People's Democracy

(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)


No. 27

July 05, 2009

Enriching Culture Should Form Part Of Political Campaign


P R Krishnan


�NATIONALISM was an area of extreme research not only in India but all over the world during the last few years both theoretically and empirically because national movements and nationalism has been the most important phenomenon in the 20th century in India and other struggling nations�, said Dr K N Panikkar, noted historian, former professor of Jawaharlal Nehru University  and the vice chairman of the Kerala Higher Education Council. He was delivering the Balwantrai Mehta memorial endowment lecture organised by the department of Civics and Politics, University of Mumbai in April 2009. Panikkar in his hour long speech reminded the audience about the valuable contribution made by Balwantrai Mehta in the freedom movement and towards the democratisation of Indian society, and on devolution of power to the bottom strata of society. He did not mince words when he said that the thoughts of Balwantrai Mehta are related to the question of national identity formation and how this transformation in consciousness occurred in Indian society.  


Continuing, he further pointed out that �there are possibly three areas that one could think of as to how the making of the nation takes place in a colonial society. First, it is politically through common struggles, second, socially through overcoming the internal social barriers and third through invoking the indigenous cultural consciousness and looking for a common cultural heritage. These attempts lead to the construction of a national identity.�  


Dwelling further on �Inclusive Nationalism: An Enquiry into Indian Historical Experience�, Panikkar recalled the analysis of the early efforts of socio-cultural and religious inclusiveness. He said that it was necessary to look at the relationship between the cultural and the political history of early nationalism. He gave the account of the people and organisations like the Hindu Mahasabha and their position vis-�-vis cultural inclusiveness wherein the Hindu Mahasabha opposed the resolutions moved by Swami Shraddhanand in 1923. The Hindu Mahasabha was not ready to give religious equality to the untouchables. He gave the example of the temple entry movements in Kerala and Maharashtra which foregrounded the question of inclusiveness. He particularly pointed out the Akali�s offer of Langhar to the agitating people at the Vaikom Temple in Kerala which Gandhiji did not allow. Panikkar then said that, �the temple entry movement thus became the matter for inclusiveness. It was related to the question of religious worship and in a way it was acceptance of the worship pattern of the upper caste. Thus, the social exclusion of the lower castes was part of a religious practice of a particular section.� This, according to him �was cultural deprivation and hence significant because by the end of the national movement, multi-culturalism based on equality of cultures was not achieved.�  


K N Panikkar concluded by saying that the post-1947 period and particularly today Indian democracy is not able to include the vast majority of the population to share the wealth of our nation. So, from that point of view, he was of the clear opinion that the lesson of inclusiveness is important. He was however, emphatic that the political parties of the country are not taking serious steps to awaken the masses to enrich them culturally.  


The function was presided over by the pro vice chancellor of the University of Mumbai, Arun Sawant. Jose George, professor and head of the department of Civics and Politics delivered the welcome address. The keynote address by Panikkar coincided with the release of the book, �Rethinking Radicalism in Indian Society � Bhagat Singh and Beyond�, published by Rawat Publications, Jaipur, a collection of papers presented during the national seminar organised on March 28-29, 2007 by this department as a part of Bhagat Singh�s birth centenary celebrations. The papers are authored by Prakash Karat, P Govinda Pillai, Ashok Dhawale, Chaman Lal, Datta Desai, K Srinivasulu, B Mohanan, Rahul Pungaliya, P K Pokker Kishore, Theckedath, B N Mehrish, Jose George, Manoj Kumar, Preethy Sekhar, Avinash Khandare and other scholars. The book is divided in four broad sections namely, Bhagat Singh and his Ideology: Historical Perspective, Indian Freedom Movement : Role of Congress, Left and Communal / Religious Forces, Peasant and Working Class Movements and Legacy of Bhagat Singh and its Contemporary Social and Political Relevance. The book was released by K N  Panikkar and presented to the pro vice chancellor. The book was introduced to the audience by Kishore Theckedath. It needs special mention here that this voluminous book consisting of 440 pages has been edited by a painstaking team of scholars from Mumbai University comprising of Jose George, Manoj Kumar and Avinash Khandare.  


The session was followed by a discussion. Despite being in the midst of the university examinations for the students and the busy election period, about 200 participants turned up to attend the function. Among those attended include professors, scholars, students, social and political activists, journalists, faculty members of University of Mumbai, local colleges and Tata Institute of Social Sciences. Parthasarathy Mondal, P R Krishnan, Tushar Jagtap, Avinash Khandare and others participated in the discussion. The proceedings of the meeting was conducted by Avinash Khandare while it was Sudha Mohan, reader, department of Civics and Politics who gave the vote of thanks.