200 Minutes of IEH

[Written a month or so back.]

Four 50-minute periods of pre-independence Indian economic history? No way was I supposed to attend that, but I did, and it turned out to be a darn good lecture by Prof. RC. It essentially constituted the stories of the cotton industry, the jute industry and the railways in the British period. Very interesting case studies in themselves, but the digression is what I enjoyed the most. Somehow the lecture turned to the origin of the INC and the contrast between the forms of nationalism seen in Bombay and in Bengal; the Bombay region’s (and the INC’s) mainly moderate approach and the Bengal region’s militant nationalism.

RC said that militant nationalism seeks its power from images of the past. It beckons a reversion to what was, and to illustrate this, RC used Bankim Chandra Chattapadhyay’s Anandamath. There’s a scene [read below] where three images of Mother India are shown worshipped: [from Wikipedia]

  1. What Mother Was – An idol of Goddess Jagaddhatri
  2. What Mother Has Become – An idol of Goddess Kali
  3. What Mother Will Be – An idol of Goddess Durga

image

The important aspect is that What the Mother Will Be is a spitting image of What the Mother Was. RC contended that the militant nationalists, the Sannyasis in the case of Anandamath, lacked a concrete vision for the future, except for a nostalgic return to the past. Something that would work to invigorate people, but not something that would lead to a better tomorrow. RC went on to say that Gandhi’s economic vision, even though his nationalism wasn’t militant in a sense (but militant in a non-physical sense, maybe?), wasn’t too different, as he spoke of  a return to charkha-spinning and villages being the units of the new (old?) economy and a small government.

The Occupy movement, on the other hand, had no past symbol to refer to, nor a concrete vision for the future. But it brought into focus the enormous income disparity that exists today, and for that it must be credited.

The excerpt from Anandamath is a good read, but reeks of too much nationalism for my taste:

Mahendra, following the Mahatma, soon found himself in a spacious room with a high ceiling. The room was dark, even though the landscape outside was glowing like a diamond in the sun. At first Mahendra could not see what there was in the room.

Gradually a picture revealed itself to him. It was a gigantic, imposing, resplendent, yes, almost a living map of India.This is our Mother India as she was before the British conquest,’ the Mahatma said. ‘Now say Bande Mataram.’ Bande Mataram,’ Mahendra said with much feeling.

‘Now follow me, Mahendra,’ the Mahatma ordered and they entered a dark tunnel to emerge into another,even darker room. Only one ray of light entered it, so it was sad and gloomy. There Mahendra saw a map of India in rags and tatters. The gloom over this map was beyond description. ‘This is what our Mother India is today,’ the Mahatma said. ‘She is in the gloom of famine, disease, death, humiliation and destruction.”Why does a sword hang over Mother India of today?’ Mahendra asked. ‘Because the British keep India in subjection by the sword. And she can be freed only by the sword. Those who talk of winning India’s independence by peaceful means do not know the British, I am sure. Please say Bande Mataram.’Mahendra shouted Bande Mataram and bowed low in reverence with tears in his eyes.

‘Follow me along this way,’ the Mahatma said. They went through another dark tunnel and suddenly faced a heavenly light inside another room. The effulgence of the light was radiating from the map of a golden India- bright, beautiful, full of glory and dignity! This is our Mother as she is destined to be,’ the Mahatma said and he in turn began to chant Bande Mataram. Mahendra was moved. Tears flooded his eyes as he asked: ‘When, O Master, when shall we see our Mother India in this garb again so radiant and so cheerful?”Only when all the children of the Motherland shall call her Mother in all sincerity.

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