It was Vico who had introduced us to the now common notion that it is given to man alone to understand things made by man.To create a thing is to endow it with sense which is decoded by people.Giving names is one such form of creation.To remove such names is destruction of such creation.
Positivist historians persuade themselves they can purge history of imputed meanings by just accurately and faithfully detailing things as they happened in complete freedom from ideology.This is a delusion as the very selection of things or events selected and distribution of emphasis on those focused on automatically result in appearance of a certain significance out of many possible.
Think of an established modern work like say Rama Chandra Guha’s opus GANDHI:THE YEARS THAT CHANGED THE WORLD.A meticulous work it skillfully presents Gandhi in all his ordinariness and failings and yet without any loss to his undoubted claim to exceptionality and greatness.However this is just only one of many perspectives.It is blind to or deliberately oblivious of such vital aspects of his life and work as,to just name only one, the importance of his views on a simplicity of life derived not only from traditional Hindu ideas of renunciation and abstinence,but from Tolstoi’s denunciation of modern civilization and Upton Sinclair’s withering exposure of the emptiness and iniquity of modern industrial way of life.Or for that matter his perception of and response to the growing separation between his vision and realities of modern times in India.
Hence it is not simply the brutish tearing down of Nehru’s name from the signboards of NMML,but the wilful demotion of Nehru from the towering pedestal he earlier commanded by virtue of his legitimate stature,that shocks sensible people.To put him on the same level as the likes of Choudhuri Charan Singh and Chandra Shekhar is an offense against even pedestrian common sense.But one senses that things are not meant to settle down there.The democratic vulgarisation is obviously designed to replacing Nehru ultimately with a greater later-day icon.From the sublime to the ridiculous,some sceptics might say.But proponents have obviously different ideas about the matter.
So what meanings so vital to Nehru’s perception of things are being eroded to be covered up by its opposite.First of all,of course his commitment to secularism.Secondly,his espousal of the scientific temper which had found its way into the Constitution.Thirdly his genuine though chequered ideas of liberal social democracy.Lastly his dream of raising every Indian to a plane where poverty, inequality, indignity will be shames outgrown and left in a heap in the past.
The contrary image is that of a figure that grows in stature,power and glory to the extent poverty,ignorance, impotence and misery and shame of the masses in the country increases.He thrives along with his cohorts at the expense of the worth and dignity of the common people.To the extent they descend from their present stature to the fate of a faceless swarming mob swearing allegiance and blind obedience.
So re-naming things associated with Nehru is the beginning of a process the ghastly end of which we are yet to see.It is not a mere ritual dedicated to vainglory and foolish vengeance,but the total replacement of one symbolic environment by its opposite.Thus putting the seal on deliberate destruction of humanism,science and democracy.It is a pity that only Congressmen are seen protesting.Nehru was not a lone figure,warts and all.He stood for a certain culture and scale of values,whatever his failings.We are being confronted with a project to annihilate them.
Hiren Gohain is a political commentator