Increasing Equality and Social Harmony Provide the Most Firm Base for Progress in India


In the middle of several attempts to create confusions and uncertainties, India must hold its faith firm in equality and justice on the one hand and social harmony including inter-faith harmony on the other hand constituting the most important foundation for progress, peace and prosperity in the country. Both of these essential precepts of progress are of course closely inter-related at various levels, being mutually supportive to each other. 

On the other hand if we deviate and move away from these essential precepts, the country will have to face more and more problems that are clearly avoidable if we adopt a path based on justice and harmony.

In the course of our highly inspiring freedom movement, our greatest leaders had reached more or less a consensus on these essential precepts as being the most important for the progress of the country. At the time of the first war for independence in 1857, Hindus, Muslims and all other sections showed an amazing sense of solidarity and unity when they got together in various parts of the country to fight colonial rule.

In the early phase of the 20th century there were several inspirational efforts, some led by the Congress under the emerging leadership of Mahatma Gandhi and some led by Bhagat Singh and his comrades. Some historians have depicted these as two separate steams of the freedom movement, but in a book I recently edited, ‘When the Two Streams Met’ (as also its Hindi version) I have, along with co-authors, tried to emphasize the many common points of these great leaders on both sides as they both had a very firm belief in inter-faith harmony, justice and equality. This is also emphasized by Bhagat Singh and his colleagues leaning more towards Congress leaders like Jawaharlal Nehru whom they saw to be the more firm supporters of policies based on justice, unity and harmony. It is the commonality of these precepts which led to the activists of the two sides working together on many occasions, ‘when the two streams met’, something which was more frequent than is commonly realized.

To give an example, when the big opposition to the Simon Commission was organized in Punjab, it was obviously a Congress-led movement but some of the bravest activism was provided by the youths and students of the Bharat Naujawan Sabha identified in Punjab with emerging leaders such as Bhagat Singh and Sukhdev. When the prominent Congress leader Lala Lajpat Rai died due to injuries suffered in a lathi charge by the colonial rulers in the course of these protests, it is again these revolutionary youth who responded to the call of the Congress leader Basanti Devi to give a befitting reply to the colonial rulers.   

Move forward two decades ahead and in very crucial times the people of the country were being inspired by the struggle led by Mahatma Gandhi within India and the struggle led by Subhash Chandra Bose in foreign lands. Once again we have leadership of two streams of the freedom movement sharing a firm faith in the twin precepts of equality and justice on the one hand and inter-faith harmony as well as other aspects of social harmony on the other hand.

In fact if we prepare a list of all the leaders of the freedom movement then then it is very instructive to know that all of those who got the biggest support and affection of people (Mahatma Gandhi, Bhagat Singh, Jawaharlal Nehru, Subhash Chandra Bose, Badshah Khan, Maulana Azad and others) were those who had firm faith in inter-faith harmony and justice/equality.

Why did our most inspirational leaders have such form faith in a path based on justice and equality, social harmony including inter-faith harmony? This is because they clearly saw on the basis of their learning and experiences that it is only on this path that India can best reduce the problems and distress of its people and it can best improve the prospects of progress. Their great learning is also confirmed by the actual experiences—whenever we remain firm to these two commitments the problems of people are reduced and whenever we move away from these precepts the distress of people increases. These important times should be a time for re-confirming our commitment to these precepts with the addition that in the present-day world, considerations of environment protection and sustainability have become extremely important. Hence we have to look at justice not in terms of any short-term achievement, but more and more in terms of helping people to have creative livelihoods that are also sustainable and in keeping with considerations of environment protection. We must meet basic needs of all people in satisfactory ways and at the same time meet new objectives like keeping down GHG emissions. In this situation the need for higher equality and for planned economic development based on justice, equality and environment protection has increased further.

Bharat Dogra is Honorary Convener, Campaign to Save Earth Now. His recent books include Protecting Earth for Children, Planet in Peril and Man over Machine.     

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