that the regions south of the Vindhyas and towards the east of Mahanadi, essentially Orissa, those regions are not fit for inhabitation by the Aryas because there is not sufficient, theew do not have kings who carry out the prescribed sacrifices and so on.
But, if you look at where the traditional centres, today’s traditional centers of Vedic learning are actually in all those regions which Bodhayana has recommended as out of beyond the pale for Aryas. And Bodhayana actually recommends taking a bath, if you go there and you, if you come back into the Arya region, region of Aryas. He says the sacrifices are not held there on regular basis and the rulers are heretics, Pashandas and therefore, since that region is ruled by Pashandas you must come back and conduct expeditary rites, certain prayaschittams. The maximum number of people who follow the Bodhayana dharma sastra actually live in regions which he originally called as mlechha regions. So, which is a, if you look at it, there is no …, if you had a pacifist and inward-looking foreign policy, we would not have progressed much further beyond Agra and Mathura.
The fact that we reached all the way till Bali and we were all the way, extent all the way from Afghanistan till Bali and in fact even further beyond Thailand or even further beyond Thailands, Korea there is a founding story of a princess from Ayodhya, who came to Korea and the entire ruling dynasty of Korea descended from this princess from Ayodhya. So, if we had really been so inward looking and pacifist we would never have got that far and if you believe that people, all kinds of people, just were so enamoured by our culture and our superior, vastly superior philosophies that they took it up wholesale, well, may be, but without a military aspect there is no expansion, which is the fact of life.
So, there were expansionism, was not out of the bounds of Indian foreign policy, traditional Indian foreign policy. Does that mean that a new Hindu Rashtra or a Hindu Rajya that we set up, if, if we do get a chance to set up a Hindu Swarajya, will it be expansionist, may be yes. But will it be expansionist in a traditional sense, in terms of invading countries and colonizing them, may be not. It could, probably be expansionist in the way the Japanese were expansionist, or in the way, the best example are the Japanese, were they are pretty much expansionist in terms of trade and in terms of soft cultural artifacts which they give, which they own but they, which people adopt it’s still the karate and all those Japanese Zen Buddhism, the Japanese still own them, but people, other people from other cultures can adopt them. And they sell and they buy things and goods and services from other countries, so they have a large foot print without trying to impose their cultural values or without trying to capture territory directly.
So, that its Hindu Swarajya look in its terms of in Hindu Swarajya, it would probably look similar to a Japanese kind of expansionist world, post-world war two Japanese expansions. In terms of the state itself I have thought about this and people discussed this again. This is just my personal thought. And, we have thought in terms of a constitutional monarchy and the experience of constitutional, semi-constitutional monarchies in recent times in India. You cannot get a similar expansion, but similar, directly similar experience in India, but I would like to draw parallels between the experience of Travancore as a state versus Japan as a state.
Travancore, before Marthanda Varma, the Travancore region was ruled by, was full of small principalities, feudal in nature and most of whom were, traditional aristocrat, dynastic aristocrats, the Rajas and the various Nairs and so on. And before Marthanda Varma, there was no real ruler at Tranvacore or near titular head. But after Marthanda Varma, it was similar to the Meiji Restoration, in terms of the traditional feudal dynasties see their importance diminished drastically, especially the Ettuveetil Pillamar, the dynasty, the eighth feudal chieftains, Pillamar, chieftains, whose influence was drastically diminished in terms of, in favour of, a centralized powerful monarchy.
And, what has our experience been with this monarchy. It was always a progressive region as compared to the rest of the country and some of the very important social changes which came about in India. I will just take one very important social change which is the temple entry, which is where we constitutionally, we are bound to give access to the temple, to people from all parts of the society, without restrictions. The very first proclamation in India was made by the Travancore State, the Temple Entry Proclamation in Travancore state and almost every state, every, before and after independence, whether it is Mysore or the later presidencies – Madras, Calcutta and Bombay presidencies which adopted it, adopted some aspect of the progressive Temple Entry Proclamation from Travancore.
If you look at Dr. Ambedkar’s experience, own experience, the people, it was not British or any, the traditional British Raj which supported him in his endeavours. It was Sahuji Maharaj of Satara and later on the Gaikwad king of Baroda who supported him, and who helped him out when he needed certain financial help. So, in terms of progressive behaviour, the behaviour of the states, traditional princely states, some of the traditional princely states in terms of universal education, Travancore was the one of the earlier states to make primary education universal and accessible to all parts of society. And, if you look at the noon meal scheme, the early precursor of the noon meal scheme was in Travancore state under Raja Chithira Thirunal and you should not, of course under Sir CP Ramaswami Iyer, who as the Diwan and the Raja Chithira Thirunal, the noon meal scheme was one of the earlier thing, early schemes which was carried out, and later on it was just adopted then by the Kamaraj government. And, now it is a pretty much a standard thing which happens across every Indian state and this has been a game changer in terms of improving literacy levels, in terms of improving nutrition, in terms of improving overall quality life of the Indian public.
