D V Gundappa's Critique of Western Notions of Political Philosophy

This article is part 4 of 7 in the series Life and Legacy of DVG

At the individual level, the Bhagavad Gita’s dictum of uddharedAtmanAtmAnam (Let a person raise and purify himself by his own efforts) and its emphasis on Svadharma also means that one must rule oneself, which in turn means that the onus is upon the individual to constantly rectify himself. Hidden within these tenets is a call to discard one’s ego at every step. The opaque wall of ego blocks the sunlight of self-reflection required for the said rectification.

Translated in the realm of public life, politics, and state policy, this contemplative attitude forms and informs the character of a nation.

The case of Germany, Italy, and Japan (the so-called Axis Powers) in the World War II era stand as timeless warnings if such a contemplative national attitude is not developed. The national character of all these countries during that period was premised on and informed precisely by an extreme egotism, even egomania, that allowed no room for self-reflection. In the present time, the United States offers a milder version of the same ego, which propels it to “liberate” countries by launching unprovoked aggressions and forcibly impose its version of democracy on these “target nations” whether it suits those nations or no. 

Analyzed in this backdrop, we might need to revise the definitions and notions of freedom, liberty, independence and democracy.  This revision becomes more significant today given the fact that most Western democracies are founded precisely on these notions, which have acquired the status of self-evident, universal truths to be pursued uncritically by and in every country. Indeed, there is a case to made in India for a thorough re-examination of these ideas in light of the increasingly dangerous trajectory they have taken precisely in the same Western nations, which have failed to supply convincing answers to urgent challenges posed by globalization, rampant environmental destruction, and Islamic terrorism among scourges. What is left unsaid and untested are the unpredictable, disastrous consequences that ensue when these notions are implemented as state policy. It is also for these and other reasons that the methods of inquiry adopted by DVG, Dr. S Srikanta Sastri, and P V Kane become even more relevant.

In India, this untested implementation of these Western theories and practical systems of governance resulted in a near-obliteration of the time-tested system of the Panchayat, which largely remained untouched even by the most oppressive Islamic tyranny. In other words, the form of democracy that India adopted after 1947 centralized political power in New Delhi to such an extent that even state governments were reduced to the status of supplicants. It is indeed tragic to read the rather depressing account of the deliberations over the Panchayat Raj in the Constituent Assembly recounted in Dharampal’s “Panchayat Raj And India’s Polity.” Some excerpts follow:

  • I want to ask whether there is any mention of villages and any place for them in the structure of this great Constitution. No, nowhere. The Constitution of a free country should be based on ‘local self-government’. We see nothing of local self-government anywhere in this Constitution. This Constitution as a whole, instead of being evolved from our life and reared from the bottom upwards is being imported from outside and built from above downwards. A Constitution which is not based on units and in the making of which they have no voice, in which there is not even a mention of thousands and lakhs of villages of India and in framing which they have had no hand—well you can give such a Constitution to the country but I very much doubt whether you would be able to keep it for long. [1]
  • We cannot have a strong Centre without strong limbs. If we can build the whole structure on the village panchayats, on the willing cooperation of the people, then I feel the Centre would automatically become strong.[2]
  • Dr Ambedkar boldly admitted, and the members of the Drafting Committee do concede that in this Constitution there is no provision for establishing Panchayat Raj...When there is no such provision, it can never be the Constitution of India… If the village is to be discarded, someone can also boldly demand that this Constitution be discarded. [3]

In this case, the unpredictable and disastrous consequence continues to remain the following: at no other time in the millennia-old history of India—even under the vast and sweeping monarchies of the Mauryas, the Guptas and the Vijayangara Empire—was political power concentrated in the hands of so few a people in a single city, i.e. Delhi. Such a concentration of power is not only alien to the Sanatana spirit, it violates this spirit. Indeed, this centralization and concentration of power is the chief reason for the growth of regional and caste-based parties in just about thirty years after we attained freedom. It is a testimony to DVG’s foresight when he anticipated and warned[4] against the seeding and growth of regionalism as early as 1952.

…an elected representative, no matter how self-reliant he is, no matter how wise…or courageous…if his honest vision of securing people’s welfare is restricted to only a specific region, group or sect instead of encompassing the entire nation, the nation does not derive the full benefit of his vision…he must be imbued with the same compassion and feeling for every single person in the country as he has for the people of his own region or community…In the soil called the country, every citizen is an equal nationalist.

It need not be explicitly stated that DVG’s warning went unheeded. Quite obviously, the logical consequences of ignoring it emerged soon enough. The Justice Party movement in Tamil Nadu which began as an uprising for getting “social justice” for the downtrodden and the “lower castes,” quickly morphed into crude regionalism, which succeeded in capturing political power after Independence. This in turn raises fundamental questions about the manner in which we defined “independence,” as we shall see later. Equally, the aforementioned absolute concentration of all power in Delhi ensued in the same consequence: beginning in the late 1970s, the political system of India has devolved itself into a coarse hunger whose only satiation is the capture of power by any means: fair or foul but mostly foul as history shows us. Today, our political system resembles a veritable alphabet soup of regional political parties who openly boast that they are “fighting against the ‘Delhi Government’ to protect the interests of our people” as though Delhi is an alien, foreign Government. As ironic and tragic as it might sound, DVG’s foresight has rung true in a lived, nightmarish fashion to the peril of the unity and integrity of the Indian Sovereign State.

To be continued

Notes


[1] Dharampal: Panchayat Raj And India’s Polity, Other India Press, 2000. Pg 26. Emphases added.
[2] Ibid, Pp 31-32
[3] Ibid, Pp 39-40. Emphasis added.
[4] D V Gundappa: Rajyashastra, Rajyanga—DVG Kruti Shreni: Volume 5 (Govt of Karnataka, 2013) Pp 185-6. Emphasis added.

 

Author(s)

About:

Sandeep Balakrishna is a writer, author, translator, and socio-political-cultural analyst. He is the author of "Tipu Sultan: The Tyrant of Mysore" and "The Madurai Sultanate: A Concise History." He translated Dr. S L Bhyrappa's magnum opus "Avarana" into English.