As the world’s largest democracy but not the oldest India is a young nation where 60% of its population are below 35 years of age. With a solid mandate encapsulated in the slogan: Sab ka Sath, Sab ka Vikas, Sab ka Vishwas, the central task before the new Government, then, will be to build capacity in more and more people cutting across cultural, religious, class, caste, creed and political ties with the ultimate objective of promoting universal participation in the construction of the whole globe. What are the agendas, strategies, plans, programmes and macro level budget available or accessible to achieve this?

To craft a development agenda that is accepted by all the states in the country, and applicable to all sections of the society, is to acknowledge the interdependence and whole-hearted belief in our ethos of “Vasudhiava Kutumbakam” (the world is a family). Among the many approaches to understanding the process of development, one the is universally accepted is that development is a process that must benefit all and draw on the talents and capacities of all. Therefore, it is not without significance that United Nations Agenda 2030 uses the term “universal” 29 times in 29 pages. India has always stood for unity in diversity so it is should easy for us to accept this development agenda reflecting the growing commitment to the premise that every citizen has not only the right to benefit from a thriving and prosperous India.

With this in mind consciousness in each one of the approximately 130 crores in our country as one people and one nation must be made the bedrock of any strategy that seeks to engage the world’s population in assuming responsibility as promoters of peace and global wellbeing. It seems to me that the Government is seeking a new kind of dialogue with those in decision-making positions as legislators, arbiters of justice, executors of policy decisions, persons responsible for dissemination through mass media, in fact with all citizens. Thus, in the world, and India in particular, how does one play the part that is more consultative, unifying, inclusive. This my understanding of “Sab ka Sath, Sab ka Vikas, Sab ka Vishwas”. It does call for new approaches and new thinking.

It would be unrealistic to address the issues currently facing our country, rather the whole planet, without trying to overcome patterns of fragmented thought that often characterize public discourse. However difficult this seems, we will need to start forming a collective vision of the future of our society.

One of the areas of fragmentation in thinking today is the discourse on the role of religion, whether in India or in the world at large. Ours is a plural society and no amount of coercion, force and preaching can alter that reality. From Rig-Vedic times to present-day India has been assimilating, absorbing, experimenting, synthesizing, re-inventing. In other words, “…the first great cultural synthesis and fusion took place between the incoming Aryans and the Dravidians, who were probably the representatives of the Indus Valley civilization. Out of this synthesis and fusion grew the Indian races and the basic Indian culture, which had distinct elements of both. In the ages that followed there came many other races: Iranians, Greeks, Parthians, Bactrians, Scythinans, Huns, Turkis or Turks (before Islam), early Christians, Jews, Zoroastrians. They made difference and were absorbed. ‘India was’, according to Dodwell ‘infinitely absorbent like the oceans.’” (Discovery of India, p. 75) The challenge, today, is to create a meaningful conversation where we all take the time to question our own paradigms, patterns of thought, and assumptions and to create a discourse for the betterment of the multi-cultural, multi-religious, multi-lingual society which is nuanced, informed, and dispassionate.

The concept of secularism in India is not the same as elsewhere, whether Europe or the Americas. For instance, secularism can mean the exclusion of all expressions of faith in the public sphere. Alternatively, it can also be a way to protect diversity of various religious and non-religious belief systems and their public expression. The dominion of India is a multi-religious political entity. For the vast majority of the population any system that would provide food, shelter, clothing, education, work, healthcare, that system would be welcome and accepted. Let’s take the metaphor of a road and its guardrails. The guardrails do not tell us what direction in which to build the road. Similarly, secularism can provide certain limits and safeguards within the diverse India societies, but it cannot itself answer the deeper questions about where society is headed and what kind of society we want to build. Unless, of course, we declare ourselves as a Hindu Rashtra and chuck the current Constitution.

Religion or Dharma should serve as a powerful source of a higher and altruistic purpose that motivates constructive action within individuals and communities. And it is my firm belief that despite great antiquities in the system of many traditional religious systems for vast numbers of the India’s population and for that matter the whole world religion offers a source of love, hope, meaning and solidarity, and helps to overcome apathy and despair.

It is with a sense of deep optimism and pious hope that I welcome the new government and its leaders. May they collectively and unitedly fulfil the longing aspirations of all who inhabit this vast nation—the cradle of many civilizations.

The author is an independent researcher and social worker.


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