So coming back to my point, our experience with monarchies, enlightened Hindu monarchies has not been all that bad. So, possibly a constitutional Monarchy with a rotating Kingship between Jaipur, Travancore, Mysore, the Chatrapathis and so on, between may be ten or fifteen senior well-thought of princely families may not be as outlandish an idea as we think of it. So, just a thought.
In terms of social services, what would it look like? Typical social services that we look at, our education, health care and social welfare. So traditionally our Gandhian thinkers most notably Dharampal, Shri Dharampal ji has, in his book ‘A Beautiful Tree’, has written about the availability of primary education for all children, upto a certain age and upto a certain level of proficiency and after which children would usually branch off into different areas, usually hereditary. Potters would take pottery, sculptors would take up sculpture and people, and where the advanced colleges, they talked about advanced colleges, where subjects like grammar and philosophy and logic and so on, were taught and the classics either Tamil classics or Kannada classics or the Sanskrit classics were taught. And, he talks about enrolment in these advanced colleges and he says that there was not only Brahmins, there was about 30-40 percent representation of Brahmins in advanced colleges, which was a little out of proportion to their population because the population of Brahmins was never exceeded more than 10% in any part of the Madras presidency of the time. And, their representation in the colleges, advanced traditional Indian colleges the pathashalas was about 30-40% and there was another 40-50% representation by the forward communities, which were non-Brahmin upper caste communities like the Shiva Vellalars or Nair and such upper caste communities and there was probably about 10-15% representation of agricultural castes even in the advanced colleges.
So, we would not probably adopt that same system, but we would probably adopt a system of various streams of study which branch off at a relatively earlier stage and for this we have some models which we could adopt especially from the West. Germany, for example has the, has the principle of the high schools, and the vocational schools. So right at the age of about 14 or so there is an evaluation, there is an evaluation at the 10th age year and there is an evaluation at the 13th age, for children and based on what they, they demonstrate, they can either take advanced subjects in theoretical subjects or they are moved into vocational streams of training where they will actually learn crafts and by the 18th year they can actually finish their education with a useful trade in hand.
Now, in India of today, it would be very contentious because a lot of advanced, a lot of the advanced subjects. So for example if you want to take calculus or if you want to take Newton’s Laws in more advanced stage, if want to take mechanics it involves a lot of abstract thought and a lot of that abstract thought is presented in English, to children who are not from English speaking families. So, if my kid who, where we have a, where we are comfortable with English at home goes into an English medium school, he would be better placed to pick up these advanced concepts as supposed to a kid who comes from a family where they don’t speak English at home.
So, automatically this gives a child a handicap, when the child is being evaluated and it would be based on their birth, it would push these children into vocational training or into advanced theoretical subjects. So, this would definitely, its not a perfect situation for Indian situation, for our stage in evaluation until and unless we get a certain, either we have to level the playing field either by making universal primary education in the native language, of the child where any child whether it is from a upper middle class family background or from a working class background goes to the same school, gets taught by the same teachers and learns in the language, learns the same subjects in the same language at the tenth till the tenth year of age or the 13th age then if you do an evaluation, the evaluation would be comparing apples to apples. But if you do an English medium school and you do and if you try to normalize across schools, if you normalize a school where you pay one and half lakh per year versus a school where you pay 15 thousand rupees per year, the, it will not really work in the Indian context.
So, even though there is something, some value to be had in the traditional means, traditional Indian system of education, it cannot be fair to apply unless, you apply the same thing that everybody goes to the same universal, same kind of schools. So that said, in terms of social welfare, in terms of food security, we have certain, very close to modern times, we have well documented stories about the states of the South India, the Madurai and Tanjore states both under the Madurai Nayaks and the Tanjaore Nayaks and the later the Tanjaore Marathas. So, we have evidence of the last, the last few rulers of the Marathas, the last few rulers Marathas rulers of Tanjore, Sarbo ji and before him Turja ji and Amar singh, Amarasimha all of these people had run annachatrams, many numbers of annachatrams where food was given for free, much like the langars that the Sikh gurudwaras run. You could go there, travellers could go there, stay there for a certain period of time and they would be fed food for free.
In fact Sarboji, the last raja of, Maratha ruler of Tanjore, he had a wife, among one his wives he had a wife whom he was very attached to and she died in child birth. So in her memory he actually set up the chatrams, a series of chatrams which were specifically for pregnant women, where pregnant women could come and they could, they would be fed. If you, if any women got pregnant regardless of who she was, where she was from, she would come there, she would be given specific whatever chikithsa, Ayurveda medicines to help her with the pregnancy and she would be given, fed and she could even, given if required she would be given space in a common dormitory if it was some lady who was destitute, who had got pregnant, she would be given space in a dormitory, where she could stay till child birth and take her child with her. And then after that she could come and get herself a glass of milk every evening if she was feeding her baby.
So, if you look at the kind of, so if you look at todays upper middle class thinking, lot of people will say that it will make people lazy. I beg to differ, because it will make people lazy only if there is no social penalty associated with taking this. If you look at it, in those times people, if you went and ate in a chatram, it was a socially, you had come down in the world and it was a great deal of, there was a certain sense of shame that you could not take care of yourself and so people would try to get out of this support automatically by themselves without relying on the state, beyond a certain point when they were totally destitute. And, this kind of utilitarian, this view point that it makes people lazy is something that the British administration used to say, whenever there was a famine, they refused to distribute food among the people saying that it would make them lazy and dependent on the government, government resources and the results were that millions of people actually starved to death during the British Raj.
So, there is absolutely no reason to not give free food to, and its very much part of the dharmic ethos and very much part of our social security systems. And, if you look at all our, whether it was all done by the government, no. There was the government had only a limited role to play in this, the government would usually get out of the way when there was a private party which was providing it and usually these private parties, there were different types of private parties, one was the temple itself, regional temples itself used to run the annachatrams, free food. They used to run chikithsalaya, hospitals or hospices, they used to run goshalas, animal shelters, all of these were run by the temples and even if the temples were not doing it, the wealthy monied class. So during the early part of the 20th century, when no state was forthcoming for the Veda Pathashalas in Tamil Nadu, the tradition was for the Chettiar merchants, business people to run the Pathashalas. So, the early part of the 20th century a lot of the Vedic Pundits actually came out of the Chettiar Pathashalas, they used to call them Chetty Pathashalas because they were run by the Chettiars.
And, the business people used to run Pathashalas, they used to run goshalas, they used to run annachatrams. Even today there is a community in the Nagarathar community, Natukotai Nagarathar community, one of the most famous dharamshalas in Kashi is run by these people. And they have been running it for centuries. It’s run by the community, its run efficiently and its run by the community and they are running it in Kashi. Similarly, you have Guajarati Baniyas running dharamshalas in Madurai and Rameshwaram.
So, there was a pan-Indian sense that, you feed travellers, you feed the destitute and you take care of. So, there was a space for these business community to do it, there was a space also for the agricultural community to do it. There were local people usually through the aegis of the temple or through the Gram Sabha used to run the local trade guild for example, used to run certain relief work. For example, if you look at any temple towns, again my experience is largely been from the south, so many of these temple towns, they have these jati guilds. Jati guilds will run specific dharamshalas which is available to everybody, but there people from their own community will get first preference, but a lot of them are from the middle class, middle castes, the agricultural castes. Lot of the dharamshalas and chatrams are run by the agricultural castes, who pool money as part their caste, their caste association pools money and runs this as a charity endeavour.
So, I would like to finally come to the point of view of the state and what place the state has in religious affairs and conducting religious affairs of people. And there is this notion that the state must be equidistant from all faiths regardless of what the faith is and the frequent quotation, that is provided in its favour is that ‘Ekam Sat Viprah Bahudavadanthi’. So if it was Ekam Sat Viprah Bahudavadanthi, it is not that everybody who says something is right, the Vadin has to be a Viprah, it has to be wise person who is saying. It cannot be anybody who says everything and it is right. So, you have to evaluate what is being said in the light of certain standards and you then can accept or reject.
And, then the state may decide to step in or not. So, historically there is a, the background is that we have many historical evidences while take a couple of them. One of them is Mahendra Pallavan. Mahendra Pallavan, has written the Mattavilasa, it is a prahasana, it is comedy, in which he lampoons. He is a king, Mahendra Pallavan is a king, who rules over a pretty large empire, a large territory and he in his capacity as king writes a prahasana where he lampoons, the beliefs of the Kapalikas, he lampoons the Bauddhas, he lampoons the Jainas, strongly and performs strong khandanam on their faiths and on their beliefs. And, there is another example, is the Agamadambara by Jayantha Bhatta.
Jayantha Bhatta was, he was actually a minister of Kashmir and in his Agamadambara he says that anything which should be accepted as acceptable, to be practiced in our state it should have a widely acknowledged, unbroken tradition, aryas or decent people should not be repelled by associating with it or by discussing it. It should not be anti-social or dangerous, it should not be based on ramblings of a madman (so there are certain middle-eastern gentlemen who come to mind in this respect). And on something outlandish, it should be based on greed, it cannot be used for just about any text, they should be enunciated by trustworthy persons, and they should have no beginning or they should be based on Vedic tradition. We will not allow this claim of validity for any scripture in which duties which are contemptible are taught, such as, you know, illicit or repulsive sexual practices or eating and drinking impure foods.
So, if they recommend such things we will not tolerate these faiths and the proof of the pudding was there was a sect called the Nilapathas, who used to wear blue apparently, they used to wear blue clothes. They were expelled from the state and they were, this the practice of this religion was forbidden because the basis of this expulsion was that they practiced obscene acts in public. It is not specified actually what these obscene acts were, but there was something which was repulsive in their behaviour and the same way the Kapalikas were actually discouraged very strongly because of their behaviour, certain behaviours of theirs with respect to alcohol and sexual behaviour. There was a lot of behaviour which was away from the norm and it was frowned upon and these people were strongly discouraged.
So, in that sense its not perfectly secular state in the modern sense of the term. It will not be a secular state in the modern sense of the term. The state will have certain beliefs and certain standards for evaluating faiths and religious beliefs and whether to accept certain religious beliefs or not. So, that is about religion. I had some more subjects on local self-government and so on, but then I would be repeating some of this material and just embellishing them with more data. So, I am done with the, my exposition of my thought